Film Reviews by David Walsh, WSWS Arts Editor

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 2

The Chosen, on Trotsky, and other political subjects

By David Walsh, 29 September 2016

The appearance of an honest and accurate film about the plot to assassinate Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940 is a welcome—and long overdue—event.

Toronto International Film Festival 2016: Part 1

How well does filmmaking reflect present-day life?

By David Walsh, 27 September 2016

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival screened some 400 feature and short films from 83 countries at 1,200 public screenings.

Oliver Stone’s Snowden: The NSA is “running a dragnet on the whole world”

By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 20 September 2016

Veteran American filmmaker Oliver Stone has made a movie about National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Suicide Squad: The latest comic book film

By David Walsh, 10 August 2016

David Ayer’s film concerns a team of psychotics and criminals recruited by the US government as part of a top-secret program to combat terrorism.

Wiener-Dog: Todd Solondz continues to look critically at American life

By David Walsh, 20 July 2016

The new film comprises four stories, loosely linked by the presence of a “wiener-dog” (dachshund). Each has at least one or more satirical, telling moments or elements.

The life and career of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami

By David Walsh, 14 July 2016

The Iranian director will be best remembered and long honored for the series of feature films, including documentaries, that he made between 1987 and 1997.

Genius: “Just simply corny”

By David Walsh, 2 July 2016

British director Michael Grandage’s film is about American novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his famous editor, Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth).

Charles Blow of the New York Times

The right-wing, racialist attacks on the film Free State of Jones

By David Walsh, 30 June 2016

Free State of Jones, about a white farmer in Mississippi who led an insurrection against the Confederacy from 1863 to 1865, has come under sharp attack from the “new right” of identity politics advocates.

Free State of Jones: Three cheers!

By Joanne Laurier, 28 June 2016

Gary Ross’s film is a fictional account of an intriguing, but little known chapter in American history.

“All the terrifying things all really happened”

Toyen: A film about the Czech surrealist painter and her times

By David Walsh, 18 June 2016

Czech director Jan Němec, who died in March 2016, made a film about the surrealist painter Toyen in 2005, which is now available. The film is intriguing and sometimes deeply moving.

The Nice Guys: Something, but not very much

(And, briefly, Terence Davies’ Sunset Song and Hany Abu-Assad’s The Idol.)

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 17 June 2016

The Nice Guys is set in 1977 and follows the investigation into a disappearance, which turns out to be part of a broader conspiracy. Sunset Song and The Idol have recently opened in movie theaters in the US.

The Lobster: Relationships forced on—or forbidden—people

By David Walsh, 11 June 2016

In Yorgos Lanthimos’ film, individuals without a mate are sent to a “hotel” where they have 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal. Then, there are those who escape.

Sing Street from Ireland, A Bigger Splash from Italy: Neglected realities

By Joanne Laurier, 28 May 2016

John Carney’s Sing Street is a musical comedy-drama set in Dublin in the mid-1980s. Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, based on a 1969 French thriller, takes its name from a painting by British artist David Hockney.

High-Rise: A film version of J.G. Ballard’s novel

By David Walsh, 27 May 2016

Like the novel, the film—set in the mid-1970s—begins with its central character calmly sitting on the balcony of his 25th floor apartment eating roast dog.

Captain America: Civil War—A waste of resources, technology and human skill

By David Walsh, 23 May 2016

What are these performers doing in this film? Is there any major film actor at present who would say “No” to this sort of project?

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 3

Radio Dreams, about Iranian Americans—and the problem of images without insight

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

Radio Dreams is a pleasurable experience. Other films at the San Francisco festival––The Event, No Home Movie, Counting, Five Nights in Maine––fared less well.

An interview with Babak Jalali, director of Radio Dreams

By David Walsh, 17 May 2016

The WSWS spoke to Babak Jalali during the recent San Francisco International Film Festival.

San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 1

Look at today’s filmmaking … then look at the world

By David Walsh, 11 May 2016

The recent San Francisco International Film Festival, in its 59th edition, screened some 175 films, including approximately 100 feature-length films, from 46 countries.

Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Are the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet a genuine alternative to contemporary filmmaking?

By David Walsh, 7 May 2016

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, beginning May 6, is presenting a retrospective of the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the Franco-German filmmakers.

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba—The banalization of the novelist and his art

By David Walsh, 4 May 2016

The film follows the relationship that develops after a young American journalist in Miami in the mid-1950s writes an admiring letter to novelist Ernest Hemingway, then living in Havana, Cuba.

SEP/IYSSE meetings in California: Art, War and Social Revolution

14 April 2016

WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh will speak at meetings in San Diego and Berkeley, California, addressing the political and cultural situation in relation to American imperialism’s relentless war drive.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016—Part 1

Films from Argentina, Spain and Guatemala: El Movimiento, Hablar, Ixcanul and Tras Nazarin

By Kevin Martinez and Toby Reese, 28 March 2016

The festival showcased films and documentaries from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including Cuba, Spain, Mexico, South and Central America.

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups: It is impossible to learn anything from this

By David Walsh, 19 March 2016

Thematically and stylistically, Malick’s latest film follows in the footsteps of his two previous efforts, The Tree of Life (2011) and To the Wonder (2012).

Race: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Alan Gilman and David Walsh, 10 March 2016

Stephen Hopkins’ film centers on critical events in the life of African-American track and field legend Jesse Owens.

45 Years: A nightmare on the brain of the living?

By David Walsh, 5 February 2016

In Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, a childless, middle class couple living in a provincial English town, are on the eve of their 45th wedding anniversary.

Racialism, art and the Academy Awards controversy

By David Walsh, 30 January 2016

It is no exaggeration to point out that, in ideological terms, Cara Buckley in the New York Times and others, in their obsession with race, are spouting a conception of society and art identified historically with the extreme right.

To create a genuine artistic “avant garde” means confronting critical historical issues

By David Walsh, 20 January 2016

The essay by David Walsh we are posting today considers whether or not an artistic vanguard exists today—and, if not, what such a vanguard would consist of and what questions it would have to confront.

The failure of David O. Russell’s Joy, or, what any “sensible” person should know about modern society

By David Walsh, 5 January 2016

Russell’s film is loosely inspired by the life story of millionaire inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who created a self-wringing mop and other products.

Best films of 2015

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 31 December 2015

The most interesting films we saw in 2015, both those that played in a movie theater in the US and those not yet distributed.

“Bloody instructions ... return to plague the instructor”

A new film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

By George Marlowe and David Walsh, 19 December 2015

A new version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard emphasizes the bloody, barbaric times.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2: Worn seriously thin by now

By David Walsh, 26 November 2015

The new film treats the climax of the struggle in Panem between the rebels, morally led by Katniss Everdeen, and the forces of the Capitol, presided over by the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow.

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies: An episode from the Cold War

By David Walsh, 24 October 2015

Spielberg’s new film deals with the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in New York City in June 1957 and his subsequent exchange for U-2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers some five years later.

Coming Home: A small, sincere film about big, complex times

By David Walsh, 20 October 2015

In the late 1970s, after two decades in a remote “rehabilitation camp,” a Chinese political prisoner returns to his long-suffering wife, who does not recognize him.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Five

Eight films from Africa, the Middle East, China, Latin America and Eastern Europe: Contemporary social realism

By David Walsh, 14 October 2015

A number of films at the recent Toronto film festival sought, with varying degrees of persuasiveness, to present pictures of modern life with an emphasis on social relationships.

The Martian: A modern Robinson Crusoe

By David Walsh, 7 October 2015

One member of a manned mission to Mars is presumed dead and left behind on the desolate planet.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part Two

THE PEOPLE vs. FRITZ BAUER, Colonia, Desierto: Criminals and their crimes

By Joanne Laurier, 1 October 2015

There are events that defy forgetfulness, that demand to be worked over by historians and artists—and revolutionaries.

Re-released after 40 years: The strengths and weaknesses of Robert Altman’s Nashville

By David Walsh, 30 September 2015

The nearly three-hour work follows two dozen characters over the course of several days in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, the official capital of country music.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Part one

The physical and emotional toll that capitalist society takes

By David Walsh, 26 September 2015

The 40th Toronto International Film Festival screened some 285 feature films and 110 shorts from 71 countries.

Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947): The weight of history

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 5 September 2015

Tourneur’s film, adapted from Build My Gallows High, a novel by American writer Daniel Mainwaring published in 1946, has one of the most suggestive titles in cinema history.

Woody Allen’s Irrational Man: The familiar flatness and lack of conviction

By David Walsh, 14 August 2015

Allen’s latest film focuses on controversial philosophy professor Abe Lucas who arrives at fictional, liberal arts Braylin College in Newport, Rhode Island to teach a summer course.

Mr. Holmes: Old age, the perils of science, a minor mystery solved …

By David Walsh, 6 August 2015

In post-World War II Britain, the great detective Sherlock Holmes lives in seclusion in rural Sussex, with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, and her young son Roger.

Trainwreck: The latest from Judd Apatow

By David Walsh, 1 August 2015

In Apatow’s Trainwreck, Amy Schumer, the stand-up comic and writer, is the psychological mess of the title.

Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and the phenomenon of American film noir

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2015

Turner Classic Movies, the US cable and satellite television network, presented Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) at selected theaters on July 19 and 20.

Terminator Genisys and the trajectory of American “independent” filmmaking

By David Walsh, 8 July 2015

A number of the independent filmmakers of the 1990s and early 2000s have found their way, like Alan Taylor, to one or another blockbuster franchise.

Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By David Walsh, 24 June 2015

The film was made during a run of Taymor’s version of Shakespeare’s play at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn in 2013-14.

Mad Max: Fury Road: A “feminist” demolition derby

By Kevin Martinez, 15 June 2015

The fourth film in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise, Fury Road is a brutal and depressing experience, despite the positive comments from various critics.

A new film version of Far from the Madding Crowd; Brian Wilson’s story in Love & Mercy

By Joanne Laurier, 12 June 2015

Set in rural England in the 1870s, Far from the Madding Crowd is the story of a free-spirited young woman who attracts three suitors of diverse social and psychological make-up.

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty

CIA-embedded Hollywood liars and their lies

By David Walsh, 15 May 2015

We now know, thanks to Seymour Hersh and his article in the London Review of Books, that, along with everything else, the Bigelow-Boal film was a pack of lies from beginning to end.

Drone warfare in Good Kill

And a roundtable interview with writer-director Andrew Niccol and actor Ethan Hawke

By David Walsh, 13 May 2015

New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol has taken on the subject of drone warfare in Good Kill, featuring Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz and January Jones.

Cymbeline: Michael Almereyda returns to Shakespeare

By David Walsh, 11 April 2015

Michael Almereyda, who previously directed a version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, has turned to one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, with intelligent results.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 4

Tackling life head on: The films of Uzbek-Soviet director Ali Khamraev

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 28 March 2015

One of the genuine contributions of the recent FICUNAM film festival in Mexico City was its presentation of the works of veteran film director Ali Khamraev.


I Remember You: A comment on the history of his film by director Ali Khamraev

28 March 2015

Filmmaker Ali Khamraev explains the difficulties surrounding the making of his remarkable film I Remember You in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 3

Pedro Costa’s Horse Money, Jean-Marie Straub’s “leftism” and other problems

By David Walsh, 25 March 2015

The recent FICUNAM festival in Mexico City screened a number of films which, while not belonging to a single school by any means, provide the opportunity for something of a generalized overview.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 2

The rule and the exceptions—three good films: Court, National Gallery and The Gold Bug

By David Walsh, 20 March 2015

There are filmmakers who devote themselves seriously and conscientiously to representing life, not life in the abstract, not “life as a river,” but concrete life, the life of social classes and relationships.

FICUNAM 2015: Part 1

A remarkable film festival in Mexico City

By David Walsh, 18 March 2015

David Walsh and Joanne Laurier recently attended the film festival associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

Still Alice and Kingsman: The Secret Service—A woman battles disease and a street kid helps save the world …

By Joanne Laurier, 23 February 2015

In Still Alice, a middle class professor and her family struggle with Alzheimer’s, and in the comic book-based Kingsman: The Secret Service, a working class youth is recruited by an elite spy agency.

The Two Faces of January: Three Americans joined together by crime

By David Walsh, 16 February 2015

Set in Greece in the early 1960s, Iranian-born director Hossein Amini’s film, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, follows a trio of Americans caught up in a series of increasingly traumatic events.

The Humbling: An actor who can no longer act

By David Walsh, 5 February 2015

In Barry Levinson’s film, based on a Philip Roth novel, an aging stage actor, who has lost the appetite for performing, encounters a younger woman with interesting consequences.

The controversy surrounding American Sniper

By David Walsh, 31 January 2015

The campaign in defense of Clint Eastwood’s film is the latest means by which the political and media establishment in the US is promoting its war-mongering agenda.

Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon’s novel adapted for the screen

By David Walsh, 28 January 2015

Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, his seventh feature, is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by well-known American writer Thomas Pynchon.

The historical and political issues in Selma

By Fred Mazelis and Tom Mackaman, 20 January 2015

Most attention has been focused on the relationship between Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson, but far deeper questions must be explored, including the significance of the mass movement against Jim Crow segregation, its political limitations and its fate.

Best films of 2014

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 30 December 2014

Some interesting films opened in North America in 2014, a greater number than in many recent years. At the same time, sections of the film industry associated themselves more than ever with the American state.

The latest blockbuster from CIA Pictures: The Interview

By Andre Damon and David Walsh, 29 December 2014

It is entirely fitting that The Interview has been embraced by the Obama administration as the vehicle of the values it represents.

The Sky Between the Leaves now available in eBook format

19 December 2014

This work by WSWS Arts and Culture Editor David Walsh is now available in ePub and Kindle formats. It is an important contribution to the study of Hollywood and global cinema and belongs in every Marxist library.

Under the Skin (or aliens from another social class) and Mood Indigo (more inventiveness from Michel Gondry)

By David Walsh, 16 December 2014

Under the Skin is loosely adapted from Michael Faber’s 2000 science fiction novel. Mood Indigo is based on French writer Boris Vian’s famed 1947 novel, L’ Écume des jours.

Fury: What is “realism”? What is an “anti-war” film?

By David Walsh, 1 November 2014

David Ayer’s morbid and militarist film follows an American tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), in the final days of World War II in Europe.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl: The lady vanishes

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 22 October 2014

Gone Girl wants to be a psychological study, a black comedy about the upper middle class, a social critique and a satire of media sensationalism. A few aspects are intriguing, even accomplished.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 6

Tigers and global corporate criminality: “We’ve got a really bad system”

By David Walsh, 15 October 2014

Danis Tanović’s new film focuses on a scandal that stretches back at least four decades—the marketing of infant formula to women in poor countries, which has caused untold suffering and death.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 3

Drone warfare in Good Kill

and a roundtable interview with writer-director Andrew Niccol and actor Ethan Hawke

By David Walsh, 26 September 2014

New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol has taken on the subject of drone warfare in Good Kill, featuring Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz and January Jones.

Video: WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh speaks on the 2014 Toronto Film Festival

25 September 2014

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival presented a number of films about the foreclosure crisis and homelessness as well as about drone warfare.

Below the surface of Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: City of Dogs

By Charles Thorpe and Norisa Diaz, 23 July 2014

Theroux’s new three-part series provides glimpses of the social crisis in Los Angeles, but the documentarian’s approach prevents him from probing very deeply.

So Bright is the View: A serious film from Romania

By David Walsh, 4 June 2014

Estera, a middle class Jewish girl in Bucharest, has to make a choice between pursuing a job in Atlanta, working for a nouveau riche thug, or joining her mother in Israel.

Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez: An uninspired film on farm workers’ leader

By Kevin Martinez, 10 May 2014

The film concerns the efforts of Chavez (Michael Pena) to unionize farm workers in California’s Central Valley during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Mickey Rooney, popular film star of the 1930s and 1940s, dies

By David Walsh, 8 April 2014

Longtime film, television and stage actor Mickey Rooney died on Sunday at the age of 93. Rooney was one of the most popular American movie stars in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

David Walsh continues book tour at Cornell University

By our correspondents, 1 April 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh discussed problems of art, culture, and cinema at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on March 27.

Finding Vivian Maier: A brief comment …

By David Walsh, 28 March 2014

The subject of this documentary is American photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009), who made virtually no efforts to publish her remarkable photos during her lifetime.

2014 Academy Awards: Life versus the film industry

By David Walsh, 4 March 2014

Sunday’s awards ceremony in Hollywood was undistinguished for the most part by excitement, urgency or social insight.

Talk by WSWS arts editor David Walsh

The political and theoretical sources of The Sky Between the Leaves—Part 2

By David Walsh, 28 January 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh gave a talk in Detroit recently to SEP members and supporters to mark the publication of The Sky Between the Leaves. This is the second of two parts.

Talk by WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh

The political and theoretical sources of The Sky Between the Leaves—Part 1

By David Walsh, 27 January 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh gave a talk in Detroit recently to SEP members and supporters to mark the publication of The Sky Between the Leaves. This is the first of two parts.

Her: A lonely man falls in love with his computer

By David Walsh, 15 January 2014

The new film, Her, is writer-director Spike Jonze’s fourth feature film, following Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002) and Where the Wild Things Are (2009).

The Wolf of Wall Street: Why should we admire such figures?

By David Walsh, 30 December 2013

Martin Scorsese’s new film treats the career of convicted stock swindler and con artist Jordan Belfort, who benefited from the rise of financial gangsterism in the US to make a fortune in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Filmmaking and social life in postwar America

The Crime Films of Anthony Mann: A comment and a conversation with the author—Part 2

By David Walsh, 19 December 2013

The early film work of American director Anthony Mann, a major figure of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, is the subject of a new book. This is the second of two parts.

Filmmaking and social life in postwar America

The Crime Films of Anthony Mann: A comment and a conversation with the author—Part 1

By David Walsh, 18 December 2013

The early film work of American director Anthony Mann, a major figure of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, is the subject of a new book. In two parts.

A new film version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations: “Those wretched hankerings after money and gentility”

By David Walsh, 20 November 2013

British filmmaker Mike Newell has directed a valuable, moving adaptation of Dickens’s remarkable novel.

Costa Gavras’s Capital: A critique of “cowboy capitalism”

By David Walsh, 6 November 2013

The most recent film from Greek-born director Costa-Gavras, best known for Z (1969), State of Siege (1972), and Missing (1982), is Capital, a scathing assault on the world of financial speculation.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013

An interview with Dyana Gaye, director of Under the Starry Sky

By David Walsh, 2 October 2013

David Walsh spoke to Dyana Gaye, the Franco-Senegalese director of Under the Starry Sky during the recent Toronto film festival.

Toronto International Film Festival 2013—Part 5

A filmmaker sees and does something important

By David Walsh, 2 October 2013

Franco-Senegalese director Dyana Gaye’s Under the Starry Sky takes place in three cities simultaneously, over the course of one winter.

The Artist and the Model: A sculptor creates his last work in the middle of war

By David Walsh, 2 September 2013

The Artist and the Model, from Spanish director Fernando Trueba, is a convincing work about an artistic type that seems in short supply at present.

Closed Circuit: The state and its dirty secrets

By David Walsh, 30 August 2013

Closed Circuit is a drama, directed by John Crowley, about the infiltration of a terrorist cell by the British intelligence services and how it goes wrong.

The Spectacular Now: The happiness of youth

By David Walsh, 28 August 2013

James Ponsoldt’s new film treats young people in an American town (it was shot in Athens, Georgia), based on a 2008 novel by Tim Tharp.

Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium: To have or have not

By David Walsh, 13 August 2013

The principal challenge in writing about a film like Elysium, a science fiction work that treats inequality in the year 2154, is to make neither too much nor too little of it.

Much Ado About Nothing: The merry war resumed

By David Walsh, 10 July 2013

American film and television producer, director and writer Joss Whedon has adapted William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for the screen.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part six

Two very different documentaries: Sofia’s Last Ambulance and Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You—A Concert for Kate McGarrigle

By David Walsh, 4 June 2013

The recent San Francisco film festival screened a number of documentary films, including these two, contrasting works.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part three

Museum Hours and The Artist and the Model: In defense of art and the artistic personality

By David Walsh, 24 May 2013

At least two films at the San Francisco festival treated art, the artistic personality, or both, in a compelling fashion.

San Francisco Film Festival 2013

An interview with Jem Cohen, director of Museum Hours: “Art is something people do like breathing.”

By David Walsh, 24 May 2013

David Walsh spoke to Jem Cohen, director of Museum Hours, during the recent San Francisco film festival.

A new film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

By David Walsh, 14 May 2013

In the 1925 novel, the various desperate and delusional relationships set off a tragic series of events, which result in death and misery for the upstarts and have-nots. The wealthy characters alone escape unscathed.

The Place Beyond the Pines: Fathers and sons

By David Walsh, 18 April 2013

The new film from director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, 2010), set in and around Schenectady, New York, is made up of several interconnected stories that take place over the course of fifteen years.

Bryan Wizemann’s About Sunny (Think of Me) released on video on demand

By David Walsh, 26 March 2013

One of the most compelling films screened at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Think of Me, directed by American filmmaker Bryan Wizemann, now retitled About Sunny, is finally available.