E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

US (1982): Science Fiction
115 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Steven Spielberg's movie is bathed in warmth and it seems to clear all the bad thoughts out of your head. It's the story of a 10-year-old boy, Elliott, who feels fatherless and lost because his parents have separated, and who finds a miraculous friend-an alien inadvertently left on Earth by a visiting spaceship. This fusion of science fiction and mythology is emotionally rounded and complete; it reminds you of the goofiest dreams you had as a kid, and rehabilitates them. It puts a spell on the audience; it's genuinely entrancing. The stars are Henry Thomas, as Elliott, and E.T., who was designed by Carlo Rambaldi. With Drew Barrymore, Robert Macnaughton, Dee Wallace, and Peter Coyote. The script is by Melissa Mathison. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Each Dawn I Die

US (1939): Prison
92 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The title of this prison picture is superb; convicts have often said that the title describes their feelings exactly. But nothing in the melodrama lives up to it. James Cagney plays an honest, muckraking reporter who is framed and sent up by a crooked D.A.; on his way to prison, he meets George Raft (slick and crooked as usual-which is welcome here). Cagney's virtuous suffering grows tedious, and the script (full of double crosses and jailbreaks) isn't persuasive. The director, William Keighley, brings off some moderately forceful scenes, but toward the end of the 30s, the Warners underworld pictures began to get hazy and high-minded, and in this one the pre-Second World War spiritual irradiation blurs the conventions of the prison genre. With Jane Bryan as Cagney's girl, George Bancroft as the warden, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom as an amiable con, and Alan Baxter, Victor Jory, and Stanley Ridges.

Eagle With Two Heads

France (1948): Romance/Drama
100 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as L'AIGLE � DEUX T�TES.

The structure is similar to that of Beauty and the Beast but with inversions-this time it is the Queen (Edwige Feuill�re) who is awakened from her trance by the revolutionary poet (Jean Marais), who has come to assassinate her. And, while the Beast addressed Beauty with only a few simple words, here the Queen dunks her Angel of Death in a torrent of elegant language. This is a sweepingly romantic picture-a beautiful trifle. Feuill�re has a sense of gesture that almost any actress might envy, and Marais demonstrates once again that despite his almost comical square-headed handsomeness he can act. Jean Cocteau adapted his own play, and directed. It's the least-known of the few films that he actually did direct; a dozen or so are falsely advertised as his. (Antonioni made a video color version of the play in 1979, under the title THE OBERWALD MYSTERY.) In French.

The Earrings of Madame de�

France-Italy (1953): Drama
105 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as MADAME DE�.

Perfection. This tragedy of love, which begins in narcissistic flirtation and passes from romance to passion to desperation, is set, ironically, in aristocratic circles that seem too superficial to take love tragically. The very beauty of Max Oph�ls' film is sometimes used against it: the gliding, sensuous camerawork, the extraordinary romantic atmosphere, the gowns, the balls, the chandeliers, the nuances of language, and the sense of honor are regarded as evidence of lack of substance. But Oph�ls loved Mozart and Stendhal, and he also calls up a third master: the opera sequence that gives the film its musical theme is Gluck's Orfeo. The performances by Danielle Darrieux as Madame de, by Charles Boyer as her husband, Monsieur de, a general, and by Vittorio De Sica as her lover, the Baron, are quite likely the finest each has given. Oph�ls' lush, decorative style, his re-creation of a vanished elegance, and his darting, swirling camera are used to evoke the protection that style and manners and wealth provide, and to demonstrate that passion can destroy it all. Even the fashionable and secure become rash, make fools of themselves. Boyer, the general, attempting to use military discipline to cure his wife of her unseemly displays of emotion, is as helpless as she is. Anna Karenina gets her lover but she finds her life shallow and empty; Madame de's life has been so shallow and empty that she cannot keep her lover. She is destroyed, finally, by the fact that women do not have the same sense of honor that men do, or the same sense of pride. When she lies to the Baron, how could she know that he would take her lies as proof that she did not really love him? What he thinks dishonorable is merely unimportant to her. She places love before honor (what woman does not?) and neither her husband nor her lover can forgive her. With Jean Debucourt as the jeweler, and Lia de Lea as the general's mistress. Based on Louise de Vilmorin's novella Madame de�, which is far more astringent than the film; the script is by Marcel Achard, Annette Wademant, and Oph�ls. Cinematography by Christian Matras; sets by Jean d'Eaubonne. In French.


Russia (1930): Drama
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as ZEMLYA and SOIL.

The specific subject is collectivization, but Dovzhenko's masterwork is a passionate lyric on the continuity of man, death, and nature. The theme is perhaps most startlingly expressed in a sequence about a man who has just celebrated the arrival of a tractor. He starts to dance-for sheer love of life-on his way home, and as he dances in the middle of the moonlit road he is suddenly struck by a bullet. (In the 50s, it was voted one of the 10 greatest films of all time by an international group of critics.) Silent.


US (1974): Disaster
129 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

LA gets it. The picture is swill, but it isn't a cheat; it's an entertaining marathon of Grade-A destruction effects, with B-picture stock characters spinning through it. Among them are Ava Gardner, the grimly resolute Charlton Heston, and Genevi�ve Bujold, whose witty style gives the picture its only touch of class. The cast also includes Lorne Greene, Marjoe Gortner, Gabriel Dell, Barry Sullivan, George Kennedy, Richard Roundtree, and Walter Matthau. Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by George Fox and Mario Puzo. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

East of Eden

US (1955): Drama
115 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An amazingly high-strung, feverishly poetic movie about Cain and Abel as American brothers living on a lettuce farm in California in the years just before the First World War. Elia Kazan directed this adaptation of Steinbeck's novel, and it's like seeing a series of teasers: violent moments and charged scenes without much coherence. As the romantic, alienated young hero, James Dean is decorated with all sorts of charming gaucheries; he's sensitive, defenseless, hurting. Maybe his father (Raymond Massey) doesn't love him, but the camera does, and we're supposed to; we're thrust into upsetting angles, caught in infatuated closeups, and prodded-"Look at all that beautiful desperation." When this Cain strikes his brother (Richard Davalos), the sound track amplifies the blow as if worlds were colliding; a short, heavy dose of Expressionism may be followed by a pastoral romp or an elaborate bit of Americana; an actor may suddenly assume a psychotic stance and another actor shatter a train window with his head. It's far from a dull movie, but it's certainly a very strange one; it's an enshrinement of the mixed-up kid. Here and in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Dean seems to go just about as far as anybody can in acting misunderstood. With Julie Harris, who gives a memorably lyric performance, and Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Barbara Baxley, Timothy Carey, Jonathan Haze, Mario Siletti, Harold Gordon, Lonny Chapman, and Nick Dennis. Script by Paul Osborn; cinematography by Ted McCord; music by Leonard Rosenman. Warners. CinemaScope.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book I Lost it at the Movies.

Easter Parade

US (1948): Musical/Dance/Comedy
103 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

There's not much comedy and not much invention in this oversize MGM musical, but Fred Astaire and Judy Garland finally get to their great number, "A Couple of Swells." With Ann Miller and Peter Lawford; Lola Albright may be glimpsed as a hat model. Charles Walters directed; the score, by Irving Berlin, includes "It Only Happens When I Dance with You."

Easy Living

US (1937): Comedy
86 min, No rating, Black & White

One of the most pleasurable of the romantic slapstick comedies of the 30s, and full of surprises. Jean Arthur is the working girl whose life is completely changed when a sable coat, thrown out a millionaire's window, lands on her head. The movie is a wonderful fluke: the script by Preston Sturges is in his manic, everybody-with-something-to-say style; the director, Mitchell Leisen (once De Mille's art director), tempered it with smooth takes and elegant clothes and sets, including a lily-shaped bathtub. The film has impish, sweet moments (such as the half-asleep heroine's delayed reaction after a kiss from the hero-Ray Milland) and at least one classic slapstick sequence (the little glass doors in an Automat fly open and people lunge for the free food). With Edward Arnold (a little louder than necessary-that was always his vice), and Mary Nash, William Demarest, Luis Alberni, Franklin Pangborn, Esther Dale. From a story by Vera Caspary. Paramount.

Easy Rider

US (1969): Drama
94 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Two pothead bikers-Wyatt (Peter Fonda), who refers to himself as Captain America, and Billy (Dennis Hopper)-collect their money for a drug deal and set off on a crosscountry quest for freedom, the freedom to "do your own thing." Hopper directed, Fonda produced, and they wrote the script, with Terry Southern. The picture-a road movie that's also a pop-mythology ballad movie-expressed the primitive religious element in the hippie movement. Wyatt and Billy (for Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid) are long-haired Christ figures, and trigger-happy squares are out to get them. The two encounter a Southern lawyer (Jack Nicholson), a lush with the grin of a kid who hasn't grown up, and they introduce him to pot, but he doesn't get to enjoy it for long. The movie's sentimental paranoia obviously rang true to a large young audience's vision. In the late 60s, it was cool to feel that you couldn't win, that everything was rigged and hopeless. The film was infused with an elegiac sense of American failure, and it had a psychedelic pull to it. The idea grew out of the A.I.P. Westerns on motorcycles such as THE WILD ANGELS, but this time everything was seen from the point of view of the bikers. The landscapes had dazzling textures; the terrific music by Jimi Hendrix and groups such as The Band and The Byrds gave the sluggish scenes a pulse; and Fonda, with his air of saintly noblesse oblige, died for American sins. The film became a ritual experience. It was the downer that young audiences wanted; they puffed away at it. Hopper became a culture hero; Nicholson, who's very funny in it, became a star. With Karen Black, Warren Finnerty, Robert Walker (Jr.), Luana Anders, and Phil Spector as the connection. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Released by Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Eat the Peach

Ireland (1986): Drama
95 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Whimsical, with an element of desperation underneath. The setting is an Irish village just a few miles across the border from Northern Ireland. Thrown out of work when the local Japanese computer factory closes down, Vinnie (Stephen Brennan) and his brother-in-law, Arthur (Eamon Morrissey), watch a cassette of Elvis Presley in the 1964 ROUSTABOUT and see a motorcyclist ride in a carnival Wall of Death-a round, wide, high, barrel-like track where centrifugal force keeps the rider up in the air circling. Soon they're building their own Wall of Death. This engaging, informal movie-it's loose, with a lot of humor-is about the deep-seated eccentricity of a man like Vinnie, who doesn't use his problem-solving ingenuity in order to make a living or to provide decent quarters for the wife and child he loves. He's an impractical man who solves only those problems that tease his imagination. Building the Wall keeps his brains and hopes from rotting. The director, Peter Ormrod, and the producer, John Kelleher, wrote the script together; they tell the story (which is based on actual events) as if it were a simple one, taking care to let it expand in our minds. This is not like any other film you've seen; at times you may feel a little tuned out, but then the vision comes together. When Vinnie's little daughter, her face as determined as his, rides her tricycle along the Wall, trying to climb it, there's nothing coy about the kid. And when she wakes up one night and rushes out, her hair streaming back from her head, she's the soul of Ireland, the way Sara Allgood was when she played in JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK. With Catherine Byrne as Nora, Niall Toibin as Boots, and Bernadette O'Neill as the blond barmaid. Channel Four and the Irish production company Strongbow.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Eating Raoul

US (1982): Comedy
83 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

The director, Paul Bartel, and his 5-foot-11 star, the innately kinky Mary Woronov, play a couple of prissy squares-the Blands, of Los Angeles-who consider sex disgusting and want to open a nice, clean country restaurant. They raise the money they need by murdering swinging singles; in their eyes these swingers deserve to be punished. This spoofy black comedy is thin-textured and it's sedated; it doesn't have enough going on in it-not even enough to look at. The nothingness of the movie is supposed to be its droll point, but viewers may experience sensory deprivation. With Robert Beltran, who brings some energy to the role of Raoul, Garry Goodrow, and Buck Henry. Written by Richard Blackburn and Bartel.


France-Italy (1962): Drama
123 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as L'ECLIPSE.

Some like it cold. Michelangelo Antonioni on alienation, this time with Alain Delon and, of course, Monica Vitti. Even she looks as if she has given up in this one. In Italian.


Czechoslovakia (1933): Drama
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as EXTASE.

The once scandalous Czech film, directed by Gustav Machaty, and starring the very young Hedy Lamarr. It was originally intended to be called "Symphony of Love;" along with some explicit sexual sequences, there is symbolic erotic imagery that is romantic, poetic, and, despite its innocent absurdity, sensuous and exciting. The picture was banned and then released and then withdrawn and finally reissued, in so many different versions that everyone who talks about it appears to have seen (or imagined) different sex acts. (In the 50s, there were versions in which someone had decided to prolong the ecstasy by printing the climactic scenes over and over.) Still, whichever ECSTASY one sees, it's delicately, tenderly erotic. The theme is Lawrentian, as Henry Miller pointed out in the definitive essay on the film, "Reflections on Extasy." In German.

Edge of the City

US (1957): Drama
85 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as A MAN IS TEN FEET TALL.

Sidney Poitier is startlingly good as an intelligent, easygoing foreman on the docks who is destroyed by his friendship with a weak, unstable white man (John Cassavetes). Martin Ritt, directing his first movie, sustains the tension with great skill but can't resist clinching the case with gratuitous violence, and the author, Robert Alan Aurthur (adapting his own television play), works with such precision that he reduces his subject to pat melodrama. However, it's a solid, often powerful movie. With Jack Warden and Ruby Dee. The music is by Leonard Rosenman; when he completed the score, he must have cut another notch on his gun-he's certainly out to slaughter the audience. MGM.

Educating Rita

UK (1983): Drama
110 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's no more than a two-character play-a duet-"opened up" a bit for the screen, but the lines have surprise and wit. Michael Caine plays a dispirited, burnt-out slob of a college professor who tries to conceal his mediocrity by carrying on as if he were Dylan Thomas. Rita, played by Julie Walters, is a street-smart young hairdresser in Liverpool who signs up for literature tutorials in the Open University and is assigned to him. She wants the education that he, with his doctorate and his fancy turns of speech, has decided is worthless. Julie Walters' performance may be too "set" for the camera (she played the role on the London stage), but her inflections are funny in unexpected ways. Rita is Julie Walters' role in the way that Billie Dawn in BORN YESTERDAY was Judy Holliday's role. The material isn't sustained-Rita, like Billie Dawn, is inevitably less entertaining after she's transformed-but Caine gives a master film actor's performance. You can see the professor's impotence in his pink-rimmed, blurry eyes; he's crumbling from within. Caine lets nothing get between you and the character. You don't observe his acting; you just experience the character's emotions. You feel his smirking terror. Directed by Lewis Gilbert; Willy Russell adapted his own play.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

US (1972): Drama
100 min, Rated PG, Color

Beatrice (Joanne Woodward), also known as Betty the Loon, is a rampaging jokester-mother who is frustrated and lost; she inflicts her misery on her two daughters (Nell Potts and Roberta Wallach). Although Paul Newman's direction is sensitive and well balanced, the Paul Zindel play is essentially a camp version of the mood-memory plays of Tennessee Williams and William Inge. Woodward has the right sashaying toughness for the role, but it's pretty hard to bring conviction to Betty the Loon's vengeful meanness. Released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.


Mexico (1955): Drama
100 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as literally, "HE," but in this country it has sometimes been called THIS STRANGE PASSION..

Working in Mexico, Luis Bu�uel made this mocking study of irrational love and jealousy-a film with suggestions of Freud and the Marquis de Sade. Francisco (Arturo de Cordova), a wealthy Catholic, marries Gloria (Delia Garc�s), and the symptoms begin on their honeymoon: imagining that her former fianc� is in the next room spying on them, he thrusts a knitting needle through the keyhole. As the symptoms mount in an absurd but frightening crescendo, Bu�uel makes his own thrusts at the Church, and by carrying the Spanish male's obsession with female chastity to paranoia, he exposes the insanity that's inherent in it. (One critic described the film as "an Othello with the hero as his own Iago.") By the time Francisco takes needle and thread to his wife, one is still not convinced that the movie isn't ludicrous, but in the final scene, when Francisco has gone to a monastery and we see his crooked little steps (they are like the movements of his thoughts), Bu�uel's daring is fully apparent. Except for the well-edited anticlerical sequences, however, one must be prepared to enjoy this daring (which usually takes the form of bizarre jokes) despite the careless, cheaply made look of the film. In Spanish.

El Dorado

US (1967): Western
126 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, parodying themselves while looking exhausted. When the movie starts, you have the sense of having come in on a late episode of a TV series. Mitchum plays a drunken old sheriff, and there are home remedies for alcoholism, vomiting scenes that are supposed to be hilarious, and one of those girls who hide their curls under cowboy hats and are mistaken for boys until the heroes start to wrestle with them. Wayne has a beautiful horse, but when he's hoisted onto it and you hear the thud you don't know whether to feel sorrier for man or beast. Except for a few opening shots, this Howard Hawks Western was made in a studio. Wayne and James Caan help the sheriff pull himself together and fight the bad guys. With Arthur Hunnicutt, Charlene Holt, and Ed Asner. Script by Leigh Brackett, based on Harry Brown's novel The Stars in Their Courses. Produced by Wayne's production company, Batjac, for Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

El Norte

US (1983): Drama
139 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

An independently made epic about the flight of two oppressed, terrorized young Guatemalans-Rosa (Zaide Silvia Gutierrez) and her brother Enrique (David Villalpando)-who travel from their Mayan village in the highlands, which probably hasn't changed much since pre-Columbian times, to modern Los Angeles, where they pass themselves off as Mexicans and become part of the Hispanic cheap-labor force. Within a matter of days, Rosa goes from carrying a large jug of water on her head to trying to operate an electronic washing machine in a Beverly Hills mansion. Written by the director, Gregory Nava, and his wife, Anna Thomas, who was the producer, the film tries to cover all the bases-the typical difficult, wrenching experiences of Central American refugees. It's uninspired, but the subject has so much resonance that the picture doesn't leave you feeling quite as empty as an ordinary mediocre movie does. With Stella Quan as Josefita, Trinidad Silva as the LA job broker, and Lupe Ontiveros as Nacha. In Spanish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

El Topo

Mexico (1971): Western/Fantasy
123 min, No rating, Color

A spaghetti Western in the style of Luis Bu�uel, and tinsel all the way. The writer-director-star, Alexandro Jodorowsky, plays with symbols and ideas and enigmas so promiscuously that the confusion may be mistaken for depth. He has some feeling for pace and for sadistic comedy, but the principal appeal of the movie is as a violent fantasy-head comics. Cinematography by Rafael Corkidi; produced by Roberto Viskin. In Spanish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.


Greece (1962): Drama
110 min, No rating, Black & White

The Greek director Michael Cacoyannis has filmed his own adaptation of the Euripides tragedy in an outdoor setting, with an authentic solemn grandeur, and with the handsome young Irene Papas as his heroine. Still, trying to show how vividly modern this classic is, he produces discomfort: we're neither quite here nor quite back there. With Aleka Catselli as Clytemnestra, Yannis Fertis as Orestes, and Manos Katrakis as the tutor. Cinematography by Walter Lassally; music by Mikis Theodorakis. In Greek.


US (1985): War/Drama
117 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This epic-scaled film, based on the Nicholas Gage book and directed by Peter Yates, tells the story of how Nick, who left Greece as a child in 1948, went back 30-odd years later to track down the men who had killed his mother. A peasant in a remote mountain village, she was executed by the Communist guerrilla army; her crime was that she defied the order to turn over her children (who were to be sent to neighboring Communist countries), and packed them off at night to start the journey to America. The disastrous script, by Steve Tesich, turns the story into a piece of anti-Communist, pro-motherhood poster art; Eleni (Kate Nelligan), who dies with her fists flung up high as she cries out in exaltation, "My children!," is the answer to the Reds. And though the constant cutting between what happened in the 40s and what happens in the 80s, as Nick (John Malkovich) puts the facts together, is meant to build suspense, it does just the opposite; it dissipates whatever momentum develops. The two starring roles seem virtually unplayable (Malkovich is like a wraith wandering through the picture); cast as Communist vipers, Oliver Cotton and Ronald Pickup give off the only energy. With Linda Hunt. Cinematography by Billy Williams; music by Bruce Smeaton. A CBS Production, released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Elephant Man

US (1980): Biography
125 min, Rated PG, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A very pleasurable surprise. The by now well-known story of John Merrick, the grievously eminent Victorian who is sometimes said to have been the ugliest man who ever lived, is told by the young director, David Lynch, with such grace and imagination that it becomes a tale of a terrible enchantment. Inside Merrick's misshapen body is an astonishingly sweet-souled gentleman of his era. There's something indefinably erotic going on here; it's submerged in the film's rhythm and in the director's whole way of seeing. Scene by scene, you don't know what to expect; you're seeing something new-subconscious material stirring within the format of a conventional narrative. John Hurt plays Merrick, and Anthony Hopkins is Frederick Treves, the doctor who rescues him from the world of sideshows. With John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, and Hannah Gordon, and less effective performances by Anne Bancroft as the actress Mrs. Kendal, and Freddie Jones as the drunken Bytes. Lighted by Freddie Francis, this film is perhaps the most beautiful example of black-and-white cinematography in about 15 years. Script by Christopher DeVore, Eric Bergren, and Lynch. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

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