Donald Pleasance and Gary Bond in the 1971 Australian drama by Ted Kotcheff

Australian cult film ‘Wake in Fright’ on Amazon Prime Video

Wake in Fright (1971), one of the seminal works of the New Australian cinema of the seventies, is a brutal, blackly funny thriller of an urban schoolteacher (Gary Bond) posted to the Australian Outback, which is a sun-blasted nightmare as far as he’s concerned. He can’t leave fast enough when his Christmas vacation arrives, but […]

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in the 1955 film by Douglas Sirk

‘All that Heaven Allows’ – Love as suburban opera on Amazon Prime Video

Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman were so successful in Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession that they all reteamed for All that Heaven Allows (1955) as Sirk became Universal’s house melodramatist. He turned improbable plots into social commentary and pulling back the covers of middle class hypocrisy with an ironic visual style and an almost operatic emotional […]

Jean-Pierre Melville directs the French Resistance classic starring Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret

‘Army of Shadows’ – Jean-Pierre Melville’s French Resistance on FilmStruck

Legendary gangster movie director Jean-Pierre Melville turned his familiar crime film iconography on its head with Army of Shadows (France, 1969), his gravely personal drama about the early days of the French Resistance in World War II. Gangster movie icon Lino Ventura plays Resistance leader Philippe Gerbier with an observant stillness and coiled calm different […]

Marion Cotillard and Mathieu Amalric in the French drama by Arnaud Desplechin

‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ – Life, art, and love on Hulu

French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin makes films about the messiness of families, lovers, and creative lives that can become quite messy in their telling. Ismael’s Ghosts (France, 2018) jumps abruptly back and forth in time and between biography and fiction and dreams, smudging the line between biography, fiction, and artistic imagination. Desplechin regular Mathieu Amalric is […]

Leonardo DiCaprio is Howard Hughes in 'The Aviator,' directed by Martin Scorsese

‘The Aviator’ – Martin Scorsese on Howard Hughes on Netflix

The Aviator (2004), Martin Scorsese’s epic biography of the life of Howard Hughes, is his love-letter to the old-Hollywood bio-pic. This is high-style filmmaking wrapped up in a tormented hero whose soaring flights of greatness are matched by the mortal pull of his devils, which Scorsese establishes (perhaps too patly) in a childhood prologue bathed […]

Joaquin Phoenix in the 2014 romantic drama from Spike Jonze

‘Her’ – Love in the digital world on Netflix

Her (2013), the first film from Spike Jonze since his underrated take on Where the Wild Things Are, returns to the territory of his debut film Being John Malkovich but without the satirical edge. Like his fellow filmmakers and former collaborators Michael Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Jonze is narratively playful and challenging, but his […]

Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson star in the 1954 melodrama classic by Douglas Sirk

‘Magnificent Obsession’ – The grand melodrama of Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman on Amazon Prime Video

Jane Wyman’s Helen Hudson is the widow of a self-sacrificing surgeon. Rock Hudson’s Bob Merrick is an arrogant millionaire playboy whose reckless ways and attitude of entitlement indirectly lead to the death of Helen’s husband and to an accident that leaves her blind. The “magnificent obsession” of the title refers to a spiritual philosophy of […]

Michael Fassbender stars in the darkly absurdist frontier odyssey 'Slow West'

‘Slow West’ – Michael Fassbender on the frontier on Netflix

Slow West (2015), which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2015, stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as 16-year-old Jay Cavendish, the son of Scottish aristocrats on a romantic (and foolhardy) journey to find the girl he loves on the 19th century American frontier, and Michael Fassbender as bounty hunter Silas who volunteers to be the […]

Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds in 'Mississippi Grind,' directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Ryan Reynolds works the ‘Mississippi Grind’ on Netflix

Mississippi Grind (2015) plays like a seventies character drama, a meandering road movie through the byways of American characters who populate the card rooms and dice tables and racetracks, and an oddball buddy movie built on a chance encounter and an instant kinship between two losers gambling their lives away. Ryan Reynolds is Curtis, a […]

Ingrid Thulin and Max Von Sydow in the Swedish classic by Ingmar Bergman

Dark theater: Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Magician’ on Filmstruck

Ingmar Bergman created The Magician (Sweden, 1958), in the midst of his most fertile and prolific period of filmmaking. It’s a chamber drama about a travelling medicine show fronted by a mute mesmerist (Max von Sydow) that enters into a battle of wills with the Minister of Health (Gunnar Björnstrand), a rationalist who considers the […]