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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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'The Rapture': waiting for the end of the world

In one way or another, I have been waiting for the apocalypse all of my life. Most people, I imagine, never think about it, and those who do probably fear it. Not me. I expect to be filled with joy during the final battle between good and evil, while those fearsome horsemen thunder through the sky - because at least then I'll know for sure that something exists beyond the material universe, and therefore it is possible to escape from death. These days, I no longer really think of the end of the world in literal terms. I envy the faith of those who do. When I was in parochial school, the notion of Judgment Day filled me with a rush of danger, as I imagined the Lord evaluating billions of lifetimes, and then turning a particularly stern eye on a certain fifth-grader from Urbana, Illinois.

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Taking the off ramp to reality

When Sherman McCoy, the hero of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, took the wrong exit ramp into the Bronx, the result was a merciless flaying of New York's rich and famous. When Mel Brooks, the director of "Life Stinks," took the wrong exit ramp into downtown Los Angeles, the result was a warmhearted comedy about the homeless.

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'Thelma & Louise' lets women rebel

May Contain Spoilers
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Women all over the country are going to see "Thelma and Louise" with a rare enthusiasm, despite Hollywood's conventional wisdom that men make most of the moviegoing decisions. To understand how they're connecting with the movie, look at an afternoon screening in a theater like the 900 N. Michigan complex. The largely female crowd isn't made up of teenagers, but more mature generations - married women, professionals, older women, visitors to the city. They love this movie. They cheer it, they get teary-eyed, and they bring their friends to see it.

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It's high tide for black new wave

CANNES, France -- The French New Wave was a rebirth of French films in the early 1960s, and the German new wave represented the same process in Germany in the 1970s. Now black American filmmakers are developing a new stylistic and personal vision that reached critical mass at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In May of 1991, here in the incongruous setting of the French Riviera, far from the urban settings of most of their films, the black new wave came of age.

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Greatest films pack biggest emotional punch

An ape uses to learn a bone as a weapon, and this tool, flung into the air, transforms itself into a space ship--the tool that will free us from the bondage of this planet. And then the spaceship takes man on a voyage into the interior of what may be the mind of another species.

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