Dragon Inn (Lóng Mén Kè Zhàn, 1967)

Director/Screenwriter: King Hu By Roderick Heath King Hu was born Hu Jinquan in Beijing in 1932. Scion of a prominent and prosperous family, Hu nonetheless was borne along with a generation displaced by war and political upheaval, and washed up in Hong Kong when still a teenager in 1949. After working for a decade in …

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All the Money in the World (2017)

Director: Ridley Scott By Roderick Heath Where Ridley Scott last left off, he was sending his biologically engineered übermenschen off into deep space to operatic fanfares of crypt-black irony. All the Money in the World, although set in the recent, very earthbound past, nonetheless takes up where that movie left off as young John Paul …

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Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Director/Actor: Kenneth Branagh By Roderick Heath Kenneth Branagh, damn his eyes. Few figures in contemporary film remain as eclectically gifted and perpetually vexing. The energetic-to-a-fault Irish-born thespian-turned-filmmaker’s directorial career has provoked acclaim and irritation since his electrifying debut in 1989 with Henry V transformed a 28-year-old best known for his stage work into a major …

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Dunkirk (2017)

Director/Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan By Roderick Heath The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beachfront of the French coastal region of Dunkirk remains one of the most legendary intervals of World War II. The beaten, bedraggled force of 400,000 men, left without recourse after the infamous Nazi blitzkrieg attacks that invaded Belgium and outflanked …

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Fellini ∙ Satyricon (1969)

Director/Coscreenwriter: Federico Fellini By Roderick Heath Thanks to the enormous impact of La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8½ (1963), Federico Fellini’s name had been vaulted into the tiny canon of filmmakers whose names were household words. The phrase “Felliniesque” came to spell out a brand of gaudy, sensual, yearning artistry in the same way Hitchcockian …

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Waxworks (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, 1924) / The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Director: Paul Leni By Roderick Heath Paul Leni’s name might not be as instantly recognisable to movie lovers as his fellows in the legendary days of German "Expressionist" cinema, Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau. Nonetheless, Leni stands with them as one of the major creative figures of that style, of the budding horror film genre, …

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Neruda / Jackie (2016)

Director: Pablo Larraín By Roderick Heath The biopic has become the most reliably rancid of contemporary prestige film genres. It’s supposed to be a mode for exploring vital cultural and historical touchstones in stirring, dramatic, thought-provoking fashion, and nothing should be as rich and strange as the life of a great man or woman explored …

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Fährmann Maria (1936) / Strangler of the Swamp (1946)

Director: Frank Wisbar By Roderick Heath Frank Wisbar is today a fairly obscure name in the roll of classic film directors, and yet lovers of horror cinema still remember him for making two of the genre’s finer deep cuts, each film a variation of the same story, made ten years and continents apart. Born in …

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Man in the Wilderness (1971) / The Revenant (2015)

Directors: Richard C. Sarafian / Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu By Roderick Heath The story of Hugh Glass contains the essence of American frontier mythology—the cruelty of nature met with the indomitable grit and resolve of the frontiersman. It’s the sort of story breathlessly reported in pulp novellas and pseudohistories, and more recently, of course, movies. Glass, …

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