J. Hoberman’s Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan will be published in July. (March 2019)


The Waiting Rooms of History

Paula Beer as Marie in Transit


a film written and directed by Christian Petzold, adapted from the novel by Anna Seghers

Christian Petzold: The State We Are In

a film series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, November 30–December 13, 2018
The protagonist of Anna Seghers’s novel Transit (1944)—the source for Christian Petzold’s new film of the same name—is a young German who, having escaped from a Nazi concentration camp and then a French work camp, makes his way to occupied Paris. There he is recruited by another former inmate to …

The House of Anderson

Phantom Thread

a film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
“I find it comforting to think that the dead are watching over the living,” Daniel Day-Lewis happily confides to a new acquaintance several scenes into the writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. It’s an odd thing to say to a young woman whom he seemingly plans to seduce, particularly since …

Orphan of History

Victor Serge, Mexico, 1944

Unforgiving Years

by Victor Serge, translated from the French and with an introduction by Richard Greeman
Singular and solitary, the novelist Victor Serge (1890–1947) appears as an orphan of history, a chance survivor improbably clinging to the coffin of the Bolshevik Revolution. The main characters of Unforgiving Years, Serge’s final novel, written in Mexico, the place of his own final exile, are his fictional brothers—disillusioned Soviet …


My Quarantine: Cannes, Interrupted

Darya Zhovner as Ilana and Olga Dragunova as Adina in Closeness, 2017

With this year’s Cannes Film Festival canceled, the Criterion Channel is revisiting the last edition that was also called off. Amid widespread demonstrations against the firing of Cinémathèque Française founder Henri Langlois for confounding the officious culture minister André Malraux, Cannes shut down midway through its 1968 festival. Criterion marks the occasion with a half-dozen movies that had been selected for the competition that year.

April Films to Watch at Home

Yongzhong Chen in Long Day's Journey Into Night

J. Hoberman’s monthly film roundup, usually a selection of what to see in theaters, now offers films that can be streamed online while readers are staying at home because of the pandemic. 

Lapid’s Complaint

Tom Mercier as Yoav in Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, 2019

“Let the Jews find their Jerusalem in France,” so Napoleon said. It’s a proposition that Nadav Lapid’s quasi-autobiographical new film, Synonyms, takes literally, dropping an alienated Israeli expat down in France. Or at least inside a French movie. The last words of its protagonist, Yoav, delivered through a locked front door as an unanswered farewell to the friend he has estranged, are: “You have no idea how lucky you are to be French.” I see no irony here, only pathos. Forget the Israeli “sickness.” The unspoken corollary to Yoav’s complaint is the Yiddish saying, Shver tsu zayn a Yid: it’s hard to be a Jew.

Once Upon a Time in Tarantino’s Hollywood

In the Hollywood world of wish-fulfillment, Tarantino’s 2007 Inglourious Basterds, a movie that began with the title “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France” and climaxed with a band of Jewish-American commandos, led by Brad Pitt’s wily hillbilly, contriving to kill Hitler, may be a tough act to follow. But by recreating “1969” Hollywood in his own image, Tarantino has done so. He has made Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, with a title evoking his own career and its ending to end all endings, what used to be called a “movie-movie.” His most personal film, it is also the one he has hinted may be his last.