Films

Finest films, most recommended by Leopold Bloom

Added 18 Sep 2007 (Roll over the links for movie poster and film synopsis from imdb.com)

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel, 1972, France/Italy/Spain)

Not even the beautifully elaborate title could prepare us for the hilarious, random strangeness of each of the film’s brilliant 109 minutes. Poking fun at European middle class manners through one dream sequence after another, the film’s central joke revolves around several bourgeois dinners that are never actually finished due to various surreal interruptions.

 

Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996, UK)

In the accomplished, finely-acted British melodrama Secrets and Lies, a mother meets her daughter for the first time and in shock learns that she is black. This too turns out to be the first time that the actress who plays the mother (the brilliant Brenda Blethyn) learns about this secret and we see her genuine sense of surprise. Mike Leigh populates his dramas with working class people, often played by actors who develop their own characters, and who (to achieve an effect of spontaneity and improvisation in the performances) only learn about the lives of the other characters as the film progresses.

Added 18 Sep 2007

 

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974, Germany)

One of Fassbinder’s signature quirks is shooting actors blankly staring at each other. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, some such scenes are incredibly hilarious; others are affectingly dramatic; a notable few are surprisingly both. The film’s unorthodoxy extends to its theme and characters: racism set amidst the love story of a 50-ish German widow and her younger, immigrant Berber husband.

 

L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960, Italy)

Antonioni’s early classic starts innocently enough but 30 minutes into the film, during an island hopping adventure, a key character inexplicably and mysteriously disappears, and the rest of the film shifts its focus to two other adventures: the futile search for the missing woman, and the superficial and fleeting love story of the two searchers. See this particularly for the cinematography, for the scenes where a beautifully composed static shot is interrupted suddenly by unexpected entrances and movements of characters in the frame.

 

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, Russia)

The greatest and most influential film of the 1920s also happens to be a blatant communist propaganda. Mirroring Russia’s peasant revolution against the tsar, the crew of the Battleship Potemkin attempts a mutiny against the ship’s abusive officers (the sailors were served soup from maggot-ridden meat). And yet what is striking about the film, with an editing that must have inspired Paul Greengrass in Bourne Ultimatum, is how it feels so modern, current, thrilling and horrifying.

 

Previously Posted:

 

Three Colors: Blue, White and Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993-94, Poland/France/Switzerland)

The colors blue, white and red represent the three colors of the French flag (the trilogy is Kieslowski’s tribute to French cinema) which stand for liberty, equality and fraternity, respectively. But what does liberty mean? In Blue the first film of the trilogy, when an embittered mother loses her husband and child, she decides to get rid of her past and start completely anew. But does she become completely free? In the second film White, a woman, who destroys the man who hopelessly loved her, eventually ends up in prison after her victim effectively enacted out his revenge. Does equality mean getting even? In the final and arguably the best film of the trilogy, a cynical, misanthropic old judge who spies on his neighbor’s phone conversations meets a young woman who as it turns out shares a parallel fate, and he guides her to an ending he once failed to achieve. To what extent do we reach out for others fraternally? With minimal action and dialogue, Kieslowski is able to tell these stories using powerful music, bold colors, and recurring symbolic imagery.

 

The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002, USA/UK)

Philip Glass’ minimalist, repetitive score parallels the film’s emphasis on circularity and interconnections. Nicole Kidman earned her Oscar (deservedly) for portraying Virginia Woolf, the writer at the heart of the story. Early in the film, we witness a feat of brilliant editing where a summary of the three interlocking stories is shown in three quick, smooth shots. Virginia (in the 1920s) is writing the first sentence of her novel Mrs. Dalloway, Laura Brown (in the 1950s) is reading that same sentence in a book, and Clarissa Vaughn (in the early years of the new millennium) is repeating out loud the particular sentence; she becomes Mrs. Dalloway.

 

Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975, USA)

In 1975, Altman crafted Nashville, his masterpiece, a dizzying blend of country music, political satire and at least two dozen characters. Dialogues overlap, storylines intertwine, incredibly funny one-liners are delivered nonchalantly and one after another. This year, the film finally made its much-delayed first appearance at AFI’s list of 100 American movies, ranking a lowly 59th. Robert Altman passed away last year at age 81, leaving a body of work that has influenced a new generation of filmmakers, great (Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia and Boogie Nights, for example) and mediocre (Paul Haggis of Crash) alike.

 

The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959, France)

With the New Wave movement, Truffaut, Godard and a host of other rebellious, like-minded pioneers revolutionized French (and modern) filmmaking. Consider the final scene, representative of Truffaut’s vision, where the protagonist is escaping from a juvenile correctional and as he reaches the beach where he could run no further, he stops, the shot freezes and he gazes piercingly straight through the camera.

 

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960, France)

A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), a film which, like its English title, endears us with its endless energy, even though it is essentially 90 minutes of randomness, semi-pointlessness, and often aimless dialogues. Breathless is Godard’s debut and, along with Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, has been likened to Citizen Kane in its lingering cinematic legacy.

 

The Player (Robert Altman, 1992, USA)

In 1992’s The Player, there is a scene in a police station where Whoopi Goldberg’s detective character began playing with her assistant’s box of tampons in the middle of interrogating a murder suspect. This is the point when I realized why this film was billed a comedy. It was Robert Altman’s idea of an elaborate anti-Hollywood joke, a satire on the smugness and shallowness of Hollywood, a film that deliberately follows the structures and formulas of Hollywood films. The film also boasts of a constellation of celebrity cameos which includes Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis (in a hilarious movie within a movie called Habeas Corpus), Malcolm McDowell and Andie MacDowell, John Cusack and Anjelica Huston, Cher, Jeff Goldblum, Burt Reynolds, Susan Sarandon, Jack Lemmon, Mimi Rogers, Elliot Gould and all the other stars you could think of.

 

Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1980, Sweden)

Ingmar Bergman’s penultimate film summarizes themes he explored throughout his long, illustrious career: family, faith, and fate. Seen through the eyes of young Alexander, Bergman’s masterpiece takes us through the horrors of childhood, the possibilities of the imagination, the magic of life.

 

The Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988-89, Poland)

Kieslowski’s grand opus, the one work which he will be immortalized for, is The Decalogue, a series of ten hour-long made-for-Polish-television movies based on the Ten Commandments. As with all of his films, he subjects his characters into complex situations of moral ambiguities, boldly asking questions about free will and destiny, about chance and fate.

 

Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000, Taiwan)

Yi Yi, a three-hour Taiwanese multi-character melodrama, functions as a study in silence and subtlety. Sweeping across a host of themes (love, loyalty, family, religion, life, death), the film concludes with perhaps one of my favorite final scenes ever: a young, inquisitive boy (who takes pictures of people’s back with the deceptively simple reasoning that people don’t know what their backs look like since they could not see them) reading out a comical letter to her dead grandmother in her funeral.

 

Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001, USA)

We know a Lynch film is great when two-thirds through, a shocking twist appears (not just in the Agatha Christie or Hitchcockian sense), turning everything upside down, demolishing everything we know about the plot, the characters, even the theme, and we are left confused, not knowing what just happened up until the revealing final images. Mulholland Dr, expertly crafted as a surreal mystery, is a rewarding film experience, even after many repeated viewings, and is the closest Lynch will ever get to perfection.

 

Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993, USA)

In Short Cuts, the stories of 22 LA characters intersect over a few days, leading to a fateful climactic earthquake which shakes and changes (or doesn’t) their lives. Stand out scenes include Julianne Moore’s naked-below-the-waist matter-of-fact marital confrontation with Matthew Modine, and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s phone sex moaning while changing her baby’s diapers. Once again, a feast of fantastic acting feats.

 

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941, USA)

It’s hard to appreciate Welles’ masterpiece now that many filmmaking elements that were once groundbreaking have become commonplace. Nevertheless, the film is a testament to the possibilities of pushing storytelling (non-linear narratives) and cinematography (panoramic and close-ups) into a new artistic plane.

 

In the Bedroom (Todd Field, 2001, USA)

As Roger Ebert correctly observed, the most violent scene in this fairly violent film is when the grieving mother, without warning, hits his dead son’s lover in the face. Field slowly takes us through the process of redemption; through loss, grief, numbness, frustration, revenge, and finally, closure.

 

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999, USA)

If a person can enter John Malkovich’s head and be him for 15 minutes, what would happen? If a person rented out to people the experience of being John Malkovich for 15 minutes, what would happen? If a woman enjoyed having sex with John Malkovich only if another woman was him, what would happen? If John Malkovich actually went inside his own head for 15 minutes, what would happen? Existential madness!

 

Coming Soon:

Seven Samurai; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Persona; In the Mood for Love; Y Tu Mama Tambien; Dr. Strangelove; All About My Mother; The Seventh Seal; Talk to Her; The Godfather; Gosford Park; Tokyo Story; Spirited Away; Adaptation; M; Pulp Fiction; L’Atalante; Band of Outsiders; Before Sunset; Magnolia; M*A*S*H; Boogie Nights; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; The Son; Fargo; Apocalypse Now; Ran; Ghost World; Chungking Express; Grapes of Wrath; Happiness; Rashomon; The Piano; Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; Bicycle Thieves; The General; Children of Paradise; Metropolis; Blow-Up; The Passion of Joan of Arc; Election; Wild Strawberries; United 93; Viridiana; A Short Film About Love; Late Spring; Un Chien Andalou; Solyaris; Annie Hall; 8 1/2; L’Age d’Or; Nights of Cabiria; Battle of Algiers; 4 Months,3 Weeks and 2 Days; Stolen Kisses; Stroszek; Pather Panchali

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One response

21 12 2007
anaayana

Amazing! Here are my favorites too! I guess the others that I don’t know are great movies too!

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