Chop Shop. With the grit of a documentary but the imagination of a humanist poet, Ramin Bahrani explores a gritty auto repair shop district in Queens, New York. The (fictional) lives of a twelve-year-old boy and his older sister, keep the film close and affecting. (3.12.08)

Heartbeat Detector. A French film explores the layers of burial in the minds of two German-born Paris business executives. The investigator is a company psychologist whose personal life intrudes too much, but the film registers sharply. (From the upcoming 3.26.08 issue.)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. A young woman helps her pregnant friend to get an abortion in a Romania still under a dictator. Politics pervades, but the essence of the film is the love and forbearance and tacit suffering of the two women. (1.30.08)

Sputnik Mania. A vivid documentary that reminds or informs us about the frenetic time in the U.S. after the USSR launched the first sputnik in 1957. Schoolchildren held bomb drills as they do fire drills; people built bomb shelters in their back yards. It all seems a bit overdone now in these terrorist days, yet almost peculiarly nostalgic. (From the upcoming 3.26.08 issue.)

Stanley Kauffmann is The New Republic's film critic.

By Stanley Kauffmann