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  • The Bitter Tea of General Yen

    The Bitter Tea of General Yen

    “Buddha, Joan of Arc and the spirit of all who believe in God live in the White House,” Spencer Tracy was made to say in State of the Union, a dreadful film made by Frank Capra in 1948. It was the logical conclusion to the Sicilian immigrant’s admiration for America, which admittedly produced much better movies, such as It Happened One Night and Mr Deeds Goes to Town.

    But even these affectionately remembered films look naive and sentimental now, despite…

  • Manila in the Claws of Light

    Manila in the Claws of Light

    When Lino Brocka died in a car crash in 1991, the Philippines lost its outstanding director – a man who, despite the constraints of a commercial industry and vicious censorship under Marcos, succeeded in making half a dozen films of great power and universal appeal. Often they were produced cheaply and virtually on the run, with Marcos’s men instructed to prevent Brocka telling the truth about the dictatorship and the country’s poverty. But in the end, Brocka’s international reputation saved…

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  • LBJ

    LBJ

    If I was asked to recommend the perfect short to be studied by young film-makers, it would probably be the 18-minute LBJ. For the more impatient, it could be the six-minute Now. For those who need more, it might be either the 25-minute 79 Springs or the 38-minute Hanoi, Tuesday 13th. They were all made by the same director: Santiago Alvarez of Cuba.

    Alvarez, a committed son of Castro’s revolution and a natural successor to the great Russian Dziga Vertov,…

  • The Scarlet Empress

    The Scarlet Empress

    “The hallmark of camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers. Camp is the outrageous aestheticism of Sternberg’s American movies with Dietrich” – Susan Sontag

    If you read Josef von Sternberg’s Fun in a Chinese Laundry, his vastly entertaining autobiography, you would think the director a control freak to end all control freaks.

    For instance, he insists that in all the seven films he and Marlene Dietrich made…