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Day for Night (La Nuit Américaine, 1973) – Review by Pauline Kael

Day for Night has the Truffaut proportion and grace, and it can please those who have grown up with Truffaut’s films — especially those for whom Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel has become part of their own autobiographies, with Antoine’s compromises and modest successes paralleling their own.

Serpico: The Hero as Freak – Review by Pauline Kael

What could be a more appropriate subject for a 1973 movie than the ordeal of Frank Serpico, the New York City policeman who became a pariah in the Department because he wouldn’t take bribes? Serpico, whose incorruptibility alienates him from his fellow-officers and turns him into a messianic hippie freak, is a perfect modern-movie hero.

THE KILLING FIELDS (1984): UNREAL – Review by Pauline Kael

The Killing Fields, which is based on Sydney Schanberg’s 1980 Times Magazine article “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” is by no means a negligible movie. It shows us the Khmer Rouge transforming Cambodia into a nationwide gulag, and the scenes of this genocidal revolution have the breadth and terror of something deeply imagined.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) – Review by Pauline Kael

Rambo: First Blood Part II explodes your previous conception of “overwrought”—it’s like a tank sitting on your lap firing at you. Jump-cutting from one would-be high point to another, Rambo is to the action film what Flashdance was to the musical, with one to-be-cherished difference: audiences are laughing at it.

PURPLE RAIN (1984) – Review by Pauline Kael

As a movie, Purple Rain is a mawkish fictionalized bio […] It’s pretty terrible; the narrative hook is: will the damaged boy learn to love? There are no real scenes—just flashy, fractured rock-video moments.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989) – Review by Pauline Kael

Crimes and Misdemeanors, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a sad, censuring look at the world-famous doctor and other crooks in high places who (in Allen’s view) have convinced themselves that they can do anything, because they don’t think God is watching.

HELL IN THE PACIFIC – Review by Pauline Kael

Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune are the stars of Hell in the Pacific, and there’s nobody else in the movie — just this American soldier and this Japanese soldier stranded on a Pacific island during the Second World War, and neither speaking a word of the other’s language.

KAGEMUSHA (1980) – Review by Pauline Kael

A new epic film by Kurosawa is an international event, especially when it’s the only film he has made in Japan in ten years, after he had just about given up hope of ever working there again.

POPEYE (1980) – Review by Pauline Kael

Sometimes the components of a picture seem miraculously right and you go to it expecting a magical interaction. That’s the case with Popeye. But it comes off a little like some of the Jacques Tati comedies, where you can see the intelligence and skill that went into the gags yet you don’t hear yourself laughing.

Tess (1979) – Review by Pauline Kael

Polanski’s Tess is Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles under sedation. The film has a penitential attitude toward the suffering that men inflict on women. This Tess becomes a tribute to women’s dear weakness.

2001: A Space Odyssey

BEYOND THE STARS – by Jeremy Bernstein

We are happy to report, for the benefit of science-fiction buffs—who have long felt that, at its best, science fiction is a splendid medium for conveying the poetry and wonder of science—that there will soon be a movie for them. We have this from none other than the two authors of the movie, which is to be called Journey Beyond the Stars—Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke.

THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE: ANARCHIST’S LAUGHTER – Review by Pauline Kael

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a cosmic vaudeville show —an Old Master’s mischief. Now seventy-two, Luis Bunuel is no longer savage about the hypocrisy and the inanity of the privileged classes. They don’t change, and since they have become a persistent bad joke to him, he has grown almost fond of their follies—the way one can grow fond of the snarls and the silliness of vicious pets.

JULES AND JIM – Review by Pauline Kael

Jules and Jim is not only one of the most beautiful films ever made, and the greatest motion picture of recent years, it is also, viewed as a work of art, exquisitely and impeccably moral.

Pale Rider (1985)

Pale Rider (1985) | Review by Pauline Kael

As an actor, Eastwood never lets down his guard. His idea of being a real man is that it’s something you have to pretend to be—as Sergio Leone put it, he’s wearing a suit of armor. This actor has made a career out of his terror of expressiveness. Now here he is playing a stiff, a ghost. It’s perfect casting, but he doesn’t have the daring to let go and have fun with it. Even as a ghost, he’s armored.

BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI’S 1900: HAIL, FOLLY! – Review by Pauline Kael

Bertolucci is trying to transcend the audience appeal of his lyrical, psy­chological films. He is trying to make a people’s film by drawing on the mythology of movies, as if it were a collective memory. 1900 is a romantic moviegoer’s vision of the class struggle—a love poem for the movies as well as for the life of those who live communally on the land.

PADRE PADRONE: THE SACRED OAK – Review by Pauline Kael

The Taviani brothers have learned to fuse political commitment and artis­tic commitment into stylized passion. Their film Padre Padrone has the beauty of anger that is channelled and disciplined without losing inten­sity.

The French Connection (1971) | Review by Pauline Kael

An ex­traordinarily well-made new thriller gets the audience sky-high and keeps it up there—The French Connection, directed by William Friedkin, which is one of the most “New York” of all the recent New York movies.

QUEST FOR FIRE (1981) – Review by Pauline Kael

Eighty thousand years ago, on broad primeval plains, Naoh (Everett McGill), the bravest warrior of the spear-carrying Ulam tribe, and two fellow-warriors, Amoukar (Ron Perlman) and Gaw (Nameer El-Kadi), are sent out on the sacred mission of finding fire and bringing it back to the Ulam.

Mean Streets: Everyday Inferno – Review by Pauline Kael

Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets is a true original of our period, a triumph of personal filmmaking. It has its own hallucinatory look; the characters live in the darkness of bars, with lighting and color just this side of lurid. It has its own unsettling, episodic rhythm and a high-charged emo­tional range that is dizzyingly sensual.

THE GODFATHER: ALCHEMY – Review by Pauline Kael

A wide, startlingly vivid view of a Mafia dynasty, in which organized crime becomes an obscene nightmare image of American free enterprise. The movie is a popular melodrama with its roots in the gangster films of the 30s, but it expresses a new tragic realism, and it’s altogether extraordinary.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry: Saint Cop – Review by Pauline Kael

Dirty Harry is obviously just a genre movie, but this action genre has always had a fascist potential, and it has finally surfaced. Since crime is caused by deprivation, misery, psychopathology, and social injustice, Dirty Harry is a deeply immoral movie.

Excalibur (1981) – Review by Pauline Kael

Boorman doesn’t bother with episodes that don’t stir him; there’s no dull connective tissue. The film is like Flaubert’s more exotic fantasies—one lush, enraptured scene after another.

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