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Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987) Directed by Éric Rohmer “Adventures” may be a bit of a misnomer here; in Rohmer’s four-part film, teenage girls Reinette and Mirabelle embark on the kinds of “adventures” that are more about navigating life’s mundane situations, from rude waiters to loud trucks disrupting rural idyll. It’s Rohmer’s peppering of subtle humor and his careful study of character—focusing his lens on two girls from different backgrounds (Reinette from the...
The Deer Hunter (1978) Directed by Michael Cimino Like Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, Cimino composed his masterpiece in parts––allegro, andante, and con moto––though in Cimino’s case the execution is not necessarily in that order. Both works use notes unfamiliar to the art form, yet The Deer Hunter’s visceral, bloody take on the Vietnam War, which begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral, is seamless. Cimino’s film is not anti- or pro-war; it’s...
Duck Soup (1933) Directed by Leo McCarey A Night at the Opera (1935) Directed by Sam Wood Beginning with a flash of NRA’s eagle that progressively gets more ironic, Duck Soup’s debauched satire of petty warfare and monied politics has a potent resonance equaling its vaudevillian absurdity. In everycountry Freedonia, self-proclaimed “Land of the Free,” wiseacre Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is installed as dictator, his two-bit cigar, greasepainted mug, and endless one-liners met with...
La Notte (1961) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni Easy to parody, impossible to replicate, what Andrew Sarris called “Antoniennui”—glamorous European movie stars composed in tableaux in front of brutalist architecture, speaking past each other in existential aphorisms—can be embraced as a Marxist-influence tract on the alienation of contemporary life or snorted at as chic pretention, equal and opposite visceral reactions to ambitious modern aesthetics which in either case and for better and worse say more about...

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