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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 14, 2015 0 comments
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Don’t Look Now is a weirdly captivating creep-show of a movie: dark, vaguely Gothic, crudely energetic, occasionally ridiculous—in short, it resembles a lot of other films directed by Nicolas Roeg in the ’70s (Performance, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing). This one’s about an artistic couple, living (inexplicably) in a huge house on a huge estate, whose daughter drowns in a nearby pond; the couple takes solace in Venice, where he has a job restoring an old church; she meets two old sisters, one of whom—the blind one—sees the spirit of the daughter, and many other hobgoblins, too; meanwhile, it turns out that the husband has a bit of a sixth sense as well; trouble, chaos, and the cruel hand of fate ensue.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 08, 2015 3 comments
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Preston Sturges, whose rise and fall were as sudden and steep as any in cinema (except for that of Orson Welles), had his peak years from 1940–44, writing and directing seven of the greatest American film comedies ever, and The Palm Beach Story sprung forth in precisely the middle of the run. A head-spinning romp through the joys and foibles of love, marriage, money, and class, it practically defines “screwball comedy,” with its Alpine plot twists, nonstop mayhem, rapid-fire dialogue, razor-sharp wit, and madcap but extremely good-natured characters.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 04, 2015 1 comments
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A charmer of a film, deeper, even grittier than its Capra-corn romantic populism might suggest, It Happened One Night swept the 1934 Oscars—winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, and Director—and if it hadn’t edged out The Thin Man in doing so, I’d say, Bravo, well deserved. The story is a classic class-crossing fable: A spoiled rich girl runs away from her father to join the king she wants to marry; a hardscrabble newspaperman finds her, blackmails her into letting him come along to write a story; they take to the road, by bus, foot, thumb, and jalopy, squabbling, scolding, and, of course, falling in love with each other.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 15, 2015 0 comments
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La Dolce Vita was Federico Fellini’s breakout hit: a critical and commercial sensation, even in America, where foreign films till then were strictly art house fare. It’s the winding tale of a litterateur-turned-gossip columnist wandering the streets, bars, and parties of newly decadent modern Rome, seeking love, meaning, and value but finally realizing their futility and wallowing in the miasma. The film coined archetypes of the era: a character named Paparazzo, a tabloid photographer who chases after sensational shots, spawned the word paparazzi; another, Steiner, a refined man of culture who commits a gruesome crime, became the prototype of the modern ineffectual intellectual.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 29, 2014 0 comments
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Is Y Tu Mamá También (rough translation: So’s your mama) a wry and trenchant story about class, friendship, sexuality, and globalization in a rapidly changing Mexico—or is it a gussied-up piece of soft porn? Both, I think, but it’s all done so affably and naturally (the sociology, the politics, and the porn) that it comes off as a work of great charm and comedy and sadness. A gorgeous young married woman and two rambunctious teenage boys—best friends, one wealthy, one poor but aspiring—take off on a road trip to Mexico’s rural beaches.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 18, 2014 0 comments
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I saw A Hard Day’s Night in a theater in 1964, when it first came out and I was 10 years old. I saw it three times, and it was pure joy. I felt the same sensation watching this fantastic Blu-ray transfer. Was it at least in part nostalgia? Probably, though it’s worth noting that the movie—which came out in August, six months after The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show—is what won over our parents to the Fab Four: so smart, witty, and talented after all (traits that we kids had long appreciated). And my own kids, born two decades later, love the movie and the group too.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 12, 2014 0 comments
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After watching The Great Beauty in a theater, I wanted to watch it again, not to catch details I’d missed (there weren’t many) but to relive the experience. I can’t remember a film that so raptly captures the flow of life, the “fleeting and sporadic flashes of beauty” beneath the “blah-blah-blah” of existence, as our protagonist, Jep Gambardella, reflects in his epiphany. Jep (played by the marvelous Toni Servillo) is the king of Rome’s high society, the author of a celebrated novel who hasn’t written one since because he can’t find “the great beauty.” But, at the end, he realizes that life is full of great beauty when mediated through art, and so begins his new novel, which, we realize, is the film we’ve just seen.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 17, 2014 1 comments
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The Best Years of Our Lives is the best film ever made about war veterans. That’s not exactly an alluring endorsement, so let me add that it’s a nearly three-hour film without a moment of mind-drift. It’s funny, moving, wrenching—a total tear-jerker that earns its emotional wallop.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 05, 2014 0 comments
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Interactivity
Before Midnight is the unplanned Part 3 of what may turn out to be a lifetime series—one episode every nine years, so far—following the romance of Jesse and Céline. Before Sunrise (1995) had them, at 23, meeting on a train in Europe, getting off together in Vienna, walking and talking all day and night, and making love at dawn. Before Sunset (2004) found Jesse, author of a best-selling novel about that brief affair, running into Céline at a reading in Paris, resuming their walking and talking through the winding streets, and ending in her apartment on an ambiguous note: Will he catch his plane back to Chicago, returning to his wife and child, or stay with Céline, for whom he’s been pining all these years?
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 21, 2013 0 comments
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Silver Linings Playbook is the most oddly enticing rom-com in a long time. Think Billy Wilder filtered through Martin Scorsese, which isn’t a bad way to describe the flip sensibility and kinetic style of writer-director David O. Russell at his best (Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster, not I Heart Huckabees). It’s a movie about crazy people: self-destructive and socially oblivious in various ways to varying degrees, all of them finding a place in the sun through love, family, community, music, and sports.

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