The Battle of Algiers
a review of
“The Battle of Algiers”
How surprised we were three years ago by the success of “To Die in Madrid,” Francisco Rosi’s remarkable compilation of old news films from the Spanish Civil War. The distinction of that film was the poetic way in which it shaped and explained the ironic progress and outcome of the struggle. And now we have a new film, though in much the same vein, which is historically more immediate.
Dec 12, 2019
The Bride Wore Black
a film review of
“The Bride Wore Black”
Francois Truffaut’s “The Bride Wore Black” is terrific. Infused with his patented brand of gentle humor, the film is a modern horror story in which lovely Jeanne Moreau goes about methodically murdering five gentlemen with an iron calm and comic sunniness. Essentially an entertainment movie, a minor effort for Truffaut, other films of similar genre pale beside it.
Dec 12, 2019
Raymond dumps on film reviewers
Just how do you go about opening a good movie in this town without getting jumped on? Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf is the best film to appear in Detroit since his earlier Persona, yet by the time you read this, it will probably have already left the Studio North Theatre.
The mechanics of film distribution is often a complicated and unfair process: The survival of a small specialized film—Alain Resnais’ classic La Guerre Est Finie, for instance—depends entirely on the support of local critics. Hard-core Resnais buffs can fill a small theatre for maybe four nights, but after that, the film is on its own, La Guerre Est Finie opened in Detroit during the newspaper strike and, despite the rigorous attempts of the distributor and exhibitor to save it, it barely stayed above water for two weeks. If a Resnais film results in financial loss, will that same exhibitor be willing to risk playing any future films by Resnais? We can only hope and pray.
Apr 1, 2021
“Once upon a time, or maybe twice, there was an earthly paradise called Pepperland, which existed 80,000 leagues beneath the sea...”
And so it was, a land of brilliant color and elegant people and Ming music, with words such as “love” and “know” and “yes” dotted about the landscape.
But Pepperland had enemies, the Blue Meanies, who hated music and bombarded Pepperland with rockets and Apple Bonkers and Hidden Persuaders and Snapping Turtle Turks—and an evil flying Blue Glove.
Apr 1, 2021
Romeo and Juliet—Hagbard and Signe
The biggest mistake in bringing Shakespeare to the screen is to construct some sort of stone effigy to him. But France Zeffirelli’s film production of “Romeo & Juliet,” at the Studio 8, pulsates with a life all its own.
In translating a stage drama to a visual medium, much of the dialogue has been cut in favor of the action. Surprisingly, this works beautifully. “Romeo & Juliet” is a remarkably visual movie that could stand on its own for the imagery alone. The result is a thoroughly “cinematic” film adaptation.
Apr 4, 2021
Six years ago, Robert Enrico directed the award-winning “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” This short film told of a condemned man during the Civil War who, seconds before he is about to be hanged, fantasizes his escape. Enrico’s current “Zita,” at the Studio New Center through December 18, carries this same theme even further.
Apr 4, 2021
Faces: “jolting & powerful”
John Cassavetes’ “Faces,” currently at the Studio North, is the best American American movie since “Bonnie & Clyde” or “The Graduate.” By that I mean that this movie could not have been made outside of the United States and still strike us with all the honesty and impact and pain that is possesses. For the problems that Cassavetes has chosen to explore in “Faces” are, I believe, peculiarly American, deep rooted in our contemporary society: in particular, this country’s almost fanatical preoccupation with sex.
Apr 5, 2021
Negatives: “suggestions of the unspeakable”
Remember “Mademoiselle,” the Tony Richardson-Jean Genet collaboration in which lovely Jeanne Moreau raced around the French countryside in stiletto heels heaping destruction on a poor little town, and all because of sexual repression? Then there was Jules Dassin’s 10:30 p.m. “Summer,” the agonized tale of a traveling menage a trois.
Apr 5, 2021
Candy: doesn’t make it
“Candy” must be the world’s first avant-garde Gallop poll movie; there’s something for everybody... dirty old men, freaks, sadists, mom and dad, the kiddies, and homosexuals.
The director, Christian Marquand, started out with a fool-proof formula guaranteed to appeal to the “with-it” film audience. Consider this: the screenplay, by Buck Henry, was loosely based on Terry Southern’s notorious best seller; the casting department had lined up no less than Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Walter Mathau, James Coburn, Charles Aznavour, John Astin, Elsa Martinelli, and a much-publicized little Swedish dish, Ewa Aulin, to play the title role; and then toss in all sorts of movie madness...bits and pieces of “Persona,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Graduate,” “Barbarella,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” a whole segment from “8-1/2,” nods to Lester and Godard, and finally, a little “2001” mysticism thrown in for box-office measure.
May 1, 2021
Last of ’68
Every Christmas season, the movie market is positively flooded with the year-end glut of new releases, and 1968 proved no exception.
Trying to keep up with these new films is a major task for a pure-bred film buff like myself, but the fact is that I’ve seen only four holiday releases that I would risk recommending to you: “Faces,” John Cassavetes’ unmerciful study of middle-class mores in America; “Bullit,” a fast, lean, and exciting detective yarn, and the only successful genre film of the year; “Romeo and Juliet,” Franco Zeffirelli’s irreproachable popularization of the play; and “The Stalking Moon,” a Western that transcends itself and becomes instead a thrilling horror movie.
May 1, 2021
China is Near
...or is it?
A new and exciting group of directors has appeared in the Italian cinema over the past four or five years. Its two most promising members are Marco Bellocchio and Bernardo Bertolucci.
So far Bellocchio seems to be the most outstanding, and with only two feature films to his credit he is already one of the more important talents in the young European cinema.
Aug 6, 2021
a lovely human being
Was it really only ten years ago that Main Resnais shocked the world by graphically demonstrating that lovers do not always wear pajamas to bed?
My, how far we’ve come since “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Bared breasts, bellies and buttocks no longer hold the shock value they had back in 1959. And with the upcoming release of Vilgot Sjoman’s “I Am Curious: Yellow,” we will have witnessed every possible “normal” human sexual activity on the screen, and then some.
Aug 12, 2021
The work that’s being done by the new Italian cinema continues to amaze me, and the latest entry proves no exception.
“Grazie, Zia” (Thank you, Aunt) was written and directed by Salvatore Samperi at the preposterous age of twenty-four. Yet it is a film of uncommon depth and shapeliness, so clearly the work of a mature, sophisticated artist.
Sep 22, 2021
The Late Late Show dolled up for the Swinging Sixties (film review)
In an issue of Esquire magazine of a year or so ago, a brace of famous writers suggested that the ‘60s have been too long with us, and that we hereby declare them at an end and devote the next few years to resting up.
In the course of that event, an occasional look at “Joanna” and “The Chelsea Girls” will tell us much of what we were.
Sep 22, 2021
D.A. Pennebaker’s endlessly fascinating film, “Monterey Pop,” gives us Gracie Slick & The Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Simon & Garfunkle, Janis Joplin, Hugh Masekela, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Otis Redding, The Mamas & the Papas, Canned Heat, Country Joe & the Fish, and many, many others all on one sensational single-bill; something that Uncle Russ would never do without charging around $50 a head.
May 22, 2022
The Illustrated Man
There is a tendency to casually dismiss works of science fiction and the supernatural in the arts, as if this type of thinking were just too cheap, too trivial to be bothered with. “2001” was virtually boycotted by the New York dailies and periodicals.
“The Illustrated Man” is a thoughtful, stimulating, and absorbing movie—one that I will return to see again and again and yet, if its early critical reception is any sign, I fear that this film will be largely underrated and thereby lose the very audience it seeks to contact.
Jun 13, 2022
Miss Jean Brodie
“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is not a great movie, but it’s an unusually good one, and maybe Maggie Smith’s performance should really be called great. Her characterization is in the grand manner as modulated and controlled, and yet as flamboyant, as anything you could ever see on stage.
Miss Smith plays Jean Brodie with a relish and force and tenderness that makes her Miss Brodie ours.
Jun 18, 2022
War and Peace
Most movies leave us with so little that it probably seems unfair to dump on Sergei Bondarchuk’s film of “War and Peace” simply because it doesn’t leave us with enough.
What it does give us is some rich and memorable images: a pregnant woman sewing by the light of an open window, reminiscent of Vermeer. The coming of Spring heralded by a variety of colors and textures that send the senses reeling, almost as if you could touch and smell the infinite sweetness of that budding flower up there on the screen.
Jun 27, 2022
When the heroine of Ingmar Bergman’s great movie “Persona” turned on a television set and saw the atrocities of the Vietnam war, we in the audience experienced something close to cultural shock—a medievalist had crossed the time barrier. One of the severest and most frequent criticisms of Bergman has been his renowned social indifference.
Feb 9, 2019
Raymond Reviews Two
When you see “The First Time” you begin to think that this “Graduate” bit is becoming a pretty poor excuse for a movie.
This time the striking Jacqueline Bisset has the Mrs. Robinson role, and Wes Stern, Rick Kelman, and Wink Roberts all comprise the Benjamin Braddock figure, working under the assumption that three Dustin Hoffmanns are more fun than one.
Apr 17, 2019