Jeff Williams runs the Scared Shiftless in Shasta site - check out his film writing there:
Even casual cinema fans are aware of great Swedish actors like Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman, but their contemporary, Per Oscarsson, does not get the international recognition he deserves. In Vaxdockan, Oscarsson is riveting as a quiet, misanthropic night watchman who falls in love with a store mannequin and enters into a relationship of sorts with her. Though director Arne Mattsson is known in part for his comedies, there's not one hint of humor to be found in this cold, bleak tale of unrequited love. Mattson creates a stark, gloomy, winter environment for Oscarsson's character to inhabit as he gradually and believably loses his sanity over a woman.
On any given day, Rod Steiger could either give the world's greatest acting performance or the world's hammiest. It's definitely the former in The Pawnbroker as Steiger is understated and brilliant in Sidney Lumet's dark character study of a holocaust survivor who has completely shut down emotionally. Though the New York setting, Boris Kaufman's sharp, neo-realistic cinematography and Quincy Jones' great score add immeasurably to the film, it's Steiger who owns it.
Clint Eastwood is one of the few directors left who knows how to make a believable, engaging and entertaining western as his films demonstrate again and again.
A beautiful, haunting, sad ballad of a film with a star-making and heartbreaking performance by the lovely Giulietta Masina. It's easy to overlook the other actors and facets of Fellini's masterpiece with Masina front and center, however, Richard Basehart's clown is a joy to watch as his character mercilessly busts Anthony Quinn's chops while offering understanding tenderness to Masina's, Gelsomina. Quinn, who may be one of the most underrated A-list actors of all time, is also in top form as the untalented, boar-ish, Zampanò.
For a film that was released four years prior to the passage of the civil rights act, it's honesty and subtlety in the portrayal of African-American characters is nothing short of amazing. At a time when Hollywood was serving up highly idealized, squeaky clean characterizations of black people, Michael Roemer was keeping it real in a film that wouldn't be matched in its understated truthfulness until the 70's. Ivan Dixon is near perfection as an imperfect man who is striving to become something better. His character, Duff, is held back just as much by his own flaws as the racism that surrounds him. The story wisely stays focused on Duff and does not get sidetracked by the injustice of inequality though its definitely in evidence and plays a part in his struggle. The supporting characters are equally engaging with Julius Harris in particular giving an outstanding performance in his very first acting role. The film looks terrific with sharp, black and white, neo-realist style cinematography provided by Robert M. Young and the score comes courtesy of Motown. Overall, it's an intelligent, truthful, well written and acted character piece that I can't recommend enough.