A look back at this day in film history
November 30
BreakingTheWaves October 4, 1995
Breaking the Waves opens

With his 1996 film, Breaking the Waves, Lars von Trier took a left turn from sumptuously shot earlier works like Europa, embracing a new, handheld, more visceral shooting style to tell the story of Bess, a wife of a paralyzed oil drilling worker who submits herself to a gang rape in a holy appeal for his recovery. Set in 1970s Scotland, the movie contained nudity, shocking sex scenes and a revelatory performance by Emily Watson, who projected an altruistic innocence with such conviction that the director’s various audience provocations were perfectly counterbalanced. Breaking the Waves, which played the New York Film Festival October 4, 1996, is a religious film for our times in that, whatever the motives of its director, it practically begs the audience to dismiss the wife’s divine convictions while her performance urges us otherwise. Wrote Roger Ebert in his review, “Not many movies like this get made, because not many filmmakers are so bold, angry and defiant. Like many truly spiritual films, it will offend the Pharisees. Here we have a story that forces us to take sides, to ask what really is right and wrong in a universe that seems harsh and indifferent. Is religious belief only a consolation for our inescapable destination in the grave? Or can faith give the power to triumph over death and evil? Bess knows.”

More Flashbacks
Boy with Green Hair November 30, 1948
The Boy with Green Hair opens

The opening of the pacifist parable The Boy with Green Hair should be celebrated as the feature directorial debut of Joseph Losey.

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November 30, 1947
Ernst Lubitsch dies

On Sunday November 30, 1947, director Ernst Lubitsch was due at William Wyler’s home for an afternoon screening party.

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November 30, 1945
Noir Takes a Detour

In a time in which CGI and other advanced film technologies create worlds that are more lifelike than life itself, the grungy, low-rent charms of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, which opened on November 20, 1945, should not be forgotten. Shot in less than one week on a few simple sets and using obvious rear-screen projection for all the driving scenes, the movie is, as Robert Ebert wrote, “so filled with imperfections that it would not earn the director a passing grade in film school.” But despite its many technical flaws, the film is a film noir classic. Its indigent aesthetic amplifies rather than detracts from its bleak tale of blackmail and remorselessness. And, as the femme fatale, Ann Savage created perhaps the perfect noir heroine. “There is not a single fleeting shred of tenderness or humanity in her performance,” Ebert wrote.

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