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Richard C. Walls

  • Lacombe, Lucien

      In this 1974 Louis Malle film set during the waning days of WWII, a young man living in German-occupied France winds up working with the Nazis, which offers him, for the first time in his life, a feeling of empowerment. He relishes his newfound control and ability to evoke fear. When Lucien falls in love with a Jewish girl, he neither knows nor cares about the implications until he’s in over his head.
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  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

      Though set in the early ’70s during China’s Cultural Revolution, this film isn’t a gritty look at that horrendous period in history. Director Dai Sijie, who also wrote the novel the film is based on, lived through those times, and is less interested in focusing on the persecution (and sometimes flat-out murder) of writers, artists and anyone else who showed “bourgeois tendencies,” and more intent on recapturing a period of his youth that he sees through a gloss of nostalgia.
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  • Memory of a Killer

      The centerpiece of this slick and sleazy Belgian thriller is Jan Decleir’s performance as Angelo Ledda, a hit man experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Adapted from a popular Belgian crime novel, the film has its share of action-thriller clichés (Ledda is at times almost superhuman in his ability to get out of tight situations) and unlikely contrivances, but Decleir’s pitch-perfect performance makes it worth seeing — memorable, in fact.
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  • Genesis

      The follow-up to the 1996 film Microcosmos, which examined the mostly hidden world landscape, revealing a strange and beautiful world of seemingly unearthly abstraction. Genesis is technically similar, exploring the creation of the universe and, subsequently, life on Earth. However, it’s less compelling, perhaps because the topic is so huge and riddled with physical and philosophical conundrums.
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  • The Fire Within

      The Fire Within Louis Malle’s 1963 low-key portrait of a suicidal writer making one last survey of his life while working up the will to make that final leap into the void. A depressed, alcoholic unable to cope with real life, Alain struggles to balance compromise with integrity.. Filmed in moody black and white and with Erik Satie’s seductively forlorn piano music on the soundtrack, it conjures a feeling of profound sadness without resorting to sentimentality.
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  • Tell Them Who You Are

      Tell Them Who You Are This documentary about acclaimed cinematographer Haskell Wexler is only partly about his turbulent career. Filmed by his son Mark Wexler, the emphasis is more on the relationship between the two, exploring Haskell’s sometimes cold and harsh dealings with Mark, who grew up in the shadow of a famous father, struggling to stake out his own identity.
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  • Elevator to the Gallows

      Louis Malle’s 1958 film is convoluted noir with splashes of doomed romanticism, heavily ironic and more entertaining than profound. Because it features French New Wave poster girl Jeanne Moreau and an improvised score by Miles Davis, it’s acquired the patina of a really hip nugget of ’50s Euro-cool. But there’s actually some grindingly slow spots and a silly steel-trap ending that leaves you wondering how all the interested parties ended up in the same place at the same time.
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  • Of kings and paupers

    DFT opens the season with two top offerings
      Craftily plotted and filmed in a jittery style, writer-director Arnaud Desplechin’s latest work strives to overwhelm you with its audacity — and pretty much succeeds. The film is a comic melodrama, a clever soap opera crammed with character detail and plot twists; a thick slice of life spread over an event-filled two and a half hours. The story of a twice-divorced woman, the film expertly interweaves deeply personal tales, and nothing is as it seems.
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  • Pickpocket

      Pickpocket is Robert Bresson’s 1959 drama about Michel, a young writer who’s living in poverty who picks pockets for a living, feeling he’s above the law because of his intellect. The parallels to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment are plainly evident, as Michel dangerously flirts with the law. Even those resistant to Bresson’s unconventional approach will appreciate the pickpocketing montages, executed with a dazzling combination of ingenuity and grace.
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  • No asylum here

    A sentimental look at the emotional after-effects of Vietnam
      This somber tale is about a young man named Binh (Damien Nguyen) and his search of his American GI father, a painful odyssey which takes him from his small Vietnamese village to a ranch near Austin, Texas. The climax plays out in a way that is wholly original, remarkably restrained and a sharp contrast to the stormy melodrama of the story. The film puts the viewer through the wringer, but the simple beauty of the epilogue makes the journey seem worthwhile.
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  • Heights

      Heights is one of those bad movies that, if it weren’t so maudlin, might qualify as a guilty pleasure. Covering 24 hours in the life of a group of New York artistes, the cast of characters are the sort of hollowed-out types that used to populate high-minded Italian films of nearly half a century ago: economically well-off and desperate for some genuine feeling. It might have played better on the stage, but on film it all seems airless and trite.
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  • Smart and sprawling

    Italian miniseries makes a great movie
      Despite the fact that this Italian film is six hours long, it’s wholly accessible: a family saga in the same vein as American miniseries, and novelistic in scope with a wide range of characters, emotional incidents and intriguing plot complications. For its run at the Maple Art Theatre, the film will be divided into two three-hour segments — and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could resist coming back for the second part.
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  • Don’t Move

      This overheated Italian melodrama offers both the pleasures and absurdities of its particular genre: passion exaggerated to operatic proportion, a protagonist who suffers and sins mightily only to be redeemed by love, and an obsessive affair. The film may leave a bad taste in some viewers’ mouths, especially those who can’t get past a rape scene in the beginning. However, the story is never dull, and offers some genuinely sad respites among all the ludicrous excess.
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  • The Last Laugh

      German director F. W. Murnau’s 1924 silent film wasn’t the first to use a freely mobile camera and expressionistic backdrops, but it was the most influential, one where all the directorial flourishes served to tell the tale, presenting a coherent intensity and gloom. The story is very simple, telling of a proud doorman at a luxury hotel whose fall from grace comes about when he loses his job to a younger man. It was a huge success in Germany, and its popularity led to Murnau’s invitation to Hollywood a few years later.
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  • Through the looking glass

    Introspective narcissism from the French
      In this French drama with touches of dry humor, various types of neediness are depicted, from the emotional hunger of a neglected child to the self-absorption of a successful adult. Against a backdrop of music that achieves an exquisite sort of perfection, foolish mortals stumble about, full of suspicious thoughts and misunderstandings. The filmmakers may be too civil to concoct an actual satire — they metaphorically slap a character around a little but won’t make them bleed — yet this droll chamber piece is humane and intelligent in a gracefully unpretentious manner.
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  • Turtles Can Fly

      This Iraqi film takes place in a Kurdish settlement near the border of Iraq and Turkey, where a group of children earn some much needed money by defusing and selling land mines. The director uses non-professional actors, and it’s a matter-of-fact approach which serves the film’s material well. However, there seems to be no particular agenda regarding the ensuing Iraqi war.
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