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Life of Crime

While it doesn’t hit the highs of the very best movies based on Elmore Leonard’s works, it’s also far less slick and ingratiating than the…

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The Congress

"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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A Sunday in the Country

A Sunday in the Country

In a country house near Paris, toward autumn of 1912, an old man sings to himself as he prepares for the day. He brushes his teeth, shines his shoes, seems happy. Downstairs, his housekeeper sings a song of her own…

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Raise the Red Lantern

Raise the Red Lantern

The Chinese film "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991), like the Japanese film "Woman in the Dunes" (1960), is about sexual enslavement. In both films, the protagonist enters a closed system from which there is no escape, and life is ruled…

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Five Easy Pieces

Five Easy Pieces

"Easy Rider" proved in 1969 that Jack Nicholson was a great character actor. "Five Easy Pieces" proved in 1970 that he was a great actor and a star. This is the film, more than 10 years into his career, where…

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Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red

Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red

After he completed "Red" (1994), the final film in his "Three Colors" trilogy, Krzysztof Kieslowski announced that he would retire. This was not a man weary of work. It was the retirement of a magician, a Prospero who was now…

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

There is a curiously extended closeup of Jack Nicholson about four-fifths of the way through "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." We notice it because it lingers noticeably. It shows his character, R.P. McMurphy, lost in thought. It comes at…

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Solaris

Solaris

The films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are more like environments than entertainments. It's often said they're too long, but that's missing the point: He uses length and depth to slow us down, to edge us out of the velocity…

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The Blue Kite

The Blue Kite

In a small room on a courtyard off Dry Well Lane in Beijing, a marriage is celebrated and a child is born. The people of the courtyard all know one another, and share joys and sorrows and food. They are…

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Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas

The man comes walking out of the desert like a Biblical figure, a penitent who has renounced the world. He wears jeans and a baseball cap, the universal costume of America, but the scraggly beard, the deep eye sockets and…

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GoodFellas

GoodFellas

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.So says Henry Hill in the opening moments of Martin Scorsese’s “GoodFellas,” a…

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The Films of Buster Keaton

The Films of Buster Keaton

The greatest of the silent clowns is Buster Keaton, not only because of what he did, but because of how he did it. Harold Lloyd made us laugh as much, Charlie Chaplin moved us more deeply, but no one had…

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Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now

The hero of “Don’t Look Now” is a rational man who does not believe in psychics, omens or the afterlife. The film hammers down his skepticism and destroys him. It involves women who have an intuitive connection with the supernatural,…

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The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch

In an early scene of "The Wild Bunch," the bunch rides into town past a crowd of children who are gathered with excitement around their game. They have trapped some scorpions and are watching them being tortured by ants. The…

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12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men

In form, "12 Angry Men" is a courtroom drama. In purpose, it's a crash course in those passages of the Constitution that promise defendants a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. It has a kind of stark simplicity: Apart…

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Rififi

Rififi

The modern heist movie was invented in Paris in 1954 by Jules Dassin, with "Rififi," and Jean-Pierre Melville, with "Bob le Flambeur." Dassin built his film around a 28-minute safe-cracking sequence that is the father of all later movies in…

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Cries and Whispers

Cries and Whispers

‘Cries and Whispers” envelops us in a tomb of dread, pain and hate, and to counter these powerful feelings it summons selfless love. It is, I think, Ingmar Bergman’s way of treating his own self-disgust, and his envy of those…

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The Firemen's Ball

The Firemen's Ball

Milos Forman's "The Firemen's Ball" was banned "permanently and forever" by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1968, as Soviet troops marched in to suppress a popular uprising. It was said to be a veiled attack on the Soviet system…

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Unforgiven

Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" takes place at that moment when the old West was becoming new. Professional gunfighters have become such an endangered species that journalists follow them for stories. Men who slept under the stars are now building themselves houses.…

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Stroszek

Stroszek

Who else but Werner Herzog would make a film about a retarded ex-prisoner, a little old man and a prostitute, who leave Germany to begin a new life in a house trailer in Wisconsin? Who else would shoot the film…

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In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood

In the years since Truman Capote published In Cold Blood in 1966, the true crime genre has expanded to fill whole sections of the book stores. Factual accounts of crime were common enough before, but Capote combined in-depth reporting with…

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