(Note: I was fortunate to catch the stunning 40th anniversary print of this horror classic, presented by Cinefamily in Los Angeles and Dark Sky Films.  This is the very best you will ever see this movie look.  If you have a chance to see the restoration in a theater, do not hesitate to go.)   I’ve seen “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”  Countless viewings over the past three decades have left me with a deep appreciation of its style and tone, its seamless blending of the Grand Guinol, unbridled horror, and a twisted sense of humor.  This is not a film with which I am unfamiliar,Read More →

For Halloween this year, I decided to tackle a list of my favorite horror movies.  These are the ones that had an impact on me the first time I saw them.  Some of them fill me with nostalgia.  Some are just damned great movies.  They aren’t all necessarily the best, but they’re mine, and depending on my mood, I might change my mind about them tomorrow.  The number of titles, 15, is completely random; if I’d kept going, this list would have run into the hundreds. You’ll also notice more than half the titles on this list were released in the 1970s, a decade referred toRead More →

What, exactly, happened to Anna? That’s the central question in Michelangelo Antonioni’s haunting masterpiece, L’Avventura, a film uneasy with answers and so much more than a missing persons case.  Like Anonioni’s later film, Blow Up, it builds suspense, not with the shock and action of a modern-day thriller, but what we–and the characters–think has happened, or might happen. The plot is deceptively simple: A group of wealthy socialites on a leisurely yachting expedition decide to spend the afternoon exploring a remote island chain.  They dock near an islet that could be called desolate, if that weren’t such an understatement: the place is a rock, covered inRead More →

Rubber monsters unite! Say what you will about Creature From the Black Lagoon: seeing this drive-in classic again after twenty years, I was startled and impressed by how technically proficient it really is. You know the story, of course: scientists discover a prehistoric amphibian alive and well in an Amazonian lagoon that is not so very black and attempt to capture it for study.  The “gill-man” becomes enamored with the only female on the expedition (naturally), and tries to steal her away to its remote cave hideaway–surely to talk about things such as the American economy after the end of WWII. The acting is predictablyRead More →

Sergei Eisenstein’s classic about the maritime uprising that was a catalyst for the Bolshevik Revolution.  Cause of mutiny?  A pot of spoiled soup. Tensely mounted sequences of rebellion aboard the Potemkin spill onto the shore of Odessa, as villagers, sympathetic to the revolution, take up against their oppressors.  Well-shot, tightly edited, and propagandist to the bone, Potemkin is another fascinating silent film that was far ahead of its time.  (I could even forgive–though just barely–a grossly manipulative sequence involving a baby rolling down a flight of stairs in its carriage, as the Odessa massacre carries about on all sides.)  Still, I’m dubious about the film’sRead More →

For the second time in a week, I have been profoundly moved by this great film.  One of the best I’ve ever seen.  Passion contains the most astonishing performance I’ve ever seen, by Renee Falconetti as Joan of Arc during her heresy trial. Vastly ahead of its time, full of intricate camera work.  The Criterion DVD carries an alternate score, created for the film, that adds another layer of power to the narrative.  See it silent, as well, for an entirely different, more intimate, experience. Powerful, a monumental achievement, and a defining moment for me. (See also Carl Th. Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932), an incredible silentRead More →

  “God…I don’t understand you!” So Max von Sydow, as an anguished father, cries out in the closing scene of Ingmar Bergman’s great The Virgin Spring (1960).  The moment, when it comes, is inevitable: the end of a path paved by torment and loss of faith. I’ve long suspected that Bergman (1918-2007) was the cinema’s greatest director; after my second viewing of The Virgin Spring, I’m sure of it.  And if Bergman was the greatest director, then so too was Sven Nykvist (1922-2006), his long-time collaborator, the best of all cinematographers, a master lensman who understood better than anyone else the awesome power of lightRead More →