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Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films [Criterion Collection] [50 Discs] [With Book] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa's epic tale concerns honor and duty during a time when the old traditional order is breaking down. The film opens with master samurai Kambei (Takashi Shimura) posing as a monk to save a kidnapped farmer's child. Impressed by his selflessness and bravery, a group of farmers begs him to defend their terrorized village from bandits. Kambei agrees, although there is no material gain or honor to be had in the endeavor. Soon he attracts a pair of followers: a young samurai named Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), who quickly becomes Kambei's disciple, and boisterous Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), who poses as a samurai but is later revealed to be the son of a farmer. Kambei assembles four other samurais, including Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi), a master swordsman, to round out the group. Together they consolidate the village's defenses and shape the villagers into a militia, while the bandits loom menacingly nearby. Soon raids and counter-raids build to a final bloody heart-wrenching battle. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

Viridiana
After 25 years' exile, Luis Buñuel was invited to his native Spain to direct Viridiana -- only to have the Spanish government suppress the film on the grounds of blasphemy and obscenity. Regarded by many as Buñuel's crowning achievement, the film centers on an idealistic young nun named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal). Just before taking her final vows, Viridiana is forced by her mother superior to visit her wealthy uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), who has "selflessly" provided for the girl over the years. She has always considered Don Jaime an unspeakable beast, so she is surprised when he graciously welcomes her into his home. Just as graciously, he sets about to corrupt Viridiana beyond redemption -- all because the girl resembles his late wife. It is always hard to select the most outrageous scene in any Buñuel film; our candidate in Viridiana is the devastating Last Supper tableau consisting of beggars, thieves, and degenerates. As joltingly brilliant today as on its first release, Viridiana won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Summertime
Katharine Hepburn stars as Jane Hudson, an Ohio secretary on the verge of spinsterhood. Carefully saving her money, Jane takes an extended trip to Venice, half hoping to find the romance that has always eluded her. Luck of luck, she meets handsome Renato Di Rossi (Rossano Brazzi), who sweeps her off her feet. Jane's flight on Cloud Nine comes to a flaming crash when she learns that Renato is married and the father of a large family. Picking herself up and dusting herself off, Jane is determined to keep her romance alive, and hang the consequences. She ultimately does what's best for everyone, and heads back to Ohio, wistfully clutching to the memory of the happiest summer of life. Gorgeously color-photographed on location by Jack Hildyard, Summertime was an adaptation of (and vast improvement upon) Arthur Laurents' play The Time of the Cuckoo. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Ugetsu Monogatari
Presented in a manner as eerie as it is heartbreaking, this film is a gorgeous supernatural fable about the folly of men with dreams larger than their abilities and their women who suffer as a result. Genjuro (Masuyaki Mori) is a potter who longs for wealth and luxury, while Tobei (Sakae Ozawa), a farmer, dreams of the glories of the samurai to the point of ignoring his wife. Though a war rages around them, they venture to town to sell their wares. Genjuro becomes bewitched by a beautiful though vengeful ghost (Machiko Kyo), while his wife is murdered by a soldier; Tobei becomes a noted warrior, while his wife descends into prostitution after being raped while searching for her husband. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

The Rules of the Game
Jules and Jim
Acclaimed French director François Truffaut's third and, for many viewers, best film is an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché. Set between 1912 and 1933, it stars Oskar Werner as the German Jules and Henri Serre as the Frenchman Jim, kindred spirits who, while on holiday in Greece, fall in love with the smile on the face of a sculpture. Back in Paris, the smile comes to life in the person of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau); the three individuals become constant companions, determined to live their lives to the fullest despite the world war around them. When Jules declares his love for Catherine, Jim agrees to let Jules pursue her, despite his own similar feelings; Jules and Catherine marry and have a child (Sabine Haudepin), but Catherine still loves Jim as well. An influential film that has grown in stature over the decades, Jules et Jim was often viewed by the counterculture of the 1960s as a cinematic proponent of the free-love movement, but in actuality the picture is a statement against such a way of life. Despite the bond shared by Jules, Jim, and Catherine, their ménage à trois is doomed to fail; and Catherine's inability to choose between the two men leads to tragic consequences for all three. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Fires on the Plain
Kon Ichikawa's adaptation of Shohei Ooka's novel Nobi takes place in the Philippines at the end of World War II. The Japanese army is in hasty retreat from the incoming American forces. The soldiers have also been warned that the Americans will take no live prisoners, and so their flight is all the more desperate. One group of men harbors a soldier named Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi) suffering from the last stages of tuberculosis. Knowing he is facing imminent death anyway, Tamura is able to resist submitting to the chaos and demoralization that overtake his fellow soldiers (who fall so far as to commit murder, cannibalism, and go insane). Eventually Tamura becomes involved with a couple that has returned in order to pick up a cache of salt. He shoots the wife and chases off the husband, bringing him one step closer to losing his humanity. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

Umberto D.
Frequently mentioned on lists of masterpieces of modern cinema, Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. transforms a simple character study into a painfully poignant drama. Umberto is an aging former civil servant, now retired on his scant government pension. He spends his time in his tiny room in Rome, with only his longtime pet dog for companionship. His lonely life only grows worse when his limited income forces him to fall behind on his rent, leading his landlady to threaten him with eviction. He makes a desperate attempt to raise the needed money and protest the unfair treatment of senior citizens to the government, but he receives little response. His one chance at human contact, through brief conversations with a pregnant servant, proves sadly disappointing. Indeed, Umberto slowly becomes convinced that the situation may be hopeless, and he ultimately considers committing suicide. Considered one of the high points of Italian neo-realist cinema, Umberto D. provides the ultimate example of the movement's unadorned, observational style, which emphasizes the reality of events without calling attention to their emotional or dramatic impact. The unschooled, natural performances also contribute to the film's feeling of verisimilitude, particularly the lead performance by non-actor Carlo Battisti. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

La Strada
Acclaimed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini drew on his own circus background for the 1954 classic La Strada. Set in a seedy travelling carnival, this symbolism-laden drama revolves around brutish strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn), his simple and servile girlfriend Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife), and clown/aerialist Matto (Richard Basehart). Appalled at Zampano's insensitive treatment of Gelsomina, the gentle-natured Matto invites her to run off with him; but Gelsomina, like a faithful pet, refuses to leave the strong man's side. Eventually Zampano's volcanic temper erupts once too often, leading to tragic consequences. Written by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli and scored by Nino Rota, La Strada was the winner of the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in 1956. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pandora's Box
German filmmaker G.W. Pabst's late-silent classic Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora) stars the hauntingly beautiful Louise Brooks as libertine dancer Lulu. Ever out for the "main chance," Lulu persuades her wealthy lover Dr. Schön (Fritz Kortner) to marry her. But in a fit of jealous rage, he pulls a gun, a scuffle ensues, and she shoots him. Eventually escaping to London with the doctor's moonstruck son Alwa (Francis Lederer), Lulu takes up residence with her "adopted" father Schigolch (Carl Götz), where she is reduced to walking the streets, with tragic consequences. Pandora's Box (based on two works by the controversial German writer Franz Wedekind) exudes smoky sensuality in every frame; regarded now as a masterpiece, the film received surprisingly scathing reviews, with most of the critical broadsides aimed at Louise Brooks (this was long before Brooks graduated from just another pretty Hollywood starlet to Cult Goddess). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Third Man
In this Cold War spy classic, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), a third-rate American pulp novelist, arrives in postwar Vienna, where he has been promised a job by his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival, Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in a traffic accident, and that his funeral is taking place immediately. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway tells Martins that the late Harry Lime was a thief and murderer, the loyal Martins is at first outraged. Gradually, he discovers not only that Calloway was right but also that the man lying in the coffin in the film's early scenes was not Harry Lime at all--and that Lime is still very much alive (he was the mysterious "third man" at the scene of the fatal accident). Thus the stage is set for the movie's famous climactic confrontation in the sewers of Vienna--and the even more famous final shot, in which Martins pays emotionally for doing "the right thing." Written by Graham Greene, The Third Man is an essential classic, made even more so by the insistent zither music of Anton Karas. The film is currently available in both an American and British release version; the American print, with an introduction by Joseph Cotten, is slightly shorter than the British version, which is narrated by director Carol Reed. Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Third Man won Best Cinematography for Robert Krasker. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Loves of a Blonde
Out in the Czech countryside, a shoe factory owner petitions the People's Army to station a division of soldiers in his town, where the women outnumber the men sixteen to one. The arrival of the troops is greeted with great excitement, but the girls in the town are disappointed to see that the men are older reservists, and not the strapping young men they'd envisioned. Still, when a band plays at the local pub, the girls show up to be ogled by the older men, many of whom are married. A trio of reservists sends a bottle of wine to Andula (Hana Brejchova), Marie (Marie Salacova), and Jana (Jana Novakova), and the girls argue over whether or not to acknowledge the gesture. But Andula catches the eye of the comparatively dashing young pianist, Milda (Vladimir Pucholt). Milda convinces Andula to go to his room, where he seduces the mildly reluctant girl. The next morning, the traveling musician assures her repeatedly, "I do not have a girlfriend in Prague." Milda leaves town, as expected, but Andula has fallen in love with him, and decides to journey to Prague to track him down. A low-key black-and-white ensemble comedy, Loves of a Blonde was cast predominantly with non-professional actors. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, drew a lot of attention to the "Czech New Wave," and jumpstarted the international filmmaking career of director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Alexander Nevsky
Like many of Eisenstein's best films, Alexander Nevsky was conceived as a morale-booster, aimed at stirring up Russian patriotism. It is set in the 13th century, but the villainous Teutonic Knights are obviously meant to represent the burgeoning threat of Hitler's hordes. With Russia besieged by both these knights and by the Tartars, only a charismatic leader can save the populace from these barbaric baby killers (yes, we see the villains tossing screaming infants into bonfires!) The hero of the piece is the legendary Prince Alexander Nevsky, portrayed by Nikolai Cherkasov, who bears a striking resemblance to Gary Cooper. The saving turnaround for Nevsky is the battle of ice-covered Lake Peipus in 1242. This bravura sequence is staged in spectacular fashion, underlined by the specially-commissioned music of Sergei Prokofiev. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Wages of Fear
Together with Diabolique, The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur) earned Henri-Georges Clouzot the reputation as a "French Hitchcock." In truth, Clouzot's ability to sustain suspense may have even exceeded Hitchcock's; when originally released, Wages ran 155 tension-filled minutes. Based on the much-imitated novel by Georges Arnaud, the film is set in Central America. The Southern Oil Company, which pretty much rules the roost in the impoverished village of Las Piedras, sends out a call for long-distance truck drivers. Southern Oil's wages of 2,000 dollars per man are, literally, to die for -- the drivers are obliged to transport highly volatile nitroglycerine shipments across some of the most treacherous terrain on earth. Through expository dialogue, tense interactions and flashbacks, we become intimately acquainted with the four drivers who sign up for this death-defying mission: Corsican Yves Montand, Italian Folco Lulli, German Peter Van Eyck, and Frenchman Charles Vanel. The first half of the film slowly, methodically introduces the characters and their motivations. The second half -- the drive itself -- is a relentless, goosebump-inducing assault on the audience's senses. The winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival, The Wages of Fear was remade by William Friedkin as Sorcerer (1977). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Grand Illusion
Frequently cited as both one of the greatest films about war and one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion is an often witty, sometimes poignant, frequently moving examination of the futility of war. During World War I, twoFrench airmen are shot down while taking surveillance photographs in German territory: Capt. de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), a wealthy and aristocratic officer; Lt. Maréchal (Jean Gabin), a burly but intelligent working-class mechanic. The three are brought to a P.O.W. camp, where they encounter and befriend Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), a prosperous Jewish banker, and the commander, Von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), takes an immediate liking to de Boeldieu.They are members of the same social class and believe that the political and intellectual ideals of the Europe they once knew will soon be a thing of the past with the rise to power of the proletariat. The three Frenchmen discover that their fellow prisoners have been digging an escape tunnel, and all of them agree to help -- Maréchal and Rosenthal with enthusiasm, de Boeldieu out of a sense of duty. As he puts it, when on a golf course, one plays golf, and while in a prison camp, one tries to escape -- it's the accepted thing to do. As Von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu become friends, and the rank-and-file soldiers banter as much with the German guards as with each other, the characters seem involved less in a war than in some vast, petty game, albeit one with deadly consequences; they often talk about women and food, while never mentioning political ideology. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Pygmalion
Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller star in Anthony Asquith's and Leslie Howard's classic version of George Bernard Shaw's satiric comedy. Henry Higgins (Howard) is an upper class phonetics professor who encounters low-class guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Hiller) and bets his friend Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland) that he can pass her off as a duchess within three months. Pickering accepts Higgins' bet, with Eliza readily agreeing to the proposal, since she will get to live in Higgins' fancy home. Once in Higgins' house, Eliza is subjected to intensely repetitive phonetics lessons in an effort to transform her Cockney accent into the speech of proper English. Things are a bit rocky at first, with Eliza blurting out "Not bloody likely" at a tea party. But when Eliza is presented at the Ambassador's Ball, she is not only accepted as a princess but is the talk of the ball, everyone in attendance commenting on her charm, beauty, and poise. Relishing his success, Higgins abruptly dismisses her. But Eliza has fallen in love with Higgins and is aghast at her cursory treatment by him. She tells him, "I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me, I'm not fit to sell anything else." When Eliza leaves, Higgins realizes that he loves her too, but Eliza has announced to Higgins that she plans to marry high society playboy Freddie Eynsford-Hill (David Tree). ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist
Beauty and the Beast
Jean Cocteau's adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (originally released in France as La Belle et la Bête) stars Josette Day as Beauty and Jean Marais as the Beast. When a merchant (Marcel André) is told that he must die for picking a rose from the Beast's garden, his courageous daughter (Day) offers to go back to the Beast in her father's place. the Beast falls in love with her and proposes marriage on a nightly basis; she refuses, having pledged her troth to a handsome prince (also played by Marais). Eventually, however, she is drawn to the repellent but strangely fascinating Beast, who tests her fidelity by giving her a key, telling her that if she doesn't return it to him by a specific time, he will die of grief. The film features a musical score by Georges Auric. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Love Goddesses
One subject that has always been popular in the movies -- and is likely to stay that way for a long time to come -- is beautiful women, and this 1965 documentary explores the history of the Hollywood sex symbol, from the earliest days of Thomas Alva Edison's first silent films to such then-contemporary bombshells as Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor. Along with celebrating some of the most beautiful women to grace the silver screen, including Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Ingrid Bergman, and Greta Garbo, The Love Goddesses discusses the shifting attitudes about the onscreen portrayal of love and sex, and how some actresses found their images changing as they went from ingenues to pinups, and sometimes vice-versa. Actor Carl King serves as narrator; Percy Faith composed the score. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Ikiru
Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru details the existential struggle of one ordinary man in his desperate search for purpose. Upon learning he has terminal stomach cancer, a low-level government bureaucrat (Takashi Shimura) leaves his job of thirty years without a word to find meaning in the year he has left to live. He is completely alone in the world -- his wife is dead, his son is practically estranged, and his co-workers (the people with whom he has more contact than any others) are little more than strangers. Rather than face a death alone in pathos, Shimura opts to make up for lost time by going to the bar (for the first time in his life), spending every last yen in his wallet and drinking himself to death. There he meets a black-clad artist (a Mephistopheles to his Faust) who leads him on a hellish (and darkly humorous) tour of the city after dark as the two crawl through every booze-soaked juke-joint in town (Kurosawa's classical training as a painter surfaces in this sequence; many critics have noted the striking similarity of the crowded dance hall scenes to the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, (particularly Walpurgis Night). Realizing he has missed nothing, Shimura then sets his sight on a pretty young girl from the office to divert his attention from his looming mortality. Although the girl fails to serve as a lifebuoy, she does give him the inspiration to do something meaningful -- to leave a legacy, however small, that makes the world a better place. A synopsis of Ikiru cannot serve the film justice; it simply must be seen. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

Floating Weeds
This 1959 Ozu production centers on the likable but fallible leader of an itinerant acting troupe ("floating weeds" being the Japanese name for such groups), Kimajuro, played brilliantly by Ganjiro Nakamura. The film opens on a lazy, stagnant river as the troupe lays spread about on a boat deck drifting downstream. It's obvious that they're a ragged bunch as they sit fanning themselves and smoking on deck. The boat pulls into a quiet fishing village where the troupe proceeds to canvass the town, hanging up posters and performing impromptu stunts for the inhabitants. Kimajuro and his actress mistress, Sumiko (Machiko Kyo), head to the theatre and secure their cramped quarters above the theatre's main hall. Kimajuro leaves to pay a visit to a local saki bar owned by Oyoshi (Haruko Sugimura), who, years previous, had conceived a child with Kimajuro. The child has grown into a strapping young man, Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), who has a good job at the post office. Kimajuro, although clearly proud of his son, has refused to take responsibility for the child and Kiyoshi thinks Kimajuro is merely his uncle. Unbeknownst to Kimajuro, Sumiko has discovered his secret, and, infuriated, hires a young actress to seduce Kiyoshi. Terrified that his son is falling for this woman of loose morals, Kimajuro has to decide what's most important: keeping his secret safe or saving his son by acknowledging his paternity. ~ Brian Whitener, Rovi

Ashes and Diamonds
This is the last film in the trilogy that began Andrzej Wajda's career as a director. Preceding this wartime drama are Pokolenie (1955) and Kanal (1957). Once again, Wajda presents a strong anti-war statement, this time in the personae of two men who are given orders on the last day of World War II in Poland to murder a leading communist. The orders come from the part of the resistance that opposes the new communist regime. One of Wajda's favorite performers and a friend, Zbigniew Cybulski, plays the man who eventually pulls the trigger and kills the communist leader -- and the results are not what he expected. In 1959, Popiol I Diament won in competition at the British Academy Awards and at the Venice Film Festival. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

Brief Encounter
Based on Noël Coward's play "Still Life," Brief Encounter is a romantic, bittersweet drama about two married people who meet by chance in a London railway station and carry on an intense love affair. Sentimental yet down-to-earth and set in pre-World War II England, the film follows British housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), who is on her way home, but catches a cinder in her eye. By chance, she meets Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), who removes it for her. The two talk for a few minutes and strike immediate sparks, but they end up catching different trains. However, both return to the station once a week to meet and, as the film progresses, they grow closer, sharing stories, hopes, and fears about their lives, marriages, and children. One day, when Alec's train is late, both become frantic that they will miss each other. When they finally find each other, they realize that they are in love. But what should be a joyous realization is fraught with tragedy, since both care greatly for their families. Howard and Johnson give flawless performances as two practical, married people who find themselves in a situation in which they know they can never be happy. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

The Great Chase
The art of the movie chase sequence hardly began with Bullitt or The French Connection -- no thriller of the silent era was complete without a hair-raising chase scene, and this compilation pulls together highlights from some of the great films of the early 20th century. Starting with The Great Train Robbery (1903), this documentary follows the history of the silent movie chase sequence, and it includes excerpts from The Mark of Zorro (1920), Way Down East (1920), The Perils of Pauline (1914), and Buster Keaton's masterpiece, The General (1927). The Great Chase also features an original score written and performed by the great harmonica player Larry Adler. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Häxan
Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen's obsession with bizarre lighting effects reached its apotheosis with his 1922 masterpiece Häxan. Beginning in a deceptively sedate fashion with a series of woodcuts and engravings (a technique later adopted by RKO producer Val Lewton), the film then shifts into gear with a progression of dramatic vignettes, illustrating the awesome power of witchcraft in the Middle Ages. So powerful are some of these images that even some modern viewers will avert their eyes from the screen. Though obviously a work of pure imagination, the film occasionally takes on the dimensions of a documentary, a byproduct of the extensive research done by Christensen before embarking on the project (incidentally, the director himself can be seen in the film in a dual role as Satan and the Doctor). Häxan marked a parting of the ways for Christensen and the Danish film industry; thereafter, he confined his activities to the German cinema, before answering Hollywood's call in 1928. A separate version of this film exists, with a shorter running time, retitled Witchcraft Through the Ages and released in 1968. It features narration by the legendary Beat writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) and a score by Jean-Luc Ponty. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Knife in the Water
Noz w Wodzie was not only Polanski's first feature-length film, but it also marked the first screen appearance of Polish actor Zygmunt Malanowicz who played a young student. In fact, the only experienced thespian in the featured trio is Leon Niemczyk as Andrzej, the self-important, somewhat arrogant husband of Kataryna. Andrzej and Kataryna pick up the student as he is hitchhiking and invite him to join them on their boat for an outing. As the threesome head out to open water, the husband and the student start a kind of jealous interaction that keeps Kataryna mildly amused. What began as a macho sparring ends up in a fight that has the student falling overboard and the husband swimming to shore for help. But appearances are deceiving, as the husband will soon discover. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

The Importance of Being Earnest
Anthony Asquith's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's witty play of mistaken identities stars Michael Redgrave as rich bachelor Jack Worthing. Jack's friend is Algernon Moncrieft (Michael Denison), a poor bloke living on credit. Jack refers mysteriously to Algernon about his country retreat, which drives Algernon to distraction, trying to figure out where Jack goes on the weekends. Jack is also in love with Algernon's attractive cousin Gwendolen (Joan Greenwood). He also has a ward, Cecily Cardew (Dorothy Tutin), who lives at the country estate and studies with local spinster Miss Prism (Margaret Rutherford). When Algernon learns of Cecily, he arrives at the country home claiming to be Jack's brother Earnest, knowing Jack had previously regaled Cecily with tales of having to bail the fictitious Earnest out of scrapes so he could sneak out to the city. Having set her eyes on "Earnest" in the flesh after having heard countless tales of his intrigues, Cecily immediately falls in love with Earnest. Meanwhile, Jack comes back to the country dressed in black, determined to announce to the group the demise of the fictional Earnest. As a result, Jack is stupefied when he sees Earnest standing in front of him. Meanwhile, Algernon's aunt, Lady Bracknell (Edith Evans) refuses to grant permission for Jack and Gwendolen's engagement. However, when Lady Bracknell finds out that Algernon is in love with Cecily, she asks Jack for his blessing on their marriage. Of course, Jack won't give his blessing until Lady Bracknell gives her blessing to his proposed marriage to Gwendolen. All is at a standstill until Lady Bracknell recognizes Miss Prism as a governess from the past who holds secrets concerning both Jack and Algernon. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

L'Avventura
This ground-breaking film won a Special Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and established its director, Michelangelo Antonioni, as a major international talent. The plot concerns a yachting trip by a small group of jaded socialites, including Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), an aging architect who sold out for easy money long ago, his mistress Anna (Lea Massari), and her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti), who doesn't fit in with the wealthy jet-setters' dissolute ethics. When Anna disappears during a tour of a volcanic island, Claudia initially blames Sandro's emotionally barren behavior toward her. As they search the island, however, Claudia and Sandro grow closer and -- when it is apparent that Anna is gone forever -- become lovers. Unfortunately, Sandro cannot find anything decent inside himself and betrays Claudia with a local prostitute. Caught in the act, Sandro has a heartrending breakdown on a desolate beach, but Claudia silently forgives him. L'avventura caught many audiences who were expecting a mystery by surprise; as in La notte (1961), The Eclipse (1962), and Red Desert (1964), Antonioni is interested less in developing a logical story than in exploring states of feeling and breakdowns in human connection. ~ Robert Firsching, Rovi

The Spirit of the Beehive
Widely regarded as a masterpiece of Spanish cinema, this allegorical tale is set in a remote village in the 1940s. The life in the village is calm and uneventful -- an allegory of Spanish life after General Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War. While their father (Fernando Fernán Gómez) studies bees in his beehive and their mother (Teresa Gimpera) writes letters to a non-existent correspondent, two young girls, Ana (Ana Torrent) and Isabel (Isabel Telleria), go to see James Whale's Frankenstein at a local cinema. Though they can hardly understand the concept, both girls are deeply impressed with the moment when a little girl gives a flower to the monster. Isabel, the older sister, tells Ana that the monster actually exists as a spirit that you can't see unless you know how to approach him. Ana starts wandering around the countryside in search of the kind creature. The film received critical accolades for its subtle and masterful use of cinematic language and the expressive performance of the young Ana Torrent. ~ Yuri German, Rovi

The Virgin Spring
Inspired by a medieval Swedish ballad, Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukallan) begins with a scene of unspeakable brutality and ends with an image of uncommon beauty. 15-year-old Birgitta Peterson, on her way to church to light candles for the Virgin Mary, is raped and murdered by two older men. The men look for shelter at the home of Birgitta's father (Max Von Sydow), who murders the bestial killers in cold blood. When the deed is done, Von Sydow, a deeply religious man, begins to question the efficacy of a God that would allow his daughter's death, then permit so bloody a retribution. Then, a fresh, virgin spring bubbles from the ground where his daughter had been lying a few moments before. Taking this natural phenonenon as a sign from above, Von Sydow vows to erect a church on the spot where Birgitta met her doom. The winner of the "best foreign picture" Academy Award, The Virgin Spring currently exists in several versions of varying lengths; the longest, and most graphic, is the original Swedish cut. Believe it or not, this hauntingly beautiful film served as the basis of The Last House on the Left (1972). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's much-lauded epic Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which satirizes British traditionalism, stirred up impassioned hostilities and indignations among the Brits when released in 1943. It so infuriated Winston Churchill, in fact, that he refused to allow its exportation to other countries, particularly the U.S. When Blimp finally did premiere in the States in 1945, it screened in a drastically cut version. The sweeping story covers several decades. It begins at the tail end of the Boer War, when handsome young British officer Clive Candy, recently back from the battlefront, is infuriated by his discovery that Deutschland papers have played up the British atrocities in South Africa, propagandistically. He grows so irate, in fact, that he travels to Germany to address the problem. Once there, he meets an attractive British educator, Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr) who spends her days teaching English as a second language to German students. They grow close, but Candy so aggravates the local indigenes that he winds up in a duel with a German officer, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). The men wound each other and are sent to the same hospital, where they become friends. Candy - who doesn't yet realize he's fallen in love with Edith -- senses that Theo and Edith are attracted to one another, and encourages the couple's marital union. Candy subsequently returns to England, then falls for and marries Barbara (again played by Kerr), a nurse who bears a strong resemblance to Edith. She later dies, but Candy meets a third woman during WWII, Johnny (Kerr a third time), assigned to drive him from one locale to another during his campaigns. Meanwhile, Theo - disgusted by Nazi atrocities -- absconds to England, where he reencounters his old friend, now a prattering old shuffler rapidly approaching the end of his career and raving continuously about Nazi conduct (or lack thereof) in battle. Powell and Pressberger adapted Colonel Blimp from a comic strip; it became one of the hallmarks of their careers. ~ Sidney Jenkins, Rovi

Le jour se lève
Marcel Carne and Jacques Prevert's classic of French poetic realism stars Jean Gabin in one of his most famous roles as Francois, a rough, barrel-chested loner who hides out in his apartment awaiting for the police to arrive. Francois has killed a man in a crime of passion, the slimy lothario Valentin (Jules Berry). As he listens in the darkness of his Normandy apartment to the police sirens closing in and getting louder, he recalls the two women that he loved -- Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and Clara (Arletty) -- and the evil Valentin, who stole both their hearts and forced Francois into this melancholy plight. The film was later re-made in Hollywood as The Long Night. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

M
Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully. Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre (previously a specialist in comedy roles!). M was remade by Hollywood in 1951, with David Wayne giving a serviceable performance as the killer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Black Orpheus
Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) is literally what its title suggests: a retelling of the "Orpheus and Eurydice" legend enacted by black performers. This time the setting is the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus (Breno Mello) is a streetcar conductor; Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) has just jilted her lover and is attempting to escape his wrath. Orpheus himself falls in love with Eurydice, whereupon her ex-lover, disguised as the Angel of Death shows up and kills Eurydice. To reclaim his lost love, Orpheus enters "Hell" (the Rio morgue) and uses supernatural methods to revive the dead girl. A multi-award winner on the international film scene, Black Orpheus features a samba musical score by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Richard III
Laurence Olivier was the director, co-screenwriter (with Alan Dent), and star of this robust adaptation of Shakespeare's drama, which, as Bruce Eder has written, "was the final, crowning glory of the British studio system and the end of the great cycle of British films aimed at international audiences." Olivier begins his Richard III with Edward IV (Cedric Hardwicke) being crowned king. In the background of the celebration, Richard (Laurence Olivier) jealously views the proceedings and begins to pick off those obstructing his pathway to the throne. Eventually, Richard becomes king and, after proceeding with a succession of intrigues and duplicities, he finds his kingdom in dire peril, set upon by Henry Tudor (Stanley Baker) and mustering a final defense for his realm at the Battle of Bosworth. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Miss Julie
Based upon the play by August Strindberg, Miss Julie is concerned with the torturous relationship between the aristocratic title character and Jean (Donal McCann), a mere servant of her father's house. As the play opens, most of the servants are outside celebrating midsummer's eve with dancing, singing, and laughter. Christine (Heather Canning), a cook, is waiting for Jean to arrive so that they may join the revelers, but the imperious Miss Julie (Helen Mirren) comes between them and uses her power and status to change their plans. Julie delights in humiliating Jean, treating him with disdain and mocking his dreams; she even goes so far as ask that he kiss her shoe. Because she is technically his employer, Jean cannot directly express his anger, but he does begin playing a manipulative game of his own that results in an exchange of secrets. They disappear into a secluded room of the house, and when they re-emerge, Jean has gained the upper hand, and they find themselves in an untenable situation which they must still somehow resolve. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

Ivan the Terrible, Part 2
The second part of Sergei Eisenstein's baroque chronicle of the legendary Russian czar was originally planned as a three-part epic. But Eisenstein had battles with Russian censors over the second part of his trilogy, ostensibly because of a negative depiction of Ivan's secret police force (Stalin feared that Eisenstein was making a veiled reference to himself). Although filmed shortly after Part One in 1946, the film was suppressed and was not released until 1958. In the meantime, Eisenstein, who died in 1948, never completed his project, spending most of his time defending himself before Stalin and his censor boards. Part Two takes up the story of Ivan the Terrible (Nikolai Cherkasov) upon his return to Moscow from Alexandrov. Ivan must deal with a group of unfriendly boyars and becomes even more insulated after his mother is poisoned and an assassination plot is uncovered. The black-and-white film ends with a luminous color banquet scene. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Mr. Hulot's Holiday
Already familiar to many, especially following his acclaimed directorial debut Jour De Fete, Jacques Tati came into his own and reached new levels of popularity with 1953's Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot. The first film to introduce his much-loved alter ego Monsieur Hulot, it sets the pattern for future appearances of the character, throwing the bumbling hero unwittingly into the middle of the action and letting the ensuing mishaps provoke humor ranging from gentle observations to fairly biting satire. The setting this time is a stuffy resort community fond of the peace and quiet that Hulot interrupts without fail. Nearly dialogue-free and driven more by episode than plot (like all of the Hulot films), standout set pieces include a disrupted funeral, an interrupted game of cards, and -- one of Tati's signature bits -- a game of tennis played with rules that can politely be called unconventional. ~ Keith Phipps, Rovi

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Alec Guinness gets to die eight times, playing a line of successors to a dukedom, in the Ealing black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is ninth in line to inherit the dukedom from the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family. Louis vows to kill all eight people who stand between him and the duke's title. Aside from two cases of natural causes, Louis works through the list, eliminating rivals (all played by Guinness). Along the way he romances Sibella (Joan Greenwood), a childhood friend who ends up marrying a dullard, and Edith (Valerie Hobson), the beautiful widow of one of his victims with whom he plans to share his title. But just when Louis is ready to assume the D'Ascoyne mantle, a bizarre irony strikes. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

The Seventh Seal
Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet) retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives -- if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death." Considered by some as the apotheosis of all Ingmar Bergman films (other likely candidates for that honor include Wild Strawberries and Persona), and certainly one of the most influential European art movies, The Seventh Seal won a multitude of awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Ballad of a Soldier
The award-winning Ballad of a Soldier was the first Russian film to score an American success during the Cold War era. It is a relatively simple, uncomplicated story of a callow young Russian conscript (Vladimir Ivashov) who yearns for home and hearth during World War II. Unfortunately, only those who have committed a conspicuously heroic act are being honored with liberty. Almost in spite of himself, the boy becomes a battlefield hero, and as a result is allowed to visit his family. En route to his home, the boy uses up much of his valuable leave time through his efforts to help others. He finally gets to see his mother for a few precious moments before being called back to active duty. At the risk of sounding snobbish, we advise that you see Ballad of a Soldier in a subtitled print. The English-dubbed version borders on the ridiculous, with everyone talking in stilted sentences that sound like Soviet Damon Runyon. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The 400 Blows
For his feature-film debut, critic-turned-director François Truffaut drew inspiration from his own troubled childhood. The 400 Blows stars Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel, Truffaut's preteen alter ego. Misunderstood at home by his parents and tormented in school by his insensitive teacher (Guy Decomble), Antoine frequently runs away from both places. The boy finally quits school after being accused of plagiarism by his teacher. He steals a typewriter from his father (Albert Remy) to finance his plans to leave home. The father angrily turns Antoine over to the police, who lock the boy up with hardened criminals. A psychiatrist at a delinquency center probes Antoine's unhappiness, which he reveals in a fragmented series of monologues. Originally intended as a 20-minute short, The 400 Blows was expanded into a feature when Truffaut decided to elaborate on his self-analysis. For the benefit of Truffaut's fellow film buffs, The 400 Blows is full of brief references to favorite directors, notably Truffaut's then-idol Jean Vigo. The film won the 1959 Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, even though Truffaut had been declared persona non grata the year before for his inflammatory comments about the festival's commercialism. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The White Sheik
The White Sheik (Lo Sceicco Bianco), Fellini's first solo flight as director, is a gentle lampoon of the idolatry heaped upon movie stars. An impressionable young bride, Wanda (Brunella Bovo) accompanies her husband Ivan (Leopoldo Trieste) on a dull honeymoon, full of meetings with family members and the papal father. Bovo fantasizes over matinee idol Fernando Rivoli, AKA The White Sheik (Alberto Sordi), the hero of a photo strip comic. She repeatedly drifts away from her husband and back, in periodic attempts to find The Sheik, ultimately repairing to the location site where Sordi's latest film, The White Shiek, is in production. Her inevitable disillusionment with the vainglorious Sordi is intercut with her husband's comic (and desperate) attempts to explain his wife's absences at family gatherings to his disgruntled relatives. After a comically inept suicide attempt, Bovo and Trieste are reunited. Featured in the cast is Fellini's wife Giuletta Masina as a prostitute named Cabiria, who'd be given a vehicle of her own, Nights of Cabiria, in 1955. Based on "an idea" by Michelangelo Antonioni, The White Sheik was the main inspiration for Gene Wilder's The World's Greatest Lover (1977). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Il Posto
Better known as The Sound of Trumpets, Il Posto was the first feature-length effort of the highly singular Italian filmmaker Ermanno Olmi. The director has acknowledged that the young protagonist, played by nonprofessional Sandro Panzeri, was based on himself. Bursting with big dreams and plans, Panzeri arrives in Milan, where he goes to work in a big impersonal office. He yearns after a pretty female coworker, but he is most desirous of moving "up" into the desk next to his. By the time he accomplishes this (via the death of another employee), Panzeri is on the verge of being drained of all his individualism -- though Olmi suggests that he still has time to escape his fate. The director attacks the depersonalization of the business world by continuing pointing out how much potential has been sacrified to conformity; for example, the deceased office worker, whom no one noticed in life, is revealed to have been an aspiring writer. Taking a big chance, Olmi allowed his amateur cast to do their own post-dubbing, rather than hiring professionals to dub in their voices. Il Posto is within the realm of neorealism, but with a tad more humor than one finds in other Italian films of that ilk. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pépé le Moko
Pepe le Moko (Jean Gabin) is a well-known criminal mastermind who eludes the French police by hiding in the Casbah section of Algiers. He knows he is safe in this labyrinthine netherworld, where he is surrounded by his fellow thieves and cutthroats. Police inspector Slimane (Lucas Gridoux), who has developed a grudging respect for Pepe, bides his time, waiting for Pepe to try to leave the Casbah. When Gaby Gould (Mirielle Balin), a Parisian tourist, falls in love with Pepe, the inspector hopes to use this relationship to his advantage. He tells Gaby that Pepe has been killed, knowing that the heartbroken girl will return to Paris -- and that Pepe will risk everything to go after her. The French Pepe le Moko was remade in the US as Algiers, which followed the original so slavishly (except for changing its ending) that the American producers were able to utilize generous amounts of stock footage from the French film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Fallen Idol
Adapted from the Graham Greene story The Basement Room, director Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol is told almost completely from a child's eye view-but it isn't a children's story. Young Bobby Henrey idolizes household butler Ralph Richardson. Therefore, when it seems as though Richardson might be implicated in a murder, Bobby does his best to throw the police off the track. The boy succeeds only in casting even more suspicion upon Richardson. As the story progresses, Henrey's hero worship is eroded by Richardson's shifty behavior, and even more so when the boy discovers that the butler's boasts of previous heroism are just so much hot air. The ending of the film differs radically from Greene's story. While it would seem that director Reed was merely paying homage to the "happy ending" philosophy (hardly likely, given the doleful climaxes of such films as Odd Man Out and The Third Man), the director had very solid reasons for altering the story: he was more fascinated by the concept of the boy's imagination nearly sending his idol to the gallows, rather than having the butler entrapped by facts. And though the ending is happy for the boy, the butler's fate is much more nebulous. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

I Pugni in Tasca
Considered one of the great lost classics of Italian neo-realism, this bleak drama was the debut feature of filmmaker Marco Bellocchio. Lou Castel stars as Alessandro, an epileptic from a large family of similarly afflicted siblings, headed up by a blind matriarch (Liliana Gerace). The only healthy member of the family is Alessandro's brother Augusto (Marino Mase), who wants to marry his girlfriend but refuses to saddle a bride with the enormous burden of helping to care for his ailing relatives. Sympathetic to Augusto's plight, Alessandro decides to murder the rest of the family so as to set his brother free and assure him of an inheritance. After hurling his mother into a ravine and drowning his little brother, Alessandro returns home to suffer a seizure. Long hailed by critics and historians as an unjustly ignored film, I Pugni in Tasca (1965) was one of 15 titles selected by New York's Museum of Modern Art for its "Second Act" retrospective of post-war Italian cinema in the spring of 2000. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Forbidden Games
One of the first films to see the horrors of war through the eyes of children, Forbidden Games was a critical smash, winning prizes from the New York Film Critics, the British Academy, and the Venice Film Festival. Adapted by Francois Boyer, director Rene Clement, and two others from Boyer's novel, the story focuses on Paulette (Brigitte Fossey), a five-year-old refugee from Paris taken in by a peasant family after her parents are killed during a bombardment of a civilian convoy. Michel Dolle (Georges Pujouly), the family's 11-year-old son, becomes her best friend, and they create a cemetery in which Paulette's dog is interred, along with other animals and insects, some of whom the children kill themselves. The Dolle family is too busy feuding with the Gouards, their neighbors, to notice the absence of the children. Eventually, authorities locate Paulette and insist that she be placed in an orphanage for legal adoption. Unsentimental and yet heartbreaking, Forbidden Games demonstrates the strategies of children who witness war to deal with the constant presence of death. It's also a bitter condemnation of the selfishness of adults who could offer their charges more love and protection. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi

Wild Strawberries
After exploring his disillusionment with religion in his previous films, Ingmar Bergman adopted a humanistic approach for this classic study in isolationism. Legendary Scandinavian director Victor Sjöström stars as Isak Borg, an aging medical professor who reassesses his life while journeying to his former university to receive an honorary degree. Borg travels with his estranged daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) and revisits many of the landmarks of his past, conjuring up memories of his family and of his onetime sweetheart Sara (Bibi Andersson). Returning to the present, he meets a teenage girl who resembles the long-departed Sara. She hitches a ride with the professor and Marianne, as do a ceaselessly bickering married couple. These new characters eventually become intertwined with Borg's hazy flashbacks and fantasies, as the old man recalls the disappointments and disillusionments that have left him cold and guilt-ridden, attributes emphasized when he encounters his equally cold and resentful son. Bookending Borg's odyssey of self-discovery are a series of symbolic images at the beginning of the film (a clock without hands, a man without a face) and a hauntingly beautiful finale, in which professor is beckoned back to the "perfect" world he left behind so many years earlier. This classic art movie remains one of Bergman's most accessible films and one of the most influential European art movies of its generation. Its intense focus on one man's thoughts, regrets, and memories set the tone for innumerable psychological character studies in its wake. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Lady Vanishes
The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock's comedy-thriller, came at the end of his British period; this film's success brought Hitchcock to the attention of Hollywood. He would complete only one other British production, Jamaica Inn, before crossing the Atlantic to working for David O. Selznick on Rebecca. The film concerns the young Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood), heading home on a train after spending the holidays in the Balkans. Iris becomes friends with a kindly old lady, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) after Iris gets hit in the head with a flowerpot meant for Miss Froy. On the train, recovering from the blow, Iris falls asleep. When she awakens, Miss Froy has vanished, replaced by someone else in Miss Froy's clothing. Iris talks to the other passengers, a bizarre collection of eccentrics who think that Iris is crazy for insisting on there even being a Miss Froy -- everyone denies having ever seen the old woman. Finally, Iris finds a young musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), who believes her and the two proceed to search the train for clues to Miss Froy's disappearance. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

The 39 Steps
This classic British thriller was one of Alfred Hitchcock's first major international successes, and it introduced a number of the stylistic and thematic elements that became hallmarks of his later work. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a Canadian rancher on vacation in England, attends a music hall performance by "Mr. Memory" (Wylie Watson); in the midst of the show, shots ring out and Richard flees the theater. Moments later, a terrified woman (Lucie Mannheim) begs Richard to help her; back at his room, she tells him that she's a British spy whose life has been threatened by international agents waiting outside. Richard is certain that she's mad until she reappears at his door in the morning, near death with a knife in her back, a map in her hand, and muttering something about "39 Steps." Discovering that a group of thugs are indeed waiting outside, Richard slips away and takes the first train to the Scottish town on the dead woman's map. Richard learns that he's now wanted by the police for murder, and he must find a way to clear his name. He begins trying to do so with the help of a woman he meets en route, Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), who serves as his unwitting assistant, even after she tries to turn him in. The 39 Steps was later remade in 1959 and 1978 -- both without Hitchcock's participation. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Rashomon
This landmark film is a brilliant exploration of truth and human weakness. It opens with a priest, a woodcutter, and a peasant taking refuge from a downpour beneath a ruined gate in 12th-century Japan. The priest and the woodcutter, each looking stricken, discuss the trial of a notorious bandit for rape and murder. As the retelling of the trial unfolds, the participants in the crime -- the bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the rape victim (Machiko Kyo), and the murdered man (Masayuki Mori) -- tell their plausible though completely incompatible versions of the story. In the bandit's version, he and the man wage a spirited duel after the rape, resulting in the man's death. In the woman's testimony, she is spurned by her husband after being raped. Hysterical with grief, she kills him. In the man's version, speaking through the lips of a medium, the bandit beseeches the woman after the rape to go away with him. She insists that the bandit kill her husband first, which angers the bandit. He spurns her and leaves. The man kills himself. Seized with guilt, the woodcutter admits to the shocked priest and the commoner that he too witnessed the crime. His version is equally feasible, although his veracity is questioned when it is revealed that he stole a dagger from the crime scene. Just as all seems bleak and hopeless, a baby appears behind the gate. The commoner seizes the moment and steals the child's clothes, while the woodcutter redeems himself and humanity in the eyes of the troubled priest, by adopting the infant. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

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