Surviving Picasso (1996)

“May you be painted by Picasso!”—Parisian curse James Ivory’s Surviving Picasso (1996) is a fascinating failure.  It’s as if someone made a pretty good film about Miles Davis but wasn’t allowed to use Davis’s music in the soundtrack.  Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and director Ivory were denied access to Françoise Gilot’s memoirs—on which a good portion […]

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom Remember us—if at all—not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men. –T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men “It took a moment to comprehend that something [the September 11th terrorist attack on New York and Washington] was being transmitted on […]

New Waterford Girl (1999)

—“This is great!  You gonna to give me the Grand Tour?”   —“My house.  Your house. There’s the shore.  The mine.  The Main Drag.  Hospital. Tavern. Church.  Tavern.  Church.  Church.  Rink.  School.  Train station.” Growing up in a small town can be heaven or hell, or a mixture of both.  Some people never leave, some […]

O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)

“Groups of unmarried women at quilting bees used to shake up a cat in the newly completed quilt and then stand around in a big circle as the animal was suddenly released.  The theory was that the girl toward whom the cat jumped would be the first of the company to catch a husband.  At […]

Kalifornia (1993)

[Author’s Note: This is the second half of a column which began with a review of The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)] Tom Ripley has the worst of two worlds:  he has a sociopath’s instincts for survival, and a sane man’s capacity for guilt. No such problems for Early Grayce (could the writers have found a […]

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

“Once one becomes interested in the game, there is no knowing where one will stop.” –from Les Liaisons Dangereuses I’d originally planned this month’s column along the lines of those A & E Biography theme weeks, where each day of the week might feature a different documentary about notorious gangsters or celebrated altruists.  My cheery […]

The Remains of the Day (1993)

“It is not my place to be curious about such matters. Imagine a powerfully romantic film where the lead actors never once kiss, hold hands, or address one another by their first names.  Imagine lives being ruined because one man acts selflessly and honorably, and another strives for peace and reconciliation.  Imagine a lead actor […]

Three Seasons (1999)

Can anyone know how many stalks are in a rice field? How many bends are in a river? How many layers are in a monsoon cloud? Can anyone sweep the leaves of a forest And tell the wind to shake the trees no more? How many leaves must a silkworm eat To make a dress […]

Jesus of Montreal (1989)

Early on in Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal, René (played by the phenomenal Québecois stage director Robert Lepage) warns fellow actor Daniel (Lothaire Bluteau) that performing tragedy is dangerous.  René is probably thinking of all the superstitions surrounding productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a play with such a string of unfortunate accidents associated with it (coronaries, […]

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

“We’re goin’ to the grave. Ten mile on. Goin’ to the graveyard. Her [pointing to granddaughter] folks buried there. Both of ‘em kilt on Saturday night [stares at the dashboard of the Pontiac GTO]. City car’s what kilt ‘em.” [stares some more at dashboard.] –from the scene in Two-Lane Blacktop, where Warren Oates once again […]