Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld in Christian Petzold's 'Phoenix'

‘Phoenix’ – from the ashes on Criterion Channel

Just as the title suggests, Phoenix (Germany, 2014) is about rising from the ashes, but filmmaker Christian Petzold is more interested than the smudged moral world in the ashes of Germany after World War II than in the promise of the rise. Nina Hoss, one of the great actresses of our time and star of […]

Benicio Del Toro is Ernesto Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's biographical drama

Last chance: Benicio Del Toro is ‘Che’ on Netflix

Steven Soderbergh’s two-part Che (2008), starring Benicio Del Toro as the revolutionary leader turned martyred legend and idealized cultural icon, is not a tradition bio-pic. Spanning four-and-a-half hours over two films—Part One on the triumph in Cuba, Part Two on the failure in Bolivia—it’s both two films and a single, unified work that focuses on […]

Anna Magnani stars in Jean Renoir's adaptation of the Prosper Merimee play

Jean Renoir’s ‘The Golden Coach’ on Amazon Prime

Anna Magnani stars as the earthy, vivacious diva of The Golden Coach (France/Italy, 1952), an adaptation of a Prosper Merimee play about a traveling troupe of Italian commedia dell’arte players in a Peruvian backwater where three men (a viceroy, a bullfighter, and a fellow performer) vie for the affections of the company’s leading lady. An […]

Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale star in Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel

Burt Lancaster is ‘The Leopard’ in Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece on FilmStruck

The Leopard (Italy, 1963), Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel (said to be a national touchstone for Italy), is his masterpiece. Burt Lancaster (his voice is dubbed by a deep-voiced Italian) may seem an unusual choice to play Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, an idealistic 19th century Sicilian prince (Visconti favored Laurence Olivier, a […]

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom,' starring Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, and more

‘Moonrise Kingdom’ – Wes Anderson’s endless summer on Netflix

Wes Anderson has made a career exploring the childhood neuroses that keep adult characters in an arrested state of adolescence and stasis. It’s been a lively career with creatively energetic high points like Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums but an approach with diminishing returns. Until Fantastic Mr. Fox, a film that refracted his portraits of dysfunctional families […]

František Vláčil directs this epic from Czechoslovakia

‘Marketa Lazarova’ – Czech epic on FilmStruck

Marketa Lazarova (Czechoslovakia, 1967), an epic based on one of the revered masterpieces of Czech literature (considered unfilmmable by many), was voted the greatest Czech film ever made in a 1998 poll of Czechoslovakian film critics and professionals. Yet it is all but unknown in the U.S., rarely revived and never on home video before […]

Vera Clouzot in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Hitchcockian thriller with Simone Signoret

The original ‘Diabolique’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Henri-Georges Clouzot was called the Hitchcock of France for his shadowy thrillers and the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that ran through so many of his films. Diabolique (France, 1955, not rated, with subtitles), his 1955 thriller about a plot to commit a perfect murder and the wrenching tension when the corpse disappears, plays like […]

Simone Simon and Kent Smith star in Jacques Tourneur's classic horror film for producer Val Lewton

The original ‘Cat People’ on FilmStruck

The original Cat People (1942) was made on a low budget for RKO’s B-movie unit, the first in an amazing series of B-horror films from producer Val Lewton that transcended its origins. It’s a masterpiece of mood and psychological ambiguity masquerading as a cheap exploitation knock-off. Cheap it is, but Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur […]

Masaki Kobayashi directs the quartet of Japanese ghost stories

‘Kwaidan’ – Japanese ghost stories on Criterion Channel

Kwaidan (Japan, 1964), Masaki Kobayashi’s quartet of ancient ghost stories, may not be strictly speaking a horror film. It’s not scary or particularly unsettling apart for a few exquisitely created images. It is, however, breathtakingly lovely, visually composed like a painting, scored and sound designed by Toru Takemitsu with a spareness that leans on silence, […]

Charles Berling and Juliette Binoche star in Olivier Assayas’ touching French drama

‘Summer Hours’ on Hulu and Criterion Channel

Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours (France, 2008) plays like a miniature, a small film of small dramas in the scope of large lives. Mortality once again hangs over the story of a family estate and the rich treasures of art history that goes with it. Family matriarch Helene (Edith Scob) has preserved the country home of […]