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TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 25/post 481)

TM2YC

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Marnie (1964)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United States
Length: 130 minutes
Type: Psychological, Thriller, Drama

Putting the controversial rape scene in 'Marnie' aside for a moment, the film is a brilliant examination of two psychologically flawed characters confronting their demons and dark impulses together but the problem is you just can't put it aside. Rape within marriage was still legal in the USA until a decade or two after 'Marnie', so perhaps the inclusion of such a scene wasn't considered to be the movie-destroying thing it is for today's sane viewing public. Fortunately there is just enough ambiguity in the way it's edited (presumably for censorship reasons) to allow you to pretend it didn't happen and try to get on with the 2nd hour of the movie without viewing the male character as an irredeemable monster who we are still expected to be invested in. Without it the two characters Marnie and Mark (played by Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery) are quite sympathetic in their joint quest to fix their self-destructive compulsions by barrelling head long into them. Mark is as controlling, as Marnie is out-of-control. These opposing negative personality traits clash and ultimately lead to equilibrium. 'Marnie' is the apex of Alfred Hitchcock's deliberately artificial, fantasy style. Almost every exterior shot is a beautiful matte painting, plus many of the interiors too, some looked like just paintings (rather than matte FX shots) and shots use different re-painted mattes for different scenes. So to enjoy that aspect you really want to see this on blu-ray, or wait for a 4K release. It's interesting to see Connery in the middle of his early James Bond prime playing something else.

This trailer is amusingly dated and cheesy:

 

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SPOILERS!!!!

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The Sixth Sense (1999)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Country: United States
Length: 107 minutes
Type: Horror, Thriller, Ghost

Unfortunately I had the big reveal spoiled for me before I first watched ‘The Sixth Sense’ at the cinema back in 1999, so I’ll never know when or if I’d have twigged. Fortunately it doesn’t much matter because knowing allows you to instead marvel at how well the truth is obscured. M. Night Shyamalan uses the language of film itself, of visual storytelling to conceal the twist. So characters are separated by railings which symbolises their emotional distance but also physically separates them. Bruce Willis is shown working down in his dark basement which symbolises his obsession and isolation from his wife but also is a simple excuse for them being physically apart. Awkward dialogue-free silences are used to convey the depression of the characters and an awkwardness in their relationships with others but also doesn’t require their lack of verbal interaction to be explained. Shyamalan uses jump cuts to keep the pace of the plot fast and uses fades-to-black to denote the passage of time but he’s also deploying them to naturally avoid showing specific moments and scenes that would reveal the twist.

‘The Sixth Sense’ still 100% works when you already know the twist because it’s largely immaterial to the success of the story that Willis is a ghost. With a couple of small edits you could make him a living child psychologist who has really been assigned to help Cole. The three central performances are astoundingly good, it’s wonderful to rewatch Willis when he still gave a sh*t. The scenes between Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment are such a powerful depiction of the nearly bottomless wells of love of a mother for her troubled son. Their final scene in the car had me welling up, as it does every time. This time I was struck by how much the chilly atmosphere and architecture mirrored 1973’s ‘The Exorcist’, as well as a generally Alfred Hitchcock style thriller aesthetic. The timeless costuming and set design makes this look like it could’ve been filmed in the 70s, late 90s, or yesterday. It’s puzzling that a classy perfect masterpiece like this kicked off a 20-year directorial career so marred by embarrassing misjudgements. The only hint in this movie that Shyamalan maybe doesn’t know what he’s doing is the little engagement ring scene, it’s almost too funny to sit in the middle of an otherwise sombre movie, then again it also succeeds in distracting the audience from pondering the hospital bed clues by giving us a bit of enjoyable comic relief.




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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Director: Dario Argento
Country: Italy
Length: 96 minutes
Type: Giallo, Horror, Thriller

Much like my first viewing, I again very much enjoyed this solidly constructed mystery thriller but found it lacking in the visual department compared with Dario Argento's later, more operatically stylish movies. Thankfully I had completely forgotten the big twist resolution to the plot after 3-years, so I was feverishly trying to theorise who the murder was once more. Tony Musante is a very sympathetic and courageous/reckless protagonist and his relationship with the police Inspector is great. I can't remember how I watched it last but I went with the Italian mono mix this time.

Arrow Video have put the trailer up on youtube in 4K!

 

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I need to watch Sixth Sense again. I recall that I caught on just a bit before the big reveal, but not by much. That "OH! Waitaminit!" moment and you mentally review the last hour and a half. Then marvel at what the writers, director, and actors pulled off.
 

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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Director: John McNaughton
Country: United States
Length: 83 minutes
Type: Psychological, Horror, Crime

I heard this was controversial (the MPAA refused to give it an R rating, even if the director heavily censored it and the BBFC only passed it uncut for the first time 8-years ago) and I can see why. There are images that will be burned into your brain but 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' is a beautiful 4:3 composed work of art but a dark work like that of Francis Bacon, Hieronymus Bosch, or Caravaggio. The opening tableaux are so shocking, showing in slow, cold, still detail, the bloody aftermath of Henry's murders, with droning music and the almost inaudible sound of the last terrifying moments of his victims. But one of the most disturbing sequences was not the up close violence, it was the scene where we are watching the killer's crimes on a TV set (which they've earlier video-taped), while they sit passively on a couch re-watching them. You might think that the TV medium puts an extra layer between us and the film "reality" of the horrors but instead it removes any separation between us and the experience of the killers as they re-experience their crimes. The story tempts you in to viewing Henry as a romanticised "movie" serial killer, with some kind of logic, soul, or moral code, by comparing him to a possibly even worse person, then with a single POV shot in the last scene of Henry looking at a girl holding a guitar, you get a sharp reality-check to his total cold inhumanity. I love 'The Silence of the Lambs' but unlike the theatrical Dr. Lecter, Henry would never leave Agent Starling alive just because "the world's more interesting with (her) in it" and that's more scary.

 

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Viy (1967)
Director: Konstantin Yershov & Georgi Kropachyov
Country: Russia
Length: 78 minutes
Type: Psychological, Horror

A less-than-devout novice priest beats a witch to death (who turns out to be a noblewoman I think?) and then has to spend three nights locked in a church praying over her body but each night she appears to come back to life and terrorise him with demons. 'Viy' starts out broadly comic, with the humour often directed at religious hypocrisy and corruption but becomes more creepy and fantastical in the second half. I loved all the practical FX and weird looking in-camera illusions, they felt spooky to me but I imagine they might look silly to some other viewers. It's quite proto-Exorcist, quite proto-Giallo.


The whole movie is on youtube in HD-ish quality:

 

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The Elephant Man (1980)
Director: David Lynch
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 124 minutes
Type: Historical, Drama

I remembered David Lynch's 'The Elephant Man' being a good movie but wow, what a masterpiece it is. To go from an experimental, no-budget, student art film like 'Eraserhead', to a classically directed £5million octuple Oscar nominated, box-office hit, is one giant leap into the mainstream, yet it's unmistakably Lynch-ian. 'The Elephant Man' has the same beautiful high-contrast black and white look, also uses the hiss and rumble of industry to create atmospheric soundscapes and features some more trippy birth sequences. The smoke, steam and fog of the decayed city mirror the wheezing of Merrick's lungs and skin legions. The dark streets of Ripper-era London remind me a lot of Alan Moore's 'From Hell' (which featured Merrick in a small role). Anne Bancroft plays notable theatre actress Mrs Kendal with great sensitivity but fellow actor John Gielgud thought she was miscast, presumably because he'd actually met the real person she was playing, when he was a new young actor and she was an elderly patron of the London arts. It's suggestive of how relatively recent this was and how far medicine has come in the last century. Lynch makes a point of showing fact-based Victorian medical procedures, such as spraying the operating table with clouds of disinfectant but wearing no surgical masks and coughing into the patient's open wounds. He also draws parallels between the carnival freak shows and medical theatre demonstrations. Anthony Hopkins' performance as Frederick Treves is one of his very best. A man of deep feeling and strong principles, contained within a softly spoken, polite exterior. The moments when his emotions come to the surface are extraordinary, like when he first sees Merrick and weeps (after we've seen others recoil in horror and fear), or when he later explodes in fury at somebody who has mistreated his friend. I'm amazed by how John Hurt conveys so much feeling when he's buried beneath the "Elephant Man" makeup. He's only really got his eyes and the gentle tone and meter of his voice to work with.


 

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Ran (1985)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Length: 162 minutes
Type: Samurai, Epic, Drama, War

I've watched Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran' before, when I thought it was a great movie but this time I thought it was peerless genius. The first thing that hits you are the blazing colours of the latest 4K restoration, differentiating character and status, the white and gold kimono of father Hidetora, and the red, yellow and blue of his three sons. Colours that they retain for the rest of the movie, including the banners of their armies. This time I noticed Saburo (the faithful son) had the same pattern running down his kimono as his father's in the opening scene (a detail enhanced by the 4K scan). 'Ran' is a fairly faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's 'King Lear', shifted to feudal Japan, with some historical inspiration and some inspired narrative additions of Kurosawa's own. For example, the remorselessly vengeful Lady Kaede is perhaps the strongest character but has no obvious direct equivalent in 'King Lear'. The middle battle scene is massive and bloody but Kurosawa (acting as his own editor) opts to remove all sound and let Toru Takemitsu's score convey the tragedy and horror. It's an artful choice that recalls silent movies, reminding me of a battle from Fritz Lang's 1924 epic 'Die Nibelungen - Part 2: Kriemhild's Revenge'. It also features the huge burning castle of an Asian warlord as the backdrop.

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I was fascinated by the precise ceremonies of deference, respect and fealty, performed with exquisite care by people who posses none of those qualities. Where the shuffle of a foot, the creak of leather armour, or the swish of silk conveys meaning and intent. This is contrasted by the characters like the fool, the banished son and the loyal retainer, who display no such formal respect to their lord. They mock him and insult him but also give him the unvarnished truth out of true loyalty, for which they are cast out, or ignored. The final silhouette shot of Tsurumaru alone in the ruins of his former family castle, waiting for his sister is so sad. I remember liking 'Kagemusha' more than 'Ran' but that hardly seems possible considering what a masterpiece this is. I'll have to rewatch 'Kagemusha' some time and find out (especially since that's had a Criterion restoration since I saw it last).




A.K. (1985)
'La Jetée's Chris Marker
directs a 75-minute documentary about the personality and method of Akira Kurosawa but it's also like b-roll for 1985's 'Ran'. Most of it is footage documenting the rehearsals and filming of the battle scenes near Mount Fuji and the crew huddling round braziers for warmth between shots. The presentation of 'A.K.' is a bit pretentious and I'm not sure what I learned beyond simply experiencing what it would be like to hang out on that particular location shoot for an hour.

 

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SPOILERS!!!!



The Sixth Sense (1999)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Country: United States
Length: 107 minutes
Type: Horror, Thriller, Ghost

Unfortunately I had the big reveal spoiled for me before I first watched ‘The Sixth Sense’ at the cinema back in 1999, so I’ll never know when or if I’d have twigged.
I appreciate the caution around spoilers for this. It's my dream to one day show it to someone who knows nothing about it. For my part, in the US, I couldn't believe so many people found this a revelation when the
"I see dead people"
tagline was prominent in every trailer. Knowing that going in, I was onto the game literally the entire film, no surprise. I enjoyed it very much on that level, but I'd love to watch with someone who didn't have that huge hint and see if they pick up along the way.
 

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The English Patient (1996)
Director: Anthony Minghella
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 162 minutes
Type: Epic, Romance, Historical, War, Adventure

In theory, a 2.5hr Dean Lean-style Epic-Romance should have been right up my alley but it didn't quite gel for me. I think much of the problem comes down to the narrative structure (which is ordered by usual editing master Walter Murch). In something like 'Amadeus' the character of the "present day" narrator and the flashbacks to what he is describing are intrinsically linked and therefore utterly absorbing in one seamless whole. In 'The English Patient' the two halves are cut together seemingly at random, so you can get invested in the flashback story but it suddenly stops and cuts to the present (or vice versa) and there is no narration, just shared characters. I can't fault Anthony Minghella's gorgeous visuals, Gabriel Yared's sumptuous score and all the performances from the stellar cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth and Jurgen Prochnow, among others. Naveen Andrews is particularly fine as an Indian Sikh sapper in the British Army. It seems like properly recognising the contribution of (then British) Indians (and other parts of the "empire") to both world wars is something that's only been portrayed in recent movies but this film was doing it in the 90s.


^ However, I notice the vintage Miramax trailer deliberately omits Andrews' (the non-white actor), despite him playing one of the main characters.
 

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^Despite later watching The English Patient and liking it, back in '96 this was the point I became exasperated with the Oscars. There was a tremendous revolution of exciting new films coming out (from directors like Tarantino and Rodriguez and the Wachowskis and more) but the Oscars were just mired in the same old stuff. It seemed like anything with a 2+ hour runtime and overly-dramatic tragic dialogue was legitimate "Oscar bait". Bonus points given for each British accent in the piece. The politicking of "campaigning" for Oscar nominations had gotten into full swing and it just seemed like all the really interesting and exciting films that connect with audiences were getting ignored in favor of a small group of films that stodgy old white people swoon for. The Oscars still struggle to be relevant to the broader population of movie-lovers, and sadly, this and Shakespeare In Love the next year will always remind me that #oscarssoblind
 

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Hm, given that jumping narrative, is there any fan editing potential in The English Patient? Despite featuring it in my Film World War, and being into period (especially WW2) films, I haven't even seen it yet. :)
 

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Hm, given that jumping narrative, is there any fan editing potential in The English Patient? Despite featuring it in my Film World War, and being into period (especially WW2) films, I haven't even seen it yet. :)

You could do a chronological cut. It might not work better but it would be interesting to see. There are also several deleted scenes but I think they are in poor quality.
 

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Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Director: John Badham
Country: United States
Length: 119 minute
Type: Drama, Dance

'Saturday Night Fever' was insanely successful, it made a billion dollars in today's money, on a very modest budget and a hard R-rating. The soundtrack album is still in the top-10 selling albums of all-time. I can see why, every song featured in the movie remains a classic that everybody knows the words to, there are so many iconic scenes and it's directed with such energy and force by John Badham. I was expecting a glitzy, glamorous show but not the Martin Scorsese level grim and dangerous portrait of life in New York's scuzzy 1970s environs. It's got scenes about drug abuse, abortion, gang violence, rape and suicide. It actually reminded me a lot of 1979's 'The Warriors', perhaps a spin-off about a Disco-themed Brooklyn gang! The dialogue is so well written and believable, the coffee shop scene (just two people talking) is one of the best I've seen, it's full of tension. Of course the dance sequences are the greatest bits, John Travolta is electrifying to watch.


This scene is so well written and acted:

 

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You could do a chronological cut. It might not work better but it would be interesting to see. There are also several deleted scenes but I think they are in poor quality.

Are the two stories equally engaging, though, or could either be trimmed to focus on the other?
 

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Are the two stories equally engaging, though, or could either be trimmed to focus on the other?

There is sort of three stories going on. One romance in the past that happened to the titular "English Patient" and then in the present the EP lies dying in bed, cared for by a nurse, who herself has a second romance with a sapper. Personally I found the present day romance the best (although it's secondary to the main one), then the past romance and the guy lying in bed the least interesting.

You could recut it in all kinds of ways. Use the present as bookends, that is rarely (if ever cut back to). Arrange the footage in distinct Tarantino style non-linear chapters. Cut all the present day stuff out, or trim it right back, even remove the second romance, or vice versa. Or simply do the same sort of back and forth structure but do it better.
 

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^I'm remembering now....that second romance seemed distracting for me and kind of made the film overlong. Though I supposed you were meant to be wondering exactly who the "patient" in bandages was for much of the film, and perhaps streamlining either romance would take away the thrill and mystery of that? I guess I'd have to see it done to know...

Saturday Night Fever (1977)
I was expecting a glitzy, glamorous show but not the Martin Scorsese level grim and dangerous portrait of life in New York's scuzzy 1970s environs. It's got scenes about drug abuse, abortion, gang violence, rape and suicide. It actually reminded me a lot of 1979's 'The Warriors', perhaps a spin-off about a Disco-themed Brooklyn gang! The dialogue is so well written and believable, the coffee shop scene (just two people talking) is one of the best I've seen, it's full of tension. Of course the dance sequences are the greatest bits, John Travolta is electrifying to watch.
Damn, you just convinced me to watch this! It's been kind of a guilty blindspot for many years, but I just kept imagining sitting down for a night of compelling disco dancing drama and was having a hard time imagining really enjoying that unless in the right mood with the right people (and probably the right level of adult drinks circulating). I can now think of this as a film which could transcend the zeitgeist of its period.
 

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The Firemen's Ball (1967)
Director: Milos Forman
Country: Czechoslovakia
Length: 73 minutes
Type: Comedy, Satire

'The Firemen's Ball' instantly reminded me of the beloved British sitcom 'Dad's Army'. It's got a similar group of silly old men in a volunteer organisation, trying to organise an event in a village hall but everything goes wrong. It's delightfully funny from start to finish. The running gag about the people at the ball stealing the prizes for the raffle was my favourite bit. That Director Milos Forman intended the film as an allegory/satire on the dysfunction of the Czech Communist state is an added bonus, an extra layer of humour to savour (or you can just laugh at the surface jokes).

 

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Shaft (1971)
Director: Gordon Parks
Country: United States
Length: 100 minutes
Type: Crime, Action, Blaxploitation

Beneath the genre-defining new "Blaxploitation" attitude, explosive action and sexy 70s cool, 'Shaft' is a classic Film-Noir private-eye movie. If there wasn't 30-years between them, Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade could easily team up with Shaft to search for 'The Maltese Falcon' through a web of lies, with both the cops and gangsters on their tails. The opening titles are iconic, where Richard Roundtree is striding through New York like he owns the place (traffic has to stop for him) with Isaac Hayes' sensational funky theme playing. I loved the antagonistic but warm relationship Shaft has with Charles Cioffi's gruff police lieutenant (he looks like he's having a "Tums festival" :LOL: ). I should have taken this action-packed thrill ride a long time ago!

 

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Planet of the Apes (1968)
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Country: United States
Length: 112 minutes
Type: Sci-Fi

The opening act of 'Planet of the Apes' really drives home what a technical tour de force Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' was. PotA was released in the same year and although produced on half the budget, it looks more like a hundredth. The cheap, ill-thought-out props, terrible glued-on beards and poor quality FX would look embarrassing in a fan film these days. However, the compelling story, complex characters, passionate central performance by Charlton Heston, fascinating science-fiction concept, intellectual ideas and still pertinent political commentary (except for the dated 60s references in relation to the young Lucius character) make 'Planet of the Apes' work terrifically well a half century later and keep it re-watchable. Much has been said about the iconic final scene being spoiled for potential viewers by the film's marketing but I think it hardly matters. I can't believe a modern audience raised on a diet of pop-culture TV shows, films and comics about space, time travel and parallel universes wouldn't immediately guess what was really going on, in fact I reckon they'd assume it from the get go and be wondering why Taylor never even considers the possibility. It was forward thinking that the film portrays the USA as having black and female astronauts as standard, it's just a shame that it would take NASA a further 15 years to make that a reality.

A delightfully "grindhouse" 35mm original trailer:

 

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^Right!? I just watched Shaft last year and was shocked at how much it was genuinely a good movie and not just all style. Made me curious to check out the sequels...

So true about PotA, too. But I can't believe you didn't mention one of the most stunning women ever put on celluloid, Linda Harrison...
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