Thursday, May 11, 2017

All of the Best Movies, Part 3: F - K


Welcome to my blog again, you bunch of fools! I have set here before you the third part of the only Favorite List of Movies you'll ever need, to be honest. First, though, some old business...

Bleep-Ups, Boops, and Blunderings

As I said in my last post, when putting together a list like this, one, or anyway I, is, or am, bound to forget a movie or thirty that should have been included. If you're lucky you'll remember some of them later, and when that happens you, or I, can slot them in later as a kind of addendum. So here's my addendum to the last post. Thankfully, it's much shorter than before.

The Conversation (d. Francis Ford Coppola) - But no less embarrassing, because it's ridiculous that I should forget this, arguably Coppola's masterpiece, which contains arguably Gene Hackman's masterpiece.

Crash (d. David Cronenberg) - Wrote about it here.
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F for Fake (d. Orson Welles) - Wrote about it here.

A Face in the Crowd (d. Elia Kazan) - I do think that way too many people watch this film and get all "Mmm, so true" about it afterward. But I don't demand that it reveal to me the truth about America, and prefer to see it as self-contained. In that sense, the film is a real humdinger, and Andy Griffith proves that one look says it all.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (d. Wes Anderson) - Incredibly beautiful, odd, funny. It successfully makes the alien world of animals both animalistic and human. 
Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen) - Basically perfect. Having seen this God knows how many times, my belief that it is as diamond-sharp and as pristinely structured and executed as any film I've ever seen. Which might imply a sort of coolness of tone, yet wintry though Fargo is, it's warmth that takes over by the end.
Fascination (d. Jean Rollin) - Wrote about it here.
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (d. Errol Morris) - Maybe the best example of Morris's almost ethereal sense of poetry.
Fat City  (d.  John Huston) - Wrote about it here.

Faust (d. F.W. Murnau) - Murnau had achieved an understanding of cinema and an artistic sophistication, not to mention imagination, in 1926 that has been hard to find in the over ninety subsequent years since.
Five Came Back (d. John Farrow) - As engaging and suspenseful an example of the "how will this motley group of strangers get out of this mess?" film as I've ever seen.
Fixed Bayonets! (d. Samuel Fuller) - Fuller's ability to make each of his war films feel brand new is unmatched. Add to that some great work from Richard Baseheart and Gene Evans, as well as some killer filmmaking, and, well, I mean...
The Fly (d. David Cronenberg) - Wrote about it here and here.

Force of Evil (d. Abraham Polonsky) - I saw this film noir in college and have remembered it vividly ever since.
Fort Apache (d. John Ford) - No one was as elegant, or eloquent, on the subject of men at war with each other as Ford.
Frankenstein (d. James Whale) - Those three cuts that bring the camera closer to the monster was a stroke of genius.
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (d. Terence Fisher) - And this is, to my mind, the most unexpectedly heart-wrenching take on the classic story I've seen on film.
Freaks (d. Tod Browning) - Browning wasn't much of an artist, but he sure was perverse.
Frenzy (d. Alfred Hitchcock) - One day this will be embraced as the late-career masterpiece it's always been.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (d. Peter Yates) - That Mitchum himself is far from innocent is, I think, the secret source of this film's power.
Frightmare (d. Pete Walker) - Wrote about it here.
The Frisco Kid (d. Robert Aldrich) - It is very strange that this film exists, and perhaps stranger that it proves that Harrison Ford and Gene Wilder should have starred together in a dozen movies.

From Beyond (d. Stuart Gordon) - This movie relaxes me.
Gallipoli (d. Peter Weir) - The bookending image, which is somewhat different in a number of ways the second time you see it, is a hell of a thing.
Gates of Heaven (d. Errol Morris) - The best evidence I can think of that Errol Morris is a wizard.
Get Carter (d. Mike Hodges) - Next to this, most crime films are utterly gutless.
Gimme Shelter (d. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin) - The concert documentary that is somehow about everything in the world.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (d. Jim Jarmusch) - I have that same copy of Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa!
Glengarry Glen Ross (d. James Foley) - No one, not even David Mamet himself, has gotten the rhythms and anger and desperation of Mamet's dialogue on screen as exhileratingly as Foley did here.
God Told Me To (d. Larry Cohen) - Of Cohen's Big Three crazy, low-budget horror classics (you may have more, or less, than three), this is the one that as far as I can tell is truly sui generis. Kind of brilliant.
The Gold Rush (d. Charles Chaplin) - Wrote about it here.
Goodfellas (d. Martin Scorsese) - A good effort.

Gosford Park (d. Robert Altman) - Somewhere in the middle of the expertly constructed and performed upstairs/downstairs intrigue is a top-shelf murder scene. You can't tell with that Altman guy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (d. Wes Anderson) - A weird movie: visually gorgeous comedy-adventure hiding a deep well of sorrow.
The Great Dictator (d. Charles Chaplin) - Wrote about it here.
The Great Escape (d. John Sturges) - The definition of "rousing". Also the definition of "Steve McQueen."
Groundhog Day (d. Harold Ramis) - Wrote about it here.
Gun Crazy (d. Joseph H. Lewis) - The classic tale of a man and a woman who fucked up big time.
Hardcore (d. Paul Schrader) - You know that scene from this that got turned into a meme to be used when someone saw something they don't like? George C. Scott is astonishing in that scene. 
Hatari! (d. Howard Hawks) - Almost avant-garde in its approach to plot.
The Hateful Eight (d. Quentin Tarantino) - Exquisitely problematic. Hopeful in a disgustingly funny way. People try to make you feel guilty for liking it.
He Walked By Night (d. Alfred L. Werker) - Wrote about it here. I was wrong about its unavailability on DVD.
Heat (d. Michael Mann) - If I directed movies, I'd have killed to have made this.

Heaven Knows What (d. Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie) - I can't quite come to terms with the fact that this is a movie, and not a series of events that I personally witnessed.
Heavenly Creatures (d. Peter Jackson) - Wrote about it here
Hell is for Heroes (d. Don Siegel) - Wrote about it here
A Hen in the Wind (d. Yasujiro Ozu) - I hope there's a sequel to this somewhere that's just her being happy for two hours. 

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (d. John McNaughton) - The last time I thought "I think I'll throw on Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and hang out with my old buds!", the contents of the film put me in such a depressed state of mind that I was unable to finish it. This is entirely to McNaughton's credit. 
High and Low (d. Akira Kurosawa) - One of the great police procedurals.
Hombre (d. Martin Ritt) - This Western has some of the best hardboiled lines of dialogue I've heard.
Homicide (d. David Mamet) - Mamet's best work as a director, a genuinely unique and bracing mystery that is also his most spiritually complex creation.

Horror of Dracula (d. Terence Fisher) - That ending...
The Hound of the Baskervilles (d. Terence Fisher) - Hammer's stab at Holmes. An utter delight. 
Hour of the Wolf (d. Ingmar Bergman) - The first time I saw this, it made me think I was seeing things on screen that weren't there. I'd count that as effective. 
House of Games (d. David Mamet) - Still works like gangbusters. 
The Hustler (d. Robert Rossen) - Wrote about it here
The Ice Harvest (d. Harold Ramis) - See the entry for Groundhog Day. 



Iguana (d. Monte Hellman) - Wrote about it here
In a Lonely Place (d. Nicholas Ray) - Wrote about it here
In Harm’s Way (d. Otto Preminger) - This film breaks my heart.
Inglourious Basterds (d. Quentin Tarantino) - Wrote about it here.    
Inland Empire (d. David Lynch) - I think this movie is gradually seeping into my bones.
Inside Llewyn Davis (d. Joel and Ethan Coen) - The kind of film that can only have been made by a pair of geniuses who have complete confidence in their talents. It's also quietly devastating. 
Inside Out (d. Pete Docter) - I'm glad I don't have kids because otherwise this thing might have killed me. 
Interstellar (d. Christopher Nolan) - For someone as unemotional as Nolan supposedly is, he sure crammed a load of emotions into this one.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (d. Philip Kaufman) - Perhaps the only successful use of "Amazing Grace" as an ironic counterpoint.
The Iron Rose (d. Jean Rollin) - Wrote about it here


Ivan’s Childhood (d. Andrei Tarkovsky) - Visually, as if World War II happened on the moon.
Jackie Brown (d. Quentin Tarantino) - It feels like a full novel on film.
Jaws (d. Steven Spielberg) - It's good, please just give it a chance.
Jeanne Dilman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (d. Chantal Akerman) - The kind of film that couldn't have even been imagined by anyone other than the woman who made it. 
Jules and Jim (d. Francois Truffaut) - That ending can't be shaked loose.
Killer Joe (d. William Friedkin) - The best choice for an end credits song in all of film history. 
King Kong (d. Meriam C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack) - Kids in 1933 must have lost their minds.
King of Comedy (d. Martin Scorsese) - The secret MVP of this one is Shelley Hack.
Kiss Me Deadly (d. Robert Aldrich) - Wrote about it here. Anticlimax!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

All of the Best Movies, Part 2: C - E


Hi, jerks. Here's the second part of my monumental paradigm-shift of a Favorite And Best Movies List. Before getting to C, which I know is a very popular letter of the alphabet, I need to address something in a hopefully not-too-recurring segment called...

Boners, Beeps, and Bloops

It was perhaps inevitable that in preparing this list, especially given its length, that I would forget a title or three. From the previous entry, I left out six. Five due to complete forgetfulness, one because, while it was on the list, had been mis-alphabetized, an error I chalk up to the dirty foreign nature of its title. Anyway, from here on out, when posting a new section of the list, if I realize that I've left out a movie I should have included, I'll open by announcing my mistake and officially placing the film or films on the list, as justice demands. Of course, you shouldn't take the absence from the list of a film you love as merely a mistake on my part -- I might actually hate it. All right, well, without further ado...

L'Argent (d. Robert Bresson) - The misplaced one. Should be an "A" film. In any event, this is my favorite Bresson film, at once his most difficult in terms of his stylistic and narrative choices, and the one that most demands and rewards understanding.

Bad Lieutenant (d. Abel Ferrara) - Some might call this "punk Catholicism." I'm pretty sure I wouldn't, but I understand. I hope "Pledging My Love" is played at Harvey Keitel's funeral.

Blast of Silence (d. Allen Baron) - This one is really embarrassing, since I took a quote from this movie and used it for my blog title. But it's a great low-budget noir, more gray than black and white. Cold and wet, and kind of a dump. Don't cross Baby Boy Frankie Bono.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (d. David Lean) - If I remember correctly, the term "intimate epic" was applied to Lean films like Lawrence of Arabia, in order to celebrate Lean's ability to achieve grand, sweeping narratives and visuals with detailed humanity. With The Bridge on the River Kwai he made an intimate adventure. Thrilling and moving. On a side note, it's sort of mortifying to me that I forgot about this, one of my favorite films by one of my favorite directors. Fortunately, I know that later in the list I do no neglect Lean.

Brief Encounter (d. David Lean) - Well this is a nightmare. But anyway, this is all about the first scene, the genius of which doesn't even hit you until you've seen it again.


Bubble (d. Steven Soderbergh) - The purest example of Soderbergh's independent side, and his most unnerving, and Bressonian, film to date.

And now on with C through E!
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Calvary (d. John Michael McDonagh) - In this film, Brendan Gleeson gives one of the greatest performances of the last couple decades. No big deal.
A Canterbury Tale (d. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) - One of the oddest of The Archers filmography, what begins as a kind of light-hearted mystery becomes, by the end, one of the most moving portraits of England I've ever seen.
Captain Phillips (d. Paul Greengrass) - It's always nice when you're watching a move and you see an actor do something you've never seen any other actor ever do, and do it in such a way that you might briefly believe you're seeing it actually happen. So thanks for that, Tom Hanks.
Carlos (d. Olivier Assayas) - Wrote about it here.
Carnival of Souls (d. Herk Harvey) - I think this is probably the best approach to this particular horror subgenre I've seen on film. Doesn't hurt that Harvey's eye is occasionally Bergman-esqe.
Casino (d. Martin Scorsese) - The tragedy to Goodfellas' comedy. The two films taken together must comprise the most complete and realistic depiction of the Mafia in American movies.
Le Cercle Rouge (d. Jean-Pierre Melville) - Just unbelievably assured direction. The scene in the billiard hall is perfect filmmaking.
Le Ceremonie (d. Claude Chabrol) - Chabrol's adaptation of the great Ruth Rendell novel A Judgment in Stone. Like Rendell, Chabrol casts a very cold eye.
Changeling  (d. Clint Eastwood) - Dismissed as terrible by many critics, a position I cannot understand. As gripping as anything Easwood has done since Unforgiven.
The Changeling (d. Peter Medak) - A wonderful ghost story, full of subtle, chilling moments, and a terrific George C. Scott at its center.
Charley Varrick (d. Don Siegel) - Wrote about it, in relation to some other films, here.
Chimes at Midnight (d. Orson Welles) - That Welles could make a great Shakespeare film shouldn't surprise anyone, even if he hadn't already done it before this. That in the process he would create one of great battle scenes, which has been ripped off countless times though never robbed of its power, did, I admit, take me aback just a little.
Chinatown (d. Roman Polanski) - What can I say that hasn't been said? The cutting of Nicholson's nostril is a pretty ingenious effect.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (d. Steven Spielberg) - I'm not sure even Spielberg realizes how good this is. I might think it's even better than Jaws.
The Color of Money (d. Martin Scorsese) - After years of being unfairly thought of as the movie Scorsese made for a paycheck and for which Paul Newman won a pity Oscar, I believe people are finally beginning to appreciate The Color of Money for what it is: a completely worthy follow-up to The Hustler.


Come and See (d. Elem Klimov) - Many films are compared to nightmares -- the work of David Lynch springs to mind - but very few if any match the nightmare effects of Come and See: a figure plodding hopelessly an powerlessly through one moment of loss and terror after another, with no real narrative to guide you, or to allow for choices. Everything is Hell, and it's happening to you. I give this movie five out of five Popcorns.
The Commitments (d. Alan Parker) - Loads of fun, funny, and a hell of a band. And oh, Angeline Ball...
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (d. J. Lee Thompson) - I should point out that this choice applies only to the original cut, with the original ending. That's the only version I've seen, and is the only one that makes any sense to me.
Contagion (d. Steven Soderbergh) - Wrote about it here.
Cool Hand Luke (d. Stuart Rosenberg) - In this film, Harry Dean Stanton sings "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." I shouldn't have to comment further.
The Counselor (d. Ridley Scott) - Wrote about it here, but since this is still thought of as a bad film, I'd like to add that if there's another American studio film that better captures what it feels like to be alive and afraid in this world today, I haven't seen it.

The Cremator (d. Juraj Herz) - When a society rots, it rots one person at a time.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (d. Woody Allen) - Arguably Allen's greatest achievement, and certainly the closest he's come to making a film that belongs next to the work of the European masters he so idolizes. Martin Landau's performance is one for the ages.
The Crucible (d. Nicholas Hytner) - A masterpiece. During the montage of hangings, the cut to Winona Ryder's excited, shocked, overwhelmed, thrilled face watching it all happen...that's the film in one shot.
Crumb (d. Terry Zwigoff) - This sets the standard for biographical documentaries, and one of the few such films that actually shocked me. It's also funny.
The Curse of the Cat People (d. Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch) - Maybe the most beautiful of the Val Lewton productions.
A Dangerous Method (d. David Cronenberg) - Wrote about it here.
The Darjeeling Limited (d. Wes Anderson) - It sounds glib, even sarcastic, to say that this film contains my favorite use of slow motion in a Wes Anderson film, but since I love Wes Anderson think the way he uses slow motion is often beautiful, it is neither.
Dawn of the Dead (d. George Romero) - While I prefer to look at this film through the "When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth" lens rather than the "Mall? Zombies? Eh? Eh?!?" lens, I still think the whole thing is brilliant and deserving of its place in the pantheon.
Days of Heaven (Dead. Terrence Malick) - Pretty much flawless. Human weakness as Biblical prophecy.
Dead Man (d. Jim Jarmusch) - Wonderfully dense in its allusions and portent and mystery, and funny as hell, and violent as hell. And frightening. And gorgeous.
Dead Man’s Shoes (d. Shane Meadows) - Quietly one of the best films of the previous decade. Paddy Considine, who co-wrote the film, gives a performance reminiscent of early De Niro.
Defending Your Life (d. Albert Brooks) - The most inventive Brooks has ever been, and this is still the least of his four masterpieces.
Deliverance (d. John Boorman) - The thrill of that quick zoom in on Burt Reynolds about to fire that arrow cannot be overstated.
Demon Seed (d. Donald Cammell) - Wrote about it here.

The Descendants (d. Alexander Payne) - As I get older, my appreciation for the emotionally devastating side of Alexander Payne grows stronger. This one has moments so sad as to be close to unbearable for me. The movie is also funny.
Detour (d. Edgar G. Ulmer) - Such a pure example of The Thing It Is that even though it's not the first of its kind, it should be.
Devil in a Blue Dress (d. Carl Franklin) - If you assholes had gone to see this in the theater like I did, Carl Franklin would be the big deal he deserves to be.
Do the Right Thing (d. Spike Lee) - Absolutely unique. Among other things, it does the one of the best jobs of capturing the feeling of an entire day having past in two hours I can think of.
Dodes’ka-Den (d. Akira Kurosawa) - One of my favorite last shots in any film.
Dog Day Afternoon (d. Sidney Lumet) - See Do the Right Thing.
Dogville (d. Lars von Trier) - One of those movies I can't quite believe exists. Only von Trier could think "I know what I'll do..." and end up with this. Truly apocalyptic.
Don’t Look Now (d. Nicolas Roeg) - Don't Look Now is what I want horror movies to be.
Down by Law (d. Jim Jarmusch) - If a black and white prison buddy comedy starring John Lurie, Tom Waits, and Roberto Benigni isn't a ticket to he big bucks, I don't know what is.
Downhill Racer (d. Michael Ritchie) - Wrote about it here.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (d. John S. Robertson) - The best Mr. Hyde design. (Also, wrote about it here.)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (d. Rouben Mamoulian) The best Jekyll and Hyde movie.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (d. Victor Fleming) - The Spencer Tracy Story.
Dr. Strangelove (d. Stanley Kubrick) - Wrote about it here.
Duck Soup (d. Leo McCarey) - It's been a while since I last sat down to watch this, so that every time I think of a favorite Marx Brothers bit, and look up which film it's from, almost invariably the answer is Duck Soup.
Ed Wood (d. Tim Burton) - It's not damning with faint praise to say that this among the most likable films ever made.

Edmond (d. Stuart Gordon) - Fun for everyone. Take everyone out to see Edmond. Everyone will fall in love with...Edmond! Get on my body!
Eight Men Out (d. John Sayles) - I love pretty much everything about this movie, not least D.B. Sweeney's heartbreaking performance as Shoeless Joe Jackson, and also the fact that John Sayles looks exactly like Ring Lardner. Part of me suspects that was his entire motivation for making this film.
Elephant (d. Alan Clarke) - It makes its point.
Elephant (d. Gus Van Sant) - The best Van Sant film I've seen, and the best film about school shootings I've even heard about.
The Elephant Man (d. David Lynch) - Anthony Hopkins has never been better than he is here. A beautiful film.
Empire of the Sun (d. Steven Spielberg) - Spielberg's Lost Masterpiece. 
Enemy (d. Denis Villeneuve) - Now that's how you end a movie!

Eraserhead (d. David Lynch) - The Lady in the Radiator is something I have not been able to shake since first seeing this film. "Everything is not fine!" I said to myself at the time.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (d. Don Taylor) Fucking cold-blooded! People act like the sequels are campy goof-offs, but what other Hollywood genre franchise has had balls this big?
Ex Machina (d. Alex Garland) - The best American science fiction film since A.I.
The Exorcist (d. William Friedkin) - Wrote about it here and here.
The Exorcist III (d. William Peter Blatty) - Talked about briefly in the second link above. Anyway, it's a shame that a filmmaking talent as weird and out of nowhere as Blatty's only got two shots at it. 
Experimenter (d. Michael Almereyda) - My kind of biopic, and maybe the most knowing use of Peter Sarsgaard thus far.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Polonius? Don't Know Him.

You might be wondering why this post that you are now reading is not part two of my internationally celebrated List of Favorite Movies (With Commenary!). Well, don't worry, I promise that I'll get to that just as soon as I feel like it. In the meantime, I received a couple of Claude Chabrol-related screeners from the good people at Olive Films. Shortly after receiving these films, the Olive Blu-rays of which hit stores today, I watched them. And now my thoughts on each are presented, most humbly, to you.


The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers (d. Various) - This film from 1964 probably wasn't the curiosity then, when art anthology films like Boccaccio '70 and Spirits of the Dead were somewhat common, than it is now. But curiosity or not, the binding premise is strong: five short films by five directors, each tackling supposedly true stories of fraud, confidence trickery, and the like, with each film set in a different country. For Japan, director Horimichi Horikawa tell the story of a young bar girl who hopes to either ingratiate herself with an elderly, wealthy songwriter who carries around a satchel of money, or find a way to just rob him, and finds the specific opportunity which finally presents itself to be a unique one; for Italy, Ugo Gregoretti creates a world of everyday crime and casual corruption in which a powerless man finds a way to make everthing that's wrong with his society work in his favor; for France, Claude Chabrol tells his version of probably the most famous story in here, the (true) one about the con artist who sold a rich dupe the Eiffel Tower; and finally, Jean-Luc Godard sets his film in Marrakech, and explores the economic and social morality inherent, to hear Godard tell it, in the work of a local and prolific counterfeiter, one who meets and is interviewed by an American journalist (Jean Seberg).

And in all honesty, I can't say that The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers especially grabbed me at any point. The best for me was Horikawa's effort (prior to this film, Horikawa, like Gregoretti, was completely unfamiliar to me), if only because his story had a pleasingly traditional structure and narrative propulsion. Gregoretti, on the other hand, commits the cardinal sin of trying to be funny while not being funny (at one point, he even goes so far as to employ a "sproing!" sound effect), although I must admit that his approach to the "swindle" concept is somewhat novel.

For the two Frenchman, I guess Chabrol comes out ahead because I remain, alas, almost completely allergic to Godard. I continue to try not to be, but then he layers what sounds like ambient mechanized human grunting over sections of his Marrakech story and once again my eyes begin to water and I sneeze a lot. Chabrol, meanwhile, is working in an uncharacteristically (well, not that uncharacteristically, I guess, as we'll see) comic mode. The pull of his film is the knowledge that somehow, and maybe not exactly like this, but somehow this actually happened. As I said, this story, which ends with a man being disabused of the notion that he somehow owns the Eiffel Tower, is the best known of all those told in The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers, and it's also the most bewildering. Otherwise, it's pretty sleight work coming from Chabrol.

But why did I only only describe four of the five promised short films? Because some time ago Roman Polanski, who directed a segment set in Amsterdam, asked that his film be removed from The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers, and it was. So a film that was originally close to two hours is now just over ninety minutes. Oh well.


Ophelia (d. Claude Chabrol) - This one, on the other hand...It's always a joy when a filmmaker you believed yourself to be reasonably familiar with surprises you again. But of course Chabrol, who was so prolific that the chunk of his filmography I've crossed off my list probably wouldn't even qualify as a drop in the bucket, was a most surprising filmmake. Let's take, what the hell, let's take Ophelia as an example. One of two films Chabrol made in 1963 (the other, Landru, is unavailable in the US, and I desperately wish it was), Ophelia takes the interest in suspense and murder and let it lead him, naturally, to Shakespeare. Hamlet specifically. Except that Ophelia both is and isn't Hamlet.

The Shakespeare play being so well known, I hardly think I need bother with much in the way of a plot summary, but you should know the following: in Chabrol's film, the action is moved to then-present day France, but the Hamlet stand-in, Yvan (Andre Jocelyn) has returned home to his family's country estate following the death of his father, and his mother Claudia(!) (Alida Valli) has indeed taken up with his uncle (Claude Cerval). But from there, Ophelia reveals itself to be a movie in which the Shakespeare play exists, and it's a play of wich Yvan is only too aware. He begins to believe that the plot of the play is being carried out by his mother and uncle, at least the Claudius and Gertrude part is, and so in order to defeat them and exact justice he must follow Hamlet's actions. Instead of throwing his father's murder back in the face of the killers through an uncannily familiar play, Yvan chooses to make a short film. Which is a silent film, and a bit of slapstick...

So, like Hamlet, Ophelia is a story of madness, but, while Hamlet's psyche was breaking down, I hope it's not revealing too much to say that the slight sense of triumph an audience might take from his tragedy manages to elude Yvan. I won't say why that's the case, but Ophelia is, finally, a black comedy, and I think a mino masterpiece. Andre Jocelyn is pretty extraordinary in the way he underplays Yvan's madness so that he seems at times to be nothing more than a prick. But so was Hamlet, and so was Claudius (named Adrien here). And so was Polonius, here Andre (Robert Burnier) whose daughter is Lucie (Juliette Mayniel). Only Yvan calls her Ophelia, because he has to in order to get into character, as it wer. Since this is not actually Hamlet, this "Ophelia" isn't mad. She's the sane one, on the sidelines. Not mad, but just as powerless.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

All of the Best Movies, Part 1: 0 - B


Hi guys, here's part one of my long-threatened list of favorite movies. Due to serious and ongoing computer issues, I wrote this on a Tablet, so give me a break. The next post will be C through...whatever. F, probably.
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10 Rillington Place (d. Richard Fleischer) - One of the only films to deal with the subject of serial killers that presents the full, depressing picture. If serial murder doesn't depress you, then something's up.

12 Angry Men (d. Sidney Lumet) - Wrote about it here.

1984 (d. Michael Radford) - I have no particular interest in Michael Radford, but I'll be damned if everything didn't just fall together here. This Orwell adaptation is exquisite, and the casting of John Hurt is so inspired as to seem inevitable.

2001: A Space Odyssey (d. Stanley Kubrick) - I don't know what I could possibly add to the discussion at this point, so I'll stick to pointing out that seeing this on a massive screen in the 90s changed my life. For the better? You make the call!

3 Women (d. Robert Altman) - I am very, very tired of the arguments about whether or not a given horror film is or is not actually a horror film, and in response I've embraced my own definition of the genre, which is that a horror film is whatever I say it is. 3 Women is a great horror film.

45 Years (d. Andrew Haigh) - Wrote about it here.

The 7th Victim (d. Mark Robson) - One of the great films about a Satanic cult; the ending makes this for me the ultimate Val Lewton production.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (d. Steven Spielberg) - I'm not comfortable living in a society in which the greatness of A.I. is still a matter of debate.

The Abominable Snowman (d. Val Guest) - Maybe the best Hammer film not directed by Terence Fisher, this movie successfully imbues its title creature and its environment with a quality of awesomeness.

Ace in the Hole (d. Billy Wilder) - I'm not a big fan of Wilder's comedies, but when his skewed cynicism is in full bloom there were few better. Kirk Douglas Kirk Douglases the shit out of this movie.

The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (d. Stan Brakhage) - I watched this during an unhappy, even-more-morbid-than-usual period of my life. Let's just say that whatever trick I was hoping Brakhage's silent autopsy film would do, it did it.

The Act of Violence (d. Joshua Oppenheimer) - The documentary as evil dream.


After Hours (d. Martin Scorsese) - Scorsese has always been funny, so it stands to reason that he would eventually make a film that could be unambiguously categorized as a comedy. It also stands to reason that this film would also be vaguely frightening.

Air Force (d. Howard Hawks) - Somewhat dismissed now, I'm told, as a propaganda film, it may well be that, and so what? It's a thrilling, bracing war film. Besides, how many war-time propaganda films feature as a theme young men who are killed in action before they are able to do anything?

Alien (d. Ridley Scott) - Yes, it is true: I like Alien.

All That Jazz (d. Bob Fosse) - Wrote about it here.

The American Friend (d. Wim Wenders) - Wrote about it here.

American Graffiti (d. George Lucas) - Visually and sonically gorgeous, cynical and not, romantic and not, exactly in tune with what the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning look and feel like. Remarkably cast. Lucas's masterpiece. Long live Wolfman Jack.

American Movie (d. Chris Smith) - I still want to see Northwestern.

American Sniper (d. Clint Eastwood) - Wrote about it (a little) here.

An American Werewolf in London (d. John Landis) - The obvious skill, inventiveness, and sheer entertainment value of this film make including it a fairly easy choice. But at the same time, as my friend Glenn Kenny says, "Fucking John Landis."

Anatomy of a Murder (d. Otto Preminger) - Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott in a crime/courtroom drama directed by Otto Preminger. It's almost unfair.

Angel Face (d. Otto Preminger) - In the running for the best ending in noir history.

Angst (d. Gerald Kargl) - Wrote about it here.

Anomalisa (d. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson) - One of the most singularly beautiful and moving films of the 2010s. Both unassuming and spectacularly inventive, this is a magnificent piece of modern art.

Antichrist (d. Lars von Trier) - Wrote about it here.

Apocalypto (d. Mel Gibson) - As good an action film as has been made since the 80s.

Ararat (d. Atom Egoyan) - A film about the Armenian genocide that depicts that slaughter as a film within a film. Not an easy movie to describe, really, but I've been haunted by it for over a decade.


Army of Shadows (d. Jean-Pierre Melville) - Melville was such a meticulous director that he could wring suspense and atmosphere out of a man eating a sandwich on  a plane. That he's a member of the French Resistance on a mission probably helps. The film highlights the bravery of the French Resistance by refusing to make them gallant ciphers.

Art School Confidential (d. Terry Zwigoff) - When the barefoot hippie stepped on broken glass, I was sold.

Assault on Precinct 13 (d. John Carpenter) - This film proves that there's some Melville in Carpenter.

Auto Focus (d. Paul Schrader) - Speaking of John Carpenter... Before embarking on the task of making a film about the life and murder of Bob Crane, I imagine the biggest issue would be figuring out the tone. Schrader figured it out.

The Bad and the Beautiful (d. Vincente Minelli) - Big points for the nods to Val Lewton, and for being a kind of merciless film. Until it isn't, of course, but still.

Ball of Fire (d. Howard Hawks) - Sweet Genevieve.

The Ballad of Narayama (d. Keisuke Kinoshita) - Wrote about it here.

Bang the Drum Slowly (d. John Hancock) - Wrote about it here (now with a busted YouTube link!)

Barry Lyndon (d. Stanley Kubrick) - Cinema's greatest pistol duel. All the other stuff in the movie -- you know, all the technical and artistic innovations that changed movies and that Kubrick worked so hard on so that his film could achieve the specifically cinematic heights he imagined for it, and which cause some critics of Barry Lyndon to say "Jeez, Kubrick's such a boring goon!" -- all that stuff is also good.

Barton Fink (d. Joel and Ethan Coen) - Miller's Crossing in 1990 and then this in 1991 were as thrilling a pair of cinematic experiences as I've ever had or ever expect to have. Barton Fink is a stunning piece of dark movie/literary grotesquerie. It's also a hilarious horror film.

Bay of Angels (d. Jacques Demy) - Wrote about it here.

Beau Travail (d. Claire Denis) - The ending of this film is evidence of a filmmaker being fully confident that she is making the correct artistic choices. Which she is.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (d. Ted Post) - I honestly believe that the first three sequels to Schaffner's original classic are, by and large, vastly underrated. These movies take bigger chances, and are darker and nastier and more complicated than any major Hollywood franchise I know of. Check out James Franciscus's face when he winds up where he winds up in this one.

Big Night (d. Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott) - Pretty much a complete delight, with a perfectly judged final scene.


Big Trouble in Little China (d. John Carpenter) - Kurt Russell performing without ego. What a lot of 80s genre movies wanted to be, but didn't have the guts to put themselves out there.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (d. Rainer Werner Fassbinder) - Wrote about it here.

The Black Cat (d. Edgar G. Ulmer) - The perfect Universal horror film. Best use of the oft-used second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony ever.

Black Christmas (d. Bob Clark) - After many viewings, Billy's phone calls still make the hair on my neck stand up. Hell of an ending, too.

Black Hawk Down (d. Ridley Scott) - On the very short list of the great combat films of the modern era.

The Black Torment (d. Robert Hartford-Davis) - Wrote about it here.

Blade Runner (d. Ridley Scott) - I'm hearing nowadays that a lot of people find this movie boring . Fuck off.

Bloody Sunday (d. Paul Greengrass) - Achieves a naturalism rarely found in American films. James Nesbitt is brilliant.

Blue Collar (d. Paul Schrader) - Would qualify for this list for the opening credits alone.

The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (d. Les Blank) - Would qualify for this list for the little boy with the umbrella alone.

The Blues Brothers (d. John Landis) - Everything I said about An American Werewolf in London multiplied by two, with the addition that compared to modern comedy films, The Blues Brothers looks like Michael Powell directed it.

The Body Snatcher (d. Robert Wise) - The film that made me love Boris Karloff.

Bone Tomahawk  (d. S. Craig Zahler) - A bizarre mix of literary Western and exploitation horror, with a stacked cast. It also has a scene violent enough to drive people from the room.

Le Bonheur (d. Agnes Varda) - I wasn't sure how I was feeling about this as I watched it, until the ending instantly brought to mind a certain Randy Newman song, and I was on board.


Bonjour Tristesse (d. Otto Preminger) - The kind of thing that Charles Willeford would have written if Charles Willeford had written this kind of thing.

Brazil (d. Terry Gilliam) - As great now as it was when I first saw it. This is one of those films that has seemingly always been with me, funny and ghastly and wondrous.

Breakdown (d. Jonathan Mostow) - An entirely effective thriller, but it makes the list because it offers the best evidence I can think of that Kurt Russell is a great actor.

Breaker Morant (d. Bruce Beresford) - Wrote about it here.

Bride of Frankenstein (d. James Whale) - "I love dead...hate living" is the whole film, chilling and sad, judgmental and mournful.

Bridge of Spies (d. Steven Spielberg) - We are officially taking Spielberg and Tom Hanks for granted.

A Bridge Too Far (d. Richard Attenborough) - No, it's not perfect. But did you see Sean Connery shoot that Nazi through the window?? Suh-weet.

A Brief History of Time (d. Errol Morris) - Wrote about it here.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (d. Sam Peckinpah) - "Am I still gonna get paid?" Oh, Sam.

Bringing Out the Dead (d. Martin Scorsese) - Taxi Driver as phantasmagoria, Travis Bickle as lifesaver.

Broadcast News (d. James L. Brooks) - The one Brooks film in which everything he's trying to bring together does finally come together. Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter are through-the-roof good.


Broadway Danny Rose (d. Woody Allen) - If pressed on the matter, I'd say this is my favorite Woody Allen movie. In addition to being his funniest, it's also his most impeccably calibrated.

Broken Flowers (d. Jim Jarmusch) - Jarmusch's version of an existential mystery. This had to star Bill Murray, or no one.

The Brood (d. David Cronenberg) - Wrote about it here.

The 'Burbs (d. Joe Dante) - I'm not a big Dante guy, but boy do I love this movie. That the somewhat controversial ending subverts the message-movie climax it seemed to be satisfied with is merely one if its many joys.

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