David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Dr.’ on HBO Max

Mulholland Dr. (2001) – David Lynch pulled a near magic trick in what can only be an exercise in creative rewriting and re-conception. Taking an open ended TV pilot rejected by the networks, he added 45 minutes and created closure in a weird, mystical logic that, in its unique Lynchian way, makes a twisted emotional […]

Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell star in the 1948 film noir classic.

Nicholas Ray’s ‘They Live by Night’ on Criterion Channel

“This boy… and this girl… were never properly introduced to the world we live in…,” begins They Live By Night (1948), a bubble of a brief, idealized vision of young love immediately swept away in the urgency and desperation of the prison break in the very next scene. The directorial debut of American filmmaker Nicholas […]

David Bradley stars in the 1969 drama by Ken Loach

‘Kes’ – a boy and his kestrel on Amazon Prime

The story of a boy and his bird, Kes (1969) is something of a small cinematic treasure in Britain. Set and shot in the North of England and cast overwhelming with non-professional locals from the area, it cast its lens on the dreary life and hopeless future of a scrawny, fatherless teenager, Billy Casper (David […]

‘The Red Shoes’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s The Red Shoes (1948) has been called the greatest ballet film ever made. To girls of a certain age and a predisposition to the romance and beauty of ballet, this film is a touchstone that remains an impassioned favorite long after their invitation to the dance is over. To me, […]

Robert Redford stars in the ski drama directed by Michael Ritchie

Robert Redford is a ‘Downhill Racer’ on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

Downhill Racer (1969) is the feature debut of Michael Ritchie, the first project that frustrated actor and future movie star Robert Redford developed for himself and the first of Redford’s proposed trilogy about the meaning of “winning” in American culture. That’s what gives such a riveting perspective to what would otherwise be called a “sports […]

Leo Gordon and Neville Brand in the prison drama by Don Siegel

‘Riot in Cell Block 11’ on Criterion Channel

It may not have been obvious at the time but Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) was a perfect match of film and filmmaker. Don Siegel later made a name for himself with his gritty Clint Eastwood collaborations (not to mention his brilliant Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but was just a promising journeyman director […]

Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-Wai's award-winning film

‘In the Mood for Love’ on Criterion Channel

There may be no more sensual director in the world than Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-Wai, and In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong, 2000) is one of his richest and most melancholy works, a shadow dance of would-be lovers sketched in suggestions and intimations. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai star as next door neighbors […]

‘Ministry of Fear’ – World War II spy noir on Criterion Channel

You could call the conspiratorial wartime thriller Ministry of Fear (1944) Hitchcockian, at least in its play with an innocent man swept up in international intrigue, but the sensibility comes from its director, Fritz Lang. Ray Milland is the wrong man here, recently released from a mental asylum (he was sentenced for the mercy killing […]

‘I Married a Witch’ – Veronica Lake casts a spell on Criterion Channel

“Long ago, when people still believed in witches …” I Married a Witch (1942), René Clair’s sexy ghost story by way of a cockeyed American romantic comedy, is a delightful and deftly made little trifle with Veronica Lake at her best as the daughter of an ancient supernatural trickster (played by Cecil Kellaway). Resurrected hundreds […]

Mathieu Amalric and Catherine Deneuve, directed by Arnaud Desplechin

‘A Christmas Tale’ – A messy family holiday on Criterion Channel

A Christmas Tale (France, 2008), Arnaud Desplechin’s mercurial, knotty and cinematically vibrant drama of family dysfunction stirred up over a Christmas gathering, was my pick for best film of 2008. Directing with restless energy, Desplechin sketches out a family tragedy, the untimely death of a first-born that precedes the story by decades, and then only […]