Monday, September 17, 2012

My Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films: #880 Thru #899

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These twenty films were seen between July 30 and August 18.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#880 - Being There (1979) - (#504 on TSPDT)  A subtle, seemingly slight (but deceptively so) film that, even with its quiet old world charm, was way ahead of its time in its politically-charged subject matter - and on top of all this, we get to watch Peter Sellers do that thing he do so well.  I would not put this film on my own top 1000, but I bear it no grudge being here - or being there as it were.  See what I did there?

#881 - Henry V (1944) - (#422 on TSPDT)  I tend to be more of a fan of Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies than his histories, and Henry V is no exception, and even though I would not include it on my own top 1000, there is no denying the succulent beauty of Olivier's brightly coloured, intensely performed adaptation.

#882 - Passion (1982) - (#587 on TSPDT)  There was a time in the career of Jean-Luc Godard that one could call him the future of cinema.  The world of film would look a lot different if not for the actions of Godard (and for that matter Truffaut, Rivette and the ilk) and back in the day, films such as Breathless, Band of Outsiders, Contempt, Week-end, Vivre Sa Vie, Pierrot le fou, Alphaville, and a slew of others, were rightly hailed as great works.  Somewhere along the way though, JLG lost that thing he had, and began making repetitive, contrived and pedantic essay-like films that have bored the hell out of this critic.  Passion, though heralded by many (it is on this list after all), is a total mess of a movie, and like most of the ostentatious pieces of pretentious bile the filmmaker has spewed forth since In Praise of Love, JLG/JLG, the ridiculous obnoxiousness of his latest, Film Socialisme), has been shaming the old output of such a grand master auteur for years now.  And this from a guy who considers Godard to be the most influential director of the last fifty years.  Imagine if I wasn't a fan.

#883 - Cool Hand Luke (1967) - (#481 on TSPDT)  How many eggs can you eat?  A classic of what has come to be known as "cool cinema," this film is one of the more fun films of the time period.  Hip and cool (and I mean that in the good way, not the hipster way that such descriptives have been reduced to in this day and age) and with a slew of great performances, this film, one of my favourites of my birth year, is a rip-roarin' good time, punctuated with an inevitable exclamation point of an ending. 

#884/885 - Late Autumn/The End of Summer (1960/61) - (#973/657 on TSPDT)  Back-to-back films by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu.  Granted, many of Ozu's works, with their similar storylines and equally similar seasonally-titled names, blend in together.  I have never seen one that is poorly done or one that is not beautiful in one way or another (either physically or thematically, ofttimes both) but on the other hand, very few (Tokyo Story, Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, Dragnet Girl, I was Born, But...) seem to stick out and have notice taken of them over the others.  I am not saying this as a dis of any kind, and even though I do prefer Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi over Ozu (and consider Naruse a veritable even-steven kind of thing with Ozu), I do tend to get lost in the images that Ozu puts forth in his work - and these two films (his two penultimate films), for better or for worse, are no different.

#886 - Lacombe, Lucian (1974) - (#863 on TSPDT)  With a kind of take him or leave him attitude toward Louis Malle, I went into this film with rather reserved anticipation.  I came out of it with a new respect for a director I once nudged aside as a mere afterthought.  Perhaps this doesn't sway me on others of his oeuvre that I have been rather indifferent toward, but this is a solid work of art indeed - and as far as semi-faint praise goes, my favourite Louis Malle film as well.

#887 - The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - (#709 on TSPDT)  I am not sure why it has taken me this long to finally see this film - especially considering that Scorsese is one of my all-time favourites - but that is over now.  My eventual reaction?  Less than what I had hoped actually.  Sure, I enjoyed the film - Harvey Keitel as Iscariot is a giddy hoot and a half - and I can see the touches put in with regards to the films of the director's youth (King of Kings, Silver Chalice, Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Robe) but it is certainly not one of Scorsese's best.  Then again, even lesser Scorsese is better than most films out there.  Off the top of my head, my own top 1000 would include at least eight Scorsese works (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, New York New York, King of Comedy, Casino, Cape Fear, maybe Shutter Island, Hugo and Alice Doesn't Live Here) but alas, this one will not make it.

#888 - Bellissima (1951) - (#902 on TSPDT)  Luchino Visconti's third film, and the first that began his exit from typical Italian Neorealism (the splendiferously coloured Senso would come next).  With a comic timing equal to any of the Italian comedies that would burst through over the next few decades, but with a snese of tragedy born of neorealism - not to mention a stellar performance from Anna Magnani (of course) - this is a terrific film and one worth inclusion on the list.

#889 - Le Jour Se Lève (1939) - (#531 on TSPDT)  I preface this by saying I have yet to see Children of Paradise - held off as one of my final five in the quest.  Le Jour Se Lève, along with Port of Shadows, is the best of Marcel Carné.  This film is dark and strangely comic at times, and definitely one that belongs on this list.  I know I am going to include it on my own top 1000 when I make it post-quest.

#890 - Gilda (1946) - (#690 on TSPDT)  It has happened during my quest just five times this year.  First in March with Gun Crazy, then later that same month with Fritz Lang's Indian Epic, then in May with Black Orpheus, July with The Docks of New York, and now a fifth time with Gilda.  What exactly has happened you ask?  A quest film has been added to my all-time 100 Favourite Films list.  Gun Crazy, at #35, is the highest ranked of these five additions, but Gilda is second, coming in at #68.  Sixty-eighth out of the 6000+ films I have seen in my forty-five years is pretty damn good.  Oh yeah, and we get to watch Rita Hayworth and her Hayworthiest.  For more on this wonderful film, check this out: "On Gilda, and How Rita Hayworth Could Redeem my Shawshank Any Time She Wanted (Yeah I Said It, What's It To Ya?)."

#891 - A Place in the Sun (1951) - (#541 on TSPDT)  Oh those eyes.  Those rapturous, breathtaking, sexy eyes that seem to bore a hole right through to your soul - devouring your very essence with their sheer beauty.  Oh yeah, and Elizabeth Taylor's eyes are nice too.  Seriously though, Monty Clift gives one of his best performances here - and that is saying a hell of a lot.  Brooding and romantic and quite tragic - and poor Shelley Winters, the girl should never go near water.

#892 - Spring in a Small Town (1948) - (#445 on TSPDT)  A fascinating classic from the great country of China.  Usually considered the nation's greatest work, this film, which incidentally was blandly remade a few years back, is a powerful and emotional film that surely belongs in the upper realms of melodrama lore.  I would have loved to have seen what someone like Sirk would have done with this - or even Nick Ray - but it does stand on its own, so let us just enjoy the original and leave it at that.

#893 - The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955) - (#790 on TSPDT)  There are some really fun moments in this film - the kind of strange, unspoken fun that Buñuel slips into a lot of his work - and though it does not sit as one of my favourite Buñuel's (Viridiana, Los Olvidados, Exterminating Angel, Nazarin, Diary of a Chambermaid, Discreet Charm, Belle de Jour) it is indeed good old fashioned Buñuelian fun.

#894 - Die Nibelungen (1924) - (#900 on TSPDT)  I am not the biggest fan of Lang's silent epics (Metropolis, and to a lesser degree, Destiny aside) instead preferring his days at noir filmmaking (which incidentally should begin with his masterpiece M), but still, there is no denying the man's power at visual storyteling - and this visual bravura is in high gear in this double feature epic.

#895 - Ride the High Country (1962) - (#548 on TSPDT)  Peckinpah's second film, and the one that gave a breakthrough to the director.  I believe it was Bosley Crowther who called the film "a perfectly dandy little western."  Need I say more?  Okay, just one more thing - it is always fun to watch Randolph Scott.  He was the epitome of the struggling gunslinger with an outside steeliness and a heart of gold hidden beneath.

#896 - La Collectionneuse (1967) - (#933 on TSPDT)  One of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, and probably my least favourite of the bunch (I have only seen four of them though).  Typical Rohmerian stuff here, and if you are not into said typical Rohmerian stuff (the auteur being my least favourite New Waver, I can take it or leave it myself) then this probably is not the film for you.

#897 - The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) - (#881 on TSPDT)  A bizarre film that plays at the ideas of reality, sometimes resembling the batshitcrazy cinematic artistry of contemporaries like Jodorowsky or Rocha, this war/horror/fantasy/comedy creature is a fun fun film.  One should not be surprised at it being the favourite film of the hallucinatory guitar man Jerry Garcia.

#898 - From Here To Eternity (1953) - (#754 on TSPDT)  Though there are a handful of exceptions (Casablanca, The Godfather, On the Waterfront) the vast majority of Best Picture Oscar winners tend to be of the mediocre variety, and even though this film is filled to the brim with great performances (Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Oscar winner Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine in a tiny but pivitol role) it never falls any higher than the aforementioned mediocrity.

#899 - Splendor in the Grass (1961) - (#666 on TSPDT)  Moving into the number two spot, behind On the Waterfront, of my favourite Elia Kazan's, this film, in all its overly-melodramatic flair (oh I do love me some overly melodramatic flair!) is a revelation of story, acting and the visual coming into perfect sync with each other.  It is also a film that proves (once again) that Natalie Wood is indeed a great actress, and not the hack moniker that so many critics have thrusted upon her. 


Dave Enkosky said...

Cool Hand Luke is one of those movies that, no matter how many times I see it, I'll never tire of it.

Michaël Parent said...

Nice selection of films Kevyn! I'm curious to discover which films you kept for your final 5, including Children of Paradise...
Back at the University my Second World War History Class Teacher show us Lacombe, Lucien which I immediately loved and we learned that it was some sort of an autobiographical movie on Malle. One of the few great movies about the French collaboration.

Kevyn Knox said...

Michaël - The final five, in order to the last, are Fellini's Casanova, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Children of Paradise, Alexander Nevsky and finally Chaplin's Limelight at the end.

Michaël Parent said...

Wow! Great Final Five! I have seen and love to different degrees those five films!
When do you plan on finishing the quest?

Kevyn Knox said...

November 3rd.

Chip Lary said...

Being There is actually my favorite Sellers' performance. A lot of his earlier roles, especially in the 60s just seem to be too much mugging for the camera. ("Look at me! Boy am I wacky!") Being There, however, was very understated by Sellers and I liked it a lot.

Henry V - I can appreciate the cinematography, but having seen the Branagh version first, this one just seemed flat.

Cool Hand Luke - I may be one of the few people who doesn't sympathize with Luke. When you get right down to it, the movie is about a born loser losing.

Gilda - I've definitely got a thing for Rita Hayworth in this film. "Put the Blame on Mame" indeed.

A Place in the Sun - This was the first film I saw with a young Elizabeth Taylor in it and I finally saw what everyone was raving about in regards to her beauty.

From Here to Eternity - I agree that this isn't a stellar movie, but it's not bad, either. I'd disagree on most Best Picture winners being mediocre, though.

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