Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films: #980 Thru #999

Here is a look at the (almost) last twenty films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These twenty films were seen between Nov 23rd and Dec 3rd.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

Well here we are ladies and germs.  The final batch of films in my quest.  Well, almost the final batch.  We go up to #999 here.  A post on the final film and final wrap up of what has occurred, and what will occur, will be coming up in a few days.  But I digress.  We have to get through the last twenty to even go where we want to go, so let us do just that.  First up we have a film from Luis Buñuel.  It is a film from his Spanish/Mexican period - as opposed to his later French work, which, for the most part, I am not a big fan.  El (#980), on the other hand, is a bracing drama that falls right in my favourite era of the auteur's.  Granted, it is probably one of the lesser ones from this period (Viridiana, Los Olvidados, Nazarin being the better), but it is still quite entertaining - in the ever so unique Buñuelian way of course.  Next up is Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March (#981).  How can you not have a great time watching Erich von Stroheim ply his trade - as both actor and director?  There is a lot of inherent sadness in the oeuvre of Herr Stroheim, not just from his writing, which does have a melancholy flare to it, but because of how most of his films were butchered by the studios.  Nonetheless, what does survive is mad genius kind of stuff.  Next up, we have peripheral Nouvelle vaguer Alain Resnais, and his semi-uncategorial 1980 film, Mon Oncle d'Amerique (#982).  A strange hybrid of reality and fiction, it has moments of the filmmaker's earlier genius, and both the premise and the process are intriguing, but overall, I would have to say it is most certainly no Hiroshima, Mon Amour, no Last Year at Marienbad.  Then we have Marguerite Duras' India Song (#983)Vincent Canby said of the film, "no content and all style." Who am I to argue?  Which brings us to Edward Yang's A Brighter Summer Day (#984).  Being only moderately thrilled by the director's other "big" film, Yi-Yi, I did not expect to enjoy this thoroughly intriguing film as much as I did.

When I watched If... a few weeks back, I quite enjoyed the film.  Now seeing Lindsay Anderson's follow-up, O Lucky Man! (#985), again starring Malcolm McDowell, I had an even better time.  Fun fun fun indeed, but then it is almost always a fun fun fun time when you are watching Malcolm McDowell do his thing.  Next up is Peter Watkins' La Commune (Paris 1871) (#986).  Sure, it was somewhat intriguing, but overall, I do not see why it would be included in any sort of greatest films list - even when you spread that list out to include a thousand films.  But that brings us to a spot where we have three movies right in a row that this critic would call great - and that this critic will most assuredly include on his own top 1000 when he makes that early next year.  First of these three is Jean-Pierre Melville's gangster pic, Le Deuxième Souffle (#987).  If I were to compile a list of the best French gangster flicks (something I am indeed doing for one of my upcoming contributions to Anomalous Material), this would certainly be included - maybe even as high up as third or fourth.  And speaking of lists, this film now goes into the number two spot in my favourite Melville's, behind only Les Enfant Terribles.  Next of these three greats is Jean Cocteau's 1950 film, Orpheus (#988).  The second in his Orphic trilogy, this film is nearly as magical as Cocteau's earlier version of Beauty and the Beast.  I am not much of a fan of Cocteau's more experimental work (the first of said trilogy) but this film is, simply put, beautiful.  The third of this streak is Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (#989).  Italian film, especially from the 1950's and 1960's, is what I would call heaven on screen, so it should come as no surprise that I simply adored this film.  Visconti is one of my favourite directors (so why it took me this long to finally watch this film, I do not know) and this is now one of my favourite Visconti's.  Which means, it is time for another list.  Here are my favourite Visconti's from the list, of which nine of the auteur's fourteen films are included.

1) Death in Venice
2) Senso
3) Rocco and His Brothers
4) La Terra Trema
5) Ossessione
6) The Leopard
7) The Damned
8) Bellissima
9) Ludwig

Next up we have a rather lackluster film.  A film that is so mediocre, so middle-of-the-road, so...well I just don't get it.  It is called Marketa Lazarová (#990), and it is a film by Czech filmmaker Frantisek Vlácil.  Sure, it isn't a bad movie by any means, but it is just so bland, I am not sure why it is included on the list.  But enough of that, let us move on to the final ten films on the quest.  John Huston's The Misfits (#991), the final films of both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, is definitely a film that deserves inclusion on the list - and will end up making my own top 1000 next year.  It is my favourite Huston film (not that I have ever been an over abundant fan of the director's) and the performances of everyone - we also get Montgomery Clift during his personal downward spiral (Monroe famously called the actor in even worse shape than she was) and Eli Wallach doing his usual Eli Wallach best - are fantastic, but especially Marilyn.  The tragic actress, who never got the respect she deserved as a great actress, hands in her finest performance of her career.  The mood, the dialogue, the performances, the feel and look of the film are just nothing shy of spectacular.  

Next comes Days and Nights in the Forest (#992), from Indian master Satyajit Ray.  Ray is one of those directors who has always been hit and miss with me. Pather Panchali, the director's first film, and the first of his vaunted Apu Trilogy, is one of my all-time favourites, but others, such as The Music Room and Charulata (both also on the list) leave me rather cold.  This one, made in 1969, would be included on the hit, rather than the miss list.  Quite simple, but subversively intricate, it is Ray near the top of his form.  It will possibly make my top 1000 as well.  Next we have Kenji Mizoguchi's The Crucified Lovers (#993).  Mizoguchi is another one of those hit or missers with me, and this one ends up a bit closer to the miss than the hit column.  Then comes Jia Zhangke's 2000 film Platform (#994).  Gotta admit, I was not that impressed.  I remember when this first came out it was heralded by critics (still not sure why I did not see it then) but I just don't get it.  Not bad, but still.  Anyway, that brings us to a true classic of Hollywood cinema.  Frank "Name Before the Title" Capra's 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (#995).  Considering my love of both old Hollywood and Jimmy Stewart, and not to mention the ooh la la of Miss Jean Arthur, it is quite remarkable that it took this long into my life before finally seeing this one.  Granted, when I began this quest however many years ago (four was it?), this is one of three that I made sure to hold off on until near the end (the other two of which are still to come), but still, all the years before that, and still nothing.  Oh yeah, as for what I thought of the film upon finally seeing it?  Quite a lot actually.  Sure, it has some rather silly old fashioned ideas (part of the charm of old Hollywood if you ask me), but Capra's obvious love of his adopted country, makes for great and honest, and quite sincere cinema.  But moving on, next up is Fellini's Casanova (#996), by, of course, Mr. Federico Fellini.  Some of the maestro's later films tend not to live up to his earlier output.  Amarcord is one that does.  So is Casanova.  Oh yeah, and Donald Sutherland is quite superb.

Another one of those aforementioned three films I held off on until the end was Marcel Carné's Les Enfants du Paradis (#997).  I suppose I could bark out a bunch of synonyms for spectacular - gorgeous, resplendent, stunning, full of great pulchritude even - but let us just say it is one of the finest French films ever made (a top ten of French cinema?  Perhaps.) and leave it at that.  We still have a quest to complete here.  And speaking of that quest, we are getting ever so close to the completion of the damn thing.  Next up is Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (#998).  Say all ya want about Battleship Potemkin - it is a great film - but I seem to be a bigger fan of the Soviet's later works.  His intriguing semi-finished Que viva México, that stayed unreleased until 1979, his latter day Ivan the Terribles, and now, his brilliantly stylized Nevsky.  Which brings us to Bernardo Bertolucci's epic 1976 drama, 1900 (#999).  Appropriately epic-y but also very intimate, very personal.  I am not sure if it will make my own top 1000, but if not, it will be one of the last ones to be cut from contention.  And that brings us to number one thou....wait a minute, no it does not.  Well, at least not right now.  There is one final film to talk about - a film that I have added to not my top 1000, but my top 100 - but that will come in a few days.  In that post, we will look at that final film, as well as what the quest has been like for me, and what the future will bring (can we say book deal?).  All that in just a few short days...or maybe a week.  Whatever the case, I'll be back.

1 comment:

MP said...

Congrats again on the completion of this huge but very enjoyable quest! You keopt a nice selection for your final ten. Like a reward for passing through all the experimental stuff you don't really dig that much.
I haven't set my mind on something to keep at the end. But it brought to think about it.
Is there another list you are planning on tackling down?