Film Reviews

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 5

Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance: An indictment of Western aid to Haiti, but…

By Stefan Steinberg:, 6 March 2013

The latest film by Haitian-born director Raoul Peck focuses on the aid operation organised by the US and Western powers in the wake of the deadly earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010.

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

An honest Russian citizen: Boris Khlebnikov’s A Long and Happy Life

By Bernd Reinhardt, 4 March 2013

The film depicts the futile struggle of a small farmer in the Russian provinces against corrupt local authorities.

63rd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2

The Plague: The “loneliness, strength, humanity and beauty” of ordinary people

By Francisca Vier, 27 February 2013

The Plague (La Plaga) from Spain, directed by Neus Ballús, was one of the most satisfying films at the 63rd Berlinale.

Set for Life: The effects of recession on an older generation

By Nick Barrickman, 27 February 2013

This documentary examines the lives of several over-50 workers who have lost their jobs since the 2007-2008 economic collapse.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master: The limits of making it up as you go along

By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2013

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie, The Master, a World War II US Navy veteran facing an uncertain future is attracted to a quasi-religious movement and its charismatic leader.

The intellectually bankrupt defenders of Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 22 February 2013

The release of Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained in the latter part of 2012 ignited an intense and still ongoing media debate on the films’ respective merits and related historical issues.

Not Fade Away: “Oh! Pleasant exercise of hope and joy”

By David Walsh, 20 February 2013

In David Chase’s film, a young man and his friends pursue various dreams, or fail to, in suburban New Jersey in the mid-1960s.

Steven Soderbergh to retire after Side Effects?: Problems of independent filmmaking

By Joanne Laurier, 15 February 2013

A new antidepressant has unexpected side effects that unravel the lives of a psychiatrist and his patient in American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s most recent—and possibly last—feature film.

Netflix’s US remake of House of Cards stands up despite weaknesses

By Christine Schofelt, 9 February 2013

Staring Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife, the new production of House of Cards is a largely well-translated version of the UK original.

Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet: Aging and the artist

By Joanne Laurier, 1 February 2013

The movie concerns itself with a group of retired opera singers and musicians housed in an elegant manor in pastoral Britain.

The Impossible: A narrow view of a major disaster

By George Marlowe, 31 January 2013

The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonia Bayona, is the story of one British family’s experience in the carnage and destruction of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land: A deal with the devil?

By Phillip Guelpa and Julien Kiemle, 25 January 2013

The film portrays the conflict between a fictional energy company and residents of a small Pennsylvania town over whether “fracking” will be allowed in their community.

Vadim: German documentary chronicles a family destroyed by immigration authorities

By Bernd Reinhardt, 24 January 2013

The tragic story of Vadim K. and his family documents the callous inhumanity of Germany’s immigration authorities and politicians and refugee law.

Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables: Social misery, with a vengeance

By Hiram Lee, 21 January 2013

Director Tom Hooper returns with a film version of the well-known musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic 1862 novel.

Director Kathryn Bigelow defends her indefensible Zero Dark Thirty

By David Walsh, 18 January 2013

The filmmaker and her screenwriter Mark Boal, in their political blindness and misreading of the current state of American public opinion, thought they could get away with murder, as it were.

2013 Academy Award nominations: Extraordinary and glaring contradictions, even greater than usual

By David Walsh, 11 January 2013

This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced Thursday morning during a media event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.

Hitchcock: Small change, for the most part

By Joanne Laurier, 10 January 2013

Sacha Gervasi’s new film focuses on the making of Psycho (1960), one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best known works.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained

By David Walsh, 5 January 2013

A German-born bounty hunter teams up with an ex-slave in the antebellum South in Quentin Tarantino’s newest film.

Best films of 2012

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 29 December 2012

The general state of the film world presents a sharper contradiction than ever, as underlined by a number of recently released films and the critics’ reactions to them.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Growing up in the early 1990s

By David Walsh, 28 December 2012

In Stephen Chbosky’s film, based on his 1999 novel, the central character, Charlie, a 15-year-old high school student, narrates the story in the form of letters to an anonymous “friend.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey—not so unexpected as all that

By Christine Schofelt, 27 December 2012

Filmed as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings series, this first part of The Hobbit covers approximately half the book as written by J.R.R. Tolkien (published in 1937).

A new film version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (and Sean Baker’s Starlet )

By Joanne Laurier, 22 December 2012

British filmmaker Joe Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard have collaborated on a new film adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. Starlet tells the story of a relationship between two women in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood embraces the “dark side”

By Bill Van Auken, 20 December 2012

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty brings to film-making what “embedded” reporting did for journalism—an uncritical embrace of and identification with the military-intelligence complex and its crimes.

The Life of Pi: In a lifeboat alone with a tiger

By David Walsh, 15 December 2012

The new film directed by Taiwanese-born Ang Lee is based on a 2001 novel—winner of the Booker Prize—by Canadian author Yann Martel.

The Central Park Five: A story of injustice

By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2012

Directed and produced by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon, The Central Park Five chronicles an infamous case in 1989.

Dangerous Remedy: Bertram Wainer and the struggle for abortion rights

By Richard Phillips, 3 December 2012

New Australian telemovie falsely marketed as crime drama.

Silver Linings Playbook: It’s the little things in life …

By Joanne Laurier, 29 November 2012

In this comedy-drama, former substitute history teacher Pat has just been released from a psychiatric facility when he meets Tiffany, the widow of a policeman. Together they struggle to overcome their difficulties.

The Man with the Iron Fists: Reactionary Kung-Fu

By Kevin Kearney, 26 November 2012

The film, directed by rapper-music producer RZA, follows a collection of warriors in mythical 19th century China who band together to defeat a common enemy.

The Law in These Parts: Israeli military justice in the Occupied Territories

By Kevin Kearney, 21 November 2012

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s documentary is a penetrating look at the Israeli military legal system in the Occupied Territories on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip over the last 45 years.

Artifact: A musician’s struggle against a giant corporation

By Robert Fowler, 19 November 2012

Artifact details the legal battle between Jared Leto and his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and EMI, the recording industry giant.

A comment and an interview with filmmaker Minda Martin

Free Land: American dreams and realities

By Joanne Laurier, 15 November 2012

Minda Martin’s 2010 film Free Land, at the same time a documentary-essay and personal memoir, poetically and evocatively connects a variety of social and personal events.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the historical drama of the Civil War

By Tom Mackaman, 12 November 2012

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a powerful cinematic treatment of the Lincoln administration’s struggle to pass a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery in 1865, the final year of the American Civil War.

Flight: A pilot saves the day, but not himself

By David Walsh, 10 November 2012

In Flight Denzel Washington plays Whip Whitaker, a highly skilled pilot with a serious drinking and drug problem, who becomes a hero when he averts a plane crash. However …

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

A comment from Robert Connolly, director of Underground: The Julian Assange Story

By Joanne Laurier, 6 November 2012

Robert Connolly, director of Underground: The Julian Assange Story, responds to questions from Joanne Laurier of the WSWS.

Cloud Atlas: Six stories in search of a genuine connection

By David Walsh, 2 November 2012

German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Heaven) and Andy and Lana Wachowski, responsible for the Matrix films, have teamed up to adapt David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, for the screen.

A reader reviews Tsar to Lenin

29 October 2012

A WSWS reader has written in with a comment on the unique documentary film Tsar to Lenin, available from Mehring Books.

Arbitrage: False advertising

By Joanne Laurier, 27 October 2012

Robert Miller, a powerful Wall Street figure, is trying to sell his business to cover losses from a bad investment. His seemingly idyllic personal life falls apart after a car accident in which his mistress is killed.

Ben Affleck’s Argo: An embrace of US foreign policy

By Dan Brennan, 24 October 2012

Argo, a new political thriller starring and directed by Ben Affleck, is based on declassified information about a little-known episode during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1980.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 8

Drama of modern-day life

By David Walsh, 18 October 2012

A number of provocative films from Italy, India, Algeria and China, and the latest from veteran director Costa-Gavras.

Schutzengel (Guardian Angel): New film promotes German military

By Ernst Wolff, 17 October 2012

Schutzengel (Guardian Angel) is the first film to hit the screens with the full support of the German army.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 7

Underground: The Julian Assange Story and Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out

By Joanne Laurier, 12 October 2012

Julian Assange’s early life is fictionalized by Australian director Robert Connolly, while documentarian Marina Zenovich offers the latest installment in the Roman Polanski saga.

Detropia: A compassionate, confused study of a devastated city

By James Brewer, 11 October 2012

The deindustrialization and dismantling of Detroit is the subject of a new documentary.

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two:

One excellent movie, several inspired performances, too much conventional storytelling

By Charles Bogle, 10 October 2012

While none of the selections in Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Two match the brazen defiance of the Code found in the first volume, women struggling against the established class structure informs all five of the movies.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 6

Interviews with five filmmakers about life and art in India, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, Angola and Haiti

By David Walsh, 9 October 2012

A good many honest and intriguing films screened at the recent Toronto film festival. The WSWS interviewed a number of directors about their films and the conditions in their respective countries.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 5

Detroit’s belated “renaissance”—on film

By Joanne Laurier, 5 October 2012

A number of films about Detroit have suddenly emerged … including now a fiction work about the complicated interactions between the city’s Arab and African American populations.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 4

Far From Afghanistan: Significant, moving, uneven

By David Walsh, 2 October 2012

Far From Afghanistan is an effort by five US directors to come to terms with the decade-long Afghanistan war and its implications for both the Afghan and American populations.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

Interviews with John Gianvito, Minda Martin and Travis Wilkerson—co-directors of Far From Afghanistan

By David Walsh, 2 October 2012

The WSWS spoke to three of the five directors of Far From Afghanistan.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012--Part 3

Filmmakers respond to important events—but how they respond is also important …

By Joanne Laurier, 28 September 2012

The 2012 Toronto film festival screened numerous serious documentaries and docu-dramas, reflecting the impact of the current social crisis and the increasing resistance of the global working class.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 2

A World Not Ours: Where do the Palestinians go from here?

By David Walsh, 26 September 2012

Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours, one of the most remarkable films presented at the Toronto festival this year, is both a personal memoir and a tracing out of the Palestinian history and condition.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012

An interview with Mahdi Fleifel and Patrick Campbell, director and co-producer of A World Not Ours

By David Walsh, 26 September 2012

The WSWS spoke to Mahdi Fleifel, writer and director of A World Not Ours and Patrick Campbell, co-producer (along with Fleifel) of the film, during the recent Toronto film festival.

Toronto International Film Festival 2012—Part 1

The wide range of human passion, action and adventure

By David Walsh, 22 September 2012

The Toronto International Film Festival screened some 372 films this year from 72 countries. This year’s festival and the general state of the film world present a sharper contradiction than ever.

Under African Skies: The story of the collaboration that became Graceland

By James Brewer, 8 September 2012

A film documentary released this year revisits the making of the best-selling album and the controversy surrounding it.

Max Ophuls’s Caught and Edgar Ulmer’s Ruthless: Remarkable postwar films about wealth and power

By Joanne Laurier, 29 August 2012

The disheartening collection of new movies this summer prompted us to bring to the readers’ attention films from a different period in Hollywood’s history.

Searching for Sugar Man: Detroit musician connects with mass audience in South Africa

By James Brewer, 27 August 2012

An amazing story documents the popularity of the music of Sixto Rodriguez in South Africa, music virtually unknown in the US.

The Intouchables, record-breaking French film, and Ruby Sparks, “small change” in Los Angeles

By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2012

The Intouchables is a predictable but touching comedy about the relationship between an upper class Frenchman and his Muslim Senegalese caretaker. Ruby Sparks is a version of the Pygmalion myth.

In The Campaign, a fictional race for Congress

By David Walsh, 17 August 2012

In Jay Roach’s film, an incumbent Democratic member of Congress finds himself opposed by a local oddball, backed by a pair of evil billionaire brothers.

The Queen of Versailles: American “royalty” seeks to build its own palace

By Fred Mazelis, 11 August 2012

A new documentary tells the tale of a Florida billionaire and lifts the lid on a portion of American social reality.

Farewell, My Queen: The last days of the ancien régime

By Stefan Steinberg, 11 August 2012

The central figure in Farewell, My Queen is an attendant to Marie Antoinette. The action takes place in the Palace of Versailles at the start of the French Revolution in July 1789.

The Dark Knight Rises: Dubious and distortive

By Adam Haig, 9 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises is the most conservative and rightwing of Christopher Nolan’s PG-13 Batman films to date.

Oliver Stone’s Savages and the war on drugs

By Hiram Lee, 30 July 2012

Veteran director Oliver Stone sets his sights, superficially, on the “war on drugs” in his new film Savages.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A play on formulas

By Adam Haig, 16 July 2012

This is an artistically limited experience. A compression, rebooting and updating in a 136-minute running time and rapidly paced, this is a film high on thrills and, not surprisingly, promising a sequel.

Fantastic version of post-Katrina Louisiana in Beasts of the Southern Wild

By Jordan Mattos, 14 July 2012

A creation of distinctly American design, Beasts of the Southern Wild disturbs and awes with fantastic images and the swelling music of a devastated region.

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson’s latest wispy, wistful adventure

By Joanne Laurier, 4 July 2012

Set in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England, Wes Anderson’s new movie tells the story of two pre-teenage misfits who escape to a deserted corner of the island.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus: Shutting Pandora’s box?

By Kevin Martinez, 27 June 2012

Prometheus is a prequel of sorts to the 1979 science-fiction-horror film Alien, also directed by Ridley Scott.

For Greater Glory and the falsification of Mexican history

By Rafael Azul, 11 June 2012

For Greater Glory is a one-sided propaganda film that hijacks a complex social conflict and turns it into a David and Goliath story of good guys versus bad.

Hemingway and Gellhorn on HBO: A lost opportunity

By Charles Bogle, 9 June 2012

HBO’s Hemingway and Gellhorn misses an opportunity to explore seriously a period of great social upheaval and its impact on two people who participated in and reported on those events.

Richard Linklater’s Bernie, about life and death in East Texas

By David Walsh, 31 May 2012

Bernie is the latest film from American independent director Richard Linklater, responsible for Slacker (1991), Dazed and Confused (1993) and The Newton Boys (1998), among others.

Dissecting class relations: The film collaborations of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter

By Robert Maras, 28 May 2012

Three of US director Joseph Losey’s best films were made in collaboration with British playwright Harold Pinter.

The Avengers: Not at all the way truths can be explored

By Joanne Laurier, 26 May 2012

The Avengers is one of Hollywood’s biggest spectacles to date. It has already brought in more than one billion dollars at the box office worldwide. But what does it have to offer?

San Francisco International Film Festival 2012—Part 3

Two significant works: Fritz Lang’s House by the River (1950) and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949)

By Kevin Kearney, 22 May 2012

Screenings of Fritz Lang’s House by the River (1950) and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) were highlights of the 2012 an Francisco film festival.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2012—Part 2

Crulic—The Path to Beyond from Romania: The tragic fate of a decent, humble human being

By Kevin Kearney, 19 May 2012

The second film by Romanian filmmaker Anca Damian, Crulic—The Path to Beyond, was another noteworthy documentary (or semi-documentary) featured at the 2012 San Francisco film festival.

Citizen Gangster: A drama of postwar Canadian life

By David Walsh, 15 May 2012

Citizen Gangster [Edwin Boyd] is an unusual film, which depicts social relations in Canada in a relatively harsh light and does not take as its premise the “kinder, gentler” nature of life there.

The Dardenne brothers’ The Kid With a Bike

A boy faces rejection

By Fred Mazelis, 11 May 2012

The latest film from the Dardenne brothers of Belgium shares the strengths and weaknesses of their earlier films.

The Deep Blue Sea: Love and emotional truth in post-war Britain

By Ruby Rankin and Richard Phillips, 25 April 2012

The Deep Blue Sea, with its flawed individuals, living through the depths of despair but finding the strength to behave with personal integrity, has been revived on film by Terence Davies.

How Earth Made Us—a masterly BBC documentary

By Ognjen Markovic, 21 April 2012

How Earth Made Us, the 2010 documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation, is a visually and intellectually delightful production that is well worth watching.

Paying attention to—or ignoring—big events: In Darkness and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

By Joanne Laurier, 11 April 2012

In Darkness tells the true story of Polish Jews who hid for 14 months, until the end of World War II, in the sewers of Lvov. In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a sheikh envisions salmon fishing in the desert country.

Friends with Kids: To whom does this apply?

By David Walsh, 7 April 2012

Friends with Kids follows the lives of six middle class New Yorkers over the course of a number of years. Two of them decide to have a child together without the encumbrance of marriage or romance.

Why are the critics lauding Titanic?

By David Walsh, 4 April 2012

Titanic, the Hollywood blockbuster directed by James Cameron and originally released in December 1997, is set for theatrical re-release in 3-D today. We are reposting today our original comments on the film.

Titanic as a social phenomenon

By David Walsh, 4 April 2012

Titanic, the Hollywood blockbuster directed by James Cameron and originally released in December 1997, is set for theatrical re-release in 3-D today. We are reposting today our original comments on the film.

The award-winning A Separation and the humanity of the Iranian people

By David Walsh, 30 March 2012

The US government and military-intelligence apparatus is relentlessly and recklessly driving toward war against Iran. Asghar Farhadi’s film A Separation offers a rare glimpse into the reality of Iranian society.

Why does The Hunger Games strike a chord?

By Christine Schofelt and David Walsh, 28 March 2012

The Hunger Games depicts a future North America divided into 12 districts, in which a popular uprising has been violently quashed decades before. A thirteenth district was entirely wiped out in the repression.

Being Flynn: Homelessness as a social failure

By Joanne Laurier, 23 March 2012

Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn encounters his long-absent, now destitute father, a self-proclaimed writer.

It’s perfectly true, We Need to Talk About Kevin is “not an issue-based movie”

By David Walsh, 21 March 2012

Before the film opens, the character referred to in the title of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, at the age of 15, has massacred a number of his fellow schoolmates.

Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 5: The most political of the Warner Bros. film noir collections

By Charles Bogle, 14 March 2012

Film Noir Classic Collection, Volume 5 contains no undiscovered masterpieces, but it is the most politically overt collection to date, and the movies selected for inclusion range from the watchable to the remarkable.

Ralph Fiennes directs Shakespeare’s Coriolanus with an eye to contemporary events

By Stefan Steinberg, 13 March 2012

The new film version of Coriolanus, set in the present day, is directed by the prominent British actor Ralph Fiennes, who also plays the principal role.

The US media responds with hostility to this year’s Academy Awards show

By David Walsh, 2 March 2012

A number of US media critics have attacked this year’s Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles with such venom that it invites a second look.

The 2012 Academy Awards

By David Walsh, 28 February 2012

At the 84th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles, The Artist and Hugo took home the most awards. Comic Billy Crystal hosted the event.

Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Not really a movie about 9/11, whatever else it might be

By Joanne Laurier, 25 February 2012

A young boy, grieving for his father, a victim of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, searches New York City for the lock that matches a key left behind by his beloved parent.

62nd Berlin International Film Festival—Part 1

A few nuggets on display at the Berlinale

By Stefan Steinberg, 24 February 2012

This year’s Berlinale jury, headed by veteran British director Mike Leigh, awarded the festival’s principal prizes to a number of interesting and significant works.

Alexander Payne’s digestible The Descendants; Steven Soderbergh at an impasse with Haywire

By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2012

The Descendants, set in Hawaii and starring George Clooney, deals with the ancestral connections of a family confronting a painful tragedy. Haywire is a political spy thriller that gives a pass to the intelligence community.

British Agent (1934): Early Hollywood looks at the Bolsheviks

By Tony Williams, 18 February 2012

In Michael Curtiz’s 1934 British Agent, based on the memoirs of a British spy, the first days of the Russian Revolutionary government are treated with some degree of honesty. Leon Trotsky is one of the Bolsheviks portrayed.

An interview with Chad Freidrichs, director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

By Fred Mazelis, 17 February 2012

The director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a documentary about public housing in the US, speaks to the WSWS.

Albert Nobbs: A model of repression

By David Walsh, 15 February 2012

The title character (played with gusto by Glenn Close) is a woman who has passed as a man for decades, working as a waiter in a Dublin hotel in the 1890s.

Polanski’s Carnage: Not a dispute about fundamentals

By Joanne Laurier, 10 February 2012

In New York City, cordiality turns to anger and chaos when two sets of parents meet to discuss an altercation between their 11-year-old sons.

A Dangerous Method: The Freud-Jung controversy, among other matters

By David Walsh, 8 February 2012

The new film by David Cronenberg treats the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as their association with Sabina Spielrein, a young Russian woman, later one of the first female psychiatrists.

Surviving Progress: A dim view of humanity

By Lee Parsons, 3 February 2012

The documentary film Surviving Progress has attracted a good deal of media attention and accolades from both the official “left” and the right, if for rather different reasons.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: A serious look at public housing and the fate of US cities

By Fred Mazelis, 1 February 2012

A new documentary film examines the history of a St. Louis housing project.

The Adventures of Tintin: A generic boy scout travels a computer-generated world

By Alex Lantier, 30 January 2012

In The Adventures of Tintin, director Steven Spielberg sets out to render the Belgian comic strip Tintin in film using motion-capture animation technology.

The death of Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos

“I no longer deal with politics, with generalisations. I have stopped understanding them.”

By Stefan Steinberg, 27 January 2012

In many respects Angelopoulos expresses the artistic and political crisis of a generation of intellectuals who tragically failed to come to grips with the traumas of the past century and the extraordinary social and intellectual challenges of the new.

Petition: The Court of the Complainants—a potent Chinese documentary about injustice and state repression

By Richard Phillips, 25 January 2012

Petition explores the plight of poverty-stricken workers and farmers involved in stubborn and ultimately tragic appeals for “justice” from China’s Stalinist bureaucracy.