Out of the Past
(Jacques Tourneur, 1947).
The President's Analyst
(Nicolas Roeg, 1971).
Humans have a place in the natural world. Our attempts at civilizing ourselves distance us from the knowledge of that place. Such is the theme of this rigorous, visually stunning film. A teen girl and her younger brother are abandoned in the outback. They only survive after encountering an aboriginal youth on his "walkabout." The girl's young brother takes to natural life quickly, not having been yet inculcated into civilized habits, assumptions, and thought processes, making the point that the longer we are surrounded by the antiseptic, the harder it is for us to relate to nature. Roeg shot this film himself, and masterfully fills the frame with natural images that take the viewer far away from the civilized perspective. The return to civilization at the film's end feels nearly poisonous. The final scene, as the now-grown woman reflects on the "paradise lost" she left behind, is hauntingly beautiful and bittersweet.
-- Michael Buck
Trust (Hal Hartley,
Okay, so Hal Hartley's filmmaking career never really took off - but
here is a love story that succeeds magnificently. It's hard to make
romantic comedy work while remaining unique, but Trust is one
of those rare examples where it all comes together.
(Percy Adlon, 1987).
the desert, these characters feast on the delicacy of friendship and
Woman in the
(Fritz Lang, 1921).
One of the earlier and greater works of the German Expressionist silent cinema, this film sets the pattern for the fatalism of Fritz Lang's long, distinguished career. The German title (Der Mude Tod) literally means "Weary Death." When Death comes to take away a young woman's lover, she pleads that he be given one more chance. Jaded by his eternal duty, Death agrees to give her three chances, in three different ages and locations, to save her lover's life. If less epic in scope than Lang's later German films, it is distinguished by remarkable special effects and a breathtaking final image.
-- Don Larsson
Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951).
Cary Grant plays Dr. Praetorius, a nontraditional physician who believes in the power of the mind to help cure illness. When a young colleague (Jeanne Crain) tries to kill herself, he discovers that she's pregnant and marries her. While defending himself from charges that he is unfit to teach at the medical school, he must also persuade his wife that he really loves her and didn't just marry her out of pity. This is one of my favorite Cary Grant roles. When Dr. Praetorius finally explains his relationship with his best friend (Finlay Currie) who has served time in jail for murder, I am swept away by Grant’s convincing delivery, his tenderness, affection and compassion. This film was controversial for its time, dealing as it does with unwed pregnancy, attempted suicide, injustice of the legal system, the death penalty, and more. But it’s also warm, funny, romantic, and refreshingly adult.
-- Marilyn Elliott
Ed Wood (Tim Burton,
Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
A simple, realistic love story that is unobstructed by stupid
clichés or Hollywood formulas. -- Nikoo Yahyazadeh
For those who enjoy movies about gambling like I do, it doesn't get
much better than this.
|The Romantic Englishwoman
(Joseph Losey, 1975).
Michael Caine plays a writer who is trying to write a novel called The Romantic Englishwoman, about a novelist's wife who goes off and has an affair because she's discontent. He tells a friend that "he's thinking of turning it into a thriller." His wife (Glenda Jackson) is in fact having an affair; at the forty-five minute mark, the film turns into a thriller, sort of. Literate, deliberately pretentious, beautifully shot. It's a crock, and I love it. The screenplay is by Tom Stoppard. Best scene: Caine screaming at Kate Nelligan: "You are the most boring woman in the world!"
-- Les Phillips
Madly Deeply (Anthony Minghella, 1991).
Juliet Stevenson plays Nina, grief stricken over the sudden death of her lover Jamie (Alan Rickman). She can't bring herself to accept that he's gone - and then, one day, his spirit comes back to visit her. This film about love and loss is so real in its emotion, so well acted and fine tuned to the gut, that each and every time I watch it I cry like a baby. Herein lies the root of my love for all things Rickman, which has never relented. And Stevenson is a great talent, so reliable and completely underrated. I've seen her in a wide variety of films, and she shines in every sort of role. Nowhere is she more real and sympathetic than here. With one of the most bittersweet endings ever, this film is a treasure, hidden or not.
-- terri mabry
Even the bit parts are lovingly crafted. Plus a smile-inducing piano-cello duet of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore." Plus ghosts who are movie buffs. Just so many great moments. But sometimes when I've shown this movie to friends, they've dismissed it as "depressing." We tend not to be friends after that, but that's another story.
-- Dave Vermillion
The Unknown (Tod
The Trouble With Harry
The trouble with Harry is that he's dead, and the four principal
characters - played by Shirley MacLaine (her debut), John Forsythe,
Edmund Gwenn, and Mildred Natwick - have their own ideas about how he
died, which lead to various attempts to bury the body. In fact, the
body gets buried and disinterred, and reburied and almost buried, quite
a few times. In its blithe disregard for niceties the film ends up being
a rather clever satire on the whole idea of normality. The color photography
(Robert Burks) is simply gorgeous.
(Akira Kurosawa, 1949).
likes the film, but I don't...all that technique and not one real thought
in it." Perhaps it is Kurosawa's own opinion of Stray Dog, his
third collaboration with Toshiro Mifune, that has kept it comparatively
hidden. Or perhaps even a great film can get lost amidst the myriad
"classics" that have distinguished Kurosawa's career. Regardless, this
remains an intriguing work, both in terms of Kurosawa's career and as
an allegory of Japan's social and cultural state after the war. What
begins as a quest for a lost firearm becomes a pilgrim's progress of
purification and self-discovery, a thematic search for the humanity
amidst the rubble.
Trap (David Swift, 1961).
grew up a Disney kid, so this stuff was spoon fed to me, but this is
one of the only things that truly stuck. One reason is Ms. Mills and
her ability to make us forget she's got a British accent. It's hilarious,
really, to look back at all her roles and realize that in the vast majority,
we're meant to just sort of forget she's got this accent when no one
else around her does. Anyway, one of the main things that makes this
film work is not the story of the twins separated in childhood and raised
on opposite coasts, but the adult love story between Brian Keith and
Maureen O'Hara, two real looking people of a certain age. O'Hara is
a gorgeously full-figured woman, and Keith is quite the strapping middle-aged
man. Hell, even the "other woman" looks to be over 30. All this, and
"Let's Get Together," too! Yay! Yay! Yay!
Her life is depicted in minimalist vignettes. Her devotion to Jesus
and her concept of "the little way" to God are shown clearly,
using plain modern language. A sense of angelic simplicity comes across
without fancy lights, choirs, or miracles.
Gates of Heaven
(Errol Morris, 1978).
Italian Straw Hat
(René Clair, 1927).
A comedy capturing a lost art form - the French "boulevard" farce. Here's the set-up: a young man is on the way to his own wedding, but his horse unfortunately eats the straw hat of a married woman who is in a compromising position with a cavalry officer, who in turn forces the bridegroom to go in search of an identical hat so that the lady can return home. It's from a 19th century play, one of many like it, but the remarkable thing is that Clair pulls it off without sound - replacing the verbal gags with visual ones. As the search for the hat proceeds, the situations become increasingly complicated and ridiculous, while the pacing and visual dexterity is so elegant and exact that the whole thing feels like a well-oiled comic machine. The climax (the hero's wedding) pulls all the strands together masterfully. The film has a satiric tone as well, displaying members of the middle class in a most unflattering light. The sets and costumes are splendid. Its flavor of comic struggle against ever-looming disaster is appealing, and forms an interesting contrast to the more optimistic American forms of humor.
-- Chris Dashiell