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Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
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71 years ago...

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The Killers (1946)
Director: Robert Siodmak
Country: United States
Length: 103 minutes
Type: Film-Noir

'The Killers' grips from the opening tension-filled scene, as two dangerous looking men walk into a diner and begin to intimidate the staff. They are there to kill "The Swede" (Burt Lancaster), an ex-boxer, who for unknown reasons simply accepts his fate. The rest of film is told in flashback, out of sequence, building up a picture of Swede's tragic life, via an insurance investigator interviewing the boxer's old associates. He uncovers a story of double-crosses, betrayal, robbery and murder. The Noir Cinematography looks amazing in HD, Lancaster impresses in his first ever film role and the tightly wound mystery keeps you guessing 'til the end.

Another Powell and Pressburger masterpiece next.
71 years ago...

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 104 minutes
Type: Romance

'A Matter of Life and Death' (aka 'Stairway to Heaven') is a romantic and philosophical fantasy and is so far above and beyond the set brief of "make a film about British and American shared values", that only Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger could have conceived it. A British WWII pilot (David Niven) aboard a stricken Lancaster, spends his last minutes talking to a female American radio operator. He jumps out with no parachute but miraculously survives the fall, chancing upon the same girl the next morning, they instantly fall in love. He then begins to have visions of somebody who may be an angel, who reveals that he should have died in the fall but got lost in the English fog ("a real pea-souper"). What follows is a trial in heaven to decide if he should live or die... or maybe he is simply concussed from the fall (the plot cleverly plays both ways).

The afterlife is rendered in stark futurist monochrome and the "real" world is shot in lush magic-hour Technicolor. I do wonder if the set-designs influenced the look of the Fortress of Solitude and Krypton in the 1978 'Superman'. Also, the way the film begins with a narration against a slow pan across a galaxy of stars is very like the opening shot of the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' title sequence. Roger Livesey plays the British defense council and Raymond Massey (famous for playing Abraham Lincoln on screen) is the American prosecuting attorney in this vast celestial courtroom. Impressive matte paintings, convincing miniatures and expansive sets are used to give everything an otherworldly scale. The giant heavenly escalator is the most enduring and influential visual image.

I'd watched 'A Matter of Life and Death' once before on DVD and remembered the washed-out bleeding colours, so this time I wanted to see it at it's best. Importing the Criterion blu-ray (at no small expense) was well worth it because their 4K restoration has all the Technicolor records in perfect digital registration, resulting in a stunningly clear and rich picture.

A Dickens adaptation next.
71 years ago...

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Great Expectations (1946)
Director: David Lean
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 118 minutes
Type: Drama

David Lean's tight and concise adaptation of 'Great Expectations' is full of Gothic set design, Expressionist lighting and Noir-ish photography. It almost comes across as a Universal-style Horror movie. The 38-year old John Mills is heavily made up to look like young Pip but there isn't any disguising he's not in his early twenties anymore. Having said that, the 32-year old Alec Guinness does convince in a similar role. Bernard Miles is totally lovable as the simple blacksmith Joe Gargery, as is Francis L. Sullivan as Pip's commanding lawyer Mr. Jaggers. This 1946 film sets a high bar for all the later Dickens translations on the big and small screen.

Another Hitchcock film next.
71 years ago...

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Notorious (1946)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United States
Length: 101 minutes
Type: Drama, Romance, Thriller

It feels like 'Notorious' very much belongs to the later glamorous spy-caper colour period but Alfred Hitchcock is still in the last phase of his black & white work ('Rope' would soon be his first foray into colour). Ingrid Bergman is fantastic in a complex role, portraying the daughter of a Nazi who is recruited by a US Government Agent (Cary Grant) to infiltrate a Nazi ring hiding in Brazil. She is of course "Notorious" because of her parentage but also because she is promiscuous (for 1946) and has a drink problem and temper, no doubt down to barely repressed and misplaced self-loathing. The pair soon fall in love but the kicker comes when Bergman's assignment requires her to seduce a top Nazi (Claude Rains) causing heartache and drama for the romantic couple. The film is generally a high-class thriller and a winning romance but it totally missed an opportunity to address Nazism, in the way Orson Welles did in 'The Stranger'. Rains' character and his associates might just as well have been crooks of any variety, nothing more sinister than that.

Yet another Powell and Pressburger film next (much rejoicing).
71 years ago...

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Black Narcissus (1947)
Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 100 minutes
Type: Erotic-Drama

'Black Narcissus' is another Technicolor feast for the eyes from Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger ('The Archers'). A small group of Anglican nuns take up an invitation from a Himalayan General, to establish a hospital and school in an abandoned palace and former harem. They soon find themselves becoming disturbed and distracted by their sensual new surroundings. Exotic perfumes (which the title refers to), Kamasutra-style paintings on the walls, a wanton young local girl and their ruggedly handsome English liaison, all conspire to re-awaken forgotten memories and erotic obsessions in the nuns.  Deborah Kerr (as the head nun, Sister Clodagh) conveys such a range of emotions on her face as she struggles to maintain her composure.  Kathleen Byron plays the already unbalanced Sister Ruth, who is driven to madness by the new temptations. Her mad raving eyes are quite unsettling.

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It's filmed almost entirely in the studio but the feeling created in the mind is of vast mountain ranges, plunging vertiginous valleys and endless open skies, that's the magic and genius of The Archers' film-making at work.  The many glass-shots of the Himalayas look like beautiful paintings but that actually blends well with the studio footage, as that also has the warm subtleties of a Michelangelo fresco. I'd watched part of 'Black Narcissus' years ago but my decision to wait to see it in fully-restored HD was well worth it.

(I noticed this is mislabeled as a 1946 film in the book, not 1947.)

Frank Capra's Christmas masterpiece next.
71 years ago...

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It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
Country: United States
Length: 130 minutes
Type: Drama, Romance

If you haven't seen this film already, you've been wasting your life  Wink  but I'll briefly describe the plot anyway. George Bailey (James Stewart) is a young selfless small-town guy with ambitions of exploring the world but because he is always there to help everybody and put himself last, he never manages to go anywhere, or achieve any of his dreams. When he is driven to thoughts of suicide, an Angel called Clarence (Henry Travers) arrives and shows George what impact his life has had on people. Frank Capra and James Stewart take us and George to the very depths of darkness and despair, making the ultimate salvation and celebration ecstatically joyful. It's one of the few movies that makes me cry every single time (this re-watch being no exception). If there is such a thing as a "perfect movie", then this is certainly one of them. e.g. Acting, Direction, hair and makeup, sound and music design, lighting all come together to make a powerful scene like this:

I don't recall when I first watched 'It's a Wonderful Life' but I do remember the first time I saw it projected in 35mm, on the final night for my home town's family-run Art-Deco Cinema. It had been open for 65-years and was where I first saw Star Wars but has now been bulldozed into a car park and a sh*tty soulless digital multiplex opened elsewhere. The audience (sitting in those old red-velvet chairs you used to get) gave a little cheer as George ran down the street of Bedford Falls joyfully shouting "Merry Christmas movie house!" when he sees it is still there. So even though 'It's a Wonderful Life' does feature an angel and travels to a parallel reality, it always feels rooted in truth to me. I can't imagine ever getting tired of re-watching 'It's a Wonderful Life'.

The Rita Hayworth film in the book next.
72 years ago...

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Gilda (1946)
Director: Charles Vidor
Country: United States
Length: 110 minutes
Type: Film-Noir

'Gilda' is about a volatile love/hate triangle between Mundson, the owner of an illegal Argentinian Casino, his new and much younger wife Gilda and Johnny, his shady floor manager. Gilda (played by the gorgeous Rita Hayworth) has one of the most famous introductions in film history. Mundson enters her bedroom and asks "Gilda, are you decent?" and Hayworth flicks her head up into shot, with a mischievous grin and says "Me?". It tells you everything you need to know about the character in one shot, one movement and one line. That's real film-making.

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I was absolutely loving the film and it's world of glamorous nightspots, sexy verbal sparring, Noirish lighting and political corruption... up to a point. Johnny starts off as a bitter lowlife but slowly turns into a total evil b*stard, psychologically abusing, imprisoning and controlling Gilda and finally actually hitting her. I was fully expecting him to meet a nasty end, like Film-Noir "anti-heroes" usually do but instead he walks off into the proverbial sunset with Gilda! The dialogue makes out that because Gilda was constantly flirting and (pretending) to cheat with other men, to make Johnny mad, they are just as bad as each other. No they are not movie, go away and think about what you did!  Angry This ending wouldn't fly in 2018, thank goodness.

The last Charlie Chaplin film in the book next.
71 years ago...

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Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Country: United States
Length: 124 minutes
Type: Comedy

Charlie Chaplin stars (and writes, produces, scores and directs) in this upbeat witty comedy about a fictional serial-killer called "Monsieur Verdoux", based on a story by Orson Welles, in turn inspired by the real French killer Henri Désiré Landru. Verdoux criss-crosses France romancing and then murdering wealthy widows. Chaplin does everything he can to make us sympathise with Verdoux, by not showing any actual violence or murder, making his motive providing for his disabled (original) wife and child, by showing him to be kind and gentle to animals (and the occasional person he considers worthy to survive) and even gives him a closing speech arguing for the morality of murder, in the face of worldwide genocide. The subject and humour are dark but the tone is whimsical and fun. The farcical middle act where Verdoux repeatedly tries and fails to bump-off a vulgar lottery winner who was "born lucky" is a lot of fun. Chaplin makes constant little furtive looks out at us the audience, making the viewer complicit in the murders, much like the Francis Urquhart character from 'House of Cards'. I've seen 'Monsieur Verdoux' a few times now and I think it might be Chaplin's finest sound film.

The first Robert Mitchum film in the list next.
If Scarlet Street isn't on the list, it ought to be.

I don't want to spoil anything because I saw it without knowing anything about it, but I will say:
1. Edward G. Robinson stars.
2. Fritz Lang directs.
3. It wasn't long after the movie started before it had me by the ankle, and didn't set me back down till well after it was over.

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I know you recommended it to me in PM, but I wanted to come here and say THANKS because its the best movie I've seen in a while.