What makes this site unique?

First of all, the writings here are not casual impressions or opinion pieces. That by itself doesn’t make this unique; some other writers take films seriously, but it’s worth noting that each review here is the result of at least five viewings, usually more, and that the observations, interpretations, and hypotheses have been tested through classroom presentations and/or public discussions, often spanning many years.

There’s nothing wrong with simply evaluating or summarizing movies, but this site aims to introduce a new and productive approach to film, a method developed over 30 years of close viewing, study, research, debate, teaching, and writing. The philosophy behind this site is outlined here, but in short the goal is a thorough interrogation of each movie, always seeking out its purpose, logic, humanity, and ambiguities. Ideally these reviews should reveal insights not only into the respective films but into life itself. Also, no matter how analytical a review might be, it should read as if there’s a storyteller tracing a hidden story behind the film.

Who is the target audience?

First, anyone who takes movies seriously.

Second, students and teachers of film. The earliest reviews here evolved from the lecture notes for a series of film classes, and their length is based roughly on what would fit into a day’s classroom presentation. This site should facilitate discussion by opening new avenues of inquiry. Teachers can build a syllabus around the connections between films, around a listed topic, or around various structural techniques.

Third, but not least, filmmakers and prospective filmmakers. Writers, directors, actors, editors, and cinematographers may find guidance and inspiration in the examples of past masters. As Jean-Luc Godard and many others have realized, the way forward in cinema is not to overthrow the past, but to synthesize new ideas with the old.

Why a website instead of a book?

100 of the essays here were originally published as a book in 2019. I quickly realized, however, that my thinking about movies would always evolve, and I wouldn’t be happy letting my writings remain frozen on paper. That doesn’t mean I won’t write other books in the future, but I wanted to reach more people with a point of view that might invigorate cinema. The site is structured as an archive-style resource rather than a blog in order to keep older content just as accessible as new content.

Where should I start?

Wherever your interest takes you. The reviews here are written for readers who’ve watched the films recently or know them well. If you’re planning to explore this site, three classics come up again and again: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Wizard of Oz, and Casablanca. The most eye-opening article is probably on Vertigo; the most controversial may be Brief Encounter; the two longest are Tokyo Story and La notte; the most vigorous defence of a poorly regarded movie is Moon in the Gutter or The Counselor; and the best writing may be on Rear Window, but that’s hard to pick. Blow-Up is another good starting point because it introduces the viewing technique that all the writing here depends on.

What are the Connections under each review?

At the end of each film review is a list of films (ordered by release date) that share something remarkable in common with the subject film. Some commonalities may reflect influence, but most are probably just examples of convergent thinking. They can be useful for teachers preparing syllabi if they wish to compare related films.

Are there spoilers?

Yes, lots. If you’re concerned, you’ll probably want to watch the movie before reading its review. It’s not easy to discuss a movie’s logic without revealing its ending, and it would be both cumbersome and annoying to insert spoiler alerts. There are also spoilers in the “Connections” lists, so avoid looking at those if you haven’t seen the connected movie. Some movies are more sensitive to spoilers than others; the following contain some of the biggest surprises (not always at the end): The Cabinet of Dr. CaligariThe Naked Jungle, Chase a Crooked Shadow, VertigoPlein soleil, and Melancholia.

Is it “safe for work”?

Yes, basically. Although some of the films here include nudity, sexual content, and violence, the images chosen for this site will probably not provoke the judgment of people looking over your shoulder. The only nudity portrayed is images of statues and paintings, not photographic depictions of actors or actresses.

Where can I write a comment?

At least for now, comments are disabled on this site. There’s some discussion about opening a messageboard here, but no decision yet. The best place to open a public conversation about the writing here is @the__cinematograph on Threads. The Cinematograph also has a Facebook page. To initiate an email exchange you can use the Contact form.

May I suggest a film?

Yes, suggestions are welcome, and readership demand may push a film up the priority list. However please understand that the selection here is limited to films I feel capable of analyzing. If I have a blind spot for a certain kind of film you can try to convince me to look at it differently, but if you can do that you’d probably prefer to write about it yourself.

Do you accept advertisements?

Yes, but only topically relevant ads. The ideal sponsor would be a streaming service, dvd label, film festival, or similar movie-related enterprise.

Can I submit an article?

At least for now I want the site to keep a consistent voice and outlook, so I’m not seeking outside contributions. I might reevaluate this policy in the future, but only after a long acquaintance with any like-minded writer(s).

Why aren’t some words in foreign titles capitalized?

English is one of the few languages (along with Portuguese) that capitalizes each major word in a title. German capitalizes nouns in any context, but not verbs, adjectives, or adverbs in titles. Many movie titles in foreign languages are conventionally left untranslated in English (Les enfants terribles, Ugetsu monogatari, La dolce vita, Vivre sa vie, Au hasard Balthazar, etc.), and in these cases only the initial word and any proper nouns are capitalized.

“Movie” or “film”?

Tough question. In general this site uses them interchangeably, preferring “movie” when discussing the story and “film” when referring to the physical or abstract thing. “Movie” has a less arty connotation, so it’s used more often here than “film”.

How can I help?

Spread the word! This site is still new, and it hasn’t reached its potential audience yet. Word of mouth is orders of magnitude more persuasive than self-promotion, so if you like an essay here or find it thought-provoking, please share it with anyone who might be interested.

If there’s any sponsor out there willing and able to make writing this a full-time job, the contents could grow a lot faster. Otherwise it’s a labor of love, and there’s time to write about an essay per week.