Fiction - Commercial - Corporate - Animation - Documentary
The prospect of a single-actor, mono-location film about the last days of disgraced US president Richard Nixon might not scream « quality entertainment » to most viewers, but the result, Robert Altman’s 1984 film with virtuoso performer Philip Baker Hall, is truly amazing, and a must-see for any aspiring actor.
Unfairly overlooked by audiences and a large enough proportion of Academy voters upon release, Curtis Hanson’s razor-sharp adaptation of James Ellroy’s magnum opus was born a classic. This rarest of mainstream films demands every inch of your concentration and rewards it with a devilishly clever plot, wonderful sense of detail and a cast at the peak of its powers. If you ever find yourself wondering why the world was once in love with Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey or even Kim Basinger, look no further. And, as if that weren’t enough already, it looks and sounds amazing. Yes, we’re clearly smitten.
Chris Marker’s unparalleled achievement asks profound questions about the nature of space, time, memory and even cinema itself, and if that sounds like a boring prospect, do yourself a favor and find out for yourself. The documentarian/photographer/philosopher edits this unusual globetrotting video travelogue into a mind-bending, audacious marvel that is endlessly rewarding, everything a great film should be.
Of all Yasujiro Ozu’s quiet masterpieces on the decay of the traditional Japanese family, this one, his swan-song, might well be the most touching. It is certainly his most visually accomplished, refining his trademark style to its peak and enhancing it with a masterful use of color and composition. If we’re making it sound like an overwhelming experience, fear not: its real appeal is in its effortless, understated grace. Open your heart to this one, and we guarantee you’ll keep returning to it for years to come.
It takes a lot of confidence to make a film like Mishima, and even more clout to get it funded. Thank your lucky stars that writer/director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Last Temptation of Christ and Blue Collar) was at the peak of his artistry and had the backing of pals George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. His elegant take on the life of the controversial Japanese author and playwright might be niche audience material, but it pulls out all the stops, down to a fiercly dedicated leading performance by Ken Ogata and score by Philip Glass. By most accounts, this one is among the finest films of the 80s and well worth your time.
We’re on a globe-trotting spree this Summer, and of all our destinations, Iceland was the one that blew our minds away. Consequently, our late Summer double-bill is viking-themed. First, we have Kirk Douglas vehicle « The Vikings » (1958). It’s silly and slightly camp, and it’s everything you’d expect in all the right ways, down to a gravelly Orson Welles narration and wild turn from Ernest Borgnine as a Viking king. Then, we have the more subdued « Beowulf and Grendel » (2005), making awesome use of Icelandic locations and a pre-300 fame Gerard Butler.
Czech animation genius Jan Svankmajer’s masterpiece is as far as you can get from Disney’s interpretation of the classic Lewis Carroll tale. While the later is famously deranged, this version is inches from being a fully-fledged horror film, claustrophobic and oppressive. It’s jittery creatures, from a psychotic white rabbit to a wonderfully disturbing take on the caterpillar, are the stuff nightmares are made of. Unmissable.
Before Star Trek was a fully fledged religion, a multimedia behemoth spanning 5 show, 12 films (and counting), books, video games and the like, it was an unproven, vulnerable and daring concept. The pilot, retitled « The Cage » was rejected as a pilot for being too cerebral and low on action, but nearly 50 years on, this stand-alone episode could well be one of the finest science fiction films ever made, never mind the glorious retro-kitsch masterpiece it equally qualifies as.
What is it about the 70s and film? Perhaps it is the serendipitous mix of new hard drugs and a more adventurous, curious market that meant filmmakers were given more freedom to experiment. Freedom, drugs and adventure were undoubtedly all essential components of René Laloux’s « La Planète Sauvage », a frighteningly Orwellian nightmare visualized as futuristic Hieronymus Bosch works in motion. The technique is dated, but the look and story are still uniquely effective, as is the dispassionate cruelty on display. One of the finest science-fiction parables out there.
Sam Peckinpah’s place in History is secure for The Wild Bunch alone – the violent epic that invented the exit wound squib and used more ammo than the Mexican revolution. But his finest, most haunting work is this follow-up, starring James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson and scored by Bob Dylan. The quiet scenes between the bouts of mayhem have a deep sense of waste, tragedy and loss that few films have equaled since.