On Film

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The War of the Worlds: Sky on Fire
The War of the Worlds: Sky on Fire

The first and most influential film adaptation of H. G. Wells’s sci-fi classic, this brilliantly imagined vision of apocalypse captured American anxieties at the height of the Cold War.

By J. Hoberman

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Come and See: Orphans of the Storm
Come and See: Orphans of the Storm

With extraordinary immediacy, Elem Klimov’s magisterial final film brings to life the barbarity of war, a subject of which the director had firsthand knowledge.

By Mark Le Fanu

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Read and See: Ales Adamovich and Literature out of Fire
Read and See: Ales Adamovich and Literature out of Fire

In postwar Belarus, where documents were either inaccessible or had been destroyed, the cowriter of Come and See pioneered a new form of literature sourced from the nightmarish testimonies of survivors.

By Valzhyna Mort

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Tokyo Olympiad: The Wind Passing Through the Flagpoles
Tokyo Olympiad: The Wind Passing Through the Flagpoles

Kon Ichikawa aimed to show “the sweat” and “the pathos” of athletic ambition in this monumental documentary, the most extravagant Olympic film to date.

By James Quandt

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Daring to See
Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Daring to See

Art becomes a tool for remaking one’s world in this unforgettable depiction of lesbian love, a film that director Céline Sciamma has called “a manifesto about the female gaze.”

By Ela Bittencourt

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The Cameraman: Man with a Movie Camera
The Cameraman: Man with a Movie Camera

Buster Keaton struggled with higher-ups at MGM while making his last great film, which the studio would later hold up as a model of a perfectly constructed comedy.

By Imogen Sara Smith

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An Unmarried Woman: The Business of Being a Woman
An Unmarried Woman: The Business of Being a Woman

Paul Mazursky’s candid tale of self-discovery reflects feminist politics of the 1970s while also hearkening back to the glories of classic Hollywood women’s pictures.

By Angelica Jade Bastién

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Husbands: Vows
Husbands: Vows

A film of volatile emotions that provides no catharsis, John Cassavetes’s exploration of masculinity finds the director at his most existential and abstract.

By Andrew Bujalski

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A Singular Voice, in Short
A Singular Voice, in Short

Martin Scorsese’s stylistically varied early short films reveal the energy and invention that would make him one of the most exciting American directors of his time.

By Bilge Ebiri

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Wildlife: What Is and What Isn’t
Wildlife: What Is and What Isn’t

In this remarkably restrained adaptation of a Richard Ford novel, the midcentury American dream gives way to harsh reality as one Montana family begins to fall apart.

By Mark Harris

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Dance, Girl, Dance: Gotta Dance
Dance, Girl, Dance: Gotta Dance

Pioneering Hollywood filmmaker Dorothy Arzner brought a rare feminist sensibility to this backstage drama that explores the role of ambition, friendship, and love in the lives of two dancers.

By Sheila O’Malley

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The Great Escape: Not Caught
The Great Escape: Not Caught

John Sturges’s POW drama is an ode to ingenuity and cooperation that anticipated a wave of demythologizing war films.

By Sheila O’Malley

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Me and You and Everyone We Know: Punk Cars Bodies Movies
Me and You and Everyone We Know: Punk Cars Bodies Movies

Miranda July took her punk spirit and wild imagination to the big screen with this first feature, which explores universal themes of shame and pain through her singular voice.

By Sara Magenheimer

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Me and You and Everyone We Know: Performance Rites
Me and You and Everyone We Know: Performance Rites

The characters in Miranda July’s film long for a radical vulnerability that remains forever beyond their grasp.

By Lauren Groff

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The Cremator: “No One Will Suffer”
The Cremator: “No One Will Suffer”

Juraj Herz’s macabre tale of madness epitomizes the artistic and political audacity of Czechoslovak cinema during its golden age of liberalization, a period that would soon prove to be short-lived.

By Jonathan Owen

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Destry Rides Again: Riding High
Destry Rides Again: Riding High

After a career drought, Marlene Dietrich roared back to fame and acclaim with this ingenious comedy-western hybrid, made in what is widely considered one of the peak years of the studio system.

By Farran Smith Nehme

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Show Boat: Rollin’ on the River
Show Boat: Rollin’ on the River

A landmark stage musical receives its greatest cinematic treatment in this beautifully mounted saga that reflects the changing state of race relations across three generations.

By Gary Giddins

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The Prince of Tides: The Artist’s Mirror
The Prince of Tides: The Artist’s Mirror

The result of a three-and-a-half-year quest, this Oscar-nominated drama is a high-water mark in the career of one of Hollywood’s most distinguished artists.

By Bruce Eder

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The Cranes Are Flying: A Free Camera
The Cranes Are Flying: A Free Camera

A war film that emphasizes personal drama over public platitude, this masterpiece by Mikhail Kalatozov features the vitality and freewheeling cinematic experimentation characteristic of post-Stalin cinema.

By Chris Fujiwara

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Leave Her to Heaven: The Eyes of Ellen Berent
Leave Her to Heaven: The Eyes of Ellen Berent

In this Technicolor film noir masterpiece, Gene Tierney stars as one of cinema’s most dangerous and sympathetic femmes fatales, a woman who finds it impossible to conform to postwar gender roles.

By Megan Abbott

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Bamboozled: New Millennium, Same Bullshit
Bamboozled: New Millennium, Same Bullshit

For one of the most provocative and eerily prescient films of his career, Spike Lee confronted the racist neo-minstrelsy that continues to pervade mass entertainment.

By Ashley Clark

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Salesman: For God and Company
Salesman: For God and Company

Chronicling the trials of a door-to-door salesman in midcentury America, this incisive portrait of consumer culture revolutionized the art of documentary filmmaking.

By Michael Chaiken

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Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman: Storm of Craft
Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman: Storm of Craft

One of Czechoslovak cinema’s masters of illusion dazzled audiences with obsessively handcrafted fantasias that combined live action, animation, and the influence of nineteenth-century graphic illustration.

By Michael Atkinson

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Paris Is Burning: The Fire This Time
Paris Is Burning: The Fire This Time

New York City’s 1980s drag-ball scene comes to vibrant life in Jennie Livingston’s documentary, a landmark chronicle of the resilience and realness of queer communities of color.

By Michelle Parkerson

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