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Michael Atkinson

“Word Is Out” and “The Disappeared” on DVD (photo)

“Word Is Out” and “The Disappeared” on DVD

Movies are Saturday night-wasting entertainment and they’re transcendent mega-art, but they’re also history, living tissues of the past that overpower any other medium we have for preserving experience and retaining cultural memory. This is no small matter, despite the relatively slight influence that film’s historical potential has in the consumer marketplace, which is virtually defined […]

“Tony Manero” and “The Girl on the Train” on DVD (photo)

“Tony Manero” and “The Girl on the Train” on DVD

As close to a gritty American New Wave film as a 2008 Chilean movie is likely to get, Pablo Larraín’s “Tony Manero” plays like equal parts “Taxi Driver,” “Scarecrow,” “Badlands” and “Saturday Night Fever,” which is no coincidence, as it’s set in 1978 and the protagonist — a short, glowering 50-ish crook living in Santiago […]

Oshima and “Waiting for Armageddon” on DVD (photo)

Oshima and “Waiting for Armageddon” on DVD

We live in a strange day and age, when the very idea of a filmmaker apostate rebelling against the status quo of mainstream cinema strikes us as unattractive or even silly. Not since the ’50s has cinema as we see it in the United States been so conformist. Sure, Tarantino and Kaufman and a handful […]

“The Messenger” and “Cloud 9” on DVD (photo)

“The Messenger” and “Cloud 9” on DVD

Oscar-nominated if underpraised while in theaters, Oren Moverman’s “The Messenger” is by far the most mature and moving film made yet about the Iraqi invasion, even if Iraqis themselves don’t even make an appearance as figures mentioned in battle stories. It’s a telling, ethically vibrant film, and for Americans to manage such a thing while […]

“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD (photo)

“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD

New waves come and new waves go, but they can also linger on in the careers of filmmakeres as they spiral out and become individuals. The Romanian New Wave that began to break only five or so years ago seems to have already dissipated — only Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective” has emerged in the last […]

“Tokyo Sonata” and “How to Live in the German Federal Republic” on DVD (photo)

“Tokyo Sonata” and “How to Live in the German Federal Republic” on DVD

You know where you are right away with “Tokyo Sonata” — Kiyoshi Kurosawa-ville, a suburb of Japanese cinema that’s commonly plagued by secret chaotic pressure, bubbling to the surface and causing cracks in the pavement. Here, it’s a storm wind blowing in from off-camera, whisking a wide sheet of newspaper off a table and floating […]

“Ride with the Devil” and “Ex Drummer” on DVD (photo)

“Ride with the Devil” and “Ex Drummer” on DVD

Fanatically eclectic as he is, Ang Lee seems destined to eventually make a Judd Apatow raunch comedy, simply because he hasn’t made one yet. You name it: sci-fi comic book, wuxia pian, “Classics Illustrated” costume romance, gritty bromance indie, earnest family schmaltz, woozy rock musical (sort of), and oh yeah, a war film, easily the […]

“35 Shots of Rum” and “Mammoth” on DVD (photo)

“35 Shots of Rum” and “Mammoth” on DVD

Just as most intelligent critics already said last year, the kind that know their Wong from their Bong and can find their Warhol with both hands, Claire Denis’ “35 Shots of Rum” is a lovely, ruminative, impressionistic, elusive, sensitive beaut, rich in the director’s signature brand of elliptical hodgepodge and brimming with the-state-of-us-now immediacy. The […]

“Kapò” and “The Missing Person” on DVD (photo)

“Kapò” and “The Missing Person” on DVD

Once upon a time, one of the best film critics in any language, a Frenchman named Serge Daney, found himself at 17 inspired toward his vocation by a single line of writing — about a film he’d never seen, and would never see. The film was Gillo Pontecorvo’s “Kapò” (1959), and the first reviewer, the […]

“The Italian Straw Hat” and “La France” on DVD (photo)

“The Italian Straw Hat” and “La France” on DVD

There was a day when to love movies meant a thirst for the full century’s worth of the form and loving all of its timeline’s eruptions equally. That a film was old and in black and white were never reasons to exclude it from the discourse. This was when silent films were still shown on […]