‘Topsy-Turvy’ – Gilbert and Sullivan reborn on Criterion Channel

Set in the world of London theater in the mid-1880s, Topsy-Turvy (1999) tackles the creative partnership between W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, the reigning kings of light operetta, at a turning in their career. Their work has become repetitive, their latest show a disappointment, and the partnership is under strain as composer Sullivan (Allan […]

Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ on Criterion Channel

Satyajit Ray considered Charulata (India, 1964) his masterpiece. An historical piece about the forces of modernity in 19th century India, the story focuses on young Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee), the gifted and sensitive wife of an idealistic newspaper editor, Bhupati (Shaileen Mukherjee) who gives lip service to women’s rights yet neglects Charu (both emotionally and artistically) […]

Chhabi Biswas stars in Satyajit Ray's masterpiece from India

Satyajit Ray’s ‘The Music Room’ on The Criterion Channel

In his first films, the acclaimed Pather Panchali and Aparajito, the great East Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray eschewed the song and dance interludes that were part of the conventions of domestic Indian cinema. The Music Room (1959) features both song and dance but not in the way of popular cinema. They are integral parts of […]

Satyajit Ray’s ‘The Apu Trilogy’ on The Criterion Channel

The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali / Aparajito / Apur Sansar – In 1955 Satyajit Ray, a young graphic artist in the advertising industry, released his debut feature, a labor of love made independently over the course of two and a half years. Pather Panchali (aka Song of the Little Road, 1955), a portrait of life […]

Joan Crawford stars with Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, and Jack Carson

Last chance: Joan Crawford is ‘Mildred Pierce’ on HBO Max

Is Mildred Pierce (1945) film noir or melodrama? I say why choose? Film noir is almost entirely associated with crime stories and life in the shadows and at night in the city and sure enough Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain, opens with death and darkness and the twilight of the […]

‘Being John Malkovich’ on Peacock

Being John Malkovich (1999), a devastatingly funny portrait of unhappiness, desperation, desire, and the vicious things we do for love, catapulted Spike Jonze from music video wunderkind to visionary director and Charlie Kaufman from sitcom scribe to brilliant screenwriter. In 1999, when our obsession with celebrity was mainly fed by gossip magazines and entertainment programs, […]

‘Moonrise’ – dreamy rural noir on Criterion Channel and free on Kanopy

The most authentically romantic filmmaker of classic Hollywood, Frank Borzage made films where the power of love conquered all, not simply narrative obstacles and stubborn complications but time and space itself. He’s the last filmmaker you would expect to produce a film noir masterpiece yet in Moonrise (1948) he delivers beautifully. Dane Clark is Danny […]

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 Criterion Channel

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 […]

‘Easy Rider’ – On the road to find America on HBO Max

Peter Fonda was already a counterculture icon when he suited up in black leather and a star-spangled helmet, mounted a Harley-Davidson chopper, tossed his watch to the desert floor, and drove off with a shaggy Dennis Hopper in search of America. The film was Easy Rider (1969), an independent film produced by Fonda, directed by Hopper, […]

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 Amazon Prime

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 […]