Author Adam Kuntavanish

Cinema transcends boundaries of time and space and thought and emotion; at its best it communicates the experience of being truly alive. I've been transfixed by the material ghosts of the movies since an early age, and I can't seem to shake them. Since reading and writing and talking about films are the next best things to watching them, criticism became a natural fit. Whether new or old, foreign or domestic, mainstream or cult, all movies are grist for my mill. Be forewarned, I'm an inveterate list-maker, so look out for rankings, topics, and opinions of all kinds. The AFI's got nothing on me.

NP Approved eb04e3870caf58f04b406b958dbebaca

Even in the context of liberalized and freewheeling Pre-Code Hollywood, The Bitter Tears of General Yen stands out. A daring story of forbidden attraction between an American Christian missionary and a Chinese warlord, the film was the first to open at Radio City Music Hall in 1933 but proved controversial and failed at the box-office. Both director Frank Capra and star Barbara Stanwyck nevertheless remained quite proud of their work and blamed its financial failure on a …

Reviews In-Her-Place

A dirt road surrounded by trees and bushes; a dilapidated farmstead; cracked and peeling walls; a middle-aged woman jogging in an unfamiliar town; the imaginative flights of a teenage girl; an older woman hunched in a field uprooting vegetables.

Reviews AGANTUK 002.jpg

The Stranger is Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s final film and a fitting capstone, overflowing with the curiosity and humanist ideals he espoused throughout his nearly fifty-year film career. At seventy years old, Ray had perfected his own version of “late style” (like Carl Dreyer, Luchino Visconti, and Yasujiro Ozu before him), a lucid …

Special Feature sara-driver (1)

Sara Driver is the crucial, and practically unique, link between the gritty No Wave aesthetic of the 1980s New York underground art scene and the grounded surrealism of Luis Buñuel and David Lynch. Unlike those more masculine cinematic surrealists, who indulge in Freudian impulses and sexual drives to subvert such established …

Special Edition chef

Food is as much a constant for humanity as sex and death, but far fewer films seem exclusively dedicated to the subject. Maybe this is because food can take on so many connotations and serve so many varied functions, from production through consumption, that the contours of a “food genre” can be hard to pinpoint…

Rewind Review birth-1

About one-third of the way through Jonathan Glazer’s Birth comes its narrative and stylistic turning point: for a nearly three-minute unbroken long take, protagonist Anna (Nicole Kidman) gradually realizes that she believes in ten-year-old Sean’s (Cameron Bright) claim that he is her husband reincarnated. Having tardily made her way into a packed concert hall with her new fiance (Danny Huston) after Sean’s adamant refusal to recant his story, Anna stares past the camera as Wagner swells on the soundtrack, representing the roiling emotional turmoil beneath her placid, fragile gaze. That single shot — audacious, severe, just as aural as visual, and entirely reliant on Kidman’s focused, interiorized performance — encapsulates the film’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Engaging yet self-consciously bravura, the oppressive zoom frames the lead actress’s face and lets duration and minute gesture relay what meaning it contains. It’s a moment that may try one viewer’s patience while piquing another one’s, becoming emblematic of the film as a whole.

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema eroica1

The title of Andrzej Munk’s second feature, Eroica, translates as “heroism,” a universal human theme that’s typically treated in historical narratives with nationalistic reverence. A depiction of life under Poland’s occupation by the Germans during World War II and in the aftermath of the failed Warsaw Uprising of 1944 might be an opportunity for such hagiography, but the dual segments directed by Munk and written by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski revel in turning the expected on its head. Rather than celebrating a rugged individual ready to die for his country, the film’s first half features a craven but clever opportunist unwillingly dragged into a logistically-strained alliance with the Hungarian army; in the film’s second half, the romanticized image of a lone hero escapee from a POW camp is revealed as a convenient fiction perpetuated to boost and maintain morale. Eroica proves its worthiness to be included in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s program “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema,” curated by Martin Scorsese, by treating its nation’s recent history and starkly one-sided international relations with poignant irreverence.

1 2 3 14