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  • Circle of Deceit

    Circle of Deceit

    A distressingly slick 1981 feature by Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum), filmed in the smoking rubble of the Lebanese civil war with an attention to elegant composition and camera movement that seems more appropriate to a big studio musical. The irrational conflict then shattering Beirut registers with a texture and immediacy far beyond the power of the television images we're accustomed to, yet Schlöndorff uses the war as an abstracting, metaphorical device—as a projection of the inner turmoil of his…

  • The Cimarron Kid

    The Cimarron Kid

    Budd Boetticher's first western (1951) is efficiently made, with Audie Murphy as the perennial outlaw trying to go straight, but it's a long way from the insightfulness and superb storytelling of his later Randolph Scott cycle. With Beverly Tyler and James Best.

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  • The Searchers

    The Searchers

    We may still be waiting for the Great American Novel, but John Ford gave us the Great American Film in 1956. The Searchers gathers the deepest concerns of American literature, distilling 200 years of tradition in a way available only to popular art, and with a beauty available only to a supreme visual poet like Ford. Through the central image of the frontier, the meeting point of wilderness and civilization, Ford explores the divisions of our national character, with its search for order and its need for violence, its spirit of community and its quest for independence.

  • Vertigo

    Vertigo

    One of the landmarks—not merely of the movies, but of 20th-century art. Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film extends the theme of Rear Window—the relationship of creator and creation—into the realm of love and sexuality, focusing on an isolated, inspired romantic (James Stewart) who pursues the spirit of a woman (the powerfully carnal Kim Novak). The film's dynamics of chase, capture, and escape parallel the artist's struggle with his work; the enraptured gaze of the Stewart character before the phantom he has…