• Au Hasard Balthazar

    Au Hasard Balthazar

    Bresson patiently studies the lives of a donkey and its occasional owner (Anne Wiazemsky in her debut role) in rural France. Rendering a world oppressed by exploitative, cruel relationships, Au hasard Balthazar evokes a rich tension between formal rigor and the tragic, parallel narratives personified by its two principal non-actors. Bresson, who used solely nonprofessionals in front of the camera since 1951’s Diary of a Country Priest, was reportedly upset when Wiazemsky went on to pursue an acting career (she…

  • Close-Up

    Close-Up

    In Abbas Kiarostami’s masterful exploration of the nature of truth and cinematic illusion, a young man introduces himself as celebrated director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and enters intimately into the life of a family under the pretext that he’s scouting locations for a new film project. Deeply suspicious, the father investigates the stranger, leading to the con man’s exposure and arrest. At this stage, Kiarostami and his real-life film crew enter the story to film the imposter’s trial. Events preceding the young…

  • The Gospel According to Matthew

    The Gospel According to Matthew

    Pasolini’s version of the Gospel, lauded by both art-house audiences and religious groups, was shot in natural settings in southern Italy, forsaking mythic grandeur in favor of a depiction that emphasizes the political radicalism of Christ’s life, with a visual style that drew from contemporaneous documentary and Renaissance painting alike. The use of non-actors was, in particular, essential to the project. “I don’t know what it is, but the eye of the camera always manages to express the interior of…

  • Vagabond

    Vagabond

    One of Varda’s favorite devices, used in films from La Pointe Courte to Documenteur, is to structure her movies around fictional characters who act as foils for the non-actors who surround them. But it was only in Vagabond, one of her most celebrated features, that she filmed those non-actors trying—and failing—to figure out the movie’s main character. Mona, played in a career-high performance by Sandrine Bonnaire, has left her posh urban office job for a life on the road. The…

  • Umberto D.

    Umberto D.

    Carlo Battisti, a professor of linguistics from Florence, gave one of the most iconic and moving performances in world cinema in Vittorio De Sica’s transcendently melancholy study of a penniless, elderly pensioner struggling to eke out a living in Rome with his loyal dog Flike. De Sica’s fifth collaboration with the writer Cesare Zavattini, Umberto D. had a disastrous initial release, but it has come to be recognized as the great swan song of Italian neorealism, and one of the…

  • Pather Panchali

    Pather Panchali

    Set almost entirely in a remote Bengal village, Satyajit Ray’s debut changed the landscape of Indian art-house cinema and unveiled his enduring artistic voice to the world. Based on the novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and inspired by Italian neorealism as well as the works of French filmmaker Jean Renoir, Pather Panchali centers on young Apu (Subir Banerjee, in his first and only film role) and the family who shapes his youth in delightful and heartrending ways. Accompanied by the incomparable…

  • The Lost One

    The Lost One

    In his sole directorial effort, Peter Lorre (who also cowrote the film) plays a Nazi-era scientist who is forced to murder his fiancee after he discovers that she is surreptitiously selling data from his secret research to the enemies of the Third Reich. Lorre based his character on a real-life German scientist who committed suicide in a displaced persons camp, and his performance reverberates with echoes of his most iconic role, in Fritz Lang’s M. The Lost One is a…

  • The Eighth Day of the Week

    The Eighth Day of the Week

    Aleksander Ford finished editing this film in the FRG after it was shelved by censors in the People’s Republic of Poland (it wasn’t released in Poland until 25 years after its completion). This tale of two lovers concerns a young man (Zbigniew Cybulski) and woman (Sonja Ziemann) who escape the city to spend a few undisturbed hours together in the countryside; the ecstasy of their love gives way to the agony of modern life as everyday circumstances conspire to obstruct…

  • On the Beach at Night Alone

    On the Beach at Night Alone

    Hong Sang-soo’s movies have always invited autobiographical readings, and his 19th feature is perhaps his most achingly personal film yet, a steel-nerved, clear-eyed response to the tabloid frenzy that erupted in South Korea over his relationship with actress Kim Min-hee. The film begins in Hamburg, where actress Young-hee (played by Kim herself, who won the Best Actress prize at Berlin for this role) is hiding out after the revelation of her affair with a married filmmaker. Back in Korea, a…

  • Das Kleid

    Das Kleid

    In this politically alert adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes (formally banned for ten years and shelved for decades until its completion in 1991), travellers Hans and Kumpan come to a city encircled by a gargantuan wall, in which strange things seem going on and a tyrannical, vain emperor demands that they craft a new wardrobe for him that will inspire fear and servility among his subjects. Petzold’s parable about the Berlin Wall and the…

  • The Haunted Castle

    The Haunted Castle

    This hilarious satire of the FRG’s economic turnaround unexpectedly assumes the form of a kind of horror musical laden with special effects (with a score by the great composer Friedrich Hollaender, his last). Charlotte (Liselotte Pulver) inherits an old castle near Bonn—and a tremendous amount of debt. But, luckily for Charlotte, the castle is haunted by five ghosts who resolve to help dig her out of her financial hole. Their approach proves to be, shall we say, unconventional, and Charlotte…

  • The Tiger of Eschnapur

    The Tiger of Eschnapur

    After his long and prolific Hollywood career, Fritz Lang (Metropolis) returned to Germany at the behest of producer Artur Brauner and embarked on an ambitious two-film project that would become known as his “Indian Epic.” The source material was the novel The Indian Tomb by Thea von Harbou (Lang’s ex-wife and former collaborator), a book Lang had initially been hired to direct as a silent film in 1921, before being fired and replaced by Joe May. In this, the first…