Did someone say “Afghanistan banana stand”? Robert Redford and George Segal team up in this breezily entertaining heist-comedy gem, in which the pair’s plan to steal a priceless diamond from the Brooklyn Museum goes spectacularly awry again . . . and again . . . and again. Based on Donald E. Westlake’s novel of the same name—the first in a series built around the recurring John Dortmunder character played by Redford—THE HOT ROCK features a colorful script by BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID screenwriter William Goldman, a funky avant-jazz score by Quincy Jones, and evocative use of 1970s New York City locales.
Catherine Deneuve’s porcelain perfection hides a cracked interior in one of the actress’s most iconic roles: Séverine, a Paris housewife who begins secretly spending her afternoon hours working in a bordello. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis Buñuel is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression, which was one of Buñuel’s biggest hits.
Jack Nicholson is at his very best in this acclaimed tragicomedy written by Robert Towne and directed by Hal Ashby. Two hard-boiled Navy petty officers, Buddusky (Nicholson) and Mulhall (Otis Young), are detailed to escort a young sailor, Meadows (Randy Quaid), from Virginia to a New Hampshire naval prison to serve an eight-year sentence for a trivial offense. Buddusky and Mulhall take a liking to Meadows and are determined to show him a good time on their journey north. Once they reach their destination, though, Buddusky and Mulhall realize they are as much prisoners of their world as Meadows is of his.
Robert Altman’s distinctive genius first announced itself with this innovative, smash-hit black comedy in which a pair of irreverent surgeons (Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould) at a mobile army hospital stationed on the front lines of the Korean War stave off the everyday horrors they witness through their havoc-wreaking high jinks. The director’s stylistic trademarks—the overlapping dialogue, loose-limbed approach to narrative, and nimble marshaling of a sprawling ensemble cast—helped to create a pop-culture sensation that spoke to the unruly zeitgeist of Vietnam-era America.
A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would be right at home in one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire from Robert Altman. Mixing elements of film noir with sly insider comedy, THE PLAYER, based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, functions as both a nifty stylish murder story and a commentary on its own making, and it is stocked with a heroic supporting cast (Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward) and a lineup of star cameos that make for an astonishing Hollywood who’s who. This complexly woven grand entertainment (which kicks off with one of American cinema’s most audacious and acclaimed opening shots) was the film that marked Altman’s triumphant commercial comeback in the early 1990s.
i keep having nightmares where i’m sunburned
Elric (Jacques Dutronc) has a gambling addiction: from casino to casino, he plays the roulette table, consumed by a twisted mix of intense pleasure and desperation. His encounter with Suzie (Bulle Ogier) throws his life into turmoil, but instead of curing his pathological passion, Suzie also falls prey to the game. Prisoners of their destiny, the couple plunge into another, more dangerous world: that of professional con artists.
I have this memory of being in Berlin during my last few days there . . . it was early February, and it was cold and rainy and I had left the house to get some aspirin. In Germany, you can only get medications, even something like aspirin or ibuprofen, at pharmacies called Apothekes. They’re basically on every street and they all have this red “A” symbol on the side of the building. Problem is, they’re only open for a few hours every day, and like everything else in Germany, they’re closed on Sundays. I like going to them and the pharmacists are friendly and speak English. You have to literally go up to the counter and ask them for ibuprofen or whatever, which is almost quaint in a way. And then the pharmacist goes to the back, and returns with a box of whatever your favorite analgesic is, and they ask if you want ten tablets or twenty. Ten will run you like €5, which is pretty expensive. In the US, we’re used to buying a bottle of 500 for the same price. I reckon the reasoning is that don’t want you popping this stuff like candy. For instance when I saw a doctor there, he was very hesitant to prescribe me anything. It’s just how it is. They’re more careful about things like that over there.
Anyway: I lived on this beautiful street in Kreuzberg that was essentially a self-contained universe. Everything I could ever need was in a five-block radius. I had a nice coffeeshop and a pizza place and some good dive bars. My bedroom was above a cute little grocery store, for god’s sake! And right down the street from me, visible from my window, was an Apotheke. I usually dipped in there once a week and picked up a pack of Fisherman’s Friend. I liked the older woman who worked there. She was sweet. She was my German aunt only she didn’t know it.
And I was on my way to see her that rainy day when I saw a small dog leashed to a bike rack across the street from a print shop. He was scared and shaking because of the rain and the cold. I looked around and didn’t see anyone, but I assumed his owner was in the copy shop. I knelt down and put my arm around him and pulled him close to me to warm him up. I figured I’d just stay with him until his owner came back. After a few minutes, an old woman looked out the window and squinted at us. She smiled and waved. I saw another woman who was leaving pass by her, and the old woman said something, and the other woman nodded and came outside. She walked over and started unlocking her bicycle which was next to me. She said something in German and I guess my pause to answer her was just long enough for her to realize I hadn’t fully understood what she had said. The dog was still shivering in my arms.
She switched to English: “This is your new friend? The owner says she will be out in just a moment.”
I said, “Oh, right on.”
It kept raining. The dog would look into the store and make that sad little dog noise. I talked to him to try to calm him down, and I rubbed his fur to shake the rain off of him. I opened my jacket and pulled him inside and we sat there in silence for some time. Eventually the old woman came outside. She thanked me in German and patted me on the shoulder and she and the dog turned a corner and were gone. I stood up and walked the other way.
John Cassavetes engages with film noir in his own inimitable style with THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE. Ben Gazzara brilliantly portrays a gentleman’s club owner, Cosmo Vitelli, desperately committed to maintaining a facade of suave gentility despite the seediness of his environment and his own unhealthy appetites. When he runs afoul of loan sharks, Cosmo must carry out a terrible crime or lose his way of life. Mesmerizing and idiosyncratic, the film is a provocative examination of masculine identity.