M

Germany (1931): Horror/Drama/Crime
99 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Fritz Lang's first sound film has visual excitement, pace, brilliance of surface, and feeling for detail. Above all, it has, caught in a manhunt, a small, fat man, sweating in his uncomfortable clothes-the sexual psychopath who murders little girls-interpreted by Peter Lorre with a spark of genius. It is Lorre's triumph that he makes us understand the terrified, suffering human being who murders. The film is based on the case of the Düsseldorf murderer: the police, in trying to track him down, disturbed the normal criminal activities of the city, and the underworld organized to find him, so that crime could go on as usual. Lang turns the movie into a melodramatic thriller by centering on this ironic chase-actually, on the two converging chases of the police and the underworld. The structure is so mechanical it's almost pulpy, and the film reaches for other easy effects-it's similar to THE THREEPENNY OPERA in its satirical use of beggars and criminals. But there's nothing facile about Lorre: trapped by the underworld, he screams, "I can't help myself!" Our identification with him as a psychopath is so complete it's hard to believe that while appearing before Fritz Lang's cameras in the daytime, he was, at night, acting as a comedian in a farce. With Gustaf Gründgens and Otto Wernicke; cinematography by Fritz Arno Wagner; script by Thea von Harbou and others. (The tune Lorre whistles is the theme from Grieg's Peer Gynt.) In German.

M*A*S*H

US (1970): War/Comedy
116 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Robert Altman's marvellously unstable comedy-a tough, funny, and sophisticated burlesque of military attitudes that is at the same time a tale of chivalry. It's an episodic film, full of the pleasures of the unexpected, and it keeps you busy listening to some of the best overlapping comic dialogue ever recorded. The title letters stand for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital; the heroes, played by Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould, are combat surgeons patching up casualties a few miles from the front during the Korean war. They do their surgery in style, with humor; they're hip Galahads, saving lives while ragging the military bureaucracy. They're quick to react to bull-and in startling, unpredictable ways. The movie's chief charm is a free-for-all, throwaway attitude. It combines traditional roustabout comedy with modern attitudes. It's hip but it isn't hopeless. A surgical hospital where the doctors' hands are lost in chests and guts is certainly an unlikely subject for a comedy, but M*A*S*H is probably the sanest American movie of its era. With Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, René Auberjonois, Jo Ann Pflug, Gary Burghof, Fred Williamson, Roger Bowen, David Arkin, Michael Murphy, John Schuck, Kim Atwood, Bud Cort, Carl Gottlieb, and Corey Fischer. The semi-improvised material takes off from a script by Ring Lardner, Jr., based on the novel by Richard Hooker (a doctor's pseudonym). Cinematography by Harold E. Stine. Produced by Ingo Preminger; the associate producer was Leon Ericksen. (The movie provided the basis for the long-running TV series starring Alan Alda.) 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Macbeth

UK (1971): Drama
140 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Slaughter is the star; Shakespeare's offstage corpses and murders are added to the onstage ones, and they so dominate the material that it's difficult to pay attention to the poetry. The director, Roman Polanski, shows such literal horror-and always a shade faster than you expect, so you're not prepared-that there is no horror left to imagine. He treats the play not as a great cautionary nightmare but as an illustration of how power normally changes hands. The film says that nothing is possible but horror and more horror, and, at the end, the cycle of bloodletting is about to begin again. It's well-acted, but it reduces Shakespeare's meanings to the banal "life is a jungle." With Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw, Nicholas Selby, and John Stride. The screenplay is by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan. Playboy Productions and Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Mad Love

US (1935): Horror
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Karl Freund, the famous UFA cinematographer, directed this version of the horror story The Hands of Orlac for MGM, starring Peter Lorre, with Gregg Toland (who was later to shoot CITIZEN KANE) in the camera crew. Freund's direction is disappointingly static, but the film has a distinctive Grand Guignol style and it's of considerable visual and historical interest. Peter Lorre's mad doctor (who grafts the hands of a knife-wielding murderer onto the sensitive pianist, Orlac, played by Colin Clive) might almost be an early sketch for Orson Welles' performance as the elderly Kane; the gothic sets of the two pictures have many similarities, and a white cockatoo turns up in both of them. With Frances Drake, Ted Healy, Edward Brophy, Sara Haden, Keye Luke, Cora Sue Collins, Henry Kolker, and Harold Huber. Guy Endore, John L. Balderston, and P.J. Wolfson adapted the Maurice Renard novel, which Robert Wiene filmed as a silent in Germany, with Conrad Veidt as Orlac.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book The Citizen Kane Book.

Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior

Australia (1981): Science Fiction/Action
94 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Set in a post-apocalyptic Wasteland, this Australian film, a sequel to the 1979 MAD MAX and known as MAD MAX 2 in other countries, is a mutant, sprung from virtually all action genres. George Miller, who directed, may have been content to make an openly sophomoric bash in MAD MAX-it was a revenge fantasy turned into a futuristic cartoon-but this time he's in the mythmaking business. The film is one continuous spurt of energy, and the jangly, fast editing suggests wit; so does the broad blacktop highway that cuts across the desert nothingness. And the rampaging vandals-punkish post-nuclear-war bikers, led by a masked bodybuilder called the Humungus-are s-m comic-strip terrors; they menace the decent folk, in more barbarous and gaudier versions of the way the wild motorcyclists in Roger Corman pictures did. But the picture is abstract in an adolescent way. Miller's attempt to tap into the universal concept of the hero (as enunciated by Jung and explicated by Joseph Campbell in THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES) makes the film joyless. He consciously uses his hero, Max (Mel Gibson), as an icon; that's enough to squeeze the juice out of any actor, and Max seems bland and apathetic. There are perhaps 10 minutes of spectacular imagery, and if you think of George Miller as one of the kinetic moviemakers, such as John Carpenter and George A. Romero, he's a giant, but he's pushing for more and he apparently doesn't see the limitations of the kind of material he's working with. For all its huffing and puffing, this is a sappy sentimental movie. With Bruce Spence as the stork-legged aviator and Vernon Wells as Wez; the script is by Terry Hayes and Miller, with Brian Hannant. (The third in the trilogy, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, was released in 1985.)
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Mad Miss Manton

US (1938): Crime/Comedy
80 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Something ground out by people in a desperate mood. Barbara Stanwyck, miscast as a dizzy débutante, is one of a covey of Junior League girls in fox capes; she walks her dog at three in the morning after a costume ball and finds a corpse in a deserted house. Inspirited by the spectacle, she immediately corrals her flighty friends; in their best party dresses, they scurry about the scene of the crime, squealing and looking for clues. This is the kind of movie that helped kill the screwball genre. Henry Fonda is the hero; the cast includes Sam Levene, Hattie McDaniel, Stanley Ridges, Miles Mander, and Whitney Bourne. Directed by Leigh Jason, from Philip G. Epstein's script. Produced by Pandro S. Berman, for RKO.

Madam Satan

US (1930): Musical
115 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

A hodgepodge by Cecil B. De Mille, culminating in an extravagant masked ball, costumed by Adrian, aboard an enormous dirigible. The party entertainment is an electrical ballet; the dancers are dressed with such motifs as sparkplugs and lightning streaks. God is angered, of course, and the festivities are interrupted by a real bolt of lightning. Some of the passengers are saved by their parachutes; the parachuteless hero, Reginald Denny, jumps to safety in the Central Park Reservoir-a stunt that the movies have never repeated. Lillian Roth, buxom and dimpled before she boozed and repented and told all (I'LL CRY TOMORROW), is the wildly energetic showgirl Trixie; Kay Johnson is the heroine-the wife who disguises herself as Madame Satan in order to win her husband back. Also with Roland Young and Martha Sleeper. You have to wait so long for the dirigible climax that you may be too exhausted to enjoy its lunacy. Written by Jeanie Macpherson. MGM.

Madame Bovary

France (1934): Drama
102 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Flaubert's Emma Bovary has usually been a role for screen beauties-Lila Lee in 1932, Pola Negri in 1937, and Jennifer Jones in 1949-but in this version, adapted and directed by Jean Renoir, Emma is played by Valentine Tessier as an anomalous creature, half swan, half goose. This large woman is not at all what one expects, yet she's surprisingly effective. The sunlight and the spaciousness emphasize Emma's loneliness; she's a middle-class woman with an ample figure, drifting along on romantic daydreams. When she's at the opera she's fatuously carried away from the emptiness of provincial life. Renoir's film ran 3 hours; the backers cut it to 2 hours and had a commercial disaster, anyway. Early viewers who saw the full version pronounced it a masterpiece; what's left is like a Renoir nature essay on Flaubertian themes. It lacks Flaubert's intensity, but it has fine, unstressed images and scenes that stay with one. The director's brother, Pierre Renoir, plays the uncomprehending philistine Charles Bovary, Max Dearly is M. Homais, and Robert Le Vigan is Lheureux. In French.

Madame Bovary

US (1949): Drama
115 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Fancy-dress version, starring Jennifer Jones. If you hadn't read the book, you really couldn't guess what it was about from this film, though the scriptwriter, Robert Ardrey, uses the framing device of Flaubert (James Mason) on trial for corrupting morals. This MGM production was advertised with the slogan "Whatever it is that French women have, Madame Bovary has more of it!;" and Jennifer Jones' Emma is surfeited with clothes and handsome leading men-Louis Jourdan and Alf Kjellin (who appears here under the name Christopher Kent) among them, while Van Heflin plays her dull husband. The director, Vincente Minnelli, stages an impressive romantic ball, but the whole movie is hopelessly overscaled. With Gladys Cooper, Paul Cavanagh, Eduard Franz, Gene Lockhart, George Zucco, and John Abbott.

Madame Butterfly

US (1932): Drama
86 min, No rating, Black & White

Is there someone out there who has always wanted to know what the opera is about, without being distracted from the plot by the music? Sylvia Sidney, got up in fancy kimonos, mournfully smiles through tears, and a not yet suave Cary Grant is the rotten-hearted Occidental who deserts her. Based on a stage version that David Belasco had co-written, it's every bit as bad as you might expect. Marion Gering directed; the cast includes Charlie Ruggles, Helen Jerome Eddy, Irving Pichel, and Sandor Kallay. Paramount.

Madame Curie

US (1943): Biography
124 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson) returns as the famous scientist, with Mr. Miniver (Walter Pidgeon, sporting a beard now) in attendance as her partner-in-science husband, Pierre Curie. Greer Garson is an actress who turns restraint into a cover for obscene self-assurance; when she discusses laboratory formulas she manages to invest every syllable with sanctity. Adapted from Eve Curie's biography of her mother, the movie is a product of simplification, distortion, and dullness of mind. The Curies are scoffed at by the authorities, surmount insurmountable obstacles, and, finally-bang!-they isolate radium. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy for MGM, with James Hilton serving as narrator. The enormous cast includes Robert Walker, Dame May Whitty, Van Johnson, Albert and Elsa Basserman, Margaret O'Brien, Victor Francen, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, and C. Aubrey Smith. Written by Paul Osborn and Paul H. Rameau.

Madame Sousatzka

US (1988): Drama
122 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

As a flamboyant, grande-dame piano teacher of Russian lineage, Shirley MacLaine seems to have entered the Simone Signoret sweepstakes, but she doesn't project Signoret's generosity-she doesn't spill over emotionally. This is, arguably, MacLaine's worst performance. She has flurries of physical mannerisms, but she's tight and held in; she's a wacky witch with frizzy red hair-she could be Norma Desmond's small-town spinster sister. Sousatzka lives in London (in an Edwardian house that is to be demolished) and devotes her energies and her hopes to the most prodigious of her students, a 15-year-old Indian boy raised in England-a role played with intelligence and poise by Navin Chowdhry. The blindingly derivative movie is about the boy's breaking free of her, though he knows he'll remain in her debt forever. Directed by John Schlesinger, this is a handsomely mounted production, and the musical community may regard it as a treasure-as the THE RED SHOES of the keyboard. With Peggy Ashcroft, Shabana Azmi, Geoffrey Bayldon, Leigh Lawson, and an appealingly understated performance by Twiggy. The script, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Schlesinger, is based on the 1962 novel by Bernice Rubens. Cineplex Odeon Films.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Madame X

US (1966): Drama
100 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

A woman is forced to abandon her baby and years later, having committed a murder, is defended by … her very own son, who does not know that … she is his very own mother! Alexandre Bisson's courtroom melodrama melted hearts in silent-movie houses in 1916 and again in 1920; Ruth Chatterton had a personal triumph in the first talkie version, in 1929; and in 1937 Gladys George gave it the benefit of her gin-and-tears voice. It requires an actress who knows how to get some mileage out of it, but in this Ross Hunter production, spiritually dedicated to the glossy woman's-picture style of the 1940s, Lana Turner hasn't the power or the technique-she isn't Madame X, she's Brand X. At the start, Turner is supposed to be a ravishing young newlywed, and the production is designed like a cocoon to protect her. There isn't a young actress in the cast, not even among the bit players. This MADAME X isn't about mother love; it's about mummy love. Ross Hunter was addicted to lavish wardrobes, and so the outcast heroine keeps changing her clothes, and to compensate for all those swell dresses, she keeps suffering: not one moment of fun in twenty years. With almost every line a howler, this is a camp special. David Lowell Rich directed. With Constance Bennett (in her last film appearance), Keir Dullea, John Forsythe, Ricardo Montalban, Burgess Meredith, Kaaren Verne, Virginia Grey, and Joe De Santis. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Made For Each Other

US (1939): Drama/Comedy
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Carole Lombard and James Stewart as plain, ordinary struggling young married folk in New York, having money troubles. The film, written by Jo Swerling and directed by John Cromwell, manages to jack up a little excitement when the couple's baby gets sick and serum must be flown from Utah. The mercy plane goes through a storm, gales, blizzards, thunder, and lightning. You'll be relieved to know that the serum arrives in the very nick of time, and the husband gets a promotion. With Charles Coburn, Lucile Watson, Harry Davenport, Eddie Quillan, Esther Dale, and Louise Beavers. Produced by David O. Selznick; released by United Artists.

Made for Each Other

US (1971): Comedy
107 min, Rated PG, Color

Renée Taylor and her husband, Joseph Bologna, wrote and star in this original, romantic comedy about a knocked-out, bleached-blond failed actress and a grubby misfit who meet in an encounter group. The movie believes there is a Kingdom of Heaven that you can get to if you help each other be vulnerable and open. It's Frank Capra updated by ethnic humor and simplified Freudianism, but it's so skillfully worked out that it's emotionally pleasing, and Renée Taylor's performance gives the film depth and conviction. Robert B. Bean directed. 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Made in Heaven

US (1987): Romance/Fantasy
103 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's about finding perfect love, losing it, and stumblingly trying to recover it-in another life. Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis have a love literally made in Heaven; when their souls are returned to earth in newborn babes, they have a spiritual need to find each other, though they don't remember the love they shared. This whimsey might have been semi-appealing if it had been worked out more ingeniously-if the scenes took some shape, if they didn't dither and sag. And if McGillis, who's meant to be the sort of lyrical, ethereal creature that Jennifer Jones used to play, weren't pure granite. The director, Alan Rudolph, is reported to have had differences with the producers; there were three-Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans, and David Blocker-and since Gideon and A. Evans wrote the script he may not be fully responsible for the film's randomness. A batch of smart performers give it some flavor around the edges: Mare Winningham, Ann Wedgeworth, James Gammon, Maureen Stapleton, David Rasche, and Amanda Plummer. And Hutton has a nice, cowlicky quality in the comedy scenes. With two uncredited performances: Ellen Barkin as a Luciferian temptress (it's a mistake), and Debra Winger (then married to Hutton), almost unrecognizable in a red punk hairdo, with pasty makeup and a deep, hoarse voice, as Emmett, the fellow who manages things in Heaven. Hutton clearly has more rapport with this weirdly androgynous Emmett than he has with McGillis. (Heaven is actually Charleston, S.C., with some special effects.) Also with Timothy Daly, Don Murray, Willard Pugh, and John Considine. A number of celebrities show up in bit parts: the singer and songwriter Neil Young as a truck driver, the novelist Tom Robbins as a toymaker, the cartoonist Gary Larson as a guitarist, the rock star Tom Petty as the owner of a roadhouse, the rock star Ric Ocasek, of the Cars, as a mechanic. They don't have any presence, but this movie can use all the quirky drop-ins it can get. Lorimar.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Madeleine

UK (1949): Drama/Crime
101 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

British film based on the news accounts and court records of the case of a young woman in Victorian Glasgow who was accused of murdering her French lover. The verdict at Madeleine Smith's trial was neither guilty or innocent; it was "not proven"-and we are left in the same uncertainty. The director, David Lean, has shaped the whole movie for this enigmatic uncertainty, yet the effect is unsatisfying-in fact, numbing-and Lean's moviemaking techniques are so stiff they seem Victorian, too. In the title role Ann Todd (Mrs. Lean at the time) deliberately emphasizes her own glacial reserve. But she's so rigidly made up that her face looks about to crack. It's an unappealing performance; she was already past 40 and too austerely controlled to play the scenes of Madeleine's passionate abandon to the blackmailing Frenchman (Ivan Desny, who's like a foreign-voiced young Orson Welles). With Leslie Banks, Norman Wooland, André Morell, Elizabeth Sellars, Jean Cadell, and Ivor Barnard as the druggist who sells Madeleine arsenic. The humorless script is by Stanley Haynes and Nicholas Phipps.

Mademoiselle Gobette

US (1952): Comedy
No rating, Black & White

A girl who can't keep her clothes on may seem like a subject for low-grade entertainment, but suppose that her foible is used to ridicule the conventions of respectable society? This neat little farce begins with a judge investigating charges that a theatrical performer (Silvana Pampanini) is too scantily dressed; she proceeds to scandalize a number of overdressed people, and ends up happily ensconced with the Minister of Justice. The cast and the director (Pietro Germi) are Italian, but the source is a French play (by Maurice Hennequin and Pierre Weber), and the whole thing somehow got itself into French with English subtitles-presumably on the basis that boudoir comedy would do better in French in the American sex-art houses of the 50s. The boudoir is used as a vantage point for some very deft horseplay. Even the strapping Pampanini shows a relaxed, inventive comedy style.

Mado

France (1976): Drama/Crime
130 min, No rating, Color

The French director Claude Sautet is a master of modulation; he doesn't labor anything-not even the defeats of his characters. (They shrug, painfully, and move on.) This is a superlatively crafted story about the moral-and sexual-complexities of a real-estate swindle. The crime involves a group of middle-aged businessmen and young working-class dissidents who are linked by Mado (Ottavia Piccolo), a whore with red-gold hair, creamy pink skin, and a natural pout-she's like a softer young Lana Turner. The film never quite makes a leap to greatness, but it's consistently intelligent and has moments of surprising feeling-particularly in a sequence featuring Romy Schneider as a woman whose whole emotional life centers on a man (Michel Piccoli) who doesn't care about her. Piccoli probably does as fine a job at suggesting a shallow man's range of dissatisfaction with his existence as any actor who ever lived. With Jacques Dutronc, Julien Guiomar, Charles Denner, Jean-Denis Robert, Michel Aumont, Bernard Fresson, and Claude Dauphin. From a script by Sautet and Claude Neron; the expressive, fluid cinematography is by Jean Boffety (when the characters leave Paris and go to the country, the compositions often recall Auguste Renoir). In French.

The Madwoman of Chaillot

US (1969): Comedy
132 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The remnants of Jean Giraudoux's slight, whimsical play can still be perceived in Edward Anhalt's vile modernization and a lot of famous actors can be recognized even in the performances they give here. Bryan Forbes directed. The cast includes Katharine Hepburn (an extremely sane madwoman), Margaret Leighton, Edith Evans, Giulietta Masina, Charles Boyer, Yul Brynner, Donald Pleasence, Danny Kaye, John Gavin, Nanette Newman, Oscar Homolka, Claude Dauphin, Richard Chamberlain, Paul Henreid, and Fernand Gravet. Cinematography by Claude Renoir and Burnett Guffey. An Ely A. Landau-Bryan Forbes Production; released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Maedchen in Uniform

Germany (1931): Drama
98 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

A willowy young girl (Hertha Thiele) in a fashionable school is unhappy under the harsh, Prussian discipline; she flowers when a sympathetic, understanding teacher (Dorothea Wieck) gives her special consideration. This consideration is ambiguous and certainly sensual. The teacher is not viewed as decadent, or even naughty; she appears to be on the side of the liberal, humanitarian angels, yet she seems unmistakably lesbian. This legendary film, temporarily obstructed by U.S. censors, was later voted the best film of the year by the New York press. It was directed by Leontine Sagan from Christa Winsloe's play Yesterday and Today-one of the few occasions in film history when a woman writer's material has also been directed by a woman. The picture is always described as sensitive, and it is; it's also a rather loaded piece of special pleading. In German.

Magic

US (1978): Thriller
106 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's intended to be a thriller, but there's little suspense and almost no fun in this account of a schizophrenic ventriloquist (Anthony Hopkins), adapted by William Goldman from his novel, and directed by Richard Attenborough. Since Hopkins has no light or happy range and doesn't show a capacity for joy, there's nothing at stake when things go wrong for him. This Welshman is bewilderingly miscast as Corky, a Borscht Belt vaudevillian; the gloomily withdrawn Hopkins has no vulgarity in his soul-nothing that suggests any connection with the world of entertainment. The picture grinds along, as we watch most of the tiny cast being eliminated. It depends just about completely on the morbid visual effect of the devil-doll dummy. With Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, and Ed Lauter. A Joseph E. Levine Production, for 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

The Magic Christian

UK (1969): Comedy
93 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Terry Southern's satirical novel, in a sloppy British version, directed by Joseph McGrath, that never quite seems on target. There are funny moments, but they don't add up to enough. With Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, Laurence Harvey, Spike Milligan, Raquel Welch, Leonard Frey, Christopher Lee, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Dennis Price, Patrick Cargill, Roman Polanski, and Wilfrid Hyde-White.

The Magic Flute

Sweden (1974): Opera/Fantasy
134 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc.
Also known as TROLLFLÖJTEN.

Ingmar Bergman said that making this film "was the best time of my life: you can't imagine what it is like to have Amadeus Mozart's music in the studio every day." Actually, watching the movie, one can. He has treated Mozart's peerlessly silly masterpiece with elegance and supreme affection. He emphasizes the theatricality of the piece, using space as stage space but with the camera coming in close. We get the pixilated feeling that we're near enough to touch the person who is singing; we might be dreamers sailing invisibly among the guests at a cloud-borne party. The English translation of Bergman's adaptation (he clarifies the text) has considerable grace, and the titles are unusually well placed in the frame; the story comes across even more directly than when you hear the opera sung in English. Cinematography by Sven Nykvist. In Swedish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

The Magician

Sweden (1958): Drama
102 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Also known as ANSIKTET, which means "The Face."

This Ingmar Bergman film isn't a masterwork, or even a very good movie, but it is clearly a film made by a master. It has a fairy-tale atmosphere of expectation, like those stories that begin "We started out to see the King, and along the way we met…" Then it becomes confused and argumentative. But the mysterious images of Max von Sydow as the 19th-century mesmerist, Vogler, and Ingrid Thulin as his assistant, Aman (Vogler's wife, Manda, in male disguise), carry so much latent charge of meaning that they dominate the loosely thrown-together material. Bergman labels the film a comedy, though audiences may not agree. It's a metaphysical gothic tale, with some low-comedy scenes and some grisly jokes involving an eyeball and a hand. The theme-magic versus rationalism or, if one prefers, faith versus scepticism, or art versus science, or illusion versus reality-is treated too theatrically to sustain such heavy-breathing dialogue as "I always longed for a knife to cut away my tongue and my sex-to cut away all impurities." There are times when one would be happy to hand Bergman that knife. He uses a 19th-century setting for the clichés of the 20th-century-the man of science (Gunnar Björnstrand as Vergérus, the physician) is cold and sadistic, etc. Those who worry about the supposed division between emotion and intellect never leave one in doubt about which side they're on. With Bibi Andersson as Sara, Erland Josephson as Egerman, Gertrude Fridh as Mrs. Egerman, Naima Wifstrand as Vogler's sorceress grandmother, Bengt Ekerot as the actor Spegel, and Åke Fridell as Tubal. Photographed by Gunnar Fischer. In Swedish.

The Magnet

UK (1951): Comedy
78 min, No rating, Black & White

A likable, quirky English joke at the expense of grown-ups for their tendency to oversentimentalize children, with a stuffy young psychoanalyst as one of the butts. Directed by Charles Frend, from an original script by T.E.B. Clarke. With Stephen Murray, Kay Walsh, William Fox (later James), and Thora Hird.

The Magnificent Ambersons

US (1942): Drama
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Orson Welles' second film has greater depth than CITIZEN KANE, though it doesn't have the driving force that might have held it together. Working from the Booth Tarkington novel, Welles achieved some great sequences of family life-intense, harrowing squabbles. Tim Holt plays the arrogant mother-fixated son who falls from the American aristocracy to the working class; Dolores Costello, the fragile blond beauty of the silent era, is his soft, yielding mother; and as the nervous, bitter hysterical-spinster aunt, Agnes Moorehead is uncannily powerful, in a hyper-realistic way. (It's a classic performance.) With the amazing old Richard Bennett as the family patriarch, Joseph Cotten, Anne Baxter, and Ray Collins. The film wasn't completed in the form that Welles originally intended, and there are pictorial effects that seem scaled for a much fuller work, but even in this truncated form it's amazing and memorable. Cinematography by Stanley Cortez; editing by Robert Wise. RKO.

Magnificent Obsession

US (1935): Drama
101 min, No rating, Black & White

This first version of the inspirational Lloyd C. Douglas novel-starring Irene Dunne as the virtuous widow and Robert Taylor as the drunk driver who was responsible for her husband's death-should certainly have been the last, but the woebegone trickeries of the material made the movie a four-handkerchief hit, and damned if Ross Hunter didn't produce another version in 1954 (with Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson), and the slop made money all over again. Irene Dunne spends a lot of time in the hospital and is at her most infuriatingly gallant and womanly; Sara Haden and Theodore Von Eltz don't help much. Directed by John M. Stahl, not known for his sense of humor, though Charles Butterworth manages a funny scene or two. Universal.

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