1997, 113 min. dir. Jim Sheridan. Set in a Belfast hungering for peace, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Danny Flynn, an IRA member who was a promising boxer until he was imprisoned at 18 for terrorist associations. Refusing to name his fellow IRA men, Danny was held captive for 14 years, and is now back on the streets. Tensions mount as Joe Hamill (Brian Cox), the ranking IRA man, tries to negotiate a truce with the British, and Danny commences a forbidden involvement with a woman whose husband is an imprisoned IRA man. The boxing acts as a setting more than a world. We see how hot passions are passed along to a younger generation, how boxing can be a substitute for warfare and (in an almost surrealistic scene in a black-tie private club in London) how the rich pay the poor to bloody themselves.
1941, written & directed by Preston Sturges. One of director Sturges' many great comedies of the 1940s, this brilliant probe into the psyche of a comedy filmmaker -- decades before Woody Allen or Blake Edwards found success with the theme --is his most personal film and a classic road movie. Joel McCrea stars as a successful movie director who longs to direct a "serious" film -- so he sets out on the road, dressed as a hobo, to see the real world. He befriends Veronica Lake, an actress wannabe about to head back home, and learns a few valuable lessons on the resilience of man and the power of laughter. A masterful combination of razor-sharp satire and sentimentality. 90 min.
1941, dir. Preston Sturges. Sturges, the most prolific and arguably the greatest comic filmmaker of the 1940s, wrote and directed this hilarious screwball comedy, one of the director's finest achievements. Barbara Stanwyck, in a great comic performance, is a card-shark who sets out to hook gullible millionaire Henry Fonda. They fall in love, but when he gets wise she gets dumped, and Stanwyck devises a scheme to get him back --by impersonating royalty. The first-rate supporting cast includes Charles Coburn, William Demarest and the very funny Eugene Pallette as Fonda's exasperated father. 97 min.
1928, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, silent film. The luminous face of Joan of Arc, played by the French actress Melle Falconetti, is shot at different angles and at various degrees of emotional anguish and exultation. Her face is the only image in at least forty per cent of the film's frames, and the wonder and triumph of this movie is that we never get enough of it. The film's drama is based on detailed transcripts of the trial of Joan of Arc for heresy, which pitted Joan, an illiterate nineteen year-old country girl, against a committee of theologians and lawyers. The camera continually moves from her face to those of the judges, whose faces are a study in craftiness, disapproval, and, occasionally, a flicker of sympathy. Consistently ranked among the top ten films ever made. Rerelease: 88 min.
1964, dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer. Based on a play by Hjalmar Soderberg, Gertrud was Dreyer's last film, and in many ways his most problematic. Gertrud does not fit the norms of either classical cinema or "art cinema." It is a film that unremittingly, almost malevolently, refuses to be cinema of any classifiable kind. The main plot, in which Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode) decides to leave her husband Gustav (Bendt Rothe) for another man, moves forward, yet there is a constant backward movement of flashbacks and retrospective conversations that make this a film of memory. Dreyer's kammerspiel technique emphasizes closed interior spaces; doorways and portals take on erotic significance in a film that is excessive in its emptiness. 119 mins.
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1998: dir. Robert Benton, starring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, Giancarlo Esposito and James Garner. A portrait of present-day Los Angeles infused with blackmail, murder, sexuality, moral excess and the memorable characters that cloud its landscape. In this witty and suspenseful drama, Harry Ross (Paul Newman), a retired shopworn Los Angeles private investigator, agrees to help long-time friends, former screen legend Jack Ames (Gene Hackman) and his wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon), with a favor and rapidly becomes embroiled in the center of a dangerous and complex murder mystery.
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