The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Fortnight: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, December 30-January 12

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Gate of Hell (1953)
Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa
Gate of Hell, Japan’s Leave Her to Heaven, is a curious fusion of modernism and expressionism, and certainly among the most beautiful films ever made. Colors have never looked so bright, so purposeful. Their radical nakedness befits a story so simple; all the better to simmer under the oppressive inevitability. We’re only introduced to the central conflict after the biggest action sequence has died down. A failed coup leaves a celebrated loyalist without anything to occupy his mind, so he fixates on the woman who brought him glory—the empress’s decoy, whom he protected believing her the genuine article. His obsession turns deadly, and Kinugasa makes the world fall quiet around him while he prepares to damn himself. A triumph of art direction, sound design, and psychological externalization, Gate of Hell is a magnificent waking dream, the promise of a visual medium fulfilled. Scout Tafoya (January 8, 7pm at Japan Society)

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