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Le Silence de la Mer

By Kenneth R. Morefield Essay

Jean-Pierre Melville (1949) IN ONE OF THE GREATEST DEFENSES of poetry ever written, Percy Shelley wrote that “The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.” Shelley defined love as a “going out of our own nature and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own.”…

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The White Ribbon

By Andrew Brotzman Essay

Michael Haneke (2009) ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND IS ASSASSINATED. Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Germany follows suit three days later, turning on Russia first, and then on France the following Monday. An unnamed tailor from the fictitious village of Eichwald, Germany, presents these facts in simple, direct voiceover during the final minutes of Michael Haneke’s The…

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Do the Right Thing

By Michael Dunaway Essay

Spike Lee (1989) WHAT FILM HELPS YOU LIVE BETTER? It’s an impossible question. Something by Francis Ford Coppola? Terrence Malick? Richard Linklater? A documentary by Steve James, Ondi Timoner, Barbara Kopple, the Maysles Brothers, or D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus? Yes to all. But just as Chris Rock says about music, I think there is…

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I Wish

By Catherine von Ruhland Essay

Hirokazu Kore-eda (2011) BY THE END OF CELEBRATED DIRECTOR Hirokazu Kore-eda’s delightful 2011 fable I Wish, two preteen brothers, living in different towns with their separated parents, will have traveled across the Japanese countryside with a gaggle of school friends to watch two bullet trains speed past each other at a new track point. They…

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Groundhog Day

By Vic Thiessen Essay

Harold Ramis (1993) phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered? man at the bar: That about sums it up for me. THIS CONVERSATION LIES AT THE HEART of an unusual film from the 1990s—unusual because it’s a…

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The Five Obstructions

By Rebecca Ver Straten-McSparran Essay

Lars von Trier (2003) It’s completely insane. No edit more than twelve frames long—it’s totally destructive. What the hell does he expect me to do? He’s ruining it from the start. SO DECLARES EXPERIMENTAL DANISH FILMMAKER and poet Jørgen Leth. Leth has agreed to remake The Perfect Human (1967), his elegant, minimalist short film of…

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The Master

By Bearden Coleman Essay

Paul Thomas Anderson (2012) IN HIS BOOK Devotional Cinema Nathaniel Dorsky notes that the film-going experience is a metaphor for vision: we perceive a world of light and movement from within the darkness of our heads in the same way that filmgoers sit in dark theaters and watch a world take shape out of light and…

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Cléo from 5 to 7

By Nicole Kassell Essay

Agnès Varda (1962) ASKING MYSELF ABOUT A FILM that helps us live better, I am immediately awash in a reel of images of the great films, art, novels, and plays that have changed me: art that has cracked my heart open, made me see the world anew or from another perspective, that has shed a…

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The Hours

By Tony Hale Essay

Stephen Daldry (2002) I WAS LIVING IN NEW YORK CITY on September 11, 2001, and for months afterward, I walked around in a strange daze, wondering what the hell had happened, what to do now, how to cope. The stench of smoke hung in the air, a constant reminder that the tragedy we’d all experienced…

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Window Water Baby Moving

By Paul Harrill Essay

Stan Brakhage (1959) IN THE WINTER OF 2014, I was teaching a course in the history of experimental film at the University of Tennessee. I primarily make fictional films, and I’m no scholar of avant-garde cinema, but a colleague had fallen ill and I had been asked to cover the course. I was happy to…

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