Ajami. In a multi-ethnic district of the city of Jaffa, Arabs and Jews struggle among themselves and with one another in various prisms of crime and love. Co-directed by a Palestinian and an Israeli, it is swift, vital, and gripping. (In our upcoming 3/11/10 issue.)
The Messenger. Two U.S. veterans of Iraq are assigned to the Bereavement Notification Service. This perceptive film does not wring the moments when the bereaved families are notified but concentrates on the effect of this service on the two vets. Intelligent, wisely directed and acted. A gem. (12/30/09)
Police, Adjective. A fascinating quasi-Beckettian account of a Romanian detective who is forced to devote his life to a trifling case. Concepts of time and value are teased into new shapes. The director clearly gets his style from intellect, not from visuals. Strange and intriguing. (2/4/10)
The White Ribbon. A German village in 1913 is used by Michael Haneke as a kind of theater in which a surprising malevolence becomes manifest. Skilfully diected, perfectly acted, it not only causes shivers but persisting reflection. (2/28/10)
Stanley Kauffmann is The New Republic's film critic.