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In Memory of Roger Ebert: Films About Connection | Roger Ebert


“Robert Altman’s life work has refused to contain itself within the edges of the screen. His famous overlapping dialogue, for which he invented a new sound recording system, is an attempt to deny that only one character talks at a time. His characters have neighbors, friends, secret alliances. They connect in unexpected ways. Their stories are not contained by conventional plots.”


“Inside, later, Alma delivers a long monologue about Elizabeth’s child. The child is born deformed, and Elizabeth left it with relatives so she can return to the theater. The story is unbearably painful. It is told with the camera on Elizabeth. Then it is told again, word for word, with the camera on Alma. I believe this is not simply Bergman trying it both ways, as has been suggested, but literally both women telling the same story–through Alma when it is Elizabeth’s turn, since Elizabeth does not speak. It shows their beings are in union.”

The River

“Jean Renoir’s “The River” (1951) begins with a circle being drawn in rice paste on the floor of a courtyard, and the circular patterns continue. In an opening scene, the children of a British family in India peer through porch railings at a newcomer arriving next door. At the end, the same children, less one, peer through the same railing at a departure. The porch overlooks a river, “which has its own life,” and as the river flows and the seasons wheel in their appointed order, the Hindu festivals punctuate the year and all flows from life to death to rebirth, as it must.”


“I fear I haven’t communicated what an uplifting experience the film is. In its grand sweep, the chickens play a tiny role. If you see it as a trance movie, a meditation, a head trip or whatever, it may cause you to become more thankful for what we have here. It is a rather noble film.”

The Tree of Life

“The film’s portrait of everyday life, inspired by Malick’s memories of his hometown of Waco, Texas, is bounded by two immensities, one of space and time, and the other of spirituality. “The Tree of Life” has awe-inspiring visuals suggesting the birth and expansion of the universe, the appearance of life on a microscopic level and the evolution of species. This process leads to the present moment, and to all of us. We were created in the Big Bang and over untold millions of years, molecules formed themselves into, well, you and me.”

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