I’ve been thinking about the 1930s these days, and not in a good way (though if it’s any consolation, I think we’re in France, not Germany). But in these dispiriting times, let’s reach for some movies-as-therapy, and remember that not everything about the 1930s was dismal—in fact it was a great decade for the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
News and Commentary
Why is the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever made called “A Christmas Tale”? (Which, we hasten to add, is not to be confused with “A Christmas Carol.”) Because it is French. And, as director Arnaud Desplechin explained, they don’t have Thanksgiving in the Old World. But he wanted to tell a version of that particular type of story: the convergence of an extended family returning back to the old homestead—with newcomers, ex-lovers, and assorted relatives and friends all along for the ride, dragging a lifetime of emotional baggage in tow.
And so this has actually happened—America has elected as its President an ignorant, nativist authoritarian. One would not have thought this possible. It is still very difficult to process.
At such a moment, talking about the movies seems, perhaps . . . frivolous?
I am sympathetic to this perspective. But I want to suggest that the movies have a role to play in the context of our current existential crisis, especially because the most common question I hear (and the question I keep asking as well) is, “what am I supposed to do now?”
Mid Century Cinema favorite Mike Nichols would have turned eighty-five on November 6. We have previously celebrated each of his first two films, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Graduate (1967), so on this occasion we thought we would take a look at another one of his best—one of the milestones of the New Hollywood, Carnal Knowledge (1971). Written by
The newly released The Great Movies IV, the final collection of essays originally published by Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun Times, arrives as a pleasant surprise—if, necessarily, as a bittersweet one.
Two giants of French cinema celebrate their birthdays this time of year, Jacques Becker on September 15—he would have been 110, and Robert Bresson, born five years before Becker on September 25 (though he would outlive him by nearly 40 years).
It’s time to mark up the calendar with plans to attend screenings at the Fifty-Fourth New York Film Festival, which will be held this year from September 30 to October 16. The big tent, of course, dazzles with the glittering jewels of carefully selected new films, not yet in general release. Always full of promise and anticipation, this year we’re most looking forward to Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper, which was
Robert Redford turns eighty on August 18, which at some level is hard to believe. But when you think about, it does come with the territory of having starred in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents—in 1961.
What do we want from the movies? Let us summarily dismiss questions of taste. Movies are like wine—you can’t tell someone what to like. The wine you like is the wine you like. So too it is with cinema. To talk about what we want from the movies, then, is to ask something less personal but more profound: what is it that we value in a film; that is, by what criteria do we to consider a movie worthy not simply of our affection, but our attention?
Cinematographer Henri Decaë would have celebrated his 101st birthday on July 31.