My Favorite Movies


  1. ElCochran90
  2. Edgar

The list is in order of personal preference.

  ElCochran90's Rating My Rating
1
Sátántangó (Satan's Tango) 1994,  Unrated)
Sátántangó (Satan's Tango)
"Not that human life was so highly valued. Keeping order appears to be the business of the authorities, but in fact it's the business of all. Order. Freedom, however, has nothing human. It's something divine, something... our lives are too short for us to know properly. If you're looking for a link, think of Pericles, order and freedom are linked by passion. We have to believe in both, we suffer from both. Both from order and freedom. But human life is meaningful, rich, beautiful and filthy. It links everything. It mistreats freedom only... wasting it, as if it was junk. People don't like freedom, they are afraid of it. The strange thing is there is nothing to fear about freedom... order, on the other hand, can often be frightening."



SÁTÁNTANGÓ (1994)




Director: Béla Tarr

Country: Hungary / Germany / Switzerland

Genre: Drama

Length: 450 minutes



Satan's Tango,Satantango,Satan Tango,BÃ (C)la Tarr,Hungary




Before starting to construct a modest, fully developed essay about Béla Tarr's Sátántangó, let's make a nostalgic resume about some of the most wonderful experiences cinema has offered throughout its history. German Expressionism represented the pinnacle of Berlin's technical vision and resulted in the most visually captivating and thought-provoking classic masterpiece up to a hair-rising degree. After the Second World War, the emotional, physical and financial devastation and crisis the world was facing had a cinematic reaction in Europe and, latterly, in Mexico. The Italian neorealism is born as a form of expression that was meant to be so strong, so modest and so pitiful in nature that its resulting effect created a cathartic effect. It was a movement that, for some audiences, was released at the most inappropriate, hurtful time, but it had an everlasting effect nonetheless. New branches of filmmaking, including mere experimentation, are inevitably born and establish a trademark that would either result in a landmark way of making films or become successful failures, especially concerning films that would miserably fail because of predominant pretentiousness, dullness or missed marks. Finally, cinema became in an almost completely referential art, making homages to the beautiful stillness of the Soviet Union thanks to Andrei Tarkovsky, the black-and-white art that the film-noir genre would offer principally through the United States and the United Kingdom, and the melodramatic and clichéd touch that was completely accepted by audiences that belonged to the Golden Age of cinema, a characteristic that helped a lot to the success of the most famous American classics. Combine all of those elements in a single feature film and add approximately seven-and-a-half spoonfuls of French surrealism, mix the cinematic bowl, let it rest for four years and disseminate it through the audiences around the world before the new millennium begins. 1994 was the year that cinema itself witnessed the finest forms of cinematographic and artistic expressions combined in a single film that slowly passes as life itself. What are the main characteristics of the film? It is from Hungary, it was directed by Béla Tarr, it contains one of the longest average shot lengths in any motion picture (approximately 2.43 minutes), it has the longest shot ever filmed, which lasts around 620 seconds (excluding the films that are composed by one single take such as Timecode [2000] Russkiy Kovcheg [2002], PVC-1 [2007] and Nokta [2008]), it is one of the longest films ever made without being separated into episodes, reaching the length of 450 glorious minutes, and it is the best film ever made, a movie consisting of nearly 185 shots throughout its length. There is no director, cinema fan or critic that can wholeheartedly affirm that such masterful mammoth was released at the right time. No one can fully assure that Sátántangó rescued cinema. Bad films are still being made and Sátántangó did not precisely become an extraordinary landmark event for the arts. Does the film have the ultimate ability to achieve such massive task on Earth? Yes, it does. However, on my humble and literally insignificant opinion, not all human eyes are ready yet to digest 27,000 seconds of symbolisms and dozens of life lessons in a single sitting. The purposes and motivations within Béla Tarr's mind are the least clear things that remain. However, he is entitled to avoid giving away any explanation whatsoever. The remaining thing is this magnum opus that is as big, perplexing, captivating, gorgeous, spellbinding, orgasmic, exciting, haunting, hypnotizing, masterful, extraordinary, unparalleled, visionary, skeptic, delicate, gigantic, grandiose, wonderful, tear-inducing, breathtaking and marvelous as life itself.



Seemingly, the film takes place in a remote village of 1980's Hungary. All of the residents are eagerly expecting to receive a considerable cash payment and to embark on a personal, independent life journey with such material support as their life-jumping mattress. Greed is naturally an obvious characteristic of man's ego, so some of them even plan to receive larger amounts of money earlier. An odyssey of self-reflection as enormous as the size of the Universe is about to begin when gossipy concerning Irimiás' return to town, a man everybody thought dead, is propagated. His brilliant manipulation and calm voice and attitude are the main personality characteristics that alarm all of the residents since the suspicion of him getting away with all the money through a giant scheme becomes an idea that start to haunt both their heads and their consciousness. The main purpose of Irimiás may even go beyond controlling the community with a supposedly convenient, financial plan. The only award this miscomprehended giant won is a Caligari Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Sometime in the future, perhaps some decades from now, it will finally receive the recognition it deserves. Genius directors are never properly recognized until its effect is proved to have remained through the decades. Nowadays, we have one genius on our hands going severely unnoticed. His name is Béla Tarr, and he is a poet.



Sátántangó provides the ultimate, definitive cinema experience. There is almost no other experience that can surpass the epic magnitude and colossal amazement Sátántangó does without being pretentious, slow, and tedious and without Béla Tarr fancying himself. He may not even fully recognize the brilliance and striking poetry that govern his mind just like Jodorowsky had no idea if his films were particularly good or not. He is an expressionist and arguably the most faithful portrayal of the time relativity of life and of the human condition. Tarr congregates the thoughts and the emotions that some people, those people who are capable of processing and creating thoughts during every single second of consciousness regardless of the specific action they are performing at the moment, own while personally thinking that nobody can see the world nor understand their mentality. That mental attitude is completely truthful. Federico Fellini understood it. He urged the world to see life like he did. Consequently, considering the aforementioned aspects, what is the most accessible and complete art that could fully express their vision? The language of cinema is the means they resorted to, including other outstanding, timeless directors, and tried to translate it through images. Tarr used images, Fellini combined images with dialogue, Tarkovsky mixed stillness with poetry and philosophy, Buñuel mostly offered surrealism for symbolisms to be interpreted and contrasted with real life. Moreover, Tarr achieved to make the audience look at life itself without even reportedly confirming such aim.



These thoughts, ways of thinking and spiritual, even soulless sensations are the ones that compose the premise of Sátántangó. It is, obviously, a very possible consequence to be amazingly hypnotized by its visual style rather than to be convinced to pay attention to the plot. The director, voluntarily or not, homages the styles that cinema had given birth to for a hundred years, considering it was filmed in a period of four years (1990-1994). Each hour of the film coverts us to one more resident, a resident that is offered the opportunity to live the rural lives held by the habitants and to witness it from different points of view. That nostalgic and typically felt sensation of wanting to be in several places at the same time is one of the divine opportunities that Béla Tarr has the mercy of offering to the viewer. It is not precisely treated as stories that intertwine, but that there is a superior force that acts with the sole, predestined intention to gather either self-centered or confused souls and make them live the exact same situation. The psychological background suddenly disappears with its importance dimming slowly. It is the aftermath that matters. It is how, each one of the characters, intentionally trying to mirror the persons that form the base of the cinematic audience, to feel empathetic, thus causing a devastating and even frightening cathartic feeling. Alcoholism, solitude, atheism, greed and arrogance bring devastating results to the perspective characters that suit one of these human defects. It is inevitable: life is life.



The attention to detail is not exaggerated. The cinematography by Gábor Medvigy may be one of the most spellbinding in the entire history of cinema!!! The technique of following a character for several big lengths is a technique that was directly influenced by Greek filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos and Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. However, Tarkovsky emphasized the stillness of a well-balanced take, and Angelopoulos was more mobile. Either partially (Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Kenneth Brannagh and dozens others) or totally (Gus Van Sant), Sátántangó is an influential piece of filmmaking from wherever it may be seen. It diminishes the physical size of the human race and ennobles the spiritual qualities that distinguish it from above any other animal species. Have you ever wondered or even wanted to know what if feels like to stand still in the middle of the rain and looking towards the sky without the concern of being sick? Have you ever wished to know what it feels like to be the last one to leave a party that ends until the latest hours of the night? Have you ever been awed by the skill and delicacy implied in the work of a spider? The spider seems to be floating in the air, suspended by an invisible force. Yet, it is a thread so thing that it sometimes can't be seen, but it is strong enough to support its weight. Have you ever loved the visible and graphical chain reactions caused by a series of events? Have you ever stared at an amazing spectacle of nature, such as a waterfall, a flower waking up in the morning, a snake eating a rat, a seagull hunting a fish, or a mystical display of fog landing on the earth? Have you ever experienced a déjà-vu, or being internally struck by an epiphany of dramatic proportions? Those tiny little details of life, seen through the right, trained, experienced, artistic and harmonious eyes are depicted in the exact same way. A master's lens is converted into a replica of reality despite the black-and-white use, a fact that strictly convinces the viewer that the film is a colossal homage to classic films. However, these small, tiny details that praise the five senses God gave to us in his infinite wisdom are not the only ones that are glorified. Vast landscapes, the beauty of walking a straight road surrounded by fields in a balanced way with a complete view of the sky, the art that a symmetrical construction seen from the right angles involves, among other aspects that form part of the roads we daily drive through and walk on are present. The second chapter of the film titled "Raising from the Dead" has one of the most spellbinding, harmonious and beautifully realistic, suburban shots ever put to the big screen. Even so, several sequences throughout seven-and-a-half-hours are easily included into a list of the most staggering and creative, not to mention poignant sequences in the history of the motion picture.



The human condition and empowerment ultimately destroy the characters. The lack of control and independence over other people or beings is symbolized in a sequence where a charming little girl tortures a cat in physical and psychological forms. The final destiny the cat faces is the same one the girl decides to face. However, she takes the necessary bravery from witnessing the act and suffering that it would probably involved through making an "inferior being" to suffer the exact same fate before she does. The psychological reasons behind her motivations may me originated from destroyed illusions, lack of attention and constant deceptions. It may be a clear outcome because of how degraded the town already is. Usually, kids are symbolisms of the original innocence the human race originally possesses before being perverted by the surrounding society, perhaps the most important element that drove to the conclusion of another future Béla Tarr film, Werckmeister Harmóniák (2000). Every single character has an epiphany, including Irimiás, and the sequence showing the aforementioned girl is the key hour of the film that suggests the doom of the village. The final sequence of the Doctor having a religious epiphany is the most memorable, surreal and discussed scene of the entire film for the majority of the audience that witnessed the spectacle of Sátántangó. The title of the film is clearly illustrated in a long, extraordinarily built and shot sequence where the villagers are desperately expecting for the unexpected arrival of Irimiás while everybody dance in a considerably drunk state. They are in the "nipples of Satan". To what extent can a remote Hungarian village become a modern Sodom? They require the aid of God, the One and Only. The wisdom and physical resemblance of Irimiás with Jesus Christ is an element that we may be able to throw into the analysis of the film. Even the chronological order of the events is relative. Subjectivity of all arts is present in the film, establishing itself as another art form.



Sátántangó surpasses itself. Is that possible? Can a film surpass itself? That is a direct contradiction! This last statement I made may leave you as perplex as the overall experience of the film. Béla Tarr has reached a pinnacle within the most recent and financially successful art. It can reach such indescribable levels of grandiosity and epic measures that the human eye will even feel destroyed. It is one of those films that are mentioned when coming to a general, impossible discussion of what the best movie ever made may be. This is the best film ever made. You can finally stop the search now; the day has come. In fact, it came two decades ago, but the world wasn't ready to understand it and witness it. It surpasses all expectations, it surpasses the best masterpieces of the greatest directors that could ever have grabbed a camera, and it beats the saintliness of films by Dreyer, Bresson and Tarkovsky, the poetry by Antonioni and Resnais, the human testaments of Bergman, Fellini and Rossellini, the artistic beauty of Kobayashi and Mizoguchi, the literary talent of Truffaut, Godard and Kurosawa. Tarr is a god of cinema and Irimiás is his Jesus who everybody thought was dead, but has come back for our redemption and even having the mercy for letting us have a new beginning. If we deny Him, the eerie music plays its role, ending in the same way the ending scene closes: with darkness... eternal darkness... We should stop creating and imagining the sound of bells, because God is the owner of all. Perdition and an eternal wait for something that will never come are not the best way. They will never become the answers to the prayers we never did.



100/100
2
Andrei Rublev 1966,  Unrated)
Andrei Rublev
"Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth and the thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth. Walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes but know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth before the difficult days come and the years draw nigh when thou shalt say "I have no pleasure in them." Remember thy creator before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken or the pitcher shattered at the fountain or the wheel broken at the well. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. "Vanity of vanities," saith the preacher; "All is vanity.""



ANDREY RUBLYOV (1966)




Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Country: Soviet Union

Genre: Biography / Drama / War

Length: 205 minutes



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Thanks to the power and humanism of a gripping anti-war manifesto called Ivanovo Detstvo (1962) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, his next epic project Andrey Rublyov had a considerable amount of high expectations from the Russian audience. Naturally, something that continues happening even nowadays, the film surpassed any possible human expectation, being the cinematic result a politically brutal and violent motion picture with a highly sexual tone. The most obvious consequence was the film being prohibited by the Russian government for approximately three years, complicating a wider worldwide distribution while being subject to several edited versions mostly removing every scene involving profanity, its greatly predominant Catholic influence and the noticeably violent torture and battle sequences. Decades had to pass so the actuality audience could witness the full masterpiece of Andrei Tarkovsky completely restored in its 205-minute length. Objectively speaking, most of the films that are considered too violent, too scandalous and utterly disrespectful in their respective eras worry both partially and totally totalitarian governments for the political ideas it presents, including their particular depiction relying on the filmmaking style and auteur vision. The most honest truth is that Andrey Rublyov belongs to a superior category within the art of filmmaking because of its pure sheer brilliance, its dominative skepticism and, ultimately, because of Andrey Tarkovsky, a cinema master.



Andrey Rublyov unfolds its story in the 15th Century, one of the most tragic and catastrophic periods of Russian history where numerous battles against Tatar invasions predominated. The film focuses on the icon painter Andrei Rublev from the very beginnings of his artistic influence in town, traveling and hiding from the Tatars and being asked to paint a fresco of The Last Judgment in the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow while the scaffolding was still being built. Despite that the audience was prevented from seeing the film, which was screened during very early hours of the morning, the film won the FIPRESCI prize in 1969 at the Cannes Film Festival.



Andrey Rublyov is the film that primarily showed the upcoming filming style of Andrei Tarkovsky for the first time. The political content and the strength Catholicism had already acquired were the principal motors that justified and beautifully unfolded the plot of the film which was abundant in substance and in philosophical depth. Both Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky developed one of the most complex, provocative and poetic screenplays that could ever give birth to an epic motion picture. The lack of music can be immediately compared with the lack of inspiration that Andrei Rublev transmitted through his paintings, a possible immediate consequence of such turbulent times, resulting in a struggle for maintaining faith in God. When music is employed, its quiet and mystic beauty and tranquility allow both the protagonists to physically take a break from the events they inevitably were meant to go through and allow the spectator to psychologically be hypnotized with the visual style and the gorgeousness of vast landscapes and the love of God.



Evidently, Tarkovsky utilizes lengthy shots that let the time pass like life itself. The editing is effective enough to guarantee a visually pleasant watch, but the cinematography and the length of every single shot acquire an independent timing that allows the film to offer a skeptic perspective. This is the skepticism that Andrei Rublev has gained through his spiritual journey from a religious point of view, but not necessarily questioning the existence of God and a universal truth that governs the world. The frequent questionings arise from unperceived motives that should guide his actions through the right path. Tatar invasions are raping the peacefulness of the Soviet Union while he, ironically, is asked to paint the Last Judgment in the ruins of a church that has not yet been fully built... nor has he. No matter how inexperienced the performances may seem, it even suddenly transmits a rather odd neorealist feeling, and the most believable reactions one is expecting from the characters clearly should lack exaggerated displays of strong emotions and spiritual perdition.



Andrey Rublyov possesses one of the most interesting and haunting scenes ever filmed. An intentionally historically-inaccurate sequence depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is presented while the main character considers the possibility of His death as being divine plan that was meant to reconcile man. His ideas and interpretation of the meaning and influence of Jesus Christ in the existence of the human race are already torn up; therefore, the inaccuracy of the aforementioned scene is justified, since it is a peculiar characteristic that can be immediately contrasted with how life tribulations tend to weaken the faith we should eternally keep towards God. Andrei Rublev is an individual representation of a personal tragedy and of an almost unstoppable loss of religion because of man's constant and never-ending territorial and political wars. This tragedy is implicitly mirrored with the brutality the whole nation was going through. The consequences of irony are a factor that could not be omitted.



Thanks to all of the characteristics mentioned above, a high display of graphic violence and orgiastic rituals were the elements that caused so much controversy back in the 60's. However, a politically correct film must not necessarily be a kind movie towards its audience. It must clearly show to what band the director decided to belong if neutrality is not part of his main ideals. Tarkovsky fulfilled such task and had enough guts to throw in a very powerful religious perspective that would help in every single artistic, cinematographic and plot aspect. The final outcome is one of the most audacious and provocative magnum opuses ever committed to celluloid.



Andrey Rublyov is not only the director's best film, but one of the strongest candidates for the best film ever made, literally speaking. It is a direct message towards the Catholic worldwide population and an undeniable masterpiece towards atheistic and agnostic people. Captivating epiphanies, a riotous conclusion and one of the most visually beautiful and haunting sequences ever filmed in full color are just some of the elements that the movie presents. It is the trademark of a genius, a brave effort at creating a grandiose testament more epic in philosophical depth than in its mere running time and quite possibly the best foreign film ever directed. Words won't suffice for writing a proper review rather than expressing one's amazement, but it is a film almost as big as life itself and a dream come true for anyone who supports expressive art forms and the complexity of existence itself, subjectively speaking. Finally, it is a masterwork that has the divine ability to transform people and to make them see life differently. I do now.



100/100
3
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968,  G)
2001: A Space Odyssey
"Open the pad bay doors please, Hal."



2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)




Director: Stanley Kubrick

Country: United Kingdom / United States of America

Genre: Science Fiction / Adventure / Mistery

Length: 148 minutes



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This is, probably, the most complicated review I will ever make about a movie. 2001: A Space Odyssey is definitely a new wonder of the world that goes beyond the definition of cinema itself. 2001: A Space Odyssey is pure art... cosmic art. Because of its majesty, among many other aspects that will be treated in a moment, it became in what many people consider "the mother of sci-fi films". For me, the real mother of sci-fi films is Metropolis (1927), so we'll consider 2001: A Space Odyssey as the mother of space sci-fi films and Metropolis (1927) as the true mother of sci-fi films. Undoubtedly, not even a single written review on this planet does complete justice to what 2001: A Space Odyssey manages to transmit to worldwide audiences if we do a full recount of what this masterpiece accomplishes. This is the most beautiful proof of the famous phrase "an image is more worthy than 1,000 words", so 2001: A Space Odyssey should be a seen and heard experience, but not only spoken or read about without seeing it.



2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterpiece ahead of its time. That's a fact. Stanley Kubrick's direction is so unique and brilliant that despite the fact that he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, lost to Carol Reed with his charming, yet inferior musical Oliver! (1968), which is incredibly stupid. However, the 60's can not be entirely put to blame. Thank God the Academy was not so blinded with so much majesty and glory on the screen 40 years ago and awarded the film for Best Special Effects. I'll write a paragraph specifically about that aspect as well. The awards for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration were not won by the film either: it just won an Oscar... Undoubtedly, 2001: A Space Odyssey has redefined both the genre itself and the definitions of "cinema" and "direction".



2001: A Space Odyssey tells the story of a mysterious artifact that is discovered buried on the moon, which, curiously, is estimated to have been buried about 4 million years ago. Eighteen months later, once that a signal being sent to Jupiter from the moon is detected, a team is sent to investigate along with the computer HAL-9000. Being more honest about this, the plot is the least important thing about the film, since it only helps to get to the point the film tries to make and to establish the theories that the film exposes.



Since the first seconds of the film run, Stanley Kubrick shows his ability to create art with cinematography. From the prehistoric Africa to the confines of space, every shot, every angle, every camera rotation, every sequence is incredibly filmed and taken care of, adjusting themselves to a stunning and unparalleled perfection. That's why, cinematographically speaking, 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most beautiful and sensual experiences I've ever had: a true, authentic odyssey. The fact that the film wasn't nominated for Best Cinematography either is beyond me. To all of the things we've mentioned, we'll talk about two mire essential aspects in Kubrick's filmmaking style: the music and the pace.



The music of Johann Strauss is one of the most elegant and harmonious choices for the creation of atmospheres in a film that I have ever seen. Songs like "The Blue Danube" and "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," beautifully performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, makes us feel like dancing in the stars throughout space like if we were little children. The rhythm and pace of each sequence has a specific purpose, transforming each shot into something that must be admired at its fullest, never losing their original meaning; not one single shot is a leftover since everything forms part of a gradual process of transmitting a message. The pace is obviously not fast. Nor is it slow. It is just the best for a story of such uniqueness and depth.



Finally, talking about the cinematographic and technical aspects of the film, one of the most amazing and innovative characteristics for the year of 1968 (analyze that number, please) were the special effects. The way these were created, the creativity that required bringing them to the screen, are details that ultimately end up being completely irrelevant. What really matters about the special effects is that they can create and portray a universe, the emotions they cause in us (including travelling to infinity), the brilliance they have, the genius they represent, the way they hypnotize us, and the beautiful, wide range of colors they include. Just take a look at those colors! I even dare to say that those are the best special effects I've seen in my life.



Well... it's time to actually start talking about 2001: A Space Odyssey:



2001: A Space Odyssey is more than just a trip or a simple odyssey. It is a reflection, a commentary... one of the most chilling and true commentaries I've seen in my life, by the way. Neither the 60's nor subsequent decades were ready for such a complex message. In fact, they were so unready that almost nobody really understood the film. The movie was called "tedious," "boring", "stupid", and it was said that "it didn't make sense at all". There was so much anger that even nowadays people can't understand why 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered one of the best films of all time. Therefore, these people show and express their anger calling it "the worst / most boring movie of all time." Why do they do that, you ask? They do that because they don't want to feel stupid. I'm not saying that people are stupid if they do not get the film, but that's how they usually feel. What they do not understand is the fact that the film itself is not easy to watch, and if a person does not prepare to watch the film with an open mind and fails to receive the beauty that 2001: A Space Odyssey ends up transmitting, admiring its majesty in the way that Stanley Kubrick planned since the beginning, and neither the person prepares to see a whole new, deep, complex experience, different from the usual garbage that modern cinema represents nowadays (especially the sci-fi genre), the experience becomes into a more tedious, longer and never-ending one, until the glorious moment finally arrives: "THE MOVIE ENDS!" Unfortunately, we do not live in a society that is eager to see new and different forms of art with an open mind; on the contrary, the modern society doesn't read, neither bothers to decompose something into different layers, neither applies critical thinking (just like when we were apes). Ironically, that is one of the main themes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Funny, isn't it? What people see nowadays is "a bunch of dumb apes jumping for 30 minutes" and "see the same spaceships over and over again in endless sequences".



Another key topic in 2001: A Space Odyssey is the evolution of mankind. A highly relevant element within the plot is a deliberately placed monolith in the most important evolutionary stages of man. It is first seen in the prehistoric Africa, 4 million years ago when the man was an ape: "The Dawn of Man." The reactions the apes show are exactly the same ones that we as fully evolved and rational beings would show nowadays: fear, curiosity, astonishment. From this moment on, the man discovers the use of tools that are at his reach and the creativity to create new ones according to their specific survival needs. However, as time went by, such tools ceased to serve these purposes and they became artifacts that made of our lives something a little bit easier and comfortable. Finally, when man is at the top of his evolutionary process, the second part of the story begins. The brutal development of technology allowed us to know a little bit more about the visible Universe that man has acknowledgment of, until now...



It is exactly at this point when Kubrick expresses his opinion about man and his possible role and relevance in the Universe. In 1997, Robert Zemeckis directed a film called Contact, in which a thoughtful comment is made near the end of the film: since the size of the Universe goes beyond our imagination, it makes our size and the space Earth occupies look almost meaningless, which makes us think that we are talking about an immense waste of space. Kubrick exposed this idea in a more brutal and direct manner 30 years ago. Just like when we were apes, just like when we were born and just like when we grew up to be just children at some point, man finds himself in a condition of similar vulnerability and dependence (towards technology) one more time once he is in space. Man requires special grip shoes in order to walk due to the lack of gravity, requires of a deep hibernation state in order to assure a longer survival period and requires food literally turned into pulp so he can provide his organism with essential nutrients. The music of Strauss and the way the Universe (in fact, only the Solar System, a tiny part of the Universe itself) is represented makes us look SO small, that we do not know if our reaction should be based in fear or laughter. In fact, we are nothing. We are just a race in charge of getting rid of a planet located in the Solar System the best way we can, a race so curious that ends up ambitioning space travel in order to explore and builds a base on the moon.



Just as we mentioned, the monolith appears during the most important evolutionary stages of man: firstly 4 million years ago, then in the future (as the film in 2001) where we are capable of exploring the space and walking on the moon, and finally both in the infinity of space and in the death of man. Whether the monolith has a particular meaning or not, the truth is that the monolith is placed there more than just deliberately. It is present in the biggest challenges of man and has a notorious influence in our evolutionary process. That is a fact.



The antagonist is one of the cruelest and coldest "villains" I have ever seen. The most chilling part is that the antagonist is a technological creation of man. The same man, blinded by industrialization, commerce, a faster technological development than those of the most powerful countries in the world, among other things, make him build machines that can amaze each new generation and each new millennium even more intensely, and (the worst of all) that can "imitate" human reasoning and emotions that distinguish us as human beings. That is the element Kubrick uses to create chaos. Although it ain't the first time that the concept of conflict between man and machines has been portrayed on a film, 2001: A Space Odyssey has definitely one of the most memorable, making HAL-9000 to become aware of its existence and to believe that it is "alive". Some may say that HAL-9000 won the battle but not the war, so man triumphs in the man-machine conflict. Obviously, this is totally untrue. If that were true, the man would not have taken his own spaceship and the thousands of artifacts in it to travel to Jupiter afterwards. We are incredibly dependent of technology and machines so greatly that it is laughable.



Another complicated issue treated by the film is the anxiety and curiosity that has always distinguished man for the comprehension of all phenomena around him so he can get to know what the human eye can't perceive or isn't able to see. Therefore, man is divided into two categories and creates two ways of thinking: science and philosophy (somehow linked with religion). That's why human beings are an agnostic and existentialist race in the deepest part of their being. We all have thought at least once about the classic 20 million dollar questions: "What are we?", "Where do we come from and where are we going?" and "What is the meaning of life?". The protagonist has a journey so intense and revealing, and experiences a rebirth so special and meaningful (becoming a very special being himself) at the end of the film, that, within the film, he's probably the only human being that ends up receiving the answers to these questions in a very direct and supernatural way. I'm definitely not suggesting that 2001: A Space Odyssey has the definitive answers to these questions, questions that I think we should not fully understand yet (what would be the purpose of life if we already understood them beforehand?) but the director definitely expresses his own opinion and what he thinks about the topic.



The last scene, which takes place in a very particular scenario of a very peculiar silence and a color that is so peaceful that one feels like floating when walking, is completely symbolic. There are different theories about what actually happened since the monolith made its penultimate appearance near Jupiter: the monolith opened a black hole; the protagonist travels to the fourth dimension where the schemes of time and space are broken; the protagonist meets God at the middle of his travel and he starts to have visions. Regardless of what actually could have happened, it is pretty obvious that the monolith had a big influence on it (once again), being a crucial element for concluding the story. We shouldn't take this scenario (the room) in its most literal form; it just shows the fragility of man and how vulnerable he can be specifically talking about the container of both the spirit and soul (the religious part and the emotional one) that is the body itself. The cup didn't just "fell accidentally". It tries to represent that our "container" may break at any time. "Death has its victory so assured that it gave us a whole life of advantage. Live it." Death can reach us at any time, an event that represents the final challenge of man: the transition to another life, or if you prefer it, the discovery of events that follow death if there is actually a new life.



The ending scene, which is one of the best scenes in movie history for me - just like the opening scene, the scene with the ape and the bone throwing, and the space sequence which begins with a bone thrown to the air which is transformed into a satellite - shows the rebirth of man as a very unique and special being: the Star-Child. That's the most perfect way to conclude all the theories and opinions that Kubrick showed throughout 2001: A Space Odyssey for me. "We are star dust." We just became into a star between millions of stars, having literally the same size we had when we were humans in comparison with the existent, infinite Universe and space.



Not even this review does justice to what 2001: A Space Odyssey really is. Stanley Kubrick was one of the best directors of cinema history that has ever lived and this is his most representative work of art of the genius he was. Forty years later, he continues to cause controversy and place new questions in his films, which are left to interpretation and have open endings. 2001: A Space Odyssey belongs to a category of superior cinema to almost any other and has the honor of literally being one of the best films of all time, of using a new way of narrating an epic story and of revolutionizing the genre, influencing hundreds of filmmakers in the future. Glory on the screen, and a feast for the senses, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the definitive masterpiece of a genius, and a rather interesting comment of what we are and represent, and the meaning of life itself.



100/100
4
8 1/2 1963,  Unrated)
8 1/2
"Asa nisi masa! Asa nisi masa! Asa nisi masa!"



8 1/2 (1963)




Director: Federico Fellini

Country: Italy

Genre: Drama / Fantasy

Length: 138 minutes



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No matter how complicated and uncommon may accurately portraying metafilm be, few directors have accomplished to totally comprehend what filmmaking really means. The power of the words in a well-developed script, a cinematography and an editing that can go beyond our own words, a sublime direction like the one that could only come from a "giant of cinema", performances that are so great that they end up seeming extremely natural and the use of a beautiful original musical score that works for every scene of the film are characteristics that rarely can be found in a single movie. Federico Fellini, being one of my favorites "giants of cinema", directs what for many people's opinion (including mine) is his definitive masterpiece and the most representative sample of his visionary capacity of filmmaking, without mentioning that it is one of the best movies ever made by mankind.



8 1/2 depicts the story of a director named Guido who is retired from the movie business and who starts to turn to the past memories of his childhood and youth, coming to a point where he combines reality and fantasy. The movie won two Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White and Best Foreign Language Film, and had 3 other nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White losing against America, America (1963), Best Director losing against Tony Richardson for Tom Jones (1963) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen losing against How the West Was Won (1963). I totally disagree with the Academy Awards' choice for giving Tom Jones and How the West Was Won their respective Oscars.



There are many important points to emphasize about the direction. In order to give such grandiosity like the one given to 8 1/2 Federico Fellini was the only and most adequate director for the job back in the 60's. His spectacular vision inspired several filmmakers and directors in the future. On the other hand, this is his second movie that shows the total change that Federico Fellini gave to his filmmaking style since he left the neorealist subgenre, being his most prominent and famous films La Strada (1954) and Le Notti di Cabiria (1957), both having the wonderful leading performances of one of my favorite actresses: Giulietta Massina. Once he concluded this stage, he directed his second best film called La Dolce Vita in 1960, where it is clearly shown how he stops portraying the constant struggle of the society that lives in poor life conditions which was represented in a single person in postwar times (unlike the society shown in its totality, like the one Roberto Rosellini brought to the screen in Roma, Città Aperta [1946]) and starts to depict high class society in a very artistic and comical way. Whereas Fellini's neorealism focused on the struggle for survival in difficult life situations, La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2 make emphasis on the existence of the individual, which normally relies on the role of the protagonist of the story.



This movie has one of the best screenplays I have ever seen in my entire life. Besides being complex, poetic, intelligent and well-structured, it significantly helped the film to create particularly difficult and elaborate scenes concerning the appearance of the characters on the screen with their respective dialogues and the surrealism that some of these contained. The script also helps us distinguish between the fantasy and the reality that govern Guido's mind, constantly mixing each other. Federico Fellini created the story of 8 1/2 with Ennio Flaiano, screenwriter that worked with Fellini several times in the past, and they both created the film's screenplay with the help of the talented screenwriters Tullio Pinelli and Brunello Rondi. These 4 brilliant writers worked together for the first time with the screenplay of La Dolce Vita. The fact that the screenplay of 8 1/2 hadn't won an Oscar is beyond me.



The grandiosity of most of the scenes in 8 1/2 comes from the script, but if it hadn't been because of the brilliant edition, these would have never resulted the way they ended up being. The cinematography is outstanding, offering a vast variety of landscapes and both open and closed spaces, and the shots are incredibly constructed. If you put all of these elements together alongside with Fellini's vision, 8 1/2 ends up being one of the most poetical and beautiful films ever made in cinema history. The camera seems to play with the actors and with the different filming locations in which the story is set, dancing to the sound of the wonderful musical score created by Nino Rota. 8 1/2 is brilliance taken to the extreme; it is like if literature and cinema had fallen in love.



The performances were excellent. Marcello Mastroianni, playing the protagonist's role once more, brilliantly performs the confused, depressed, lost and nostalgic mind that Guido possesses from beginning to end. The famous actress Claudia Cardinale and Academy Award nominee Anouk Aimée also did a splendid job as supporting actresses. The cast was excellently chosen.



8 1/2 focuses on the human side that very few films focused for that time, and that even nowadays modern directors find difficulty in portraying correctly, just like Woody Allen paid homage to Fellini with his movie Stardust Memories (1980). Guido is found in a constant fight against his own emotions and memories in order to give his life sense and a meaning, and more than knowing what it is that he should do next with his life in order to be happy, what he really seems to be looking for the whole time is the very meaning of his actions and how these are related with the meaning of his existence. The constant failure leads him to perdition and to confuse reality with fantasy. That is why in the end of the film, which I will not dare to mention, is very revealing, not mentioning that several times we are also going through that difficult phase of confusion and loss of faith.



Something that is very characteristic from Guido's psychology is that he finds (or tries to find) comfort with his own filmic creations, like if these actually existed and had played a very important role in Guido's real life. He comes to a point of such low self-esteem that the simple fact of starting again distinguish his own characters from the people he knew in real life terrifies him. He doesn't know whom to ask for help just as he doesn't know where to find consolation. Incredibly enough, the movie feels like if it were talking to the majority of its audience, since statistically speaking most of the people worldwide have been in that situation at least once. That is why 8 1/2 is for me and for many people a masterpiece that can really move us in a very personal way.



Another slightly treated topic in 8 1/2 is the controversy that we as persons find when we disguise our own depression and/or the effect that personal problems we have, whether these are small or big or whether they have a possible solution or not, may have in us, without knowing if we are doing the right thing or it should be considered as hypocrisy. Although the film does not give a straight and concrete answer, it is left to the viewer's own interpretation. In my opinion, Guido could have prevented losing himself to such degree once he abandoned one of his greatest passions, and that is precisely what we also incorrectly tend to do. Life is characterized by the constant changes that our life plans suffer and the numerous obstacles it presents so we can strengthen ourselves as human beings: No matter how difficult it may be to believe, life will never put us into situations that we can't handle or overcome. If it did, then why were we born in the first place? Where would the purpose that God assigned us when he gave us the beautiful gift of life be?



Ironically, a possible title that had been planned for 8 1/2 was "La Bella Confusione", which means "The Beautiful Confusion". That working title makes us think that the magic of life comes from our constancy of making of our lives something wonderful, unique and different from the life of anyone else. It is definitely the most beautiful confusion we may ever have, and more than a "confusion", it is a search.



Although the title of 8 1/2 caused controversy even among film critics because it was interpreted as a way Fellini used to show off, considering that the title came out from the fact that this is the eighth movie that Fellini directed including a segment of the movie Boccaccio '70 (1962), that doesn't stop 8 1/2 from being one of the most personal and complete cinematographic masterpieces. Its brilliance goes beyond what words could describe for themselves. Whether you like cinema or not, I can't conceive the idea of someone who spent his whole life without seeing 8 1/2.



100/100
5
Persona 1966,  Unrated)
Persona
"I understand, all right. The hopeless dream of being - not seeming, but being. At every waking moment, alert. The gulf between what you are with others and what you are alone. The vertigo and the constant hunger to be exposed, to be seen through, perhaps even wiped out. Every inflection and every gesture a lie, every smile a grimace. Suicide? No, too vulgar. But you can refuse to move, refuse to talk, so that you don't have to lie. You can shut yourself in. Then you needn't play any parts or make wrong gestures. Or so you thought. But reality is diabolical. Your hiding place isn't watertight. Life trickles in from the outside, and you're forced to react. No one asks if it is true or false, if you're genuine or just a sham. Such things matter only in the theatre, and hardly there either. I understand why you don't speak, why you don't move, why you've created a part for yourself out of apathy. I understand. I admire. You should go on with this part until it is played out, until it loses interest for you. Then you can leave it, just as you've left your other parts one by one."



PERSONA (1966)




Director: Ingmar Bergman

Country: Sweden

Genre: Drama / Mystery

Length: 85 minutes



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Being one of my "giants of cinema" and officially one of the best directors in movie history, Ingmar Bergman created in 1966 what ended up being his most deep and complex movie he would ever dare to create. It is not only his most controversial masterpiece, but it is also the most notorious influence within the genre of psychological thrillers (and probably horror as well) for directors such as Takashi Miike, David Cronenberg and David Lynch. Persona is more than just a simple drama; it is one of the most fascinating psychological studies that worldwide classic cinema could ever offer to mankind.



The plot is "simple", or that's what it seems to be when we are given a brief summary of the film at least. A nurse called Alma is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler, an actress that doesn't physically or mentally seem to be sick or have an illness, but completely refuses to speak a single word. Once that Alma begins to talk about herself alongside with some pretty strong confessions to Elisabeth, she begins to find out that her own personality slowly starts to merge itself and combine with the personality of Elisabeth in a gradual sort of way.



From the first moments since the screen brings us its incredible cinematography, variety of images and its unparalleled edition, we enter into a dream; we find ourselves bound to a symbolic and probably incomprehensible nightmare of which we hardly want to wake up in order to find answers as soon as possible. It merely consists in real animal executions, the process of moviemaking seen from the side we usually tend to ignore once we see a movie as a final result brought to the screen, a crucifixion, a tarantula, a forest, silent cartoons and movies, among other stuff. Despite the particular meaning this sequence has or whichever the meaning we want to attribute to it, what really matters is that it prepares us for one of the most intense and brilliant psychological voyages that we could ever travel through while discovering the wonderful and vast world of movies.



This is probably the movie that possesses the most prolonged, mysterious and exasperating silences in comparison to any film that Bergman had ever directed throughout his whole filmic career. The magic of this film emanates from the fact that it can be seen from several points of view, and no matter which is the one we choose to considerate in the end, the movie ends up being utterly spectacular. On one hand we have the dramatic point of view, in which we are witnesses of the merging process through which the leading protagonists slowly go through in an inevitable and supernatural way. The performances from Bibi Anderson and Liv Ullman are unforgettable and I dare to say those are two of the beat female leading performances I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. Whether it was because of their beauty or their acting talent, it is not so surprising that the director Ingmar Bergman had fallen in love with Liv Ullman when he made Persona.



On the other hand we have the surrealist point of view, like if it had been directly born from the work of Buñuel. You could just turn off the volume of the film and let the imagery and unforgettable sequences talk by themselves. Probably no other director from those times could have created such a beautiful and unique story in the chilling, surrealist and horrifying way it was treated. The cinematography is extraordinary and Persona has the best taken-care-of shots of his whole filmography, capturing the atmosphere and the physical world found in the surrounding of the characters just as well as the one found inside the head(s) of the protagonist(s). The editing is outstanding and transports us to both worlds in an attractive and hypnotizing way, again and again.



Specifically talking about Persona, it gives a particularly existentialist approach. The name of Alma, from my own point of view, is not there by chance. In fact, the name "Alma" is the Spanish word for "soul". It can be a symbolism representing the fact that several times throughout our lives we are so focused in the simple act of living without any responsibility established as a priority that evil, whether it is a harmful vice, violence or the lack of love or respect towards society, takes control of our lives and we can't tell the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. No matter how many times our conscience tries to warn us about our actions, we keep corrupting our soul and continue ignoring the damage we cause to it, when it actually forms part of our own existence.



However, it is our own conscience, faithfully represented by Alma, the one that is constantly seeking answers to its being for our own sake. It is a part of ourselves that we will never be able to reject, and neither the eternal search for answers about everything that is around us. The more evident scenes depicting the ideas that Bergman wanted to transmit through the performances of Bibi Anderson and Liv Ullman are magisterially shown when Elisabeth's husband appears for the first time, and while he is speaking, the situation makes you wonder whom he is really talking to. The shots were so impressively achieved that, thanks to them, a new question is arisen, which is referent to who really are the protagonists and what is it that they really represent.



Persona has also a highly sexual connotation, noticeable from the first 15 minutes of the film. Sexuality isn't portrayed from a perverted perspective, but from a dramatic and symbolic one. From the infamous superimposed penis during the first scene of the film being shown in an almost subliminal way for the viewer to the locked up girl trying to reach the face of a woman which eventually disappears, all of the content put in the film represents, somehow, the controversy and the beauty that maternity can have for a woman. The desire of having a baby which was later rejected could have been represented by the girl locked up in the mind, since the only thing that she wanted was to meet her possible future mother. However, since her existence didn't mean more than just a plain idea, the image of her mother disappears, and the protagonist's problem is finally concreted.



Although the film received constant comparisons with modern directors such as David Lynch and his masterpiece Mulholland Dr. (2001), Persona is a work of art, analyzable from both the cinematographic and artistic points of view, and it is obviously superior to any other possible comparison. I have never seen a film that could be such a personal experience for any individual like Persona was; neither have I seen a more revealing film for an audience. Persona is officially considered as one of the best movies ever made, and although it is not the most appropriate and adequate film to start with Ingmar Bergman's filmography and certainly is the most complex film by his, it is an obvious successful achievement in cinema history that will never be forgotten, no matter the numerous different interpretations it receives when a person finishes watching it.



100/100
6
Ordet (The Word) 1955,  Unrated)
Ordet (The Word)
Interesting how directors like Angelopoulos and Tarkovsky are often credited as the auteurs that influenced Béla Tarr when, ironically, Ordet is an unparalleled masterpiece of insightful religion discussion set in times of intolerance and lack of faith. Also, it surpasses any Tarr project (perhaps except for Sátántangó). This is not necessarily an attack towards religious people, but rather it questions directly, in an ethereal manner, the true motivations behind those that carry an emotionless life and make up their inner void with banalities and materialistic illusions. Moral of the film (only true Christians will understand the implications of the ending): Jesus Christ brought to us the greatest gift He could ever offer to mankind, and He resides in the heart of those who accept Him. We were invited to see how people saw the Son of God back in the 1st Century; doubt alone brings complete destruction to a non-believer, even for those that masquerade their words, acts and Biblical knowledge with hypocritical ignorance and undeniable atheism. Only Dreyer could make such a controversial magnum opus in such an early era, misunderstood by the time and underappreciated now.

100/100
7
Metropolis 1927,  PG-13)
Metropolis
"There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator."

METROPOLIS (1927)


Director: Fritz Lang
Country: Germany
Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy / Romance / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Length: 153 minutes

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Metropolis is much more than just a sci-fi film. Certainly, we are talking about the most astonishing project of a German genius named Fritz Lang, who definitely had the guts of experimenting with something different in order to create cinema. What Fritz Lang offered to the world in 1927 became one of the most ambitious and fascinating cinematographic projects in cinema history, not only because of its thematic elements, but because of its visual style. Basically, Metropolis created a whole new world, a world that opened some people's eyes, and inspired other people start to reconstruct the world that existed by then, taking it to a higher industrialization level. The most characteristic aspect about Metropolis is the fact that it was done in a key historical moment of humanity. The First World War had already ended, and since the Industrial Revolution (and even before), the world structure started to divide itself into international great powers (which are nations capable of exerting their influence on a global scale) that sought for competition against the world in order to become the most advanced countries, socially, economically and technologically speaking. What Metropolis achieves towards its audience is to offer a chillingly accurate vision of a director about the path that the actuality (the actuality of the 20's, that is) was following by then. More than a simple sci-fi film, the movie constituted a controversial social commentary towards slavery caused by endless work and the nonsense this work caused in humanity.

Metropolis is set in the year of 2026, in a futuristic city completely ruled by technology, constant work and the colossal influence of industry, and is divided into two main social classes: the city planners, who really don't know how anything works and who live on the surface, and the working class living underground in the machine level, which although it establishes and accomplishes its goals, it doesn't posses a vision, since the very social structure prevents it from doing it. The true plot of the film starts when the son of the city's mastermind visits the underground where the workers toil, and after being astonished by what he sees, falls in love with a working class woman who prophesies the coming of a savior that would act as a mediator between the differences among the social classes.

The movie speaks like a person thinking out loud, like a hair-rising commentary towards modern society. It is curious how elements such as fantasy, society's constant riots and religion come to a point where they form a part of a whole and combine themselves in a very catastrophic way. The scenes including the workers walking together towards the machine level are pretty peculiar. The musical score is very attractive, and somehow represents irony contrasted with harmony. The rhythm in which the working class walks makes it seem like cattle, and like if it were conformed by inferior human beings.

The cinematography alongside with the editing created a world that had never seen before, a world which is not based in real life, but in the possible consequences of the events that took place back in the 20's. That is why I consider Metropolis the mother of sci-fi films, and it is officially one of the first movies that were made concerning that genre. Another giant icon within the sci-fi genre is the short film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), directed by George Méliès. Metropolis is brilliant in every single aspect, and both the art direction and set decoration is ultimately unparalleled. In fact, both the art direction and the constructed sets for the film are the most impressive ones I've seen in cinema history. Also, Metropolis was one of the first feature films that handled scenes with great amounts of people in its shots. The movie included 37,000 extras including 25,000 men, 11,000 women, 1,100 bald men, 750 children, 100 dark-skinned people and 25 Asians. These scenes were extraordinarily shot and made. Certainly, Fritz Lang was the best director for the job.

Metropolis also possesses the best special effects I have ever seen. Just like Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), The Ten Commandments (1956), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars (1977), Aliens (1986), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Jurassic Park (1993) and The Matrix (1999) are films that I particularly admire because of their special effects and because they are the best representations of what technology can achieve in movies, Metropolis also has the best visual effects in the history of cinematography, as far as my opinion and taste go. Please consider that the technology that exists nowadays for creating some special effects in particular (such as the overused CGI) didn't exist in those times. We are talking about 1927! Analyze that figure. The most astonishing special effect of the film is some rings spinning around a machine up and down that transformed it into a guise of Maria. Audiences back then were left amazed, and I definitely felt the same way 4 years ago.

As mentioned before, Metropolis is one of the best social criticisms ever made about automation along with Modern Times (1936), by Charles Chaplin. However, while Chaplin used a comical tone accompanied by irony, the purpose of Metropolis scatters terror. It is a very-well structured opinion, but very direct for its audience, especially for the 20's. Probably for those times the message of Metropolis wasn't understood in its totality. It is a film ahead of its time. One interesting trivia about the film is that reportedly it is one of Adolf Hitler's favorite films. Carefully analyzing the subject matter and the narrative structure utilized by the film, it isn't so surprising that one of the cruelest and greatest leaders that humanity ever had in its existence had favorite this film.

Metropolis is, without a doubt, the best film by Fritz Lang for my taste, even better than his next sci-fi film Frau im Mond (1929), Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeit (1922), which is the longest movie I have seen so far, M (1931), Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse (1933) and Fury (1936). Metropolis may go beyond our own comprehension; its incomparable dystopian and apocalyptic vision influence several artists and filmmakers in the future, specially within the cyberpunk movement that was highly promoted in Japan, being the best examples Akira (1988) and Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995), which influenced The Matrix (1999). Also, it is one of the first films that masterly established and portrayed the concept of the conflict between men and machines. Too many directors have paid tribute to Fritz Lang and his masterpiece for literally redefining a genre that really isn't so easy of treating. That is why Metropolis, being one of the most ambitious projects in movie history and the best sample of German Expressionism, is one of the best films of all time, and one of the best proofs of how a big budget can be productively used for a movie. The budget was around 5,000,000 marks which, adjusted for nowadays inflation, represents an approximate amount of $200,000,000. Finally, this was the first film (being the second one Los Olvidados [1950]) that was registered in the "Memory of the World-Register" of the UNESCO.

100/100
8
Battleship Potemkin 1925,  Unrated)
Battleship Potemkin
"Will they... open fire? --- Brothers!"

BRONENOSETS POTYOMKIN (1925)


Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 75 minutes

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Besides being officially and several times declared as the best movie of all time, Bronenosets Potyomkin is probably one of the most important movies ever created in the history of humanity. Sergei M. Eisenstein became one of the best geniuses of cinema for those times along with giant cinema icons such as F.W. Murnau and D.W. Griffith. Also, Eisenstein transmitted highly controversial, catastrophic and totally revolutionary ideas for those times, like if he stood for the population of the Soviet Union in its totality trying to speak out loud. With a movie like Bronenosets Potyomkin he didn't only create a masterpiece establishing his own filmic style which would be recognized for several decades to come, but he also was one of the few directors that actually understood the meaning of the terms "cinema" and "filmmaking" completely, as well as all of the elements that conform cinema. The technical aspect that distinguishes most of his films is, without a doubt, the editing. That's the magic word when talking about Eisenstien: editing. Thanks to his first patriotic gem Bronenosets Potyomkin, he became one of the most important and influential filmmakers that cinema could ever had given birth to.

The story is set on the year of 1905 in the Battleship Potemkin, where the unbearable life conditions the sailors are exposed to by the officers of the ship, including rotten meat declared "safe to eat" by the ship's doctor, caused that the crewmembers started to buy provisions at the canteen in a show of protest. Once that the Admiral finds out about it, he organizes a reunion for both the crewmembers and the officers of the battleship, and tests everybody's loyalty. A riot is originated aboard the ship, generating several victims, including sailor Grigory Vakulinchuk. When the body of Vakulinchuk is placed on the docks in the Odessa harbor as a symbol of revolution holding a sign that reads "For a spoonful of soup", the population of Odessa is deeply shaken by the news, and a massacre from Cossak soldiers takes place, who mercilessly slaughter the helpless citizens in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. The guns of the ship are used in reply to the massacre.

Bronenosets Potyomkin is one of the most influential historical films for cinema. The vision and genius of Eisenstein can be appreciated in this intense and revolutionary epic from beginning to end. Within his own filmmaking style, he created and popularized the use of several filming techniques, like shooting any scene in particular and repeating it from different angles in order to obviously increase dramatic quality. He was probably the first director that ever used this technique, and it was obviously employed and copied by several directors afterwards. Nowadays, many filmmakers and cinematographers owe full credit to Eisenstein. On the other hand, he established the idea that one of the most important elements for adding intensity, rhythm and life to a feature film is the good use of a brilliant editing. While the attack of the battleship towards the Odessa Theater is being portrayed, a lion statue is shown through a very unique edition, making it seem that the lion itself reacts to the catastrophe that is taking place at the moment. In fact, his next film called Oktyabr (1928) contains the best editing worldwide masses could ever witness in a film, and deals with a very similar historical subject matter than the one shown in Bronenosets Potyomkin in documentary form.

The directing is extraordinary. As it has been already mentioned, thanks to Bronenosets Potyomkin Eisenstein became a legend and an incredible cinematographic inspiration. One of the most famous scenes ever filmed consists in a baby carriage dramatically falling throughout the staircase of Odessa while several victims suffer their deaths in the hands of the Cossaks. Such event is preceded by a boy who is brutally crushed and stepped on by the panicked crowd. The boy's mother, scandalized, carries her son between her arms and cries out for mercy while walking towards the soldiers. As expected, the mother ends up being the first victim along with her dead son, and total hysteria ensues. Several reasons exist so that such scene can be considered among the best scenes ever filmed, besides being a cinema icon itself. First of all, the editing adds an impressive dramatic quality. Each angle and shot is extremely well-planned, considering the fact that it is a very delicate scene. The way Eisenstein wanted to show the horrors of war contrasted with such an innocent, pure and beautiful symbol (the baby) is very powerful. When the film was completed back in the 20's, it was banned because of its "excess of inhumanity" and was heavily censored in some other countries. This scene has been referenced and paid homage to in numerous films, being the most famous and remarkable example The Untouchables (1987), by Brian de Palma.

The movie has some extraordinary shots of cinematography and a revolutionary and innovative camera work. The panoramas shown both on the sea and on earth, such as the docks and the staircase, are vast and beautifully captured. Despite the fact that the acting is an element which can't be fully analyzed in silent films as well as it can be in modern films nowadays, the power of the scenes completely transmit the emotions of the characters, such as sadness, anger, deception, tragedy, cruelty, pain and desperation. The spectator feels like he/she was aboard the battleship itself, and/or running quickly down the Odessa staircase.

That is why Bronenosets Potyomkin is one of the best foreign films ever directed, arguably the best war film ever committed to celluloid, and one of the best movies with a historical subject matter after Andrey Rublyov (1966) and Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928), which are biopics. The way it was done and directed makes it an epic film. Eisenstein was very careful with the details and although its length could have been longer considering its plot and genre, it doesn't disappoint in any way, not even in the entertainment value. Its importance has reached such a high level for both film critics and film students that some still images of Bronenosets Potyomkin have appeared in History text books that talk about the Russian Revolution and the creation of the USSR. There are no heroes in the film; it simply shows the atrocities of the events that ended up causing the Russian Revolution of 1917. Although Eisenstein directed several remarkable masterpieces afterwards such as Oktyabr (1928), Ivan Groznyy I (1944) and Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky Zagovor (1958), Bronenosets Potyomkin is his best and most representative masterwork, and a legacy that will last until the wonderful art of movie creation perishes.

100/100
9
The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) 1928,  Unrated)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)
"Will I be with You tonight in Paradise?"

LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC (1928)


Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Country: France
Genre: Biography / Drama
Length: 114 minutes

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If any critic, filmmaker or movie lover were ever put in a situation where he/she needs to prove to someone else that cinema was once an art form and that, nowadays, cinema actually ends up being a true art form several times, mostly because of the pretentious and empty garbage that has been made principally for the last two decades which has given the impression that cinema was only created for entertainment purposes, the silent classic that this person needs to show is La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, from the acclaimed director Carl Theodor Dreyer. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is a classic and a cinematographic legend in absolutely every single aspect. It represents the maximum capacity of perfection that the Seventh Art can really reach. It is not only one of the best movies of all time, but it is also the saddest and most depressing, heartwarming and uplifting (probably spiritual as well) personal experience that cinema could ever offer, belonging to a superior and hardly reachable category of cinema.

Joan of Arc (1412 - 1431) was a French national hero and a Catholic saint. Being a peasant born in eastern France, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, claiming that she had divine guidance. She was also indirectly responsible for the coronation of Charles VII. At the age of 19, Joan of Arc was captured by the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court and burned alive under charges of heresy. Her innocence was later confirmed by the Spanish Pope Callixtus III (Alfonso de Borja), who posthumously reopened her case in 1456 after the death of Nicholas V, officially declaring the jurists that had condemned her as heretics. Finally, Joan of Arc received beatification by the Pope Pius X in 1909, and in 1920 she was canonized (therefore declared saint) by the Pope Benedict XV. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is set on the trial of 1431, where she was put under a lot of pressure and received constant brutal criticism because of the divine visions that Joan of Arc had.

Carl Theodor Dreyer had a very well established vision before creating this immense golden jewel. Primarily, the grandiosity of Joan of Arc's character, despite the fact that she only lived until the age of 19, is clearly shown through the peculiar handling of an earthly divine cinematography. The image of Joan of Arc that Maria Falconetti accomplishes to bring to the screen is among the most staggering things that human eyes could ever have the pleasure of seeing. The shots, very intelligently taken care of and brilliant planned, clearly film Falconetti from a low angle, like if the spectator was meant to be looking towards the sky, giving us the impression that God was with her the whole time and that we are each time closer to the sky where eternal life awaits her. Moreover, the ecclesiastical court is captured from a high angle, making us feel it is conformed by inferior and inhuman beings ultimately submitted to the will of Satan.

Dreyer didn't only direct this masterpiece, but he was also in charge of the editing with the help of Joseph Delteil and elaborated the screenplay alongside with Marguerite Beaugé. Consequently, the editing is magical. Besides transporting the audience to the 14th Century along with the incredible costume design and the style of the art direction and set decoration, it makes the necessary transitions between the faces of the cruel jurists and Joan of Arc which are powerful enough to make us aware of the colossal amount of humanity that our main character had from beginning to end. This film has arguably the most beautiful musical score ever committed in a silent film as well. It is definitely superior to classics such as Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), Metropolis (1927) and any Charles Chaplin movie, considering the fact that it was Chaplin himself the one who composed the music of all of his films. Objectively speaking, the musical score of La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is the one created by Ole Schmidt in 1982, which is utterly spectacular. A new score was made two years ago by Jesper Kyd, but missed the predominant spirituality of the film and the influence of Joan of Arc in humankind's history, not to mention the original approach by Dreyer to the plot.

Specifically talking about the acting, the show is completely stolen by Maria Falconetti. There are people who claim that her performance is the best female leading performance in cinema history, and I am proudly included in that majority. The face she possesses is so beautiful, so revealing, so depressing, so divine, so beautiful and so heartbreaking that people who even consider themselves as atheists and agnostic persons cannot find difficulty in admiring this film at least because of its technical aspects, the editing, the cinematography and one of the most wonderful leading performances ever seen. Maria Falconetti was the living proof that an awesome makeup, an elegant and expensive costume design, shouting and exaggerated dramas or endlessly long dialogues aren't required for offering unparalleled performances. Acting involves going deeply into the mind of a particular character, whether it is real or fictitious, dead or alive, and portraying it in the most natural possible way. Maria Falconetti is the only woman that has actually achieved to accomplish such grandiose task.

I differ with the opinion of several film critics that state that La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is not the best film by Dreyer. Several people affirm that Ordet (1955) is his most masterful work, and some others that Vredens Dag (1943) is superior. However, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is one of the greatest achievements of cinema history technically and artistically speaking. The film was directed before the horror gem filmed in Germany called Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey (1932) was made. Some audiences also prefer Robert Bresson's Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962) over Dreyer's version, which reconstructs the whole trial of Joan of Arc, starred by Florence Delay. Even so, Bresson's vision missed to effectively depict the tragic sensation transmitted through the silent classic film and to masterfully contrast such great beauty with powerful brutality. Dreyer's version ends up being far way better in every single aspect. Despite being his most famous and most seen feature film, it is the best movie within his filmography and arguably the best silent film ever made, obviously excluding the extremely blasphemous, action-oriented version of Luc Besson starred by Milla Jovovich.

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc not only helped masses, myself included, to strengthen their faith in God, to look at life with optimism, to appreciate the beauty of things that life includes and shows everyday and to defend religious ideals, but also helped them, no matter what their ages were, to recognize an artistic and cinematographic masterpiece when it is released, and, on a personal note, it is literally one of the few films that have changed my life. More than admiring Dreyer because of his achievement, more than admiring the film because of its majesty, and more than admiring Falconetti because of her acting, we should be really grateful. It is one of those meaningful epitomes of cinematic perfection.

100/100
10
Intolerance 1916,  PG)
Intolerance
"The fragrant mystery of your body is greater than the mystery of life."

INTOLERANCE: LOVE'S STRUGGLE THROUGHOUT THE AGES (1916)


Director: D.W. Griffith
Country: United States of America
Genre: Drama / Romance
Length: 197 minutes

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Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages... Oh, what a glorious and tear-inducing cinematographic creation was born almost a century ago. Oh, what a compelling and self-reflexive drama of epic proportions gave cinema an outstanding respect. Oh, what a sophisticated and groundbreaking epitome of the strong emotional connection existent between love and several forms of intolerance Griffith attempted to create. Oh, what a faithful representation of different eras of human history making love until the cataclysmic final explosion ensues an inevitable, yet truthful conclusion about the decaying of the human race due to its imaginary vainglory. Oh, what an audacious depiction of violence contrasted with evil intentions and the lack of love towards our brothers, sons of God, has conquered the big screens around the world despite the constant criticism and false prejudices against Griffith's "apology for the racism he applied in Birth of a Nation" (1915). There are few moments in the history of cinema where cinematic projects that jump high in the sky in order to reach a colossal status of nearly imperial worshipping establish the very foundations of filmmaking for future decades to come. Griffith's towering achievement is considered as one of the most ambitious epic films ever created through the lens of a master's genius. Its power and glory are utterly unprecedented, but few are the times when specific directors have a much deeper purpose than just creating a masterpiece. This is a gift to the world so it can be admired, applauded and taken as a direct reference so modern society can nostalgically appreciate and remember the purest and truest definition of cinema. No matter how blasphemous a filmic project may be considered under determined social standards. Cinema is an art form no matter from which particular perspective is seen, and that is a fact. It can also be a depiction of the grimmest characteristics of reality and, most of the times, it is the most meaningful primary source for timeless and critically acclaimed auteurs throughout history. In the case of Griffith's best film, it is its sincerity and multiphacetic brilliance.

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages presents a premise that had never been shown before. Ironically, its size is so huge that it was never remade. It has not yet. The easiest and perhaps the most obvious treatment its plot would obtain was a spoof, a fact that actually happened thanks to Buster Keaton's Three Ages (1923). Griffith's masterpiece is set on four different historical periods. On one hand, the downfall of ancient Babylon is caused by those who rejected a religious sectarianism due to different Babylonian gods and ended up betraying the king in the year of 539 B.C. On the other hand, we have key moments in the life of Jesus Christ including the sentence He had by the hands of the Pharisees circa 27 B.C., culminating in his crucifixion. On one arm, we are compelled to hold the story of the events that led to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in the times of King Charles the IX during the French Renaissance of 1572, including the failure of the Edict of Toleration. Finally, we are asked to hold with the remaining arm a story set in modern America (1914) that deals with a young boy and her mother whose lives are attempted to be destroyed by social reformers when he is wrongly convicted of the murder of a comrade and is sentenced to execution. The film was shown out of competition at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.

Instead of resorting to a linear and conventional narrative structure, Griffith's masterfulness relies on his extraordinary and possibly unparalleled ability of intertwining the four different stories into one single film, consequently creating a suspenseful crosscutting that causes the sensation of satisfactory thrilling sequences and building emotional connections between characters from different eras. As implied in the title, intolerance and its consequent demonstrations, such as hatred, racism and moral indifference, destroy love, a human emotion that is magically transformed in a suffering, implicit character. It was intolerance towards different religious devotees that caused the fall of ancient Babylon. It was intolerance the source of hatred and the catastrophic St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre because of the rejection of an edict which purpose is to stop and prevent the persecution of members of any particular religion that willingly execute the customs and habits that such religion demands. It was intolerance that governed the minds of the skeptical Pharisees that led Jesus Christ to his historical crucifixion despite Him being the son of God who died for the Eternal Salvation of humankind, despite being God's will in the first place. It was intolerance the cause of crime, capitalist conflicts and Puritanism that have led to the deterioration of the American lifestyle, an event that can be immediately contrasted with several wars of the actuality world that are caused by similar reasons related to the aforementioned topics. Was justice served' For appropriately giving a possible answer of such eternally debated question, one must comprehend the strong Catholic influence that D.W. Griffith had through the process of the making of this legendary epic.

God is both an implicit and an explicit character through the depiction of the life of Jesus Christ. Every single historical period shown in Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages clearly demonstrates how God has several purposes for the human race through the execution of his superior will. His omnipotence, omnipresence and wisdom use the most degrading characteristics of the human soul as a motor for unleashing an intentional chain reaction of events that nowadays form the bases of human history. The extraordinary editing, a technical aspect that evidently influenced the perfection that Sergei M. Eisenstein could finally reach several years later, magically transports us from one massive, beautifully decorated and masterfully developed and filmed scenario to another. The art direction is the best that has ever been planned in the gracious history of the motion picture, not to mention the spellbinding design of Babylon. The tension it finally creates is a marvelous achievement of massively majestic amazement and cinema being taken to artistic heights that could have never be dreamed of. A most breathtaking aspect that still was in the process of filmic development is the camera work, a camera that has ambitious angles, a balance to equalize the magnitude of the images and landscapes portrayed throughout, and a perspective that lets us fly like an eagle just to land to a wonderfully orchestrated Babylonian dance sequence. What is the result? The result is a heart-racing, quickly-edited, explosive ending sequence where the climax and conclusion of every story is alternately shown in nonstop suspense!

The eternal hand that rocks the cradle is juxtaposed with the inevitable passing of time. Time is made of time and that's it. It may be taken as gold. It may be used in the most productive way. A balance between productiveness and leisure time may be applied. The truth is that our lifetime is formed by the free will and consequent decisions that God has given to us, that undeniable and very present substance that give man the ability to change the course of history through the power and influence of God in our lives. God exists, and His existence makes skeptical and atheist people to question where God is. "If God exists and is a loving God, why does He permit all of these events to occur?" is the strongest question that will never be answered to them because of their constant rejection of the truth, because of their agnosticism. Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages is the personal answer of Griffith towards this issue, and I mostly concord. It is not God; it is man who decides to create social classes, to support poverty, to create stereotypes, to have racist beliefs, to create an anarchic lifestyle and to believe in false philosophies and other nonexistent gods, including the idolization of political figures that create mindless dictatorships just because of the intelligence they possessed. Open your eyes, believe the truth, accept God in your heart, stop repeating the false statement of Griffith being a racist since his past film just because it is the universal cinematic opinion, read the Holy Bible and see this film. It features one of the best directions ever and, even nowadays, the baby inside the cradle rocked by God hasn't fully matured. It is time to learn.

100/100
11
Limite (Limit) 1992,  Unrated)
Limite (Limit)
LIMITE (1931)


Director: Mario Peixoto
Country: Brazil
Genre: Drama
Length: 120 minutes

Limite,Limit,Mario Peixoto,Brazil,Experimental,Silent


"Three people sail aimlessly while remembering their past"... and so begins the most fascinating and breathtaking experimental film ever made by Brazil. Mario Peixoto must be one of the most mysterious filmmakers of all time, even more than F.W. Murnau, whose 10 films were completely destroyed. In the case of expressionist Peixoto, the film he directed in his career was Limite, and if this wasn't enough, a segment of Limite is already considered as totally lost. The length of the following review will be ultimately reduced because of its nature. It is a ride that must be left to the responsibility of the viewer. The point primarily consists in allowing the feature film itself to talk by its own. However, the philosophical beauty, the unparalleled mysticism, the subjectivity of the events and its predominant simplicity make of this absolute South American masterpiece the most breathtaking experimental achievement in the entire history of the motion picture, one of the most inventive and innovative silent films ever made, and one of the best directed dramas of all time.

The first 10 minutes of the film give a cathartic foreshadowing of what the remaining 110 minutes have prepared for the audience. Mario Peixoto takes what may seem, at first glance, a merely existentialist concept and portrays it through the eyes of a poet. Beauty is relative, and the sources of happiness are endless. We are introduced to two women and a man recalling their respective pasts and the hardships they went through. Regardless of the events, misadventures and disappointments they had to experience, the first thing that is left clear is the fact that they desperately sought for nothingness. To be in the middle of nothingness, regardless of the means, is their psychological escapism of a mistreating society. The first image shown is the female protagonist starring at the camera with a dark background and showing her pair of handcuffed hands. A conclusion stating that their freedom has been chained to their pessimistic view towards life itself may be drawn. Interestingly enough, the opening sequence is so beautifully and unbelievably filmed, that heavy tears start to fall down. We haven't built empathy towards their personalities; we do not who they are, either. We do not know their origins and we are not even invited to even contemplate the possibility that the actions they had executed are evil. They are unbeknownst characters to us.

With this premise of sadness and solitude, the hypnotic flashbacks begin. However, it is a known fact that complexity comes from simplicity itself. Peixoto's brilliance in narrative and storytelling is originated from the non-chronological portrayal of the events. We get, sometimes, more than one revisiting to a particular past in order to subtract the emotional elements that govern their mentalities. A character is mistreated and escapes from jail while another character walks through a long road to nothingness surrounded by the humidity and the darkness of the trees. Footsteps are left in the beach only to be erased by the constant arrival of the waves to the shore. The characters cry. The characters escape. Their fates are destined to collide and share a final destiny of ultimate doom. The see will swallow them eventually, or perhaps it won't. Perhaps it will be something else. Hunger will conquer their stomachs, or a storm will consume them. Nothing matters now. Even if they reach a destination, the most probable thing is that they will sail back to the middle of the dangerous sea.

At what extent can rejection and denial are capable of physically driving a person to accept such fate and to surrender the previous one? The same question goes for three people, simultaneously. Mario Peixoto grabbed the notorious and still early influences of Russian and German silent filmmaking and composed an orchestra of his own. The vastness of the sea is highlighted by one of the most sentimentally depressing musical scores ever committed to celluloid. The existence of a legendary, avant-garde film like Limite owes credit, besides to the cast, to Mario Peixoto alone, who was the editor, the producer, the screenwriter, the director and, of course, a supporting character. The technique of putting the flashbacks on the screen resorted to an Eisensteinian cinematography with a less aggressive editing and a revolutionary camera work that patiently follows the tracks of the characters walking slowly. At one time, an extended contemplation of the beautiful natural scenery of Brazil is shown and, at the next moment, the camera is spinning vertiginously in full circles until colliding with the loss of hope of the characters once again. An omniscient perspective is offered, like if God were watching these abandoned souls all the time. Particular sequences of images are repeated several times, just like master Sergei M. Eisenstein used to do, in order to increase the dramatic quality, and the conclusion is, first and foremost, equally powerful.

Considering that we get to know the events that drove the characters to literal madness, we are just shown rather small portions. We are told the exact drop that overflowed the glass, but the explanation of the remaining water can be found in the realm of the unknown, of the dreams and a vivid imagination. The film structure shows three people in a small boat, memories, the people rowing senselessness, more memories, mysticism and gloominess, the people crying... it is a cycle. Limite reaches such a degree of experimental expression that it can also be subject to multiple interpretations, but the ideas behind the curtain have remained the same even nowadays. Death has its victory so assured, that God has given us the chance to live a life. It is an unforgettable journey where Heaven collides with Hell and perdition falls in love with visual beauty. A unique feast for the senses that would definitely influence directors from Andrei Tarkovsky (Zerkalo [1972], Stalker [1979]) to Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven [1978], The Thin Red Line [1998]), Limite is a seminar on cinematography and, easily, one of the best 20 films ever made. Grandiosity has found a language.

100/100
12
Hiroshima Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love) 1959,  Unrated)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love)
"- Hi-ro-shi-ma. Hiroshima. That is your name.
- Yes, that is my name. Your name is Ne-vers. Nevers in France."


HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959)


Director: Alain Resnais
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Romance / War
Length: 90 minutes

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Whereas in France back in the 50's and having its greatest peak in the 60's with films from highly recognized and talented directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut a cinema movement called The French New Wave was born, Alain Resnais took a completely different path. Hiroshima mon Amour is not only critically acclaimed and recognized because of being a classic and complex masterwork within the genre or because his complex narrative structure, but also because it established an important and notorious benchmark within French cinema, making a greater emphasis in the psychology of the characters which are found in rather pretentious environments. Another excellent example is the film that Resnais directed two years later, called L' Année dernière à Marienbad (1961), making a major analysis of the details of the small world that surrounded each character.

Hiroshima mon Amour is set in the Japan of 1959, where a French woman is filming a film about peace. One night, she meets a Japanese architect and has an intense affair with him for a whole night. Once these events conclude and once she has finally finished her job, he asks her so stay with him in Hiroshima because of his fear of not seeing her again. Hiroshima mon Amour got an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen and was nominated for a Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival of 1959.

Alain Resnais stepped away from any possible cliché before actually finishing his film, which is among the most remarkable aspects that can be found in his style of direction and in his vision. It ain't surprising that in the first 15 minutes of the film the disasters that Japan went through at the end of World War II and the horrendous results that several populations had are shown in a documented style. In fact, Hiroshima mon Amour was planned as a documentary in the first place. Marguerite Duras had a pretty much heavy influence for constructing this gem and turning it into a feature film with a plot, creating one of the most beautiful scripts I have ever seen in my whole life. The power of words can really be very impressive, even in a movie.

The style of filmmaking that the introduction of the film had is very faithful to the filmic style of the documentary called Nuit et Brouillard, which was directed by Alain Resnais 5 years before and is one of the most important and powerful documentaries about the Holocaust, being filmed in Polish concentration camps. I agree with the fact that, somehow, adding documented sequences of real footage adds a lot of emotional weight to the atmosphere of the story. The art of creating these sequences comes from the care the director has with adding real footage and/or images and from noticing if these really fit in the story and the plot that you as a filmmaker are treating. Alain Resnais really hit the nail in this aspect.

The cinematography is really spectacular. There is not a more beautiful thing than appreciating a good cinematography that goes hand in hand with a director who has a well established vision behind a camera with a varied, epic and deep perspective about life and about how beautiful or devastating reality can sometimes be. This is definitely the director's most representative masterpiece even nowadays, being his last directed film Les Herbes Folles (2009). Although the edition is not a relevant element within the filmic style of this gorgeous golden jewel, the photography, the direction, the two leading performances, the screenplay and even the original musical score make up for it. Both performances by Emanuelle Riva as "Elle" and Eiji Okada as "Lui" are outstanding, each one of them focusing on their characters in the most possibly believable way.

The camera work is extremely beautiful. Besides the already mentioned cinematography, it is the camera work itself the one that transports us to the streets to Japan back in the 50's, moving along with such harmony and simplicity that it ends up being fascinating. Only a genius could have seen so much artistic beauty even in the cruelest and most depressing images, just like Pier Paolo Pasolini managed to do it in his film Salò, o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (1975). Stepping away from the French New Wave, Alain Resnais is clearly influenced by the neorealism developed in Italy during postwar times thanks to giants of cinema such as Federico Fellini (La Strada [1954]), Vittorio de Sica (Ladri di Biciclette [1948]) and Roberto Rosellini (Roma, Città Aperta [1945]).

Finally, the time has arrived to start talking about what Hiroshima mon Amour really is:

The filmic beauty of Hiroshima mon Amour emanates from the fact that the film can be interpreted in almost any way; any theory one may have about what actually is being portrayed on the screen, or a simple version of a spectator about what is the real subject matter of the film, or a recount one may make of all of the events that took place in the film, can be either correct or put to discussion by anybody. More than just a film, Hiroshima mon Amour is a gorgeous piece of art.

Hiroshima mon Amour portrays, as far as my taste dictates me, two main tragedies: a global, wide tragedy and a personal tragedy. One of the main topics of Hiroshima mon Amour is catastrophe depicted at both levels. On one side, the internal tragedy of Elle is portrayed. She is a 32 year old woman lost in herself, a more seductive than a beautiful one, who feels an impulsive necessity of being totally dominated by his Japanese lover. This is most noticeable when she speaks the phrase: "Deform me to the point of ugliness". A sense of perdition, of an anxiety of surrendering to the emotional abandonment of her existence and of being completely conquered is present in her the whole time. The loss of her first lover, a German soldier she fell in love with back in World War II is the obvious ending of a stage of her life so she can start a new one. From all of this one can also come to the conclusion that all of what she says may not be entirely true, but she may not be completely lying either. What probably the film insinuates is that she wants to add extra drama or tragedy to the unpleasant (and somehow traumatizing) moments she once lived, or to the ones that had a bigger impact in her life.

On the other hand, we have the character of Lui, a Japanese engineer involved in politics who is around his forties. He is a man who doesn't entirely believe in romance or in love affairs, but definitely believes in opportunities. The opportunity of having an intense romance with Elle that is given to him is so strong, that he takes full advantage of it, discovering along the way that the emotions can lead anybody to an endless and unpredictable turmoil of unique consequences, and to a dependence towards our feelings that sometimes may lead to impulses that we as humans do not know how to control. He comes to a point where he creates such an obsession, that he blindly and desperately (without mentioning erroneously) discovers that she belongs in his life and discovers a new "meaning" of love, so he constantly follows our lost and confused female protagonist wherever she goes. He probably knows just as well as she does that such "relationship" can't fully work, but the anxiety that distinguishes their psychology for trying to find out where they may en up being once that they are controlled by such a unique and powerful thing that probably he never felt in his life before is so strong, that he is blinded from all possible rational perception and applies for a reality based on fantasy.

When both characters are together, they share and exploit a common characteristic: the desire of being completely conquered, not only romantically, but rather they prefer being dominated. Dialogues such as "You saw nothing at Hiroshima", in spite of the fact that she has actually been there, simply show that both characters want to hand themselves in oblivion, each one of them having their personal particular reasons which they don't really want to discover, nor precisely remember what actually happened during the war, what actually happened in Hiroshima, what actually happened in Nevers, what actually happened with their respective childhoods, and how their romantic relationships have been so far independently of the other person.

Just like Hiroshima mon Amour shows tragedy on different levels, the film shows two noticeable endings, very different between them, regarding the subject matter treated in the film. The first ending is shown once the first 15 minutes of the film have ran, which put together form one of the best scenes in movie history that I have ever seen: Hiroshima's reconstruction and the search of peace from the people, event in which is Elle is involved. It could be said that that's her excuse for being there. The second ending happens in the last scene of the film, where the most controversial dialogues are spoken: "Hi-ro-shi-ma. Hiroshima. That is your name." He responds "Yeah, that is my name. Your name is Ne-vers. Nevers in France". The symbolic-psychological context that these dialogues contain may lead us to think that both characters accept a new, fresh start, a new beginning, which is exactly the same process that Hiroshima is going through. It's like if the film went around in circles, reason why I think that Hiroshima mon Amour ends with the opening scene. That's why Alain Resnais assured that time in his film is shattered and randomly scattered throughout from beginning to end; it is not a chronological story.

The music employed in the film adds mysticism and an extraordinarily mysterious beauty. It is definitely the first film of this kind that Alain Resnais ever made. I dare to say that it has the most beautiful original musical score I have ever heard in a film, since it is perfectly related with catastrophe, peace, perdition, the emotions of the characters, with the beginning of a new life, with a lost love. The score is just outstanding. I recommend hearing it for the first time within the context of the film rather than listening to it separately, so in that way we can really understand the musical's score meaning. One can really be hypnotized and forgets about the rest of the world for a couple of minutes.

For all of the reasons above, Hiroshima mon Amour is more than just cinema. It is an artistic form of showing a reality that can even probably go beyond our own comprehension, and the complex range of emotions that distinguishes us as rational, romantic and cruel human beings. This is the most beautiful film ever made.

100/100
13
M 1931,  Unrated)
M
"It's there all the time, driving me out to wander the streets, following me, silently, but I can feel it there. It's me, pursuing myself! I want to escape, to escape from myself! But it's impossible. I can't escape, I have to obey it. I have to run, run... endless streets. I want to escape, to get away! And I'm pursued by ghosts. Ghosts of mothers and of those children... they never leave me. They are always there... always, always, always!, except when I do it, when I... Then I can't remember anything. And afterwards I see those posters and read what I've done, and read, and read... did I do that? But I can't remember anything about it! But who will believe me? Who knows what it's like to be me? How I'm forced to act... how I must, must... don't want to, must! Don't want to, but must! And then a voice screams! I can't bear to hear it! I can't go on! I can't... I can't..."

M (1931)


Director: Fritz Lang
Country: Germany
Genre: Crime / Film-Noir / Thriller
Length: 117 minutes

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Just after the extraordinary cinematographic movement denominated "German Expressionism" was originated around the year of 1919 and flourished at its maximum expression in the decade of the 20's, Europe (Germany above all) would become one of the precursors of film-noir cinema and a great influence for the United States, subgenre that includes incomparable crime films which directors would become in legends of classic cinema, such as John Huston (The Maltese Falcon [1941]), Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd. [1950]), Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep [1946]), Alfred Hitchcock (Notorious [1946]) and even Fritz Lang himself. Fritz Lang took the most fascinating and characteristic elements of the German Expressionism, such as the chiariscuro (Italian term for the light-dark mix) technique and the predominant tenebrism that were present in various art forms such as architecture, sculpturing, painting and the theatre, and gave them a new style in one of his best and most famous and critically acclaimed films of his entire filmography: M. Film-noir is characterized by its representation of a totally corrupt society where crime is a predominant thing in each corner of the streets. It also gets rid of the typical stereotypes that belong to the "good guy" and the "bad guy" when talking about the protagonist and the antagonist. Both the main and the supporting characters are inevitably involved in the most relevant events of the story's plot, and it resorts to the flashback technique for narrating past events, clearly indicating that the most important action of the plot has already happened, offering to the spectator a present time that can no longer be fixed. Normally, each shot of the film is wonderfully created and play with the tones of light and darkness from beginning to end, especially for adding dramatic quality and for highlighting the evilness of a particular character. It also has the participation of a femme fatale, a woman who believes that she perfectly knows her ambitions and motivations but she, in fact, doesn't, a woman that tends to be seductive and that despite her inoffensive appearance, can lead her victims towards danger and even death. The truth is that M has all of the characteristics mentioned above except maybe for the use of a femme fatale inside the plot and the flashback technique, although the main character makes references to past actions that keep haunting his mind. That is why M became in the principal and most notable influence of film-noir cinema, and I dare to say that it is even better than any film-noir movie that the United States ever made.

M has a completely original, creative and stylish plot, and depicts the story of a psychotic criminal who has been assassinating the children of a German city, and has the peculiarity of whistling the tune of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" while he is walking through the streets looking for more innocent children. The police start a brutal and exhaustive search which diameter of investigation increases gradually, house by house and establishment by establishment. However, this ends up being very inconvenient for the underground organized crime, complicating their operations considerably, so both the police of the city and the organized crime begin a search on their own, independently of the others. The police do it under the motive of achieving well-being for the population and that the children of the city stop disappearing. The organized crime does it under the motive of keeping the police far from their businesses and avoiding the bad reputation that the murderer is giving to them.

Although this is a crime film, each aspect of it is sensational, from the cinematographic aspects to the technical ones. Fritz Lang was one of the very first directors that completely understood the meaning of filmmaking and that a masterpiece can be achieved thanks to the team work of every single department, so let's start with the screenplay. The screenwriters were Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, and both of them clearly made sure that the structure of the story was well-planned. If you allow me to be honest, M is one of my favorite screenplays in the history of cinema just after (1963). The grandiosity of its structure goes beyond what words can describe and it is extremely careful with every single detail, including the dialogues, the scene changes and the loyal representation of the nature of each group that forms part of the whole society, including the gangsters, and the common citizens and local authorities. It is extraordinary how Lang reunited these elements so he could create a society with different motivations but with a common objective. The magical editing transports us from one place to another, narrating each event, with great precision and with the necessary emphasis so the film doesn't become into something tedious and boring to watch. The most wonderful aspect about Fritz Lang's direction is the fact that although it is a crime film full of style and suspense, he put a lot of effort so the film seemed like a very realistic one, and for me, it actually is one.

The camera work is extraordinary, not only having shots with complicated angles, but also long sequences where the camera elegantly and harmonically strolls through in and out of closed spaces capturing an alive and active world. All of the personifications are magnificent, and it is here where we must make the appropriate emphasis in one of the best short performances I have ever seen in my entire life: Peter Lorre as the assassin Hans Beckert. There was not a better actor that could give so much life to such a mentally disturbed character, not only because of his acting, but also because of his physical appearance and his facial gestures. His big eyes and his expression full of terror denote his dependence towards his own insanity, an undeniable factor that is part of his own self. I had never seen a character that was so well-created and so representative of the involuntary madness of his personality. It is in the last 15 minutes of the movie when the perspective of the villain that Hollywood cinema normally tends to ignore even nowadays is shown. This is achieved through the final speech he gives in front of the spectators of the trial he is taken to which, judging by his personality, we don't even have the certainty that he is talking with the truth. It is possible that he even may not be capable of distinguishing the truth because of his low self-control that his psyche has caused in him. Peter Lorre was simply genius and it was definitely the best performance he ever achieved.

The cinematography is marvelous. Although most of the time the story takes place inside of the city at midnight, the police investigation is at some point extended outside of the city, perfectly capturing the landscapes and the cast that is found within the camera shots. The direction of Fritz Lang is extraordinary and, considering that the film was completed in the year of 1931, I seriously doubt that any director had been capable of creating a story of such caliber and quality with so much spectacularity. Also, considering that cinema was barely beginning a new era of sound in films, silences are used in a very effective way in order to add much more suspense to the atmosphere of the film and the sound effects appear when they are required.

M is, without a doubt, one of the most influential films in cinema history, not only within the genres of film-noir, crime and thriller, but also for the creation of characters, the breaking of protagonistic and antagonistic stereotypes, the handling of the camera, the editing and a new way for making films. Acclaimed films that are directed in the 21st Century frequently homage and give total or partial credit to M. Called by many as the best Fritz Lang film, it is for me also one of the best feature films created in the history of humanity. A masterpiece in both the technical and cinematographic aspects, M is and will be remembered by future generations as one of the most ambitious and best-achieved projects within the crime genre in German classic cinema.

100/100
14
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai) 1954,  Unrated)
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)
"So. Again we are defeated.
---
The farmers have won. Not us."


SHICHININ NO SAMURAI (1954)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama
Length: 207 minutes

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Akira Kurosawa is one of the most critically acclaimed directors in the history of cinematography, and he undoubtedly became in the most influential filmmaker for the future generations to come since he started to construct his extraordinary and enviable filmography. Kurosawa considerably popularized the samurai genre within the Seventh Art and his incomparable stories achieved to inspire several directors such as John Sturges with The Magnificent Seven (1960), Sergio Leone with Per un Pugno di Dollari (1964), Sergio Corbucci with Django (1966), George Lucas with Star Wars (1977), Walter Hill with Last Man Standing (1996), John Lasseter with A Bug's Life (1998), Quentin Tarantino more notably with Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), and Takashi Miike with Sukiyaki Western Django (2007). Every single avid fan of epic filmmaking will find Shichinin no Samurai as one of the most outstanding, powerful and unique epic stories that cinema could have ever offered. Although Kurosawa has been considered as the Japanese father of Blockbuster films several times because of the high entertainment quality that his timeless gems have provided throughout the past decades, he was definitely one of the greatest directors that had ever lived and, being Shichinin no Samurai his most representative epic masterwork in his whole filmography, it is arguably the best film he ever made.

Akira Kurosawa edited, wrote and directed this story that deals with a poor village that is under constant attack by a bunch of bandits who steal their rice. The village hires seven unemployed samurai that can help them to fight against the bandits. The film received two Academy Award nominations including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White losing against Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White losing against The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956). Although the category for Best Foreign Language Film was not officially created until the year of 1947 when it began to be given as an Honorary Award to films that were released outside of the United States with a predominant foreign language, it was precisely in the year of 1956 when the category was formally created. La Strada (1954), the legendary neorealist masterpiece by Federico Fellini, was a strong competition for the award of Best Foreign Language Film, but the injustice of this topic can be found in the fact that Shichinin no Samurai had not even been considered for this category.

Despite the obvious simplicity of the plot, Shichinin no Samurai did not win the title of "one of the best movies ever made" for free, which it definitely is. It is the narrative structure and the way the story is handled what make of this film a giant epic. The degree of entertainment that Shichinin no Samurai ends up having is pretty high, and that is one of its main characteristics. However, this is not an aspect that ultimately affects the film in a negative way. The story is told with such originality, style, power and glory that one can even conclude that the most adequate way to see such an unparalleled cinematographic project is on the big screen. Toshirô Mifune is one of the best and most talented foreign actors that ever graced the screen, ranking along the sentimentalist Max Von Sydow. Akira Kurosawa would assign him several roles in the future that would be characterized by their cold-blooded, arrogant, calculating and relentless personalities in films such as Kumonosu-Jou (1957), Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958) and his immortal character Sanjûrô in both Yojimbo (1961) and Tsubaki Sanjûrô (1962), becoming a cinematographic legend and conforming one of the best pairs that cinema ever gave birth to alongside with Kurosawa. Nonetheless, this time Mifune interprets a committed, stubborn, obstinate, loyal, childish and hyperactive samurai with the correct amount of craziness, a more similar character to the one he interpreted in the complex film Rashômon (1950). Undoubtedly, he offers the most outstanding performance out of the whole brilliantly chosen cast. The performances of Takashi Shimura as the boss, Yoshio Inaba and Seiji Miyaguchi are pretty impressive as well, forming part of a rich character variety that includes the compassionate boss, the problematic member, the confused warrior and the humorous rest of disciplined fighters.

Kurosawa was trained as a painter before becoming a director, and Shichinin no Samurai is definitely the very first action-oriented film where he employs an extraordinary cinematography. The handling of open and closed spaces is marvelous, and that aspect accompanied by the editing used to construct a splendid choreography which made the battle scenes easier to follow, concluding in an astonishing result which was useful to appropriately handle the action that the film contains. The rhythm of the story is neither fast nor slow, but the most possibly adequate. We as spectators do not really feel those 207 minutes lasting an eternity. This gives to the story a much more realistic and more human tone. The movie takes the time it needs to present us the psychology and to let us understand the behavior of the most important characters to an adequate degree, making us to create empathy and interest towards all of them. Kurosawa was also very careful with every detail that composes this masterpiece, not forgetting the wonderfully written screenplay by Akira Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto, combining ingenious humor and Eastern wisdom.

The balance of the action is satisfyingly realistic. The battle scenes are very characteristic of how Kurosawa tends to create action in his epic films, which reached their maximum expression in Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985). The fact that there is a lot of action from beginning to end cannot be denied, culminating in a final battle that involves 40 bandits attacking the village, but there is solid substance behind it, clearly justifying it and never losing its credibility. Both the sound and the editing could not have been created in a better way considering that the relatively low budget of Japanese cinema. The music is spectacular as well as it is classic, and very characteristic for both the period it was made and the country where it was directed, the most notorious piece of music being played during the opening credits.

Shichinin no Samurai is defensively one of the most absolute masterworks of its genre. The grandiosity of Kurosawa's jewel is undeniable, and it has been one of the major influences in cinema history. It deserves both the admiration and the credit from the people that get the chance to see it and from the numerous directors and filmmakers that were influenced by this eternal gem in any way, not only considering the remarkable technical aspect, but also the plot elements and a grandiose, solidified filmmaking style.

100/100
15
Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned) 1950,  Unrated)
Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned)
"¡Ojalá los mataran a todos antes de nacer!"

LOS OLVIDADOS (1950)


Director: Luis Buñuel
País: México
Género: Crimen / Drama
Duración: 85 minutos

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SPANISH REVIEW:

Luis Buñuel es otro de mis directores gigantes del cine, y estoy orgulloso de presentarles la primera mejor película de su entera filmografía, la cual está considerada también como una de las mejores películas mexicanas de todos los tiempos por una versión de la revista "SOMOS" publicada en 1994, ocupando el segundo puesto justo después de ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! (1936), de Fernando de Fuentes. A pesar de que Luis Buñuel haya nacido en España, me enorgullece decir que Los Olvidados es un verdadero tesoro nacional cuyas generaciones posteriores preservarán afectuosamente con admiración y respeto. Los Olvidados se ha convertido en un ícono del cine nacional y es una de las mejores películas de todos los tiempos. Ésta fue la primera obra maestra que dirigió en México siendo las primeras Gran Casino (Tampico) (1947) y El Gran Calavera (1949), la cual es una película extraordinaria, después de haber dado a luz al surrealismo en Francia con su cortometraje Un Chien Andalou (1929) y su largometraje L'Âge d'Or (1930).

Los Olvidados se sitúa en el Zócalo de la Ciudad de México, la cual es la ciudad más grande del mundo, y retrata la historia de varios jóvenes viviendo en los barrios más pobres de la ciudad en un ambiente lleno de violencia, delincuencia y familias y padres irresponsables. La película fue nominada a 13 Premios Ariel ganando 11 de ellos, uno siendo un Ariel de Oro para Luis Buñuel, los cuales son otorgados por la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias y Artes Cinematográficas enfocándose específicamente al cine mexicano. Las nominaciones de Ariel de Plata que recibió fueron para Mejor Dirección, Mejor Fotografía, Mejor Edición, Mejor Argumento Original, Mejor Escenografía, Mejor Adaptación, Mejor Sonido, Mejor Coactuación Femenina, 2 para Mejor Actuación Infantil, Mejor Actuación Juvenil y Mejor Música de Fondo. Solamente perdió un premio para Mejor Actuación Infantil (Alma Delia Fuentes) y Mejor Música de Fondo. Asimismo ganó el premio de Mejor Director en el Festival de Cannes de 1951.

Los Olvidados es uno de los precursores del movimiento neorrealista que fue creado en Italia en épocas de posguerra, el cual tuvo como mayores exponentes a Roberto Rosellini (Roma, Città Aperta [1945]), Vittorio de Sica (Ladri di Biciclette [1948], Umberto D. [1952]) y Federico Fellini (La Strada [1954], Le Notti di Cabiria [1957]). Los Olvidados es una obra maestra neorrealista. Las condiciones de pobreza son mostradas en su máxima expresión, y la inocencia y las medidas desesperadas de delincuencia y violencia a las cuales los jóvenes recurren sin ningún tipo de ayuda a su alcance ni ninguna autoridad existente que cuide de ellos contrasta grandemente con el ambiente en el que se encuentran. Son estos elementos los que principalmente hacen de Los Olvidados una película difícil y/o deprimente de ver para alguna gente, especialmente si nos remontamos a las épocas de estreno de esta joya.

Ésta es de las primeras películas dentro de la filmografía de Buñuel donde filmó la mayor parte en espacios abiertos. La Ciudad de México siempre se ha caracterizado por su colonial belleza arquitectónica, la cual ha preservado casi completamente incluso hasta nuestros días. Desafortunadamente, cuando antes conformaba un lugar en el que uno podía correr libremente y sentarse en cualquier acera después de haber comprado un helado con los amigos sin ningún peligro, se convirtió en un lugar donde los padres temen mandar a sus hijos solos por los altos índices de secuestros y delincuencia especialmente a partir de los 80's. No es algo que me enorgullezca decir, pero son los elementos realistas que son presentados en Los Olvidados, y la gente no estaba acostumbrado a ver y digerir completamente una realidad tan cruda en la pantalla grande, especialmente cuando por esas épocas el cine retrataba exclusivamente historias (la mayoría de ellas ficticias) que servían al público para escapar u olvidarse de la realidad y de sus vidas temporalmente.

A pesar de que Buñuel contrató a un reparto muy joven y sin experiencia, las actuaciones de cada uno de ellos son extraordinarias. Alfonso Mejía brinda lo que creo que es una de las mejores actuaciones infantiles que he visto en la historia del cine, creando a un personaje cuya alma grita por amor, atención y por ser sacado del enorme abismo de confusión que su corta vida ha conformado hasta ese punto. Curiosamente me recuerda mucho al personaje "Chava" de la película de Luis Mandoki Voces Inocentes (2004). Roberto Cobo, quien juega el papel del personaje antagónico "El Jaibo", crea un personaje crudo, frío, quien nació para vivir y ajustarse a la cruel realidad que la Ciudad de México encierra. Alma Delia Fuentes también brinda una actuación digna de mención honorífica en su papel de "Meche".

Lo impresionante de Los Olvidados no es su guión ni su trama necesariamente (la cual de por sí es bastante buena), sino la dirección que Luis Buñuel llevó a cabo, y el esfuerzo por parte del reparto que la película requería. El manejo de cámara en los espacios de la ciudad así como en los sets es fenomenal. La música no será extraordinaria, pero es bastante memorable y tiene un toque bello a la vez. El guión está lo suficientemente bien estructurado como para llevarnos con efectividad de un evento a otro. Naturalmente, el surrealismo de Buñuel se hace presenta en la famosa secuencia del sueño que Pedro tiene, y es una de las escenas simbólicas más poderosas que se encuentran en la película. Como es de esperarse, el final es devastador. Por supuesto que se filmó un final alternativo, el cual había sido clasificado como "feliz", pero dado la naturaleza de la película, obviamente no funcionaba. No es que no sea partidario de los finales felices, pero simplemente deben funcionar si van a ser usados.

Definitivamente el neorrealismo no es un género del cine que sea alentador u optimista de ver, ni uno puede salir del cine sonriendo o con un buen estado de ánimo. Tampoco es deprimente; es simplemente reflexivo, y en un alto grado. ¿Qué tanto debería valorar mis condiciones de vida actuales? ¿Qué tanto se asemeja la realidad retratada en el neorrealismo a la vida real, y a mi época actual? ¿Qué es lo que puedo hacer yo para mejorar la situación en caso de que esté en mis manos? A pesar de que alguien pueda dar respuestas que él/ella clasifique como universales, la verdad es que la respuesta que más nos convenza y motive está en nosotros mismos. La respuesta que más me convence es que lo que está en nuestras manos es luchar por un México mejor dentro de la medida de lo posible. Podemos hacer de nuestro país un lugar mucho mejor para vivir aún si no se pertenece a la política. La política misma es la que se ha convertido en un monstruo que la sociedad debe de combatir con el paso de las décadas, lo cual es un hecho tanto triste como aterrador. Sin embargo, la victoria nos puede pertenecer, no con guerras, sino con la propia convicción y fortaleza de espíritu que cada uno de nosotros tengamos. Los Olvidados puede clasificarse de alguna manera como una llamada de atención al país (y a bastantes partes del mundo también) para abrirles los ojos a la realidad en que vivimos, y a mejorar el futuro del mundo, el cual son los niños.

Estoy completamente orgulloso de decir que Los Olvidados es la mejor película mexicana de todos los tiempos y es uno de los mejores ejemplos de lo que el cine pudo brindar en su tan famosa y aclamada Época de Oro. En realidad no me importa que Buñuel, siendo uno de mis directores gigantes del cine, haya sido el responsable de la creación de esta joya, la cual también fue considerada como Patrimonio de la Humanidad por parte de la UNESCO, junto con la obra maestra Metropolis (1927) de Fritz Lang. Todos los departamentos de cinematografía, maquillaje, dirección de arte, edición, manejo de cámaras, música y dirección, sin mencionar los escritores del guión que no recibieron crédito con Buñuel, son en su mayoría mexicanos, así como el maravilloso reparto. Es más, debo agradecerle. ¡MUCHAS GRACIAS BUÑUEL! ¡VIVA MÉXICO!

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

Luis Buñuel is another giant director of cinema for me, and I am proud to present to you the first best film out of his entire filmography, which is also considered as one of the best Mexican films of all time by the 100th edition of a Mexican magazine called "SOMOS" published in the year of 1994, reaching the 2nd spot just after ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! (1936), directed by Fernando de Fuentes. Although Luis Buñuel was born in Spain, I am really proud to say that Los Olvidados is a true national treasure of which its future generations would affectionately preserve with admiration and respect. Los Olvidados has become into an icon of our national cinema and the best part of all of this is that it is also one of the best films ever made. This was the first masterpiece that Buñuel directed in Mexico being the first ones Gran Casino (Tampico) (1947) and El Gran Calavera (1949), which is an extraordinary film, after he gave birth to Surrealism in France with his short Un Chien Andalou (1929) and his feature film L'Âge d'Or (1930).

Los Olvidados is set on the main square of Mexico's City better known as the "Zócalo", which is by the way the biggest city in the world, and portrays the story of several young children and teens living in the poorest neighborhoods of the city in an environment full of violence, delinquency and families with irresponsible parents. The film received 13 Ariel Awards winning 11 out of all of those, one being a Golden Ariel for Luis Buñuel, which are awards given by the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences that specifically focus to Mexican movie industry. The Silver Ariel nominations it received were for Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Story, Best Production Design, Best Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Supporting Actress, 2 for Best Child Actor/Actress, Best Young Actor/Actress and Best Score. Los Olvidados lost only the awards for Best Child Actor/Actress (Alma Delia Fuentes) and for Best Score. It also won in the Cannes Film Festival of 1951 the award for Best Director.

Los Olvidados is one of the precursors of the neorealist movement that was created in Italy during the post-war period , which had as its most relevant authors Roberto Rosellini (Roma, Città Aperta [1945]), Vittorio de Sica (Ladri di Biciclette [1948], Umberto D. [1952]) and Federico Fellini (La Strada [1954], Le Notti di Cabiria [1957]). Los Olvidados is a neorealist masterpiece. Te poverty conditions which are shown in the film at their most graphic detail, and the innocence and desperate measures of delinquency and violence to which the young characters resort to without any kind of help that is at their reach and without any existent authority that is able to properly take care of them greatly contrasts with the environment and the world they live in. These are the elements which mostly make of Los Olvidados a difficult and/or depressing film to watch for some people, especially if we consider the period in which this gem was released.

This film is among the first movies that can be found in Buñuel's filmography where he shot most of the scenes in open spaces. Mexico City has always been characterized by its architectonic colonial beauty, which has been almost completely preserved even nowadays. Unfortunately, when it was once a place in which one could freely run in the streets and sit down on the sidewalk eating an ice-cream with your friends without any danger, it has become a place of which the parents fear to send their children alone because of the high kidnapping and delinquency rates which started to increase around the 80's. That's definitely not something I'm particularly proud of saying, but those are the realistic elements that are depicted in Los Olvidados, and people were not used to see and completely digest such a crude reality on the big screen, especially when cinema exclusively portrayed stories (most of them ficticious) that allowed the public to temporarily escape from reality or to forget about their lives for a moment by those times.

Although Buñuel hired a very young and inexperienced cast, the performances of each and every one of them were extraordinary. Alfonso Mejía offers what I think is one of the best child performances I've ever seen in the history of cinema, creating a character whose soul desperately screams for love and attention so he can be rescued from the enormous abysm of confusion that his life has led him to so far. He oddly reminds me a lot of the character called "Chava" from the film Voces Inocentes (2004) directed by Luis Mandoki. Roberto Cobo, who plays the antagonic character's role "El Jaibo", creates a crude, cold-blooded character that was born to live and to settle in the cruel reality that Mexico City contains. Alma Delia Fuentes also gave a performance worth mentioning thanks to her role as "Meche".

An impressive aspect about Los Olvidados is not necessarily its script or its plot (which is spectacular, by the way), but the direction by Luis Buñuel and the effort put by the whole crew which the film required. The camera work within both the city's open spaces and the constructed sets in phenomenal. The music may not be extraordinary, but it is pretty memorable and has a beautiful touch at the same time. The script is so well-structured that it effectively takes us from one event to another. Naturally, Buñuel's surrealism is present in the famous dream sequence that Pedro has, and is one of the most powerful symbolic scenes that can be found in the movie. As expected, the ending is devastating. Of course that an alternate ending was filmed, which had been classified as "the happy one", but due to the nature of the film, it obviously didn't work at all. It's not that I'm not in favor of happy endings, but these should just fine if they are going to be used.

The neorealism is certainly not an encouraging or optimistic cinema genre to see, so you just can't get out of the movie theater smiling or feeling with a great enthusiasm. It is not depressing either; it's simply a reflexive one, and at a high level. How much should I value my current life conditions? How similar is the reality portrayed in the neorealism to both real life and my current time? What can I do to improve such situation in case that it is under my control? Although somebody may end up giving answer to this questions that this person classifies as "universal" or "general", the truth is that the right answer lies beneath our very conviction and is the one that truly motivates us. The answer that convinces me the most is that fighting for a better Mexico within the range of the possible is in our hands. We can make this country (even this world) a better place to live in even if we are not related to politics. Politics is the one that has transformed itself into a monster which society most fight against with the pass of the decades, a reality that is sad just as it is terrifying. However, victory can belong to us, not through wars, but through our own conviction and inner soul strength that each one of us has. Los Olvidados can be somehow considered as a wake up call for our country (and for several parts of the world as well) so they can open their eyes to the reality we live in and improve the future of the world, which is the children.

I'm completely proud of saying that Los Olvidados is the best Mexican film of all time for my taste and is one of the best examples of what cinema could offer in its famous and acclaimed Golden Age. I actually don't care that Buñuel, who is one of the best directors of movie history that ever lived, had been responsible for the creation of this timeless masterwork, which was also registered in the "Memory of the World-Register" of the UNESCO alongside with Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). Every single department including cinematography, make-up, art direction, editing, camera work, music and direction, without mentioning the screenwriters that didn't receive credit along with Buñuel, are most of them Mexican, just like the cast. In fact, I should thank this guy. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, BUÑUEL! ¡VIVA MÉXICO!

100/100
16
Harakiri 1963,  Unrated)
Harakiri
"The suspicious mind conjures its own demons."

SEPPUKU (1962)


Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama
Length: 133 minutes

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Masaki Kobayashi's spiritually redeeming tale of feudal authority and hypocritical corruption is widely considered not only as a masterful cinematic project and a landmark of Japanese cinema, but as the director's towering achievement as well. Resorting to a stunningly poetic cinematography, a brilliant direction, a dramatically compelling and shocking plot, and political and moral elements that, put together, form part of a whole social commentary that significantly searches for the release of the soul and the epiphany of the conscience, Seppuku achieves to reach a new level that cinema had not accomplished before. Introducing a direction style that would use the honor code of the Samurai genre set in past times, top-notch casts, a darker overall atmosphere and brutal conclusions, Kobayashi started with Seppuku an audacious form of filmmaking that sought for justice in unfair situations and a general public's reaction towards the abuse of authority and the unjust empowerment of man, contrasting turbulent war times with new peace times that would start complicated life modifications in the life of the overall society. This is the first attempt of the director to employ a different narrative structure composed by facts that would lead to a single conclusion, leaving the existentialist subject matter used in the Ningen no Joken (1959-1961) trilogy behind. It may also be considered as the greatest samurai film ever directed.

Set in 17th-century Japan during the Shogunate's breakup of warrior clans due to a newly born peace period, several thousands of samurais are thrown to a new life of unemployment and poverty. Causing many ronin to emerge, they start seeking for the most honorable way to end their lives by the ancient and violent ritual of seppuku, consisting in a disembowelment. Hanshiro Tsugumo, an elder warrior and former retainer of the Lord of Geishu until the abolition of the Geishu Clan in 1619, arrives at the gates of the official residence of Lord Iyi asking for admittance so he can perform seppuku and end his life as a worthy samurai. However, he soon finds out that his son-in-law arrived there first under the false pretense of committing seppuku with the hope of obtaining money but was forced to commit the act with a bamboo blade due to the clan's questioning about his intentions. Consequently, Tsugumo starts to plot revenge against the house, revealing the truth about the acquaintance he had with him. The film won the Jury Special Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1963, which tied with the film Az Pridje Kocour (1963), directed by Vojtech Jasný. Kobayashi was also nominated for a Golden Palm, which lost against Il Gattopardo (1963), directed by Luchino Visconti.

Kobayashi's direction has finally taken a new course. Inserting cold characters, a brutal plot and an accurate historical context, Seppuku managed to appeal modern audiences in a disturbing, yet fascinating way. The film itself seems to be like a perfect painting, beautifully illustrated with Eastern imagery, extraordinary shots of vast landscapes and cloudy natural terrains, and artistic close spaces. The cinematography reaches a certain degree of human perfection, like trying to convince the world that cinema is indeed an art form. Cinematographer Yoshio Miyajima, who had previously made an astonishingly poetic work in the Ningen no Joken (1959-1961) trilogy and would later work with Kobayashi once more in the horror film Kaidan (1964), offers a complete delight to the senses, compensating the implied brutality of the feature film with heavenly visual tranquility. Talented screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto isn't exempted from contributing to the creation of one of the most majestically crafted films of all time thanks to the screenplay he elaborated with Yasuhiko Takiguchi, which is, once again, an inspirational and marvelous mix of poetic words and dialogues with the particular characteristics of a theater play.

Seppuku is a work of art by itself, like a cinematic place where heaven and hell meet and battle an endless war of love and hatred, trust and deception, family bonds and tragic losses. The whole brilliant and truly first jaw-dropping performance of Tatsuya Nakadai portrays a cold-blooded, yet human character whose motivations have been completely destroyed. In his search for finding the most honorable ending to his life and his past duties, he inevitably has to face the hypocrisy and cruelty of the feudal authorities against his will. Irony is used as a powerful tool that would eventually lead to certain events that were predestined to happen, thus preserving eternal honor. Justice, at the expense of probably necessary sacrifices, is served once again. However, it is the own personality and the very foundations of our moral values and empathetic abilities the ones that complement the partial goodness of the society. As if hardships of life weren't enough, life itself needs a balance in a similar way the peace in Japan, which had just started, opened ways to new forms of cruelty and destiny's irony.

The film heavily relies on flashbacks and memories that may serve as a psychological preparation for the chaotic finale and the predictable conclusion, being "predictable" a positive aspect since the main purposes of the film are strengthened. Tatsuya Nakadai represents a whole society in search for hope and a new beginning that will eventually lead to a general reconstruction of customs, ways of living and deserved peaceful times. Japan may have been represented as the mansion of the clan, and the population as the members of the clan, a population encapsulated between four walls. The typical depiction of the characters' ancestors is also added as a key element in the film, an icon that is ultimately destroyed, bringing death all along, which is ironically symbolized by three muskets carried by coward platoon, thus showing the death of the samurai era and introducing an upcoming period of constant progress and industrialization.

Seppuku tries to avoid controversy and constitutes a complete piece of filmmaking that, nowadays, forms part of Japan's most representative forms of cinematic expression. Despite being the first true samurai film by the Japanese master, it curiously portrays the end of an era, thus transmitting the nostalgia of the dramatic quality that predominated in his films during the 50's. Resorting to the climatic ending tradition, this prime opera culminates in a well-choreographed battle scene which horror and intensity relies on how a single person bravely stands up against a plurality. Being the best film by Masaki Kobayashi, Seppuku shares the epic levels shared in his previous films and contracts them in a 133-minute art piece which violence represents life, equality, honor and ultimate redemption.

100/100
17
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire) 1922,  Unrated)
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire)
"Is this your wife? What a lovely throat."

NOSFERATU, EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS (1922)


Director: F.W. Murnau
Country: Germany
Genre: Horror
Length: 94 minutes

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Cinema giant F.W. Murnau directed, in 1922, one of the most passionate, expressionistic and symbolic stories of romance that have ever conquered the screen... with a horror twist. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens belongs to any list of the top horror films ever made in the history of the motion picture. Its power, glory, dedication and visual style, characteristics that directly belong to the cinematic movement called German Expressionism, are unprecedented talents that put its name in a constantly referenced form of cinematic expression thanks to the poetically literary boundaries this film imposed in the art of filmmaking, boundaries that had never been established before. That is the main source of its audacity and ambition, signs of the work of a genius that attempted to create one of the scariest and darkest tales of its time. Following the tradition of the already mentioned German Expressionism, the film ventures into the vast and deep realm of the human mind and deals with the dangerous inner demons that tend to haunt the soul. This time, this demon is real. This time, it is depicted as a breathing being. During this process, Murnau unbelievably perfects the direction style and technical ambition that Robert Wiene's eternal masterpiece Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (1920) possessed. This film and its influence will last for an eternity, highlighting the art of the movie making process and strengthening the bizarre and paranoid journey the premise of the film originally attempted to offer.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens is based on the story of Dracula and focuses on the character of Count Orlok, a vampire who is believed to have brought the plague to Bremen around the year of 1838 and who has recently shown interest in a residence located in Transylvania. Much to the newlyweds' sadness and discomfort, Hutter is forced to leave her wife Ellen for a wife since he is hired by his employer to arrange the Count's purchase of the aforementioned house. When the Count finds out about the beauty of her newlywed, he attacks Hutter and immediately moves into the house across from the Hutters'. Will Hutter be able to arrive soon to save her beloved fiancée, or will she be subject to a bizarre passion and to a terrible fate?

F.W. Murnau's approach to both the genre and the plot results in an authentic and memorable symphony of horror. It gently reaches the mysterious realm where reality and the dream world collide, performing a beautiful orchestra concert. It also may be called as a precursor of the film-noir genre since the film demanded a visually captivating and effective use of a creepy mix of light and darkness, the darkness that separated Count Orlok and his macabre environment from a German society that supposedly was meant to represent a helpless, agnostic and degraded flock of possible victims. Horror is depicted in the scariest and darkest way possible, bringing along the arguably scariest scenes ever filmed. Although the film has been subject to several tinted versions throughout its worldwide editions and release dates, its auteur signature has caused to keep its original psychological horror and its iconic images.

The typical theatrical performances are still present in the film. Deviating from the elegant, discreet and stereotypically handsome Hollywood portrayal of the character Dracula, immediately causing the audience to remind the performance of Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning's 1931 version, Max Schreck is the vampire Count Orlok. He became a cinema icon that has established a numerously referenced character. Murnau attempted and achieve to show Dracula in its scariest and most unpleasant form, giving him an unforgettably disgusting physical appearance, an appearance highlighted by its effective makeup and custom design that would cause to positively aggravate the horror involved in the story. His mere presence imposes an authoritarian terror to the screen. Murnau also divided both the feature film and the human mind into layers, taking the strength of the human relationships, love, passion, evil, obsession and heroism. Latterly, he put together both types of layers like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. These pieces were combined with a surreal and noticeably religious perspective, but not necessarily adapting a specific religion in particular. It lets the aesthetics of this gorgeous piece of art to flow smoothly and to discreetly play the role. The environment has the modest function of enlightening these emotions, a fact that would obviously coincide with a necessary climatic ending sequence that resorted to the most famous myths of vampires. The castle, the necks, a pair of long, hungry teeth, the crosses, the solitude and darkness of the night and the illuminating sunlight gently entering through a window with a view of the city until reaching a fervent heat and color are present elements that allowed the pace of the film to reach a marvelous level of amazement.

Naturally, it may not scare as it used to do. However, some audiences may feel particularly surprised after witnessing the level of brilliance and cinematic originality it reached because of its own merits. The modern archetype of the vampire figure has been inevitably degraded to a shocking degree, portraying the elegant antagonist in a monstrous form, from Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (1992) to the mindless Underworld (2003) franchise. Nosferatu, eine Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens is a reminder of the magical originality that was originated from the correct and accurate adaptation by F.W. Murnau and writer Henrik Galeen of Bram Stoker's novel, a gorgeous sample of literary poetry at its purest form. Ultimately, it is one of the strongest candidates for the best film ever made and quite possible the best silent film of German Expressionism. Before reaching new heights through the direction and unprecedented ambition of Fritz Lang (Metropolis [1927], Frau im Mond [1929]) regarding the science-fiction genre, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens is a deliciously satisfying experience full of talents that make it a morbid view towards the beauty of life and the obsession of disproportionate human emotions, carrying along tragic consequences, those typical of a Greek tale. It is horror in its purest and most fascinating depiction, not to mention a feast for the senses and a distorted portrayal of grim reality.

100/100
18
Faust 1926,  Unrated)
Faust
FAUST - EINE DEUTSCHE VOLKSSAGE (1926)


Director: F.W. Murnau
Country: Germany
Genre: Fantasy / Horror
Length: 116 minutes

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F.W. Murnau is officially one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and is one of the directors that majestically created and popularized the horror genre in German filmmaking just after the films Des Student von Prag (1913), Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1919) and Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) were created, giving birth to the beautiful and extraordinarily artistic German Expressionism. Murnau directed this astonishingly unique feast to the senses just after he had incredible cinematographic success with one of the greatest dramas ever made: Der Letzte Mann (1924). However, not even the artistry and supernatural mastery that German auteurs had implemented through the films by that time prepared the early cinematic audiences for such religiously apocalyptic manifesto. Few magnum opuses have established a difference in landmark filmmaking and, undoubtedly, Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage still stands out not only because of its revolutionary special effects and its controversial subject matter, but because of its parallelism with the ambitions of a modern society. With an impeccable style, a predominant gloominess and an unparalleled direction, it is one of the best films ever made and, objectively speaking, one of the most important.

This supernatural story of giant proportions tells the remarkable and divine story of the war held between God and Satan for ruling over Earth. Both decide to wager on the soul of an alchemist named Faust. After Faust burns his books out of desperation and disappointment for being unable to stop death during a plague, Satan sends the clever Mephisto to tempt Faust in many ways, including an insight into treating the plague and offering him 24 hours of youth. However, Mephisto intelligently times this one-day period while he embraces the beautiful Duchess of Parma. Finally, Faust decides to trade his soul for youth and, later on, falls in love with the gorgeous and innocent Gretchen. Nonetheless, when he starts to face the consequences of his equivocate decision through a terrible series of events, he is subject to emotional suffering, bringing dishonor to her new lover. Who won the wager? Will Satan rule over Earth?

Many unbelievable and surprising events take place throughout, but the most outstanding aspects of the film are its visual style and its direction. Contrary to the popular opinion and expectations, a silent horror film adopts for the first time an audacious approach towards religion. The physical forms of God and Satan are actually displayed during the first 10 minutes of the film, leaving me speechless. Naturally, that kind of decision may seem inappropriate for some viewers, but in the end, it must be directly interpreted as a metaphorical definitive showdown between good and evil. Thanks to the vision of genius F.W. Murnau, this scope reaches unparalleled measures of baroque artistry and a breathtaking cinematography. Moreover, every single special effect achieved to create a particularly scary imagery of a divine and superior-to-man nature and terrifying sequences heavy in visual elements, which is certainly a spectacular concept for the time and truthfully lives up to the genre of horror.

The performances were theatrically impressive, and who else could have brilliantly portray the character of Mephisto if not Emil Jannings, one of the most respected and recognized actors in classic silent cinema? The character of Faust is the living representation of the struggle that even non-religious people have to face everyday. Life in the actuality consists of constant decisions, most of them involving a particular moral degree. He also represents what the heart desires, like physical youth in a failed and unsuccessful old alchemist, and love, and how the mind can rule over our emotions in a cruel way. It is true that emotions should not govern over reason, but our conscience constantly tries to act as a benign mediator according to some decisions made by our mind, and that is where ethics come to play. All of these elements make of Faust a very complete and interesting character. The pace of the film is fantastically accurate and the film intrinsically keeps the viewer guessing constantly what will be the conclusion of the film, especially considering the take of Murnau towards the human condition in his past projects. Can Good really triumph over Evil, or will obtaining redemption be an impossible task to achieve already because of an erroneous and ultimately catastrophic decision by the primitively ambitious protagonist?

Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage is a brilliant essay on faith and religion. Regardless of the particular religious beliefs one may have regarding the existence and influence of God and Satan on Earth and the existence of Heaven and Hell, this silent masterpiece has the capacity of blowing worldwide audiences away in several ways, since the symbolic representation of good and evil does not loses its nature. Topics like temptation, love, life and death are also treated, assuming the roles of machinists of extremities and superficial exaggerations. From the longing of youth in order to be corresponded with love to earthly blessings and riches, the original morality of man and his intentions are immediately questioned. Materialism is attacked and the futile goals and life objectives a person has are diminished in importance. However, more than representing the balance that exists in the cycle of life, the main purpose of the film (despite it not being emphasized) is the true authenticity behind our decisions and to perform an analytical reflection of the true motivations behind them.

Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage has definitely stood the test of time and keeps leaving several critics of several generations astonished and excited. F.W. Murnau's second best feature film is an attack to the senses and the essence of the spirit, perhaps even modifying skeptical perspectives held by several people. With several effective musical scores abounding in different versions of the film and an exquisite camerawork, this is a filmmaking successful achievement in both cinematographic and technical aspects. A gem that must be seen before dying (in case we are not offered the opportunity to see it in the afterlife) and a giant German treasure, Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage is a visual achievement of glorious proportions and a giant ambition; it is a symbolic spectacle to watch, not mentioning a masterpiece in its genre. Because of its groundbreaking greatness, it is an ultimate experience that demands to be seen in a big screen with a live orchestra. It is an earthly experience out of this world. Goethe must have been proud.

100/100
19
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) 1920,  Unrated)
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
"I must know everything. I must penetrate the heart of his secret! I must become Caligari!"

DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI. (1920)


Director: Robert Wiene
Country: Germany
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Length: 71 minutes

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During the decade of the 20's, one of the most relevant, expressionistic, artistic, dark, visionary and influential cinematic movements was born, emphasizing Germany as an artistically prolific country. The name of this movement is German Expressionism, and its main topics are the subjectivity of the mind, inner demons, psychological horror and the impact of surrounding events and influences on a society as a whole. Robert Wiene not only directed his best film in the year of 1920, but also created one of the most legendary and memorable horror masterpieces ever committed to celluloid. Its ambition surpassed any possible human expectation, considering that cinema was barely two decades old. The strong influence of its visual style and its plot is still felt today, especially with talented directors like Tim Burton (Beetle Juice [1988], Edward Scissorhands [1990]). Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. is remembered today as the birth of the horror genre along the German silent films Der Student von Prag (1913), directed by Stellan Rye and Paul Wegener, and Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), directed by F.W. Murnau. As a referential source of deep and multilayered expressionism, it is also a landmark piece of silent filmmaking. Besides being one of the first horror films in existence, it goes beyond the definition of the genre itself, taking into consideration the modern standards and the blasphemous way such genre has been completely degraded. Easily found in a superior category of cinema, its impact in cinema history and its narrative brilliance make it one of the best films ever made.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. opens with Francis, a man who relates the story about how he met his fiancée Jane along with his best friend Alan. His tale begins with the traveling of him and Alan until they reach a fair, where they meet an older mountebank who calls himself Dr. Caligari and invites them to his tent so they can see his amazing somnambulist Cesare. Caligari explains that Cesare has been asleep for 25 years and is about to be awaken under Caligari's commands. When several people enter the tent to meet Cesare, they are told that he is able to predict the future and is willing to answer any question of the public. Alan, out of curiosity, asks Cesare how long he has to live, to which Cesare replies that he will die before the dawn of the next day. From this moment, a series of horrifying and disturbing events take place, being strongly illustrated by a vast variety of delusions and symbolisms.

German Expressionism always had an extraordinary and macabre visual style, and Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. is no exception. Technical perfection and an unparalleled art direction are the biggest highlights of the film. The way the plot is handled creates an almost implausible state of suspense and tension, naturally originating unforgettable moments and sequences of idiosyncratic brilliance and psychological horror, consequently surpassing most of the horror films that have been created so far. Accompany this grim depiction of reality with a multiphacetic soundtrack and the result is an ultimate journey of terror and paranoia. This cinematic project was about to have Fritz Lang as its director, but he made the right decision of working in the making of another film. He wasn't ready to achieve the proportions and unique genius of such a horror masterpiece... yet. Robert Wiene is a name that will eternally be remembered and worshipped thanks to Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari.

The film has a considerable amount of theatrical performances, simulating one of the highest art forms. It tried to reach a colossal and artistic predominant style, a very complicated task that it achieved with no forced elements and without an overabundant pretentiousness. Robert Wiene also attempted to create an intelligent and multilayered psychological character study, surrounding the main protagonists with elements and objects that would function as a mirror of their constant decaying of sanity. The twisted houses, the unreal corridors, the fast pace and the twisted landscapes portrayed through a disturbingly distorted lens play an implicit character that seems to conquer the weakness of the mankind's mental state. Logic is challenged and reality is shattered into pieces. The remaining task is to put those pieces together and try to form a logical explanation. Will it be a humanly possible task? The film also poses questions about the relativity of the mind and how memory can be subjective, sometimes originating new memories and imaginations so mind holes can be filled, perhaps with the seemingly innocent, yet undeniably dangerous objective of telling a linear story falsely based on knowledge. That is the main source of an intrinsic terror.

Given the aforementioned details, the movie takes a big part of its talent and its resulting shock value from a terrifying conclusion, an unexpected ending that is ultimately one of the best twist endings ever filmed. The protagonists and the antagonists are destroyed concepts and the viewer is offered, perhaps for the first time, to come up with a personal conclusion, an explanation that may seem solid for some and weak for others. However, the purpose of the film is left to unbiased statements and to the reaction of an audience, especially the reactions that the audience of the 20's could have presented. The characters of Caligari and Cesare are already cinema icons for the horror genre. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. is already a piece of filmmaking that promoted the creativity of the filmmakers and the deep meanings that particular plots and contexts can contain, either graphically or in an implicit form.

Surprisingly enough, German Expressionism was barely starting. The film left several timeless masterworks throughout its developmental peak and Robert Wiene's masterpiece is not an exception by any means. It is an unprecedented work of a visionary artist, or perhaps the nightmare of a passionate poet. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. is the kind of films that give a full and significant meaning to cinema as an artistic form of expression and as a multitalented result of a crew with a single purpose working together. The film itself is a highly challenging experience, mainly composed by those good-tasting and aromatic spices that dreams are made of. Do not say "Caligari" in front of the mirror five times...

100/100
20
Napoléon 1927,  G)
Napoléon
"From now on, I am the revolution!" That single key phrase highlights Gance's main intentions. To think this was supposed to be the first out of 6 parts, and yet the monumental ending of epic proportions has already become the most celebrated visual collage of the 20s. Dieudonné is dazzling as the political figure that changed the course of humanity's history. Griffith and Gance: the true creators of epic cinema. Napoléon is meant to amaze audiences eternally, from its technical accomplishments and historical value, to the "militia" allegory that introduces the character's infancy. Absolute masterpiece. 100/100
21
Ningen no joken I (The Human Condition I) (No Greater Love) 1958,  Unrated)
Ningen no joken I (The Human Condition I) (No Greater Love)
"Though you have paid a bitter price, you finally caught the humanism train."

NINGEN NO JÔKEN (1959)


Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 208 minutes

Human Condition,Masaki Kobayashi,Tatsuya Nakadai,Japan


Ningen no Jôken, the epic dinosaur drama of Masaki Kobayashi universally known as the famous Human Condition trilogy, is one of the most staggering, haunting, visually captivating and emotionally moving and heartwarmingly ambitious dramas ever made in cinema history. Its power and glory are unprecedented and it established a notoriously influential landmark in patriotic Japanese filmmaking. Whereas Japanese films had a big amount of disciplinary and moral issues with abusive authoritative figures as a political background and were mainly Samurai movies, a branch that mainly predominated during the 50's and 60's, Ningen no Jôken imposed a difference. Telling and narrating three (!) sides of the Second World War through the eyes of a simple, patriotic humanist man of Japan, a film that was originally divided into 6 parts and latterly divided into three, its sheer power, brilliance and haunting beauty is here to stay throughout the generations of humanity. It is here to work as a reminder of the strength of the human soul, the perseverance of the spirit through the numerous hardships of life, no matter how brutal they may seem, and to understand that our life belongs to a "superior being" and not to us, obviously from a Buddhist perspective. It is remarkable how this giant film was one of the first well-known and disseminated cinematic projects of Japanese master Masaki Kobayashi being, at the same time, one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. While several filmmakers usually dream with their last movie being a masterpiece and wish to end up their filmic careers in a memorable way, the meaning and size of Kobayashi's "trilogy" surpasses any of those projects, resulting in arguably the best war film ever made on par with Sergei M. Eisenstein's Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), and Obchod na Korze (1965) by Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, among other meaningful luminaries of the genre.

The story has been modernly separated into three parts: "No Greater Love", "The Road to Eternity" and "A Soldier's Prayer", although it is still divided into the original six parts, each of them having a clear and equally devastating ending. The two first parts introduce the character Kaji, a humanist protagonist and an utter patriotic conscientious extraordinarily played by Tatsuya Nakadai. Kaji is offered military exemption under the condition that he fulfills his duty working as a supervisor in a Manchurian POW camp. He witnesses the cruelty of the Japanese authorities towards the extremely mistreated and deteriorated Chinese prisoners, so he decides to stop following orders of his superiors regarding their inhumanly disciplinary methods and contribute to the welfare of the prisoners. This causes him a conflict with them so he is forced to serve in the Japanese army. That is the premise of the following two parts, where he helps a friend to flee with the Russians while he is brutally abused by his superiors, men who see his patriotism and guts and end up putting him up for promotion. He is ultimately sent with a hopelessly armed group of men against the attack of the Russian armored divisions, culminating in disaster and in consequences Kaji seemingly will never be able to forgive to himself. The final two parts of the film focus on the journey of Kaji and the survivors of the last episode to Manchuria constantly sneaking behind enemy lines, being finally captured by the Russian forces and causing Kaji to be ironically in the same position the Chinese prisoners were when they were under his charge. The only thing he deeply yearns for is to return to his wife Kaji, whom he had married before going to the Manchurian camp. The whole trilogy gathered a total of 8 wins. Ningen no Jôken III won five awards at the Mainichi Film Concours in 1962 for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Film and Best Director. Michiyo Aratama had also won two awards for her melodramatic performance.

Technical perfection is one of the characteristics that may first arise to a human mind when the title of the film is mentioned. The brutality of the Second World War is overshadowed by an elegant and vast cinematography that gorgeously covers, in an effective war-like black-and-white tone, vast scenarios, gigantic landscapes, big congregations of armed men, and the facial expressions of the most relevant protagonists reacting to the unbelievable events that thoroughly take place in such a hostile and catastrophic environment. It mirrors the features of a Greek tragedy from a Japanese perspective. The vision of portraying the horrors of war through the eyes of a man has always carried a very personal and moving connotation, interestingly causing an everlasting impact. Perhaps it was Kobayashi's intentions to transform such a massive world conflict in a war which grandiose proportions are complicated to understand for human minds. Therefore, the amount of violence and cruelty on and off screen is considerably big, making it a challenging watch not suitable for highly sensitive eyes. The music is as epic as the film itself and the camera work is spellbinding. Each part of the trilogy contains one (if not several) scenes which seem so powerful and giant in scale that they are meant to permanently stay in the mind. The Chinese prisoners shouting "Murderer! Murderer!" in the second episode, the war sequence and the ending scene in the fourth episode, and Kaji's desperate search for his wife in the sixth episode are easily among the best scenes ever filmed.

The first part offers highly humanistic messages. "You finally have caught the humanism train" is the most important line told to Kaji when the people around him realize the honesty and truthfulness behind his motives. Unfair consequences are the next steps he must walk, but justice prevails after all, either literally or not. A great contrast is offered in the sequel, turning into an action-oriented piece of filmmaking, a chapter where the editing and the sound effects magisterially orchestrate their technical roles in a breathtaking way. However, his saintliness is so high that he does everything in his way to avoid becoming the inhuman superiors that always ordered him to perform questionable actions. When his rank is promoted, he offers the treatment not only that he always wished to receive, but also the one that he knew was the correct one all along. "Renoirish" humanism is still a present factor. The last part gathers some flashbacks of the previous installments as a perfectly justified excuse to question the actions and decisions that Kaji has made and taken throught his process of humanization. Murder is the last action he wishes to perform, yet he is compelled to for the sake of survival... of his survival and the survival of his fellow, national companions. He is haunted by the possibility of his wife Michiko rejecting him because of that.

Analyzing the female character of Michiko, she is the model woman that gathers every single benign standard, morally and emotionally speaking. Her love for Kaji is as great and epic as the premise of the movie itself. She suddenly seems to symbolize the great love Japan has for its citizens and the love that world has towards the concept of peace. She instantly becomes the wife any living human being would exaggeratedly wish to have. No matter where Kaji is, she will always be with him, either physically or symbolically: in his memories and in his heart, whispering to the ears of his soul the constant motivational phrases she confessed him throughout their relationship. The amount of inspiration and strength she provides to Kaji despite the numerous goodbyes both had to say to each other is stinking. It may even cause and reveal a cathartic resemblance either to a single viewer of a whole nation.

The performance of Tatsuya Nakadai is one to be remembered for ages to come. Before incarnating ruthless, cold-blooded and powerful samurais mainly in upcoming Masaki Kobayashi films, his presence irradiated a high dose of humanism from beginning to end. Thanks to the degree Nakadai gave life to Kaji, the film clearly states, through the direction of Kobayashi, that the worst enemy against a soldier is war itself and not the opposite side. The Soviet Union shows less cruelty and more scruples than the Japanese themselves. All of the soldiers and prisoners share the same hope and eagerly long for the same event to happen: that peace reigns once again, that the war is finally over, that the Germans surrender once and for all. The several characters he meets offer him a slice of sentiments and, although their appearance in upcoming chapters of the story is not really necessary, they slowly build a transforming soldier. From humanist to fighter, he is one of the most complete characters that could ever be seen in a film, not mainly because of the length of the story, but because of his novelistic transformation, like resembling the daily reflection a person should perform as a healthy habit.

Masaki Kobayashi is the visionary mastermind behind this masterpiece and it is arguably the best Japanese film ever made, along with other giants of the country like Akira Kurosawa (Rashômon [1950], Ikiru [1952]), Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu Monogatari [1953], Sanshô Dayu [1954]) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tôkyô Monogatari [1953], Ukigusa [1959]). It perfectly works as an anti-war statement and as a shattering drama based on war times. While there are several films being made nowadays that practically have nothing new to say about the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, this fully-developed essay steps over so-called masterpieces and has all the right to be considered as a massive towering achievement in the history of Japanese cinema. Easily among the best 100 films ever made, Ningen no Jôken, whether it is considered as a 6-chapter miniseries, as an epic movie trilogy or as a giant mammoth drama that surpasses the nine-and-a-half-hour length, it is an anti-war experience and a study on fortitude that is meant to be remembered eternally by the human race.

100/100
22
Ningen no jôken (Human Condition III - A Soldier's Prayer) 1970,  Unrated)
Ningen no jôken (Human Condition III - A Soldier's Prayer)
"Michiko... I'm a murderer! These hands which have once fondled your charms have killed a man! For the sake of crossing a mere road in safety! Was I justified? Or was it just wanton murder? Michiko! Tell me which is right?"

NINGEN NO JÔKEN (1961)


Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 190 minutes

Human Condition,Masaki Kobayashi,Tatsuya Nakadai,Japan


Ningen no Jôken, the epic dinosaur drama of Masaki Kobayashi universally known as the famous Human Condition trilogy, is one of the most staggering, haunting, visually captivating and emotionally moving and heartwarmingly ambitious dramas ever made in cinema history. Its power and glory are unprecedented and it established a notoriously influential landmark in patriotic Japanese filmmaking. Whereas Japanese films had a big amount of disciplinary and moral issues with abusive authoritative figures as a political background and were mainly Samurai movies, a branch that mainly predominated during the 50's and 60's, Ningen no Jôken imposed a difference. Telling and narrating three (!) sides of the Second World War through the eyes of a simple, patriotic humanist man of Japan, a film that was originally divided into 6 parts and latterly divided into three, its sheer power, brilliance and haunting beauty is here to stay throughout the generations of humanity. It is here to work as a reminder of the strength of the human soul, the perseverance of the spirit through the numerous hardships of life, no matter how brutal they may seem, and to understand that our life belongs to a "superior being" and not to us, obviously from a Buddhist perspective. It is remarkable how this giant film was one of the first well-known and disseminated cinematic projects of Japanese master Masaki Kobayashi being, at the same time, one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. While several filmmakers usually dream with their last movie being a masterpiece and wish to end up their filmic careers in a memorable way, the meaning and size of Kobayashi's "trilogy" surpasses any of those projects, resulting in arguably the best war film ever made on par with Sergei M. Eisenstein's Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), and Obchod na Korze (1965) by Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, among other meaningful luminaries of the genre.

The story has been modernly separated into three parts: "No Greater Love", "The Road to Eternity" and "A Soldier's Prayer", although it is still divided into the original six parts, each of them having a clear and equally devastating ending. The two first parts introduce the character Kaji, a humanist protagonist and an utter patriotic conscientious extraordinarily played by Tatsuya Nakadai. Kaji is offered military exemption under the condition that he fulfills his duty working as a supervisor in a Manchurian POW camp. He witnesses the cruelty of the Japanese authorities towards the extremely mistreated and deteriorated Chinese prisoners, so he decides to stop following orders of his superiors regarding their inhumanly disciplinary methods and contribute to the welfare of the prisoners. This causes him a conflict with them so he is forced to serve in the Japanese army. That is the premise of the following two parts, where he helps a friend to flee with the Russians while he is brutally abused by his superiors, men who see his patriotism and guts and end up putting him up for promotion. He is ultimately sent with a hopelessly armed group of men against the attack of the Russian armored divisions, culminating in disaster and in consequences Kaji seemingly will never be able to forgive to himself. The final two parts of the film focus on the journey of Kaji and the survivors of the last episode to Manchuria constantly sneaking behind enemy lines, being finally captured by the Russian forces and causing Kaji to be ironically in the same position the Chinese prisoners were when they were under his charge. The only thing he deeply yearns for is to return to his wife Kaji, whom he had married before going to the Manchurian camp. The whole trilogy gathered a total of 8 wins. Ningen no Jôken III won five awards at the Mainichi Film Concours in 1962 for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Film and Best Director. Michiyo Aratama had also won two awards for her melodramatic performance.

Technical perfection is one of the characteristics that may first arise to a human mind when the title of the film is mentioned. The brutality of the Second World War is overshadowed by an elegant and vast cinematography that gorgeously covers, in an effective war-like black-and-white tone, vast scenarios, gigantic landscapes, big congregations of armed men, and the facial expressions of the most relevant protagonists reacting to the unbelievable events that thoroughly take place in such a hostile and catastrophic environment. It mirrors the features of a Greek tragedy from a Japanese perspective. The vision of portraying the horrors of war through the eyes of a man has always carried a very personal and moving connotation, interestingly causing an everlasting impact. Perhaps it was Kobayashi's intentions to transform such a massive world conflict in a war which grandiose proportions are complicated to understand for human minds. Therefore, the amount of violence and cruelty on and off screen is considerably big, making it a challenging watch not suitable for highly sensitive eyes. The music is as epic as the film itself and the camera work is spellbinding. Each part of the trilogy contains one (if not several) scenes which seem so powerful and giant in scale that they are meant to permanently stay in the mind. The Chinese prisoners shouting "Murderer! Murderer!" in the second episode, the war sequence and the ending scene in the fourth episode, and Kaji's desperate search for his wife in the sixth episode are easily among the best scenes ever filmed.

The first part offers highly humanistic messages. "You finally have caught the humanism train" is the most important line told to Kaji when the people around him realize the honesty and truthfulness behind his motives. Unfair consequences are the next steps he must walk, but justice prevails after all, either literally or not. A great contrast is offered in the sequel, turning into an action-oriented piece of filmmaking, a chapter where the editing and the sound effects magisterially orchestrate their technical roles in a breathtaking way. However, his saintliness is so high that he does everything in his way to avoid becoming the inhuman superiors that always ordered him to perform questionable actions. When his rank is promoted, he offers the treatment not only that he always wished to receive, but also the one that he knew was the correct one all along. "Renoirish" humanism is still a present factor. The last part gathers some flashbacks of the previous installments as a perfectly justified excuse to question the actions and decisions that Kaji has made and taken throught his process of humanization. Murder is the last action he wishes to perform, yet he is compelled to for the sake of survival... of his survival and the survival of his fellow, national companions. He is haunted by the possibility of his wife Michiko rejecting him because of that.

Analyzing the female character of Michiko, she is the model woman that gathers every single benign standard, morally and emotionally speaking. Her love for Kaji is as great and epic as the premise of the movie itself. She suddenly seems to symbolize the great love Japan has for its citizens and the love that world has towards the concept of peace. She instantly becomes the wife any living human being would exaggeratedly wish to have. No matter where Kaji is, she will always be with him, either physically or symbolically: in his memories and in his heart, whispering to the ears of his soul the constant motivational phrases she confessed him throughout their relationship. The amount of inspiration and strength she provides to Kaji despite the numerous goodbyes both had to say to each other is stinking. It may even cause and reveal a cathartic resemblance either to a single viewer of a whole nation.

The performance of Tatsuya Nakadai is one to be remembered for ages to come. Before incarnating ruthless, cold-blooded and powerful samurais mainly in upcoming Masaki Kobayashi films, his presence irradiated a high dose of humanism from beginning to end. Thanks to the degree Nakadai gave life to Kaji, the film clearly states, through the direction of Kobayashi, that the worst enemy against a soldier is war itself and not the opposite side. The Soviet Union shows less cruelty and more scruples than the Japanese themselves. All of the soldiers and prisoners share the same hope and eagerly long for the same event to happen: that peace reigns once again, that the war is finally over, that the Germans surrender once and for all. The several characters he meets offer him a slice of sentiments and, although their appearance in upcoming chapters of the story is not really necessary, they slowly build a transforming soldier. From humanist to fighter, he is one of the most complete characters that could ever be seen in a film, not mainly because of the length of the story, but because of his novelistic transformation, like resembling the daily reflection a person should perform as a healthy habit.

Masaki Kobayashi is the visionary mastermind behind this masterpiece and it is arguably the best Japanese film ever made, along with other giants of the country like Akira Kurosawa (Rashômon [1950], Ikiru [1952]), Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu Monogatari [1953], Sanshô Dayu [1954]) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tôkyô Monogatari [1953], Ukigusa [1959]). It perfectly works as an anti-war statement and as a shattering drama based on war times. While there are several films being made nowadays that practically have nothing new to say about the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, this fully-developed essay steps over so-called masterpieces and has all the right to be considered as a massive towering achievement in the history of Japanese cinema. Easily among the best 100 films ever made, Ningen no Jôken, whether it is considered as a 6-chapter miniseries, as an epic movie trilogy or as a giant mammoth drama that surpasses the nine-and-a-half-hour length, it is an anti-war experience and a study on fortitude that is meant to be remembered eternally by the human race.

100/100
23
Ningen no jôken (Human Condition II - The Road to Eternity) 1961,  Unrated)
Ningen no jôken (Human Condition II - The Road to Eternity)
"Orders may not be heard above the din of battle. You must think for yourself. Two things I want to impress on you: Don't be a coward. Like it or not what comes will come. And one more... never give up! Not over victory... for yourselves! If things get too hot, take over and think about your girl. That's what I'm doing."

NINGEN NO JÔKEN (1959)


Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 181 minutes

Human Condition,Masaki Kobayashi,Tatsuya Nakadai,Japan


Ningen no Jôken, the epic dinosaur drama of Masaki Kobayashi universally known as the famous Human Condition trilogy, is one of the most staggering, haunting, visually captivating and emotionally moving and heartwarmingly ambitious dramas ever made in cinema history. Its power and glory are unprecedented and it established a notoriously influential landmark in patriotic Japanese filmmaking. Whereas Japanese films had a big amount of disciplinary and moral issues with abusive authoritative figures as a political background and were mainly Samurai movies, a branch that mainly predominated during the 50's and 60's, Ningen no Jôken imposed a difference. Telling and narrating three (!) sides of the Second World War through the eyes of a simple, patriotic humanist man of Japan, a film that was originally divided into 6 parts and latterly divided into three, its sheer power, brilliance and haunting beauty is here to stay throughout the generations of humanity. It is here to work as a reminder of the strength of the human soul, the perseverance of the spirit through the numerous hardships of life, no matter how brutal they may seem, and to understand that our life belongs to a "superior being" and not to us, obviously from a Buddhist perspective. It is remarkable how this giant film was one of the first well-known and disseminated cinematic projects of Japanese master Masaki Kobayashi being, at the same time, one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. While several filmmakers usually dream with their last movie being a masterpiece and wish to end up their filmic careers in a memorable way, the meaning and size of Kobayashi's "trilogy" surpasses any of those projects, resulting in arguably the best war film ever made on par with Sergei M. Eisenstein's Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), and Obchod na Korze (1965) by Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, among other meaningful luminaries of the genre.

The story has been modernly separated into three parts: "No Greater Love", "The Road to Eternity" and "A Soldier's Prayer", although it is still divided into the original six parts, each of them having a clear and equally devastating ending. The two first parts introduce the character Kaji, a humanist protagonist and an utter patriotic conscientious extraordinarily played by Tatsuya Nakadai. Kaji is offered military exemption under the condition that he fulfills his duty working as a supervisor in a Manchurian POW camp. He witnesses the cruelty of the Japanese authorities towards the extremely mistreated and deteriorated Chinese prisoners, so he decides to stop following orders of his superiors regarding their inhumanly disciplinary methods and contribute to the welfare of the prisoners. This causes him a conflict with them so he is forced to serve in the Japanese army. That is the premise of the following two parts, where he helps a friend to flee with the Russians while he is brutally abused by his superiors, men who see his patriotism and guts and end up putting him up for promotion. He is ultimately sent with a hopelessly armed group of men against the attack of the Russian armored divisions, culminating in disaster and in consequences Kaji seemingly will never be able to forgive to himself. The final two parts of the film focus on the journey of Kaji and the survivors of the last episode to Manchuria constantly sneaking behind enemy lines, being finally captured by the Russian forces and causing Kaji to be ironically in the same position the Chinese prisoners were when they were under his charge. The only thing he deeply yearns for is to return to his wife Kaji, whom he had married before going to the Manchurian camp. The whole trilogy gathered a total of 8 wins. Ningen no Jôken III won five awards at the Mainichi Film Concours in 1962 for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Film and Best Director. Michiyo Aratama had also won two awards for her melodramatic performance.

Technical perfection is one of the characteristics that may first arise to a human mind when the title of the film is mentioned. The brutality of the Second World War is overshadowed by an elegant and vast cinematography that gorgeously covers, in an effective war-like black-and-white tone, vast scenarios, gigantic landscapes, big congregations of armed men, and the facial expressions of the most relevant protagonists reacting to the unbelievable events that thoroughly take place in such a hostile and catastrophic environment. It mirrors the features of a Greek tragedy from a Japanese perspective. The vision of portraying the horrors of war through the eyes of a man has always carried a very personal and moving connotation, interestingly causing an everlasting impact. Perhaps it was Kobayashi's intentions to transform such a massive world conflict in a war which grandiose proportions are complicated to understand for human minds. Therefore, the amount of violence and cruelty on and off screen is considerably big, making it a challenging watch not suitable for highly sensitive eyes. The music is as epic as the film itself and the camera work is spellbinding. Each part of the trilogy contains one (if not several) scenes which seem so powerful and giant in scale that they are meant to permanently stay in the mind. The Chinese prisoners shouting "Murderer! Murderer!" in the second episode, the war sequence and the ending scene in the fourth episode, and Kaji's desperate search for his wife in the sixth episode are easily among the best scenes ever filmed.

The first part offers highly humanistic messages. "You finally have caught the humanism train" is the most important line told to Kaji when the people around him realize the honesty and truthfulness behind his motives. Unfair consequences are the next steps he must walk, but justice prevails after all, either literally or not. A great contrast is offered in the sequel, turning into an action-oriented piece of filmmaking, a chapter where the editing and the sound effects magisterially orchestrate their technical roles in a breathtaking way. However, his saintliness is so high that he does everything in his way to avoid becoming the inhuman superiors that always ordered him to perform questionable actions. When his rank is promoted, he offers the treatment not only that he always wished to receive, but also the one that he knew was the correct one all along. "Renoirish" humanism is still a present factor. The last part gathers some flashbacks of the previous installments as a perfectly justified excuse to question the actions and decisions that Kaji has made and taken throught his process of humanization. Murder is the last action he wishes to perform, yet he is compelled to for the sake of survival... of his survival and the survival of his fellow, national companions. He is haunted by the possibility of his wife Michiko rejecting him because of that.

Analyzing the female character of Michiko, she is the model woman that gathers every single benign standard, morally and emotionally speaking. Her love for Kaji is as great and epic as the premise of the movie itself. She suddenly seems to symbolize the great love Japan has for its citizens and the love that world has towards the concept of peace. She instantly becomes the wife any living human being would exaggeratedly wish to have. No matter where Kaji is, she will always be with him, either physically or symbolically: in his memories and in his heart, whispering to the ears of his soul the constant motivational phrases she confessed him throughout their relationship. The amount of inspiration and strength she provides to Kaji despite the numerous goodbyes both had to say to each other is stinking. It may even cause and reveal a cathartic resemblance either to a single viewer of a whole nation.

The performance of Tatsuya Nakadai is one to be remembered for ages to come. Before incarnating ruthless, cold-blooded and powerful samurais mainly in upcoming Masaki Kobayashi films, his presence irradiated a high dose of humanism from beginning to end. Thanks to the degree Nakadai gave life to Kaji, the film clearly states, through the direction of Kobayashi, that the worst enemy against a soldier is war itself and not the opposite side. The Soviet Union shows less cruelty and more scruples than the Japanese themselves. All of the soldiers and prisoners share the same hope and eagerly long for the same event to happen: that peace reigns once again, that the war is finally over, that the Germans surrender once and for all. The several characters he meets offer him a slice of sentiments and, although their appearance in upcoming chapters of the story is not really necessary, they slowly build a transforming soldier. From humanist to fighter, he is one of the most complete characters that could ever be seen in a film, not mainly because of the length of the story, but because of his novelistic transformation, like resembling the daily reflection a person should perform as a healthy habit.

Masaki Kobayashi is the visionary mastermind behind this masterpiece and it is arguably the best Japanese film ever made, along with other giants of the country like Akira Kurosawa (Rashômon [1950], Ikiru [1952]), Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu Monogatari [1953], Sanshô Dayu [1954]) and Yasujiro Ozu (Tôkyô Monogatari [1953], Ukigusa [1959]). It perfectly works as an anti-war statement and as a shattering drama based on war times. While there are several films being made nowadays that practically have nothing new to say about the horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, this fully-developed essay steps over so-called masterpieces and has all the right to be considered as a massive towering achievement in the history of Japanese cinema. Easily among the best 100 films ever made, Ningen no Jôken, whether it is considered as a 6-chapter miniseries, as an epic movie trilogy or as a giant mammoth drama that surpasses the nine-and-a-half-hour length, it is an anti-war experience and a study on fortitude that is meant to be remembered eternally by the human race.

100/100
24
Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) 1924,  PG)
Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh)
"Here the story should really end, for, in real life, the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death. The author took pity on him and has provided a quite improbable epilogue."

DER LETZTE MANN (1924)


Director: F.W. Murnau
Country: Germany
Genre: Drama
Length: 90 minutes

The Last Laugh,Der Letzte Mann,F.W. Murnau,Silent,Germany


To begin with, the second timeless absolute masterpiece by the memorable silent cinema legend F.W. Murnau did not conclude in the way he originally wanted it to. The executives at UFA sought for a more ambitious financial success; therefore, they compelled Murnau and the screenwriter Carl Mayer to close Der Letzte Mann with a happy ending, not to mention that they were pressured to change the film's title from "The Last Man" to "The Last Laughter". There is an undeniable fact in this matter: Murnau was a visionary. When an artist is way ahead of his time, presenting unconventional and amoral thematic material, the biggest possibility is the public's rejection. Murnau was rejected by both the typical audiences and the religious themselves when Faust - Eine Deutsche Volkssage (1926) was released. Nevertheless, Der Letzte Mann is an introspective masterpiece of analytical politeness and moralistic values. It is also a technically dazzling and innovative work of art. With a very cathartic plot and a literally outstanding leading role, Murnau's magnum opus is one of the most simplistic, yet groundbreaking pieces of cinema that defied the sentiments of the world's heart.

The film focuses on the story of an aging doorman that works at the prestigious Atlantic Hotel. The man is very proud of his position in his job and, most of all, the prestige he has supposedly acquired thanks to his uniform. When the manager decides to replace the doorman and re-assign him to the preposterously inferior position of washroom attendant, he tries to hide the truth from his acquaintances and relatives. However, he soon is forced to face the scorn and mockery of his friends, his neighbors and the society itself.

Extraordinarily talented German star Emil Jannings, who consolidated his brilliantly multiphacetic acting capacities in Josef von Sternberg's Der Blaue Engel (1930), was always an artist of unparalleled on-screen presence. His remarkable performance in Der Letzte Mann is no exception. Murnau's testament on the human condition is a direct questioning towards the moral values that we, as individuals of a society, have decided to adopt in order to lead a particular lifestyle. Also, it invites to reflection regarding to what extent we have allowed these ideals to influence our behavioral and psychological attitude. Naturally, the film must be launched from a very simple premise: an elderly, proud doorman who is re-assigned to the lowest position possible. In case this wasn't enough, he must contend with the hypocrisy and discrimination of a lavish society. "Is my reputation and my dignity more important than my precious uniform?" This question has the magical ability of appealing to the population of any generation: doormen, attendants, secretaries, entrepreneurs, managers, family men... We are all members of a whole group and, as individuals, fate has caused us to face entirely different faces of the actuality's existence. No face is more important than the rest.

Der Letzte Mann is the first film to employ the technique of a moving camera. Not so surprisingly, every single technical innovation had a particular meaning behind. They demanded significant substance. The principal purpose that the artists behind this film had in mind was to emphasize the importance of the doorman's thoughts. How can the background, the camerawork and the cinematography implicitly enhance the motivations and feelings inside the character without the necessity of displaying title cards? Thus, this silent film is, literally, one of the most silent films ever made: it only displays two title cards for explaining the job replacement and, ironically, the cynical epilogue that was directly aimed towards the melodramatically conservative executives of the UFA. The rest are just perfectly calculated camera angles, shadows, facial expressions, reactions, gestures, stares, spoken dialogues that can be understood with just witnessing the sequence and unfulfilled illusions.

At first glance, we can split the film in half in a justified way. When the attention is put to the main character, we witness his disappointments, his sadness and his humiliation from a high angle, shots that would directly influence Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). However, when the director allows us to temporarily leave the internal little world in which the doorman lives in, we see the luxurious hotel through an exaggerated lens, enhancing how meaningful the uniform and the vast paces of the hotel are for Janning's character. The irony is derived from the outside world being infinitely bigger than the hotel itself. Screenwriter Carl Mayer suggests that this materialistic world that has been ridiculously exalted by our own pretentiousness can be ultimately destroyed when we come to our senses. The hotel symbolizes the giant enterprise building, the sumptuous mansion, the giant gardens, the vast territorial lands, the humankind's insatiable ambition... all of those insignificant details that can cause the man to be blinded and stop living gratefully and adequately. If we take all of these elements, what remains? The dreams and the imagination remain, an aspect strengthened through two sequences:

1) The protagonist's expertly filmed, artistic dream sequence where he enters the hotel juggling suitcases while gaining everyone's attention.
2) His nostalgic, cold and attentive stare towards his past uniform inside the manager's office.

Der Letzte Mann is one of the best directed and reflexive dramas of silent cinema, and an influential landmark for future generations to come. Few times can cinema be so straightforwardly honest to the unpleasant nature of the human race, especially considering the original ending that the director had prepared for the film, which would have definitely been the most adequate. With an hypnotic filmic style, a minimalist direction, smart sequences of imagined fantasy, one of the best male leading roles in the very first decades of moviemaking and an inspirational story, F.W. Murnau took a break from the horror genre and assigned the wonderful German Expressionism a humanist role. If you had to choose between your identity as a simple human being and your imaginary "hotel", what would you take? Remember: the movie ends before the unrealistic and clichéd epilogue.

100/100
25
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1927,  Unrated)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
"For wherever the sun rises and sets, in the city's turmoil or under the open sky on the farm, life is much the same; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet."

SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (1927)


Director: F.W. Murnau
Country: United States of America
Genre: Drama / Romance / Crime
Length: 95 minutes

Photobucket


F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is officially one of the best productions Hollywood ever did during the Golden Age. After establishing his brilliant and visionary reputation through the horror genre, creating timeless and unsurpassable masterpieces such as Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) and Faust - Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926), he moved to America and tried with a totally different genre. He succeeded. In fact, he had so much success, that Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won a unique Academy Award. It is one of the best romantic stories ever told in cinema history and one of the most complete films that may ever be seen. It immediately relies its talent, honesty and emotional power on the most beloved, accessible and heartwarming genres of cinema. This project was probably the one that worldwide masses, especially Germany, were expecting to fail. However, Murnau proved to be a multitalented auteur of legendary proportions and transmits, in 94 minutes, extraordinarily compelling emotions that romance films cannot transmit even nowadays in their purest form. It is definitely, a timeless masterpiece and among the director's best.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans deals with a married farmer who soon enough falls for another woman of the city. She convinces him to come to the city with her, but since he asked her if her wife could come with them, the woman suggests him to murder her wife drowning her. He is shocked by her suggestion, but finally goes along with the idea. The rest of the plot is developed thanks to the farmer's consequent decisions. The film received 4 Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Cinematography and Best Picture, Unique Artistic Production, winning the last three awards. This was the very first and last feature film to be nominated and win the last Oscar because of its artistic value and quality. Wings (1927) won the Oscar for Best Picture, Production that year.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans resorts to that irrevocable connection established by human relationships and the everlasting and enduring power of love. Murnau was one of the few filmmakers that understood that cinema is the work of a whole crew. The camera work and the resulting cinematography is an outstanding achievement. Every image is filmed with extreme delicacy, like a moving painting, like the literary pages of a passionate poet. Whereas early directors like D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation [1915], Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages [1916]) and Sergei M. Eisenstein (Bronenosets Potyomkin [1925], Oktyabr [1928]) focused on the magical importance of editing and crosscutting, Murnau made emphasis on the visual style that a camera can transmit and the psychology of the characters, inspirationally orchestrating noticeably long takes just to highlight a particular emotion. Therefore, "The Man" and "The Wife" are very complete characters deviating from clichéd archetypes of recent newlyweds. That is what makes this film a very well-made character study, especially for the male protagonist. This is one of the very first films that feature personalities with constant changes of emotions, and the priorities and motivations of "The Man" are very clear to the spectator. He has an epiphany, which will wonderfully lead the rest of the story along with powerful and necessary reflections. The performances were so natural that the whole atmospheric romance throughout the tear-inducing 94 minutes seemed like a documentary and both symbolize justice being served in the most correct way concerning how our prioritized plans can be suddenly changed by an outside factor.

Evil is ultimately represented in a very peculiar way. The person that can be interpreted as the antagonist ends up being a human being as well with particular personal issues. The antagonist could be also fate, or the nature itself, which physically cannot be beaten after all, but confronted. That is a genius concept, but the original intention of the power such concept is supposed to have is a very hard characteristic to portray on screen. Both George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor are extraordinary, and they have perhaps the most powerful couple chemistry in any romantic film that has ever been directed, quite possibly even redefining the term of love in films. It is particularly interesting how Murnau makes a notable difference between the mood and atmosphere of the farm and the city, the last one being represented as crowded streets full of stores, noise and movement. Industrialization and consumerism are, therefore, an influential motor for the couple's rebirth of a love that was about to be lost because of wrongly taken decisions. The pace of the story is quickly effective, and the result was the perfect mix of drama and some humorous moments of comedy that, at the end, are utterly impossible to forget.

This is visually and emotionally one of the most beautiful films ever made. Although it was made by a German master of cinema, this is the kind of films Hollywood should be really proud of. It became an immediate addition for the USA National Film Preservation Board. This is a very artistic and unique triumph and literally transports you back to the 20's, transmitting a very powerful catharsis in a genius and highly effective way. After all, it is up to us to let the sun rise on the horizon. It is up to us to accept one of the most wonderful and extraordinary gifts God decided to give us in this pathetic, existentialist and rotten existence: love. Heaven and Hell collide in a tormenting concert of emotions; nature plays its role, resulting in possibly the tensest sequence of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Two humans realize the inevitable connection they were meant to have, latterly singing to the sky and uniting in heartwarming depictions of love and interest. Character development enriches the flavor of the film and, yet, the movie does not need to show anything more. The dance scene, the attack of Mother Nature, the traffic accident, a kiss... just mere events that were meant to take place for inner correction and to avoid the corruptibility of the soul. It will make rivers of tears to flow, compensating such audience reaction with a very satisfactory sense of hope at the end, not to mention that beautiful and characteristic feeling of inner warmth.

100/100
26
Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) (Bicycle Thieves) 1948,  Unrated)
Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) (Bicycle Thieves)
"Why should I kill myself worrying when I'll end up just as dead?"

LADRI DI BICICLETTE (1948)


Director: Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy
Genre: Crime / Drama
Length: 93 minutes

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While the worldwide general situation was in an extremely tragic state, the economy was alarmingly delicate, several millions of people had died in one of the greatest and most catastrophic wars human ever made, and major cities were in a reconstruction period, a new form of filmmaking was being born in Italy, adopting totally new perspectives. A movement called Neorealism was created, which was mainly characterized by its portrayal of common citizenship living in extreme poverty conditions surrounded by delinquency, violence and considerately high economical needs. Inexperienced actors were used for trying to depict a story in the most realistic way possible and it exposed existentialist ideas, like the fact that society led a tragically boring life everyday, causing it to resort to its own imagination and fantasies for making of life something more meaningful. Vittorio De Sica was precisely one of the most important directors of the genre back in the 40's. Ladri di Biciclette is not only considered among the best movies of cinema history, but it can also be found among the best neorealist feature films ever created, without mentioning the fact that it was the best and most representative director's masterwork. It could even be said that it was his most personal project.

Ladri di Biciclette is set on the city of post-war Rome and tells the story of a father who possesses a very humble job which consists in pasting posters of Rita Hayworth all over the streets of the city and requires a bicycle so it can be done. One day, his bicycle (as implied by the title) is unfortunately stolen, making him fall into despair, so he sets out on an endless search for his bicycle along with his son. However, he just can't seem to find it and the whole situation is starting to get worse and worse for his whole family. Will he become himself into a bicycle thief, or will he take another drastic decision? The movie was nominated for an Academy Award in 1950 for Best Writing, Screenplay and received the Honorary Award for being the Best Foreign Language Film released in the United States, since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were still giving Honorary Awards for 1950, and the category for Best Foreign Language Film wouldn't be formally created until 1956.

Ladri di Biciclette is one of the most honest and sincere films I've ever had the honor to see. The chemistry between the father and his son is extremely powerful, and is one of the protagonistic pairs that I remember the most in cinema history, probably being my personal favorite. The filmmaking style is utterly beautiful, since the Italian neorealist classic cinema possesses a humble magic in the camera that just can't be adequately described with simple words. The editing is sufficiently effective for making us create empathy towards the characters and the difficult situation they are in. One as a viewer of the film simply wishes for everything to end well.

The script is decently written, and something that I have to recognize is that the Italian cinema had numerous extremely talented screenwriters during those decades. The performances by both Lamberto Maggiorani and Enzo Staiola are extraordinary, and Enzo Staiola certainly deserves an honorific mention, since I have always admired the work put by infantile and juvenile casts in masterpieces such as Los Olvidados (1950), by Luis Buñuel, Miracolo a Milano (1951), by Vittorio De Sica, and Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959), by François Truffaut. The music may not be a remarkable aspect, but it is definitely classic and very characteristic and suitable for the film. It just takes to listen to its first notes so we can have our heart broken once more without even seeing the film again.

The movie couldn't have worked in the same way it originally did without Vittorio De Sica's direction, who is a director that I highly admire because of his filmography and work throughout. Being I Bambini ci Guardano (1944) his first well-known film he ever directed, Ladri di Biciclette is perhaps his most famous and seen film, and arguably his best, with Umberto D. (1952) as strong competition, which also is an incomparably beautiful piece of art.

Although the sad and tragic thematic elements that the film (and the genre itself) has, it is one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in my life so far, artistically speaking. The power that it causes in the spectator's heart goes beyond words, and just like Neorealism focuses on the simplest and most beautiful aspects of life, that's how we should act in our daily life. We as materialistic and avaricious people tend to not value the possessions that belong to us, and once that we lose them we don't do anything more productive than complaining and to regret our loss. Nothing lasts forever, and it is our own preparation towards the obstacles of life the one that improves us as imperfect human beings depending on the maturity, rectitude and strength we are willing to use so we can fight them. This is an attitude that Antonio Ricci and Bruno Ricci end up assuming and learning in a very direct, strong and humiliating way towards the ending. That is why the ending of the film, which I won't dare to mention, is completely devastating and also partially unpredictable. Although we clearly know how the film will end since the half of the film (perhaps even since before), we don't really know the way the ending will be handled, nor which the last shot (which, by the way, is beautifully captured) will precede the "The End" title.

Ladri di Biciclette is art. There's no doubt about it. Because of all of the reasons mentioned above, I consider Ladri di Biciclette as a magnificent cinematographic treasure of humanity which originality, inspiration, influence, editing, directing and artistic beauty will never be equaled. Few times have I seen so much perfection and beauty falling in love within cinema, since it is very difficult nowadays to find such a beautiful piece of art nowadays that has both characteristics at the same time. Vittorio De Sica managed to create one of the most important films in the history of humanity, and the best part is that it is still considered as such nowadays. The reconstruction process that the post-war period was going through is exactly the same process the protagonists should start at a personal level. There is always a new beginning for everything, and independently of the difficult events we may have to go through, the eyes with which we decide to see every single detail of our lives is what makes of our existence something relevant. It has been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul and I completely agree with that statement. Ladri di Biciclette is one of the very few films that have changed my perspective towards life, just like Los Olvidados (1950) did, talking about films of the same genre. A beautiful, legendary treasure.

100/100
27
The Travelling Players (O thiasos) 1976,  Unrated)
The Travelling Players (O thiasos)
"I came cross the sea, from Ionia. Where did you come from?"

O THIASOS (1975)


Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Country: Greece
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 230 minutes

Theodoros Angelopoulos,Greece,O Thiasos,Travelling Players


Never before had cinema presented such an effective, original and cinematically influential perspective concerning the Second World War. Extensive Greek master Theodoros Angelopoulos achieves international attention thanks to his second and best chapter in A Trilogy of History, one of the most ambitious films in the entire history of moviemaking, and undeniably one of the best and most powerful war films of all time. The mysticism is overabundant, the technical perfection that was intentionally added to the film is masterly orchestrated through a wonderful cast and a perfectly poetical balance, and its noticeably audacity in the process of defying the regimes, the abuse of power and the definitive turning point in Greek history forms part of possibly the most ambitious direction ever committed to celluloid. Angelopoulos was a political genius and could be described as the expressionistic successor of Sergei M. Eisenstein (Bronenosets Potyomkin [1925], Oktyabr [1927]) with the exact opposite of what would be his filmmaking style. Sentimentalism is avoided and gritty realism is mercilessly displayed, yet the multi-talented layers of poetry, wisdom and directorial brilliance maximize the power and glory of such masterful work of art.

O Thiasos follows the adventures and difficult tragedies of a group of travelling players peregrinating throughout the jeopardized country of Greece, performing the erotic drama "Golfo, the Shepherdess" by Spyridon Peresiades, and witnessing the several stages of history that Greece was going through. Covering a period of time that goes from 1939 to 1952, the film depicts the last days of the Metaxas dictatorship, the beginning of World War II and the opposition of the Italians, the Nazi occupation, the Liberation, the British and American interventionism in Greek politics, and the Civil War held between the Left and the right-wingers. Director Theodoros Angelopoulos won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1975 under the category of Parallel Sections. He also won an Interfilm Award at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1975 under the category of Forum of New Cinema. Also, the film won 6 Greek Competition Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Film and Best Director at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Demanding political and historical knowledge once more, Angelopoulos' primary source of originality and brilliance comes from the fact that he masterly referenced ancient Greek literature so we as an audience were capable of understanding and having a notion of the possible personalities of the depicted characters. The characters themselves are based on Aeschylus' Oresteia Trilogy ("Agamemnon", "The Libation Bearers" and "The Eumenides"), a fact that will help to obtain a foreshadowing of their respective natures. Consequently, it was decided not to identify the characters by their respective names, emphasizing the literary connotation of the film, with the exception of the revolutionary son Orestes. Each and every single frame, when put together, form a groundbreaking testament in which all of the elements that determine and represent a society that is forced to experience a chaotic existence because of a war that is out of the control of the country are contrasted with the aesthetic beauty of the highly prolonged shots. The aforementioned characteristics strengthen the statement that O Thiasos is one of the most moving and heartbreaking dramas in Greek history.

O Thiasos has the intrinsic ability of creating an epic story in which war is portrayed as a massive and international event of political, economical, social and psychological destruction without the necessity of resorting to racist and melodramatic elements. It also references the totalitarian control and the ambition of power that the Oresteia Trilogy possessed in its tales and transforms them, through a more modern cinematographic adaptation, into a direct social criticism towards an authoritarian nationalism and towards a State which greatly unstable condition forced it to seek for foreign interventionism. Naturally, the topic of the greed present in developed countries because of their political intervention in nations of lacking independence is treated. The British and American influence has a negative connotation, emphasizing the desperate situation of the Greece as a nation of decaying democracy and increasing anarchy, in case Fascism has not taken control over a territory yet.

The use of a group of travelling players may be a nostalgic reference towards the tragic events that necessarily had to take place in order to determine and literally change the course of history, but a literary (and even mythological) parallelism enhances their human faults and their respective hardships, causing an increasing weakness of the soul. The extremely elaborate screenplay is divided in three thought-provoking monologues and has a nonlinear structure, constantly constructing a timeline mixture of a cyclic chronology and going back and forth in time. The film begins at the end in order to close a cycle of events, being an allusion of the never-ending horrors of war and the vast variety of life epiphanies. The beloved and multiphacetic collective protagonist faces, in a particular sequence, joy, death and hunger, simulating the hardships of the Greek evolving society. O Thiasos is plagued with remarkable performances and the absence of a clichéd musical score is effectively applied, creating a very atmospheric realism in the process.

Extremely prolonged single shots and a gracious exaltation of patient stillness are thoroughly used, culminating in what may be several of the best filmed scenes ever. One of the scenes, which lasts more than 10 minutes and that is my personal favorite, shows Elektra walking into a nightclub where a sign advertising the celebration of January the 1st of 1946 is displayed. Walking across the nightclub and standing next to the orchestra, she witnesses a verbal fight between an all-male group of right-wing government supporters and another group consisting in couples that are supposed to represent the Left. Both groups take their respective turns to perform singings that belong to their particular ideologies, leading to an almost violent conclusion. There is a certain point in the film where the characters stop being active and are transformed into passive beings, silently witnessing the surrounding events rather than willingly participating in them. This is exactly the filmic style that would influence directors like Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker [1979], Nostalghia [1983]) and Béla Tarr (Sátántangó [1994], Werckmeister Harmóniák [2000]).

One of the most memorable, absolute and visual masterpieces has been born, and Angelopoulos is the master behind the lens. From storytelling brilliance to breathtaking technical perfection, O Thiasos dwells into the realm of the horrors of war and the inevitability of death, emphasizing the futility of political overpowerment and glorifying justice and the human condition. Just like Masaki Kobayashi accomplished to do with his epic war movie Ningen no Jôken (1959-1961), Angelopoulos was able of boarding the humanism train... making the collective protagonist to do it in a more literal way! Just like the trilogy forms part of a cycle, O Thiasos is the jam between the sandwich of liberal politics, instantly becoming the tastiest piece of this colossal meal. It has reached a superior category of cinema that few films have reached before, and imposing a complex narrative structure and increasing the attention to detail, the travelling players have found a place inside the people's hearts and the very spirit of quality cinema.

100/100
28
Sansho the Bailiff 1954,  Unrated)
Sansho the Bailiff
"A man is not a human being without mercy. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others."

SANSHÔ DAYÛ (1954)


Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama
Length: 124 minutes

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Kenji Mizoguchi, frequently hailed as the true Japanese film-making master, has adapted one of the greatest and most heartbreaking folk tales ever conceived by Eastern culture for cinema. Not only that, but Sanshô Dayû is the best film he ever directed, as well as one of the most extraordinary achievements in cinema history. Mizoguchi, being a true Buddhist, a strong defender of the fragility of the human soul and a poetic supporter of societal ethics, propagated the story of Sanshô Dayû to worldwide audiences, a tale that achieves its purpose: to become an effective and deeply honest wake up call for the spirit within mankind.

The film is set during the late Heian period and tells the brutally moving story of an idealistic, compassionate governor who is sent into exile because of disobeying the reigning feudal lord, leaving his wife, Tamaki, and his two sons, Zushiô and Anju, behind. Years later, the three of them decide to embark on a journey in search for him united as the true, loving family that they are, but, because of destiny's cruelty, are finally betrayed one night by a seemingly caring old woman who offers her home for them one night, selling them to malicious slave traders separately. Whereas Tamaki is sent to the big island of Sado, Zushiô and Anju are finally taken to a savage and ruthless bailiff named Sansho in Tango. The family, as torn apart as it is, is forced to work as slaves under inhuman mistreating and oppression. One fact is that Akira Kurosawa's Shichinin no Samurai (1954) took the whole attention and worldwide popularity that year, a film that, because of its influence, would literally become the Asian father of blockbuster films, despite that Mizoguchi won a Silver Lion in the Venice Film Festival, just like Kurosawa did. The truth is that they are not comparable films. They belong to completely different genres and have different filmmaking styles, being perfect due to their own specific reasons. Although I consider Shichinin no Samurai as the best Japanese film of the year, Sanshô Dayû is a close second, and basically the difference of the admiration I paid to both of them is almost nule.

I'll first mention and worship the technical aspects of the film, starting with the direction. Kenji Mizoguchi is a true master of cinema and bringing such an epic story and a complex drama to the big screen is a serious challenge: a challenge accepted and accomplished by him. The best thing about the characters is that, besides being very unique and distinguishable among them, they are very complete, with their own emotions and feelings being stated very clearly, and they suffer changes, most noticeably in Zushiô, alias Mutsu-waka, the name he used for keeping his true name secret, just as Anju used the name Shinobu, "the woman who endured through anything". This film has character development at its finest. The pace of the plot is very accurate, since it is not slow, neither fast. It is a strange mix of both. First, we are introduced to the fantastic world of Mizoguchi's mind, which can be described, principally, as peaceful. Suddenly, we make a jump through a time period that covers several years. Even so, the feeling of skipping important events in the lives of the characters is absent. The exquisite composition of the film makes it as perfect as a feature film can be.

The strongest and most accurate proof of the artistically balanced beauty of a masterpiece is its cinematography, and Sanshô Dayû has one of the best cinematography samples I have ever seen, literally. Each shot, each scene, each sequence of events and each camera movement is marvelously orchestrated, adding a lot of visual quality and highlighting the emotional tone this masterwork provides to its utterly amazed viewer. It seems like such unparalleled beauty makes up for its injustice topics and brutality, inviting the audience to reflect over their lives and the main ideas portrayed rather than surrendering and turning to complete depression and tears. If the Academy Award, in fact, split the Art Direction, Cinematography and Costume Design awards into two separate categories for black-and-white films and color films, this movie is one of the main reasons. Ironically and obviously, this film was totally ignored by the Academy. It probably makes the best use of cinematography, art direction and costume design in a black-and-white film I have ever witnessed. I salute Kazuo Miyagawa.

The performances were pretty good overall, but the best out of the whole bunch was delivered by Kinuyo Tanaka, who also appeared in Mizoguchi's previous films, Saikaku Ichidai Onna (1952) and Ugetsu Monogatari (1953). The dialogues and script are gorgeous, and yet they hide so much simplicity in them, like speaking out loud a basic and primordial idea in many different ways and through various characters, thanks to the screenwriters Fuji Yahiro and Yoshikata Yoda. Listening to the musical score was an outstanding experience; there were certain parts where I just couldn't believe what I was hearing: a genius use and mix of typical Asian instruments in a thrilling, yet tranquil manner.

Sanshô Dayû stands for human liberation and freedom, not only in the sense of resorting to our own independence, but also in the sense of fighting for justice and prioritizing honor, discipline and loyalty, customs that are mainly represented in the character Zushiô, including the resignation of power and welfare. That is where the oddity of the title comes from, since Sansho is the antagonist of the film and lacks the human transformation Zushiô had. The strongest Buddhist influence the director went through after the war is more noticeable in this film than in any other, which is an element worth adding to the story. The fragility of human's existence is accurately portrayed here, and how the abuse of authoritative powers affects any inferior social class, "inferior" standing for "less developed". An aspect I find truly genius is how the soul's fortitude and man's inner strength is represented. It is a fact that mankind is capable of enduring any kind of atrocities throughout his life independently of the sensibility the person may have; however, society's direct influence over us determine most of the aspects that will reign our lives, and our dependence towards the strong emotional bonds we build towards the most important people and material things for us is the main cause of pain, sadness and desperation, specially when loss, tragedy and deception are the main objectives to surpass. Sanshô Dayû clearly understands those concepts and uses drama in the most perfect way to deeply affect the viewer, awarding hope and heart-warmness in the end.

Mizoguchi's prime opera is not an easy film to watch, but ultimately results in reflection and self-acceptance. Sanshô Dayû discretely speaks out loud controversial, but not scandalous truths, and shares honorable and general concepts that concern the modern age. This is certainly one of cinema's greatest works of art.

100/100
29
El Ángel Exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) 1962,  Unrated)
El Ángel Exterminador (The Exterminating Angel)
- ¡Mira allí! No... ¡En la cumbre! ¿Lo ves?
- ¡El Papa!
- Sí, él es. ¡Qué lleno de majestad; qué solemne! Se diría un guerrero.


EL ÁNGEL EXTERMINADOR (1962)


Director: Luis Buñuel
País: México
Género: Drama / Fantasía / Misterio
Duración: 95 minutos

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SPANISH REVIEW:

Si bien alguna vez he visto en mi vida una directa y brillante crítica social hacia la clase alta y la burguesía, Luis Buñuel, quien es uno de mis directores gigantes del cine, es a quien debería agradecer. Me resulta un concepto bastante inteligente y bien pensado el hecho de que Buñuel, quien básicamente creó el surrealismo en el cine con su cortometraje Un Chien Andalou (1929) y con su largometraje L'Âge d'Or (1930), mezclara dicho género con su incomparable talento de dirección para crear una de las más astutas críticas a la clase alta que jamás he visto en el Séptimo Arte. El Ángel Exterminador es ciertamente la primera película surrealista de este tipo, temática que después usaría en su filmografía francesa que incluye la obra maestra Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (1972) y Le Fantôme de la Liberté (1974). Asimismo, El Ángel Exterminador difiere de cualquier otro proyecto cinematográfico que Buñuel haya realizado en México, pues a pesar de que tenía la costumbre de añadir pequeñas pizcas de surrealismo en películas como Los Olvidados (1950) y Subida al Cielo (1952), éstas eran básicamente melodramas y El Ángel Exterminador cae ya en el género de fantasía.

La película cuenta la simple historia de una lujosa fiesta exclusiva para la clase alta que se llevará a cabo por parte de Leticia, a quien comúnmente se le llama "La Valkiria". Una vez concluida la cena, los invitados desean salir de la mansión, pero para su enorme sorpresa les resulta imposible salir. Sus estándares sociales y elegantes costumbres y forma de comportamiento se ven reducidos gradualmente a los instintos más primitivos del hombre cuando se ven forzados a sobrevivir con animales y como animales con el paso del tiempo. La película fue nominada a una Palma de Oro en el Festival de Cannes, y definitivamente fue una batalla dura. Luis Buñuel merecía la nominación, pero dado el hecho de que directores como Agnés Varda por Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), Pietro Germi por Divorzio All'italiana (1961), Michelangelo Antonioni por L'eclisse (1962) y Robert Bresson por Procés de Jeanne d'Arc (1962) competían por el premio, comprendo que no haya ganado. Sin embargo, no estoy de acuerdo con que Anselmo Duarte haya ganado por O Pagador de Promessas (1962).

El Ángel Exterminador posee una dirección simplemente extraordinaria, y es en su dirección donde uno como espectador siente el completo control creativo y libertad artística de Buñuel sobre la película a diferencia de las que dirigió anteriormente. El guión y los diálogos también fueron creados por Buñuel, y funciona de una manera fantástica. Cada escena no está de sobra y, gracias al altamente adecuado ritmo de la película, encaja perfectamente en la historia. La edición es bastante decente, incluyendo en la secuencia del sueño que uno de los personajes tiene, la cual es tanto tétrica como cómica. La película posee un buen manejo de la cámara, aunque la mayoría toma parte en un espacio cerrado, el cual es la mansión de la cena. Todos los detalles están sumamente cuidados, considerando el hecho de que hay bastantes actores en escena a la vez realizando actividades diferentes antes y después de la ridícula situación difícil en la que finalmente se encuentran. Las actuaciones son muy acordes al tipo de personas que están retratando, y el show es obviamente robado completamente por Silvia Pinal, quien va adquiriendo distintas facetas conforme pasa el tiempo. A diferencia de Viridiana (1961), su personaje de "La Valkiria" se aleja del aspecto espiritual y adopta uno mucho más elegante, pero ególatra y cómico a la vez.

El Ángel Exterminador es una sátira trágica llena de simbolismos e imposible fantasía. La película tiene tantas interpretaciones como número de personas que la ha visto, y es ése el tipo de obras maestras que funcionan a la perfección, sobre todo cuando es decisión misma del director dejar el significado a la interpretación abierta de cada persona. Es por ello que haré énfasis en un punto importante: Todas las ideas que esté a punto de expresar en el siguiente comentario son mi propia interpretación del filme, las cuales pueden ser puestas a discusión, pues gran parte de la magia de este maravilloso proyecto surrealista se origina de esa posibilidad.

La trama no solamente está manejada con un humor sofisticado, sino con una irreverente absurdez de los aspectos más bajos de la sociedad lujosa. Nosotros siendo tan inactivos mentalmente y menos críticos con el paso del tiempo, Buñuel probablemente utilizó elementos exagerados (algunas veces hasta infantiles) para clarificar el extremo ridículo que quería representar, convirtiendo a la burguesía que los estándares sociales han hecho "respetable" en algo de lo que todo mundo podría burlarse. La incapacidad de los burgueses de salir del cuarto puede ser interpretado como un elemento cómico que involuntariamente "justifica" las atrocidades que la Iglesia ha cometido durante tantos siglos en la historia de la humanidad, pues a pesar de que dentro del grupo podemos encontrar a doctores y coroneles de guerra, la Iglesia tiene una pesada influencia como protagonista implícito. La religión no se salva de la blasfemia. En los libros de Moisés en el Antiguo Testamento principalmente, se hacen constantes referencias al ritual de sacrificios llevado a cabo por los sacerdotes, lo cual conllevaba a un proceso de purificación. También se menciona como la gente sin la presencia de Dios en su vida suele ser como ovejas sin pastor. Ello me trae a la mente la escena final, en donde una masacre está tomando a lugar en las calles mientras la Iglesia se ve sujeta a la misma maldición, así como sus seguidores, estando separados de la sociedad. La pérdida de la virginidad resulta en liberación y epifanía, y las ovejas pueden simbolizar a la gente literalmente dirigiéndose hacia un matadero. Asimismo, esta incapacidad simboliza la idiotez sin fondo en que la clase alta suele caer una vez que sus propias personalidades permiten ser absorbidas en el orgullo y en la falsa imagen de superioridad que ciegamente consideran tener sobre el resto de la sociedad. Cuando se ven forzados a salir de sus propios mundos, los cuales son representados físicamente en el cuarto en el que se encuentran atrapados como leones enjaulados, simplemente se niegan a hacerlo y recurren a todo medio posible, sin importar qué tan ridículo éste resulte ser, para permanecer en ellos. La principal razón puede ser el orgullo que poseen, a pesar de que las motivaciones de los personajes jamás son explicadas claramente.

El Ángel Exterminador puede resultar una película controversial y sumamente ofensiva para cierta gente por su alto grado de burla y sátira brillante. Es interesante el contexto en que Buñuel dirigió esta película, pues justo después de haber representado la pobreza en su más gráfico detalle, se va al extremo opuesto, tratando la constante lucha entre clases sociales como un tema principal. Buñuel consideró a El Ángel Exterminador como uno de sus fracasos, pues afirma que de haberla podido hacer en París, hubiera hecho que los personajes incluso llegaran a extremos más intensos. Sin embargo, la idea claramente se entiende, y considero a esta película mejor que cualquier otra surrealista que haya realizado en el futuro sin considerar al corto Un Chien Andalou (1929). Gracias a Viridiana (1961), Buñuel se convirtió en uno de los directores blasfemos más controversiales de su época siendo censurado (irónicamente) por la Iglesia, y con El Ángel Exterminador sus ideas son establecidas y fortalecidas justo antes de que volviera a Francia. El Ángel Exterminador es una obra maestra maravillosamente absurda y graciosamente única en su género.

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

If I have actually seen a brilliant and very direct social criticism about the upper and bourgeois class before, Luis Buñuel, who is one of my giant directors of cinema, is the guy who I should really thank. The fact that Buñuel, who basically gave birth to surrealism in cinema with his short film Un Chien Andalou (1929) and his feature film L'Âge d'Or (1930), mixed this genre with his incomparable direction talent for creating one of the smartest criticisms aimed towards the upper class I have ever seen in the history of the Seventh Art is a highly intelligent and well-thought concept for me. El Ángel Exterminador is certainly the first surrealist film of this kind, a thematic element that he will later use frequently in his French filmography which includes the masterpiece Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (1972) and Le Fantôme de la Liberté (1974). Also, El Ángel Exterminador differs from any other cinematographic project that Buñuel completed while being in Mexico, since although he had the habit of adding little and brief sequences of surrealism in his films such as in Los Olvidados (1950) and Subida al Cielo (1952), these movies were basically melodramas and El Ángel Exterminador falls already into the genre of fantasy as a film.

The movie itself has a very simple story about a luxurious party, exclusively aimed for the upper class that would be organized by Leticia, who is commonly named "La Valkiria" for funny reasons mentioned in the film. Once that the dinner has concluded, the guests desire to leave the mansion, but as surprising and unbelievable as it may seem, they just find it impossible to get out. Their social standards and elegant habits and behavior manners are gradually reduced to the most primitive instincts of man when they are forced to survive like animals and with animals with the pass of time. The movie was nominated for a Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival, and it was definitely a very tough battle. Luis Buñuel deserved the nomination, but since directors such as Agnés Varda for Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), Pietro Germi for Divorzio All'italiana (1961), Michelangelo Antonioni for L'eclisse (1962) and Robert Bresson for Procés de Jeanne d'Arc (1962) were competing for the prize, I understand that Buñuel hadn't won. However, I disagree with Anselmo Duarte winning the award for his film O Pagador de Promessas (1962).

El Ángel Exterminador has a simply extraordinary direction by Buñuel, and it is in his direction where one as a spectator is able to feel the complete creative control and artistic freedom that he had over the movie unlike the films he previously directed. The script and the dialogues were also created by Buñuel and all of them work fantastically. Each scene was necessary and, thanks to the highly adequate pace of the film, perfectly fit into the story. The editing is pretty much decent, including the dream sequence that one of the characters has, which is dismal just as it is comical. The movie has a great camera handle considering that most of the film takes place in a closed space, which is the mansion where the dinner was held. Every single detail is extremely taken care of, considering the fact that there are several actors in a scene at once making different activities before and after the utterly ridiculous and difficult situation in which they finally end up being. The performances are accurate according to the kind of people the cast is portraying, and obviously the show is completely stolen by Silvia Pinal, who begins to acquire several facets as time goes by. Unlike Viridiana (1961), her character of "La Valkiria" steps away from the spiritual aspect and adopts a much more elegant, but self-worshiping and comical one at the same time.

El Ángel Exterminador is a tragic satire full of symbolisms and impossible fantasy. The movie can have as many interpretations as the number of people that have seen it, and that is the kind of masterpieces that work at their most perfect way, especially when it is the director's decision to leave the meaning of the film to the open interpretation of its audience. That is why I will make emphasis in a very important point: Every single idea that I am about to express in the following review are based on my own interpretation of the film, which can be, of course, put to discussion, since most of the magic of this wonderful surrealist project comes from that possibility.

The story is not only handled with a sophisticated humor, but with an irreverent absurdity about the most degrading aspects of the luxurious society. Due to the fact that we get more mentally inactive and less critical with each new generation, Buñuel probably utilized exaggerated elements (some of them even childish) for clarifying the extreme ridicule he wanted to represent, converting the bourgeoisie that the social standards have turned it into something "respectable" into something that the whole world could laugh at. The incapacity of the bourgeoisies to get out of the room can be interpreted as a comical element that involuntarily "justifies" the atrocities that the Church has committed during several centuries in the history of humanity, since although inside the bourgeois group people such as doctors and war coronels can be found, the Church has a very heavy influence as an implicit protagonist. Religion isn't excluded from blasphemy. Principally in the books of Moses found in the Old Testament, constant references towards the rituals of sacrifices executed by the priests are made, which lead to a process of purification. It is also mentioned how people tend to be like lambs without a shepherd when absent from the presence of God in their lives. This detail brings to my mind the final scene, in which a massacre is being held in the streets while the Church is being subject to the same curse, just like its followers, being separated from the rest of the society. The loss of virginity ends up in epiphany and liberation, and the sheep can symbolize the people literally walking towards an abattoir. Likewise, this incapacity symbolizes the bottomless idiocy in which the upper class tends to fall into once that their own personalities allow themselves to be literally absorbed by pride and by the false image of superiority that they blindly consider to have above the rest of the society. When they are finally forced to get out of their own little worlds, which are physically represented in the room in which they are trapped just like caged lions, they simply refuse to do it and resort to any possible solution in order to avoid doing it, no matter how ridiculous it ends up being. The main reason may be the pride they possess, although the motivations of the characters are never explicitly shown.

El Ángel Exterminador can be a very controversial and extremely offensive movie for certain kind of people because of its high level of mockery and brilliant satire. The context in which Buñuel directed this film is interesting, because right after he represented poverty in its most graphic detail, he goes to the extreme opposite, treating the constant struggle between social classes as a main topic. Buñuel considered El Ángel Exterminador as one of his greatest failures, since he affirms that if he had done it in Paris, he would have taken the characters towards much more intense extremes. However, the main idea is clearly understood, and I consider this film better than any other surrealist film he had directed in the future without considering his short film Un Chien Andalou (1929). Thanks to Viridiana (1961), Buñuel became one of the most blasphemous and controversial directors of his time being (ironically) censored by the Church and, with El Ángel Exterminador, his ideas were solidly established and strengthened right before he returned to France. El Ángel Exterminador is a marvelously absurd and hilariously unique comedy masterpiece, unique within its genre.

100/100
30
L'année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) 1961,  Unrated)
L'année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad)
"Empty salons. Corridors. Salons. Doors. Doors. Salons. Empty chairs, deep armchairs, thick carpets. Heavy hangings. Stairs, steps. Steps, one after the other. Glass objects, objects still intact, empty glasses. A glass that falls, three, two, one, zero. Glass partition, letters."

L'ANNÉE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD (1961)


Director: Alain Resnais
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Romance
Length: 94 minutes

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The filmic style of Alain Resnais had the remarkable talent of completely staying away from the revolutionary cinematic movement denominated French New Wave and had the guts of literally playing with cinema and modifying its usual structural grammar. With Hiroshima mon Amour (1959), film that counted with the unparalleled brilliant contribution of acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Marguerite Duras, Resnais could offer a different perspective of a non-linear and poetical storytelling never seen in cinema before. His next true masterpiece called L'Année Dernière à Marienbad allowed him to perfect his style, not exactly resorting to surrealism in its purest form, but rather introducing a hypnotic cinematic subjectivity dependent on the viewer's own interpretation of the dreamlike sequences and events. Consciously or not, directors that go from Stanley Kubrick to David Lynch have referenced either this masterpiece specifically or his overall direction style. L'Année Dernière à Marienbad is an influential triumph which greatness and talent depend on originality of storytelling and in an effective ambition displayed through a talented execution.

We are introduced for the first 10 minutes to a considerably luxurious and spacious hotel where several upper-class individuals wander through its corridors, salons and galleries, attend gatherings and dances, and discuss any issue that can come to mind. Suddenly, a married woman is starting to be stalked by a man who insists they had met before and had an affair in Marienbad, urging her to revive their lives and to run away with him. The film received an Academy Award nomination in 1963 for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, losing it against the Italian comedy Divorzio all'Italiana (1961) directed by Pietro Germi, which is, of course, a blasphemy of a decision. On the other hand, Alain Resnais had won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival two years before.

L'Année Dernière à Marienbad is, for a considerable percentage of the audience, the best film of the director. Although this is his second best and most overly ambitious project, the difference between the film and his previous masterpiece Hiroshima mon Amour (1959) is literally nil. Seemingly, the film improves the cinematographic technique first applied in Hiroshima mon Amour (1959), trying to poetically perfect it. The direction by Alain Resnais is overly ambitious, yet significantly attractive and though-provoking, successfully giving birth to a unique French work of art. The screenplay of this particular film is one of my favorites that have ever been created by human hands. The dialogue written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, who also shared his artistic particular vision designing the scenario of the feature film, reaches a level of perfection that had never been dreamed before. Repetition and exaggerated emphasis on the details become positive aspects for effectively serving the main purposes of L'Année Dernière à Marienbad. The final result of the screenplay is pure literary poetry painted in moving images. The photography is arguably the best technical aspect of the film. Multifaceted and talented cinematographer Sacha Vierny (Hiroshima mon Amour [1959], The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover [1989]) composes beautifully balanced shots, like the equilibrium that carries life itself. The imagery is astonishing, hypnotic, seductive, tranquil... the very mysteries of the mansion revealed; the gardens and fountains becoming live. The well-done performances have been submerged in the surrealism of the film. The music is astonishingly haunting, eerie and somewhat gothic. A soundtrack listing is not necessary, but just the notes expressing a governing dream state, seducing the mind and terrorizing it thoroughly, with the appropriate volume and unexpected interruptions.

The camera moves through each single corridor, gallery and European landscape in a marvelously peaceful, balanced and artistic way, counting with a deep voiceover. The voiceover comes from a man who is completely dependent of his memories and self-conviction, a passionate characteristic of his personality that applies to her possibly beloved woman. The woman represents the female figure whose mind can be utterly manipulated, the weak and innocent gorgeous female that succumbs to the vastness and complexity of the mind. A hotel that encapsulates several individuals may be the symbol of the human mind, the object that possesses a memory dependent on subjectivity. Memories possibly being distorted and modified in a dreamlike fashion mirrors how varied the perspective towards life itself can be. Constant déjà vus and dialogue repetition accompanied by a severely attention to detail explanation imply the lack of objectivity that should be applied to the film. There are no names, but just characters. The characters are the only ones that matter. Black and white contrast found and revealed emotions, and past romances may represent eternal and impossible longings of the heart. Lights and shadows fall in love with romance, and incoherent shadows on the ground confuse all possible and infinite versions of an impossible truth.

L'Année Dernière à Marienbad itself is a commentary on unfound passions and dreamed affairs based on imaged insincerities. No matter how evident the truth may seem, it is just impossible to discover. It is not meant to be discovered... perhaps not yet. The purpose of life comes along for itself, but not before the mind has acquired a certain level of maturity and self-acceptance; so do not certain epiphanies and realizations. The film suggests that dreams and memories are inexact replicas of reality and that have absurdity and surrealism as their main ingredients. Of course, no solid or clichéd conclusion was required, but just events and symbolisms. With a man whose conviction drives him to desperate measures for obtaining what it is already impossible to take back, a woman who uses her heart and the logic as her most powerful emotional weapons in case exterior events defy her psychological health, a mathematician and cold-blooded husband who demonstrates his talents through an ancient Chinese card/object game based on binary principles in a forced attempt to call for the attention of the world, endless rooms and corridors in a Baroque mansion, endless paths that may lead to one single end, interminable possibilities and a black-and-white world where light and darkness fight a passionate war, L'Année Dernière à Marienbad is an unequaled piece of work. Alain Resnais had an unlimited creativity and a big screen meant no physical obstacle for him. Shattering time to pieces and arranging them under the commands of the heart, and a realm where even the reason lives under the government of the emotions, it is a provocative journey into a romantic world of the ultimately unknown.

100/100
31
A Clockwork Orange 1971,  R)
A Clockwork Orange
"Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?"

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)


Director: Stanley Kubrick
Country: United Kingom / United States of America
Genre: Crime / Thriller / Sci-Fi
Length: 136 minutes

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Stanley Kubrick is one of my giant cinema directors and A Clockwork Orange is, without a doubt, one of his most disturbing, scandalous, brilliant and controversial masterworks that he ever created. Thanks to this work of art, Stanley Kubrick finally consolidated himself as an inventive, original, creative and visionary director. Whereas 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) permitted him to expand his artistic vision to extremes lightly limited by the cinematography, creating one of the best and most profound and complex cinema stories, A Clockwork Orange focused more in both the filmmaking and direction styles that had already been born in him some years before. The magic of this film originated from the fact that the director achieved the impossible in order to create one of the most beautiful and profound movies known by mankind despite that the main thematic elements are based on crime, sex, violence and Beethoven, being successful at it.

The movie takes place in a Britain set in a not-so-distant future in which a group of young and mentally disturbed savages leaded by Alex goes out to the streets every night for beating and raping all types of innocent victims. One night, the group of criminals gets tired of the authority that Alex was constantly imposing over them and ends up betraying him, causing the police to arrest him and put him in jail. In order to shorten his sentence, Alex decides to voluntarily participate in a rehabilitation and conduct modification program organized by the government that is supposed to change the horrible behavioral tendencies of Alex. However, once that Alex completes the program, a new world and a new life, which he had left behind not to long ago, will come back and haunt him, causing catastrophic results. A Clockwork Orange had the bad luck of being released the same year as the inferior Hollywood film The French Connection (1971) directed by William Friedkin. The movie received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Stupidly enough, he lost all of the aforementioned Oscars precisely against The French Connection (1971), a film in which Gene Hackman won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role because of a performance that, in my opinion, was considerably inferior to the one by Malcolm Mc Dowell, who didn't even receive a nomination. However, we must take into consideration the controversy this film caused due to two principal factors: the early decade in which it was released, becoming a film considerably ahead of its time, and the chillingly accurate prediction of the violent behavior of modern society based in its most primitive instincts.

We will start with the direction. Trying to avoid repeating most of the aspects about Kubrick that have already been mentioned in the first paragraph, he established a new vision for creating suspense cinema. If we closely analyze the plot and the atmosphere, the movie does not belong to a clearly defined genre. The subject matter possesses a heavy influence of sex and violence, elements that are depicted in the most beautiful and provocative form, something that almost no director can achieve nowadays. It is impressive how the acts of man most rejected and repulsed by common society are transformed in poetry found within a film directed almost 40 years ago. That is why we could associate this film with the crime genre, but it actually goes beyond the genre of crime in a similar way that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) surpassed the sci-fi genre, finding innovative expression forms. Since the story is developed in future Britain, we could relate it with the sci-fi genre as well. However, despite the great amount of style added to the film by the fact that it takes place in the future, specially considering the set decoration and the creative interior design of some houses, the story could have been told in a present-day atmosphere (this is, 1971). Even so, the genius of the narrative structure and the predominant perturbing elements of this violent story predicted, in a considerably correct form, the increasing of the different types of violence in present society. This is the definition of vision, and Kubrick had it since he grabbed a camera for the first time in his life. He simply just kept improving it, cinematographically and artistically speaking.

This particular screenplay is one of my personal favorites in cinema history. The creation of new terms in the language of the protagonists is a highly creative, poetic and stylized concept, and the most surprising aspect is that it is not totally incomprehensible. Kubrick's adaptation of the famous novel written by the author Anthony Burgess is extraordinary. I comprehend the vast difference between the novel and the film, especially considering the contrasted endings they both have, which suggests that the film had a completely different approach. I dare to say that this is one of the cases where cinema surpasses literature, just like in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), for mentioning few famous examples. The pace of the movie is exceedingly accelerated, but pays attention to all of the details shown in every shot. The camera work is incomparable, probably the best I have ever seen since the decade of the 70's. The angles are perfectly balanced without any single touch of uncomfortable inclination and the camera has perfect filming locations for capturing the world that A Clockwork Orange attempts to portray. The editing is equally majestic, being, probably, the best editing I have ever witnessed in a film. I think my favorite scene talking about editing would be Alex being locked up in his room and listening to Beethoven; pay attention to the editing in that particular sequence. Every single technical aspect of the film will never be equaled, especially when the direction was in charge of a master of cinema. Words can't describe the superiority of the cinematography of this feature-film.

The performances are very peculiar, creating differentiated characters between each other. Alex is one of the most awesomely horrific and terrifying villains I have ever seen on screen. Malcolm McDowell gives away one of the best samples in the history of cinema about what "acting" is supposed to mean. Acting is neither about exaggerated dramas nor senseless screaming, but about becoming the character. McDowell doesn't play Alex; he is Alex. I even thought that the real personality of the actor was being portrayed in the film for a second, which is a terrific achievement. McDowell occupies a spot among the best performances I have ever seen. The supporting cast did a remarkable job as well, from the former partners of Alex (Pete, Georgie and Dim) to his parents, who had undeniably comical behaviors and, to some extent, unrealistic and impossible as well. The overall atmosphere of the film possesses surrealist elements, which adds a considerable quantity of gloominess and fantasy to the plot. The mood that was created in A Clockwork Orange is certainly impressive, never staying away from the fact that the film takes place in England, something that the audience must believe while watching it.

A fascinating and memorable aspect is the music employed. From the exquisite and majestic melodies of one of my favorite music composers, Ludwig Van Beethoven, to the original musical score, a wonderfully orchestrated and dazzling experience is provided. One thing that Kubrick always knew how to do is to correctly choose and add incredible music, adding a very identifiable style, just like Woody Allen did. The music that introduces the opening sequence and that later is constantly repeated throughout is as marvelous just as it is dismal. It could be said that the spectator goes through the same nostalgic feeling when hearing the music of the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), or even the classic macabre tune of The Exorcist (1973). Overall, it is a wonderful musical score, perhaps one of the bests of all time.

A Clockwork Orange generates various polemic ideas and questionings. To what extent one as a person requires causing (and even receiving) physical, sexual and psychological violence? How much dependence does modern society possesses towards its controlling government? Is violence a naturally imposed balance among humanity? How serious can the lack of self-control over our impulses get? How much can a superior power brainwash us and literally take control over our minds? More than a brilliant psychological analysis, A Clockwork Orange is also a social criticism towards governmental authorities. That is why it is considered a film ahead of its time, not comprehended by then. It is also the most disturbing and beautiful piece of cinematic art I have ever laid my eyes on, having both contrasting qualities at the same time. Some scenes are so perturbing that I was fascinated by them. Was it guilty pleasure, or the primitive, dark side we all have sleeping within us most of the time? Perhaps it was a peculiar mix of both. It is a natural thought to reconsider the movie as "entertaining" due to the polemic elements treated throughout. A beautiful essay about the most brutal sickness of man who doesn't seem to be capable of finding an exit to his eternal psychological abysm, A Clockwork Orange is a true masterwork that shall be remembered for its great influence in cinema and for the controversy it inevitably caused in worldwide audiences from different generations, without having mercy on the age you may have.

100/100
32
El Topo 1971,  Unrated)
El Topo
"Hoy cumples siete años. Ya eres un hombre. Entierra tu primer juguete y el retrato de tu madre."

EL TOPO (1970)


Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
País: México
Género: Aventura / Fantasía / Western
Duración: 125 minutos

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SPANISH REVIEW:

El Topo ha sido clasificado como el definitivo spaghetti western de culto. Recurriendo a una alta dosis de surrealismo, simbolismo parcialmente subliminal e imaginería religiosa, Alejandro Jodorowsky ha creado una de las obras maestras cinematográficas más perturbadoras en la historia del cine, considerando el hecho de que es uno de los pocos proyectos que resultan ser efectivamente ambiciosos. Perfeccionando su estilo técnico desde Fando y Lis (1968) con un doblaje mejorado, una cinematografía cuya armonía y asombro rebasa límites, y una dirección que, pese a su gran ambición y peso psicológico, consiguió establecer un estilo propio muy diferente a los esquemas fílmicos de Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita [1960], [1963]), Luis Buñuel (L'Âge d'Or [1930], El Ángel Exterminador [1962]) y Sergio Leone (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo. [1966], C'era una Volta il West [1968]), con los que Jodorowsky es normalmente comparado, El Topo es la más gloriosa representación del cine mismo resplandeciendo en su máxima expresión, un nivel jamás soñado.

Ciertamente, el aspecto menos relevante de El Topo es su trama. Gracias a su inigualable estilo de dirección, El Topo no posee un solo clímax ni solo una secuencia en donde el anonadado espectador pueda alcanzar un nivel personal de catarsis ni revelación espiritual, cinematográficamente hablando. El Topo, interpretado por Alejandro Jodorowsky, es un invencible y sumamente hábil pistolero quien, con la compañía de su hijo, vagan por la vastedad del desierto hasta encontrar un pueblo cuyos habitantes y animales fueron recientemente masacrados de manera brutal. Mientras los sobrevivientes están siendo torturados y asesinados por los villanos cerca de ahí, El Topo llega a la escena para hacer justicia. Dejando a su hijo abandonado con los franciscanos, él es guiado por una mujer llamada Mara quien le expresa que su siguiente misión es asesinar a los cuatro maestros pistoleros del desierto. Una vez que una misteriosa mujer se les une en el viaje, ambas traicionan a El Topo dejándolo balaceado en el desierto sólo para ser encontrado por un conjunto de gente pobre quienes lo veneran como a un dios, esperando que algún día despierte y los pueda ayudar a escapar de la caverna en la que se encuentran, la cual está localizada debajo de un pueblo bizarramente cristiano. La película ganó un Ariel de Plata por Mejor Cinematografía en 1972, el cual fue otorgado por la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias y Artes Cinematográficas que se enfoca específicamente al cine mexicano. Asimismo, es considerada también como una de las mejores películas mexicanas de todos los tiempos por una versión de la revista SOMOS publicada en 1994, ocupando el puesto número 42.

Culminando con una de las secuencias más violentas y simbólicas jamás logradas hasta entonces, El Topo sigue siendo un triunfo cinematográfico que rebasó las definiciones de todos los géneros con que puede ser descrita, especialmente los géneros de aventura y fantasía. En mi opinión personal, la definición de cine no sería totalmente conquistada y superada sino hasta 3 años después con su largometraje The Holy Mountain (1973) el cual, a comparación de El Topo, poseía menos (si no es que ninguna) influencias e inspiraciones cinematográficas. Pese a estas controversiales características, los aspectos técnicos finalmente lograron alcanzar un alto grado de calidad. La cinematografía es resultado del trabajo de un individuo con una concepción del cine superior a la normal, cubriendo vastos paisajes, contando con la correcta mezcla de ángulos balanceados y bizarros y el más brillante manejo de cámara, gracias al talento de Rafael Corkidi. Era necesario que El Topo, a diferencia de Fando y Lis (1968), contuviera el estilo y visión de Jodorowsky en su totalidad de principio a fin con el objetivo de consolidar su estilo de dirección, por lo cual el guión fue totalmente escrito por él. La escenografía, la banda sonora, y el vestuario fueron aspectos que también estuvieron bajo su cargo.

La lentitud de la película es justificable. En su altamente notorio intento por tratar de ser una experiencia extraordinaria y una odisea espiritual epifánica, la película funciona como un viaje abierto a una interpretación personal. El vago dicho "Inventa tu propia versión de los hechos y ésa será la correcta" puede definir parcialmente el objetivo de la película, así como el amplio criterio de Jodorowsky. La atención dada a cada detalle, sea éste visible o simbólico, es hipnóticamente adecuada. Un hecho cierto es que los proyectos cinematográficos de Alejandro Jodorowsky no pueden ser resumidos ni explicados en una reseña, así que ¿qué demonios estoy haciendo ahora mismo? Estoy haciendo dos cosas: Una es rectificar dicha declaración. La segunda es expresar mi propia experiencia al haber visto El Topo, dejando muy en claro que mi versión personal no es la oficialmente aceptada, probablemente ni siquiera la versión de Jodorowsky, con todo respeto.

Evitando ser una película religiosa blasfemante, uno de los propósitos de Jodorowsky es simbolizar, a través del cristianismo, de elementos budistas, del sexo, de la violencia y de la forma en que la Iglesia Católica ha dañado por siglos la cristiandad y la verdadera religión, el surrealismo como una herramienta para complementar a los personajes de una manera catártica. Desde Kafka hasta Buñuel, Jodorowsky utilizó elementos que conforman la cultura cinematográfica popular para engrandecer las diversas temáticas manejadas por El Topo. Independientemente del hecho de que la película haya requerido la buena actuación estelar de Jodorowsky, el pistolero creyente de Dios posiblemente simboliza la segunda venida de Cristo, el Hijo de Dios hecho Hombre en todas sus características humanas, por lo cual experimenta al final una horripilante revelación de su propio existencialismo. A diferencia de las opiniones que afirman que El Topo insulta y se mofa de los eventos retratados en La Santa Biblia, interpreto que el largometraje enaltece tanto las Sagradas Escrituras como la imagen de Jesucristo y la verdadera religión, la cual es el cristianismo, mediante la cual se puede alcanzar la Vida Eterna gracias a la fe.

Representando de manera simple y simbólica los constantes fracasos del pistolero y los elementos originadores de la violencia, desde un par de armas y el mismo cuerpo humano hasta una red de mariposas, la dirección conlleva al ciclo de la vida balanceado. No me refiero específicamente al balance gráfico visual presente concerniendo religión, comedia clásica, fornicación, violencia, estereotipos, simbolismos, belleza, surrealismo y sectas ocultas como los Illuminati, sino a cómo todos estos elementos conllevan a un equilibrio y a una perfección, representado comúnmente con el Yin Yang, culminando en la constante representación de círculos, una figura geométrica que, dentro de la película, convive con la muerte y la espiritualidad. Se podría afirmar que el director interpreta a su manera partes de La Santa Biblia tales como el Génesis, los Salmos y El Apocalipsis en una forma similar que interpretó las memorias de la obra de Fernando Arrabal en Fando y Lis (1968).

Pese a que parcialmente puedo concordar con la opinión popular que afirma que El Topo es una de las películas más pretenciosas jamás creadas, la verdad es que, desde Fando y Lis (1968) hasta Santa Sangre (1989), Jodorowsky no se hundió en un ego gráficamente pretencioso gracias a la oportunidad que ofreció a masas mundiales a interpretar sus proyectos de una manera personal. Simplemente soy un ejemplo más: Jodorowsky ha cambiado mi forma de ver la vida. Honestamente, ¿qué se puede esperar de una película cuyos fans famosos incluyen a celebridades y directores diversos como John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, Peter Fonda (Easy Rider [1969], 3:10 to Yuma [2005]), Dennis Hopper (Cool Hand Luke [1968], Blue Velvet [1986]) Samuel Fuller (Pickup on South Street [1953], The Big Red One [1980]) y David Lynch (Eraserhead [1977], Mulholland Dr. [2001])? Representando eventos como la reencarnación, el viaje de Moisés y el pueblo de Egipto a la Tierra Prometida, la revelación de Sansón, el poder de los elementos esenciales (tierra, agua, fuego y aire), la crucifixión de Jesucristo, la transformación de agua amarga a dulce de Moisés y los Evangelios del Nuevo Testamento, el maltrato de los fieles creyentes por la Iglesia Católica, así como el nacimiento de la religión y la muerte, El Topo es un atrevido llamado a contemplar a la vida de forma diferente sin hacer un innecesario comentario en contra del incorrectamente llamado opio de las masas. En un mundo donde la clase alta es mostrada como una parte de la sociedad que está destinada a ir directamente al infierno y la clase baja es enaltecida (pues de ella es el Reino de los Cielos), la obra maestra de Jodorowsky se ha convertido en una de las mejores películas mexicanas de todos los tiempos, ligeramente alcanzando el nivel de los mayores expositores del surrealismo.

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

El Topo has been classified as the definitive cult spaghetti western. Resorting to a high dose of surrealism, partially subliminal symbolism and religious imagery, Alejandro Jodorowsky has created one of the most disturbing cinematic works of art in the history of cinema, considering the fact that it is one of the few projects that ended up being effectively ambitious. Perfecting his technical style since Fando y Lis (1968) with a better dubbing, a cinematography which harmony and awe surpass any limit, and a direction that, despite its great ambition and psychological weight, achieved to establish a unique style that could be considerably different from the filmic preconceptions of Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita [1960], [1963]), Luis Buñuel (L'Âge d'Or [1930], El Ángel Exterminador [1962]) and Sergio Leone (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo. [1966], C'era una Volta il West [1968]), with which Jodorowsky is normally compared, El Topo is the most glorious representation of cinema itself shining at its maximum capacity to a level that had never been dreamt before.

Certainly, the least relevant aspect of El Topo is its plot. Thanks to its incomparable direction style, El Topo does not posses just one single climax or one single sequence where the dumbfounded spectator can reach a personal level of catharsis or spiritual revelation, cinematically speaking. El Topo, interpreted by Alejandro Jodorowsky, is an invincible and highly skillful gunman who, along with the company of his son, wanders through the vastness of the desert, finding a town whose inhabitants and animals were recently massacred in a brutal manner. While the survivors are being tortured and murdered by the villains nearby, El Topo arrives to the scene to do justice. Abandoning his son leaving him with the Franciscans, he is guided by a woman named Mara tells him that his next mission is to assassin the four master gunmen of the desert. Once that a mysterious woman joins them in their journey, both women betray El Topo, leaving him shot and wounded in the desert only to be found by a group of poor people who warship him as a god, waiting that someday he will awaken and help them escape from the cavern in which they are found in, which is located under a bizarrely Christian town. The film won a Silver Ariel for Best Cinematography in 1972, which was given by the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences that specifically focus to Mexican movie industry. Also, it is considered as one of the best Mexican films of all time by the 100th edition of a Mexican magazine called "SOMOS" published in the year of 1994, reaching the 42nd spot.

Culminating with one of the most violent and symbolic sequences ever achieved by then, El Topo is still a cinematographic triumph that surpassed the very definitions of all of the genres that can be used to describe the film, specially the adventure and fantasy genres. In my personal opinion, the definition of cinema would finally be conquered and surpassed 3 years later with his feature film The Holy Mountain (1973) which, unlike El Topo, possessed less (if any) influences and cinematic inspirations. Despite these controversial characteristics, the technical aspects finally managed to reach a high quality level. The cinematography is the result of the work of an individual with a superior-to-normal-standards conception of cinema, covering vast landscapes and counting with the correct mix of balanced and bizarre angles and with the most brilliant camera work, thanks to the talent of Rafael Corkidi. It was necessary that El Topo, unlike Fando y Lis (1968), contained the style and vision of Jodorowsky in its totality throughout with the purpose of consolidating his direction style, so the screenplay was completely elaborated by him. The scenery, the soundtrack and the costume design were aspects that also were under his charge.

The slowness of the film is justifiable. In its extremely notorious attempt of becoming an extraordinary experience and a spiritually epiphanic odyssey, the movie works as a trip open to personal interpretation. The vague saying "Come up with your own version of the facts and that will be the correct one" can partially define the purpose of this film in a similar way it can define the vast criterion of Jodorowsky. The attention given to all the details, whether they are visible or symbolic, is hypnotically adequate. One true fact is that the cinematic projects of Alejandro Jodorowsky cannot be resumed or explained in a review, so what the hell am I doing right now? I am doing two things: One thing is to rectify such statement. The second thing is to express my own experience after having seen El Topo, leaving very clear that my own personal version is not the officially accepted one, probably just like even Jodorowsky's version, with all due respect.

Avoiding being a blasphemous religious film, one of the purposes of Jodorowsky is to symbolize through Christianity, Buddhists elements, sex, violence and the way the Catholic Church has damaged Christendom and the true religion for centuries, the surrealism as a tool for complementing the characters in a cathartic manner. From Kafka to Buñuel, Jodorowsky utilized elements that form part of the popular cinematic culture for exalting the diverse subject matters contained in El Topo. Independently of the fact that the film may have required a good leading performance from Jodorowsky, the gunmen believer in God possibly symbolizes the second coming of Christ, the Son of God made Man in all of his human characteristics, so he experiments a horrible revelation of his own existentialism at the end. Unlike the opinions that affirm that El Topo insults and mocks the events portrayed in The Holy Bible, I interpret that the character praises the Holy Scriptures, the image of Jesus Christ and the true religion, which is Christianity, through which Eternal Life can be obtained through faith.

Representing in a very simple and symbolic manner the constant failures of the gunman and the elements originators of violence, from a couple of guns and the human body itself to a butterfly net, the direction automatically leads to the balanced cycle of life. I am not specifically referring to the graphical visual balance present concerning religion, classic comedy, fornication, violence, stereotypes, symbolisms, beauty, surrealism and occult sects like the Illuminati, but to how all of these elements lead to an equilibrium and a perfection, commonly represented with the Yin Yang, culminating in the constant representation of circles, a geometric figure that, within the film, coexists with death and spirituality. It could be affirmed that the director interprets, in his own way, different parts of The Holy Bible such as Genesis, the Psalms and the Book of Revelation in a similar way he interpreted his memories of the play by Fernando Arrabal in Fando y Lis (1968).

Despite that I can partially coincide with the popular opinion that affirms that El Topo is one of the most pretentious movies ever created, the truth is that, from Fando y Lis (1968) to Santa Sangre (1989), Jodorowsky did not drown in a graphically pretentious ego thanks to the opportunity he offered to worldwide masses to interpret his projects in a personal scale. I am simply one more example: Jodorowsky has changed my view on life itself. Honestly, what can be expected from a film whose famous fans include diverse celebrities and directors such as John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, Peter Fonda (Easy Rider [1969], 3:10 to Yuma [2005]), Dennis Hopper (Cool Hand Luke [1968], Blue Velvet [1986]) Samuel Fuller (Pickup on South Street [1953], The Big Red One [1980]) and David Lynch (Eraserhead [1977], Mulholland Dr. [2001])? Representing events such as the Reincarnation, the voyage of Moses and the people of Egypt to the Mountain of God Sinai, the revelation of Samson, the power of the essential elements (earth, water, air and fire), the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the changing of bitter water to sweet water made by Moses and the Gospels of the New Testament, the mistreating of the believers by the Catholic Church, and the birth of both religion and death, El Topo is a daring call to contemplate life in a different way without making an unnecessary commentary against the incorrectly called opium of the masses. In a world where the upper class is shown as a part of society that is destined to live permanently in hell and the lower class is exalted (since they are predestined to live in Heaven), the masterpiece of Jodorowsky has become one of the best Mexican films of our times, slightly reaching the level of the biggest auteurs of surrealism.

100/100
33
Rashômon (Rashomon) (In the Woods) 1951,  Unrated)
Rashômon (Rashomon) (In the Woods)
"I'm the one who should be ashamed. I don't understand my own soul."

RASHÔMON (1950)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Crime / Drama / Mystery
Length: 88 minutes

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To talk about influential, landmark and legendary filmmaking may include those masterworks that had an extraordinary visual grandiosity and a groundbreaking narrative structure. Names like Sergei M. Eisenstein, Jean Renoir and Orson Welles will be mentioned, and their effects on the subsequent decades of moviemaking will be emphasized. Strictly speaking, Rashômon is not an entirely original film. It heavily relies on the unconventional chronological mixture that Orson Wells first employed in Citizen Kane (1941). Despite this inevitable fact, it is one of the most astonishing cinematic samples of the Eastern culture, and easily one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. What Akira Kurosawa managed to do with such a ludicrously low budget and few technical experience is a viscerally philosophical and thought-provoking study of the human nature and the relativity of a personal perception, with an undeniable visual beauty. Shattering the moral values of a decadent society and representing the very foundations of the perversity of mankind, Rashômon is one of the most audacious masterpieces ever made by human hands.

The premise of the film is very simple. It is set in 12th Century Japan and opens with a woodcutter telling a shocking story to a priest and a commoner. He narrates the events of a heinous crime committed by a notorious criminal named Tajômaru who is accused of the apparent murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife. Wanting to reach a solid conclusion, a policeman hears four extraordinarily differing accounts of the story of the four main characters: the bandit, the murdered samurai (through a medium), the samurai's wife and the nameless woodcutter. The film won an Honorary Award at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, being considered as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951. The next year, it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, losing it against Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). However, director Akira Kurosawa won the Italian Film Critics Award and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1951.

Rashômon basically established the exact same point that Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966) did: it all depends on the perspective. We are introduced with a heavy rainstorm while a priest and a commoner are being told the version of the woodcutter. In case this wasn't enough, his story is also composed by flashbacks. On one side, we have a nameless character relying on his memory. If we add to these elements the subjectivity of the mind and the intrinsic cruelty of the human being, it is left clear that the mere purpose of this astonishing masterpiece is not to try to decipher the truth through the conglomeration of clues scattered throughout. If the viewer considers it as a modestly ambitious essay on the human condition, a condition that determines his intentions through an unstoppable chain of events, then the film acquires a much more massive does of moralistic power.

Akira Kurosawa has not the specific intention of glorifying the human race in Rashômon. Moreover, the depiction of the evilness has two primary sources. The most explicit and graphic one can be seen in the factual event that a crime has been committed. Regardless of the fact that Tajômaru killed a samurai, the wife of the victim is testifying against him. A mystical and somewhat supernatural approach is added through the intervention of a medium that, supposedly, is speaking the words of the dead husband. Is she a charlatan or is she telling the truth? What really matters behind any case of this nature is what can be found behind the curtains; nonetheless, not everybody is allowed to come up to the stage. This is the shocking truth that enables us to discover the second primary source: the intentions that motivate the characters to intentionally tergiversate their respective retellings. The most natural assumption can be summed in the question: Are they modifying certain aspects of what really happened in order to cover up other degrading, mischievous and even illicit acts they could have performed? The search for the truth is vanished and we are presented with deep philosophical overtones and a discreet, pessimistic view towards bad-intentioned people, a brilliant element that is poetically enhanced with the priest's final loss of hope in humanity.

Despite few minuscule and justifiable technical flaws, Kurosawa managed to create a visually beautiful film, raising the expectations of an audience that was entering to a brand-new, promising decade. The cinematography plays a very introspective role, yet it manages to be breathtaking. A skilled editing starts to be appreciated throughout, a means that would reflect the bases for Kurosawa's action-oriented filmmaking when resorting to much more massive budgets. The brilliant structure of the screenplay allows both the pace and the relatively short running time to gain much more filmic quality and utterly significant substance, playing with an unconventional, non-chronological structure and directly referencing the futility of lies. With a breathtaking cast, a struggle for justice is made through the wonderful performances by the greatly talented Toshirô Mifune as the criminal, the gorgeous female artist Machiko Kyô as the wife Masako Kanazawa and the compassionate Japanese actor Takashi Shimura as the mysterious and doubtful woodcutter. A reflexive spectacle for the soul is guaranteed.

Rashômon is the most subjective and analytical Japanese masterpiece of a seemingly unobtainable honesty. It draws between the realm of the unknown and the imagined, and between the irrejectable acceptance of the utility of a sincere truth. The camera transforms us into the policeman, the archetypical figure of societal justice, and we become the relevantly supporting character that witnesses several spoken lies without the ability of foretelling which are truthful and which are not. All of this, of course, reaches an unforgettable climax of immense power through a remarkable and symbolic ending, an ending that stands for a necessary spiritual redemption of an attitude modification. Leading us to a state of strong and cathartic questionings, Akira Kurosawa's absolutely challenging masterpiece is here to stay among those that cause a total earthquake in the non-geographical area of justice corruptibility, the impossible compliance with an equity balance and, above all, emotional rebirth.

100/100
34
Stalker 1979,  Unrated)
Stalker
"The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish."

STALKER (1979)


Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Country: Soviet Union / West Germany
Genre: Adventure / Drama / Fantasy / Mystery / Sci-Fi
Length: 163 minutes

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Slowly following the masterful filmography of the best Soviet director since Sergei M. Eisenstein, Stalker is the cinematic project we should encounter. This time, Tarkovsky leaves aside the strongly spiritual Catholic influence he applied in Andrey Rublyov (1966), the philosophical approach of the insignificant effect of the human being in the Universe he depicted in Solyaris (1972) and the patriotically nostalgic approach he used in Zerkalo (1975) for the sake of the Russian nation. The final result is quite possibly the most ignored precursor of the cyberpunk genre, engaging by its own merits and as ambitious as the questionings of the meaning and origin of life. Stalker is truly one of the first films of its kind, influential because of its technical aspects but never equaled because of its originality, apocalyptic vision and extreme philosophical depth, truths that ultimately remained unexplained. Moving from the physical size of the human being to its most primitive behaviors and reactions, such as curiosity, material and spiritual insatiableness, agnosticism and ambition, Stalker is a challenging piece of filmmaking at its finest form of stillness expression.

For making a brief description of the plot, the most basic question is originated: What is a stalker? We must first understand that the film is set in an apocalyptic and undetermined future, a time where the Zone is located. The Zone is a place which origins remain mysterious enough to awaken the curiosity of man. It is an alien place surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers. A stalker is a man who has been given the mental gift of illegally conducting people into the Room, a place located within the Zone where all wishes come true. Stalker tells the story of a man who, despite the several objections of his wife, decides to conduct a popular writer and a scientist to the Room, but a crisis will eventually ensue. Tarkovsky attracted the attention of the Cannes Film Festival once again in 1980, winning a very special award: the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury along with Krzysztof Zanussi's Constans (1980).

Undoubtedly, this is Andrei Tarkovsky's most ambitious film. His masterfulness and utopian brilliance prevented the film from falling into a vast realm of pretentiousness. Once more, Stalker is technical perfection at its most spellbinding, haunting and captivating form. Lengthy shots and perfectly balanced cinematography are the technique used by Tarkovsky in a much more noticeable way, sometimes surpassing the total time of 7 minutes for one single take. A color differentiation is utilized for distinguishing the unidentified city and the personal thoughts and flashbacks of the characters with a sepia tone, and the Zone with full, harmonic color. The camera placements and the editing justify such human cinematic perfection and psychologically prepare the audience for a philosophical, deep, complex, unexplainable, chaotic, epiphanic, cathartic, existentialist, slow-paced, ambitious and divine ride.

Stalker erases all human names and any possible identity. The stalker is Stalker. The writer is Writer. The scientist is Scientist. Stalker's wife is Stalker's Wife! Man is depicted not as a faceless entity, but as a primitive creature, reducing it to a living thing whose ego, pride and agnosticism leads him to question everything he sees, anything that can't be seen nor understood at first glance. Such stubborn attitude causes him to venture into the realm of the prohibited, of the mysterious. This basic and hard-to-direct premise immediately justifies the existence of a place that can grant any wish. The magic lamp is materialized into a desolated, ultimately cubic space. How does man can reach the magic lamp? What is the physical appearance of the lamp genius? How can man manipulate his supposed three wishes?

These means have never been clear and are naturally transformed into myths and tales of the popular culture. However, what happens if a master of cinema takes this longing disillusion of man and transforms it into a film which is an utter mix of fantastic genres? As a necessary consequence, the Zone, the only path to the Room, possesses a mathematical nature of its own. "The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish." Those two sentences are strictly told by the stalker, a man who cannot understand the supernatural nature of the Zone, yet understands the respect that it deserves to an extent of admiring it. Several possibilities of the origin of the Zone are explained, which remain irrevocably human. "It is a sign of life outside the planet." "It is God's punishment for mankind's present evil and maliciousness." "It was originated from a meteorite." These assumptions were originated from man. The Zone, with the Room as its "heart", is mainly depicted either as a living entity or as an inert place full of life. It has a conscience. It defies even any logic sense. Going straightforward is no longer going straightforward. It can also be implied that if you are not meant to reach the Zone, you will never reach it. God's will is an implicit factor when the film starts to resort to the Holy Bible, emphasizing the wrath of God interpreted through the eyes of the prophets and the words of David's Psalms.

Interestingly enough, Tarkovsky offers several clues throughout that could explain the origin of the Zone. A nearly four-minute shot emphasizes several objects underwater that could have been caused by an apocalyptic war. World War III, perhaps? Shortage of water or territorial conflicts could have been the actors behind the curtains once again. Perhaps we are even facing a scarily cinematic prediction of a future that patiently waits to unleash a catastrophe, such as Metropolis (1927), a movie that demonstrated a society completely ruled by totalitarian control, industrialization and technology, characteristics of modern real life.

This film is as relative as philosophy itself. The conclusion of the film illustrated with Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy, an ending scene which I will not even dare to mention here, could be compared with several things, from the humanization of the robots and androids shown in films (like Metropolis [1927]) to the early events mentioned in the book of Genesis, when angels and demons procreated monstrous beings. It is like remaking the same event or idea several times throughout the pass of the decades. Although a stalker still remains human, it surpasses the human race with a single mental ability. After all, Martha has a name. She is not Stalker's Daugher, although she is, but she is Martha, who she really is as well. Is she a new beginning for the human race? Is she determining our fate, or our future mental and physical capacities? Is she a human being, or an anomaly, a mistake of nature? Is the Zone a place that originates hallucinations in a person, like a mental drug? Is it also an anomaly and a mistake of nature?

A film that creates more questions than answers, Stalker is one of the most ambitious works of art in motion picture history. It is also one of the most influential. This is Tarkovsky's last humanly-perfect masterpiece that uses the science-fiction genre as a perfect excuse for enlightening both the beauty of cinema and the vastness of the human mind. The Zone is just the quiet motor that symbolizes the rabbit hole. Perhaps that is why the film is not completely considered as a cyberpunk film. It surpasses any film of the genre. Masses applauding Alien (1979) as one of the best films (if not the best film) of the genre will be mentally challenged and inevitably bored by this visual treat, a call to intellectualism and a staggering approach to the usefulness of human existentialism, including the meaning of believing in God. If you ever think Monkey is a symbolic name, you are absolutely correct...

100/100
35
La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion) 1937,  Unrated)
La Grande illusion (Grand Illusion)
"Frontiers are an invention of men. Nature doesn't give a hoot."

LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1937)


Director: Jean Renoir
Country: France
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 114 minutes

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La Grande Illusion allowed director Jean Renoir to acquire worldwide cinematic recognition including Hollywood fame, without mentioning the private screening President Roosevelt was shown at the White House in the year of 1937. La Grande Illusion is much more than a film hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, but it is a beautifully composed and directed essay through the eyes of experience and a humanly accurate perspective, which belonged to Jean Renoir, a cinema giant that achieved to become an astounding auteur with a poetically well-established vision through one of the most expressive visual arts ever conceived by mankind: the 7th Art. Such project, evidently, would be subject to several reactions, from heartwarming acceptance to complete rejection. Whereas Benito Mussolini banned it in Italy and German politician Joseph Goebbels prohibited its national distribution, a film that was thought either lost or destroyed would be reconstructed by Renoir himself during the 50's. Nowadays, its historical importance has reached strikingly relevant levels, considering the fact that the film portrays both sides of the war in the most possible and empathetic way, culminating with an extraordinary ending sequence.

La Grande Illusion is set during World War I where two French officers are captured in Germany by the Captain Von Rauffenstein. Whereas Lieutenant Marechal used to be a mechanic before the war, Captain de Boeldieu belonged to aristocracy, who has a brief friendly encounter with Von Rauffenstein. They are later taken to the Hallbach POW under the German constant surveillance, where both de Boeldieu and Marechal meet several other characters from different backgrounds, such as Rosenthal, son of a wealthy Jewish family. Because of an escape attempt, among other discipline violations commited in Hallbach, destiny makes these characters be transported to the Wintersborn POW camp, where Von Rauffenstein is now in command. However, Captain de Boeldieu is put within a moral plot when he has to decide whether to remain with his fellow companions or to understand and reassume his true position among with the other POWs and his newly formed special relationship with Captain Von Rauffenstein. La Grande Illusion is one of the few foreign films in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Jean Renoir was ironically nominated for the award called Mussolini Cup - which lost against Julien Duvivier's Un Carnet de Bal (1937) - and won the award of Best Overall Artistic Contribution at the Venice Film Festival in the same year.

Having served in the air force during WWI, Jean Renoir completely understood the implications of the concept of humanity and masterly applied it to a timeless and hauntingly inspirational classic where the utterly astonished audience is left the choice of either supporting the humanistic ideas portrayed in the film or adopting a particular side, whether it was of a Jewish, a German or a French character. Thanks to the brilliant and tranquilly built direction, such mentality is impossible to accept, since the worst enemy against a soldier is war itself, but not the opposite side or the army of an enemy country. The brutality of war is compensated with the underlying sensitive layers of the psychology of each character, each one of them realizing they have a different and independent role once these individuals with so varied backgrounds are put together under the same circumstances. Normally, Germans, French and Jews would endlessly fight with their respective armies in a battlefield. In La Grande Illusion, they form a fiercely cohesive group with a single purpose, independently of the fact that destiny had a personal plan for each and every one of them. This aspect, of course, comes from the comprehension Renoir had towards the human condition and how the senselessness of war itself affects our love towards sanity, resulting in cinematic neutrality.

La Grande Illusion effectively works more as one of the most influential films of all time than just as one of the very first prison break films, since it surpasses that concept. Man's humanity to man is the most benign and sociable characteristic war itself brings out, thus exterminating almost any possible social and political boundary existent between mankind and daringly defying racial and discriminatory statements, taking the relevance out of them. The fulfillment of personal duties is a habit originated from the feeling of membership towards a particular country or group, whether it is political or social; consequently, it plays an important role within the film. Romance is not an absent characteristic in La Grande Illusion, thus perfectly illustrating the most profound and yet desperate yearnings of the human heart. A German widow, mother of a little girl, disinterestedly receives a Jew and a French officer, and even ends up starting an emotional relationship with one of them. Destiny is an unstoppable force; however, the events portrayed throughout lack a sense of irony, clearly establishing the astonishingly true connection between cause and consequence.

The scenario and dialogue originally written by Jean Renoir and Belgian screenwriter Charles Spaak necessarily had to resort to a classic structure, yet with several poetical touches throughout in order to emphasize mankind's irrefutable nobility. Cinematographer Christian Matras wonderfully captures the POW camps and natural spring and winter landscapes without a predominant sensation of awkwardness, thanks to the balance and detail each shot contains. The musical score offers inspiration and a rebirth, suggesting a new beginning for the soul. La Grande Illusion is the conglomeration of all the elements that put together are capable of creating a powerful and everlasting feature film with a message aimed to the masses.

Before John Sturges' The Great Escape (1963) and Frank Darabont's overrated The Shawshank Redemption (1994), La Grande Illusion is not only the best film of such a legend of cinema, but also a reminder to worldwide nations to reflect and deeply analyze the complexity of the spirit and what empowerment and tragedy really mean, not mentioning how both terms unfortunately tend to intertwine, bringing along catastrophic results, despite that honor and justice will always prevail. A film which historical importance has nowadays been honored and highly respected, La Grande Illusion pushes the limits of the genres of war and drama, and takes them to never imagined epic levels. It is cinema at its best.

100/100
36
Aleksandr Nevskiy (Alexander Nevsky) 1938,  Unrated)
Aleksandr Nevskiy (Alexander Nevsky)
Eisenstein's most propagandistic masterpiece, historically speaking, and first sound feature is an immortalized epic drama with well established ideologies, transferring the ideologies of the proletariat to a more idealized, yet violent context. The final battle sequence remains as the most influential and breathtaking ever put to celluloid; Nikolai Cherkasov gives brilliant early signs of spiritual doom before becoming Ivan the Terrible. A flawless work of art from wherever one may see it.

100/100
37
Solyaris (Solaris) 1976,  PG)
Solyaris (Solaris)
"You mean more to me than any scientific truth."

SOLYARIS (1972)


Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Drama / Mystery / Romance / Sci-Fi
Length: 165 minutes

Solaris,Andrei Tarkovsky,Soviet Union


Cinema giant Andrei Tarkovsky always had a very characteristic ability to explore the vastness of the human mind, moving from religious agnosticism to philosophical existentialism. Applying a massive modification in his filmmaking style since his previous film Andrey Rublyov (1966), Solyaris is often considered as the Russian response to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), an immediately superior film. Despite the fact that Tarkovsky himself was not particularly fond of Kubrick's science-fiction magnum opus, specifically considering it slow and dull, Solyaris does not deviate from the spellbinding technical perfection and cinematic beauty the sole premise of the film originally required. Being slightly better and more solid than his upcoming utopian cyberpunk precursor Stalker (1979), Solyaris is one of the most complex and thought-provoking sci-fi dramas ever filmed by mankind, a film that welcomes the human mind to personally interpret endless symbols, to comprehend surrealistic elements and sequences, and to slowly digest, through its visual style and its as-delicate-as-a-flower direction, a shocking perspective of the utterly meaningless influence we, as human beings and breathing entities originated from stardust, can have on the undetermined size of the Universe.

Bases on a science-fiction novel by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, the film focuses on a scientist who is called by the Solaris mission, which has established a base on a planet surrounded by a vast and mysterious Ocean that seemingly holds a bizarre kind of intelligence. When he arrives, he does not only witness the strange behaviors of some scientists and the suicide attempts of others, but he encounters his wife that had been dead for several years. The scientist will soon be facing a downward spiral of insanity, hallucinations and predominating disillusions inserted into the subconscious of his mind mixed with those of other human beings. The film won both the FIPRESCI Prize and the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for a Golden Palm, losing it against Francesco Rosi's Il Caso Mattei (1972) and Elio Petri's La Classe Operaia Va in Paradiso (1972).

Andrei Tarkovsky is, undoubtedly, one of the few directors that completely understood the meaning of cinema filmmaking. It is an art that, either explicitly or implicitly, must congregate the talents of several technical departments and a solid, argumentative powerful substance behind it. Fully applying an existentialist and catastrophic vision to the improving science fiction genre, Solyaris is a cinematographic manifesto of those mental characteristics that make us undeniably human disguised as a captivating masterpiece that deals with complicated subject matter, ranging from life and death to curiosity and ambition, elements that would also be present in Stalker. The effectiveness of the motion picture is completely strengthened with a slow, poetic pace that does not transform it into pretentiousness or dullness, but has the harmonic ability to become like life itself. Evidently, the film by itself had to lead its audience to a spectacular show of subjectivity and, consequently, a dead romance, one small factor that illustrates how man can have a strongly emotional connection to any material belonging and human relationship, our definitive Achilles' heel.

Vadim Yusov applies a cinematography that is so perfect, so ambitious and so hypnotizing that it allowed Tarkovsky to take the spectator into an unforgettable journey, perhaps even spiritual. When being on the surface of the beautiful Solaris Ocean, every mathematical and scientific law and logic sense are lost into oblivion. It is not an entity that assassinates; it ultimately awakens the deepest fears and desires of the soul and the unfulfilled longings of the heart and transforms them into impossible illusions. What is the location of the planet? What are the main components of the Solaris Ocean? Tarkovsky feels free enough to leave several events and sequences unexplained. Why should he offer an explanation? Magic is irradiated from both relativity and the exceptionally edited musical score. The opening sequence portrays an earthly perspective of nature and contrasts it with outer space; scientist Kris Kelvin and his acquaintances are similarly contrasted with the possibly non-physical beings that he finds in the space station. Attractively, another unavoidable questioning is born: Is our mind even more complex than our own consciousness?

We are merely instruments of God fulfilling his will... or trying to step away from it. Thus, the Solaris Ocean uses people as puppets to play with no apparent purpose, although nothing is clear when being "up there". There is a fact that states that our subconscious mind perceives and translates several sounds, images and words to a subliminal extent, causing their effect in our brains. The Solaris space station could be easily explained as a symbol of the brain with the Ocean as every single unperceived and unexplained aspect surrounding it. It functions as a machine, yet nothing is predetermined. It is a chain reaction that unleashes psychologically unprecedented reactions that not even we may be able to comprehend at their fullest. We cannot refuse such authoritative power, so it makes us surrender to hallucinatory submission. The realm of dreams and reality collide, but we are not capable of stopping neither the reactions nor the consequences of what our consciousness can construct; we cannot choose our dreams... not always. No matter how many times the main character, perhaps knowingly, tried to get rid of his wife despite that he knew, deep down, that she could not be real. Why does he keep trying? Why does he want to get rid of her? A deep fear of returning to Earth is the most humanly possible answer. It is a nightmare.

Solyaris has as one of its main final intentions to generate several questions. The only question that a film fan has before seeing the film is: "What could the film be about?" The questions that a film fan has after finishing the film cannot be listed here, but they may be endless. The characters suffer exactly the same cathartic process, from asking themselves "what possible explanation could be given to the strange events reported in the Solaris base"? to actually making an investigation in the aforementioned place and unleashing a living nightmare. However, science, a human discipline characterized by its agnosticism and ego, has not the answers to every single aspect of the existence and its space. Therefore, the film could be also subject to a religious perspective, interpreting God as an implicit character. Why not? Andrey Rublyov (1966) and Stalker (1979) did.

Solyaris is one of the most perfect and ambitious films ever committed to celluloid. It is an empathetic masterwork that makes an invitation to deep thinking and analysis, with a possible cathartic risk. The human condition is emphasized throughout, contrasted with the pride of man thanks to its technological inventions. A film open to any explanations, it is a journey that has something special prepared for every pair of human eyes.

100/100
38
La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game) 1950,  Unrated)
La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game)
"The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons."

LA RÈGLE DU JEU (1939)


Director: Jean Renoir
Country: France
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Length: 114 minutes

Jean Renoir,France,1939


After having a considerable amount of success with his prewar films La Grande Illusion (1937) and La Bête Humaine (1938), Jean Renoir, a cinema genius that did not receive the recognition he deserved in the 30's and 40's, brings along his second masterpiece and what is widely regarded nowadays as one of the greatest films ever made. Despite that Jean Renoir's take on the French upper-class society resulted, naturally, in outstandingly complete rejection, hatred and public insults, La Règle du Jeu is a film that constitutes the most complex and multifaceted critique towards the bourgeoisie of its time, brilliantly juxtaposed with absurd and profound elements, yet not resorting to the fantasy genre in a similar way Luis Buñuel (El Ángel Exterminador [1962], Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie [1972]) would do. The films by Renoir always had the peculiar and interestingly-enough characteristic of being damaged and destroyed, but reconstructed during the 50's under the director's approval, what may lead modern worldwide masses to believe and reconsider their true artistic and cinematic purposes. The magic of his epic and human masterpieces originates from the fact that their striking honesty and renewed vision appealed not only to past generations, but to modern society as well in the sense of having historically important subject matters and morally everlasting messages concerning equality and ethicality.

La Règle du Jeu centers on a big group of upper-class people who attend the huge party invitation of Christine and his aristocratic husband named Robert. What follows is an extraordinarily accurate and overall stylish depiction of their typical signs of racism and discrimination towards those who do not belong to their particular social status, snobbish life styles, romance, and infinite love triangles, ensuing chaos and an extreme dose of moronic absurdity. The film received no attention from any international film festival after its initial release, but got its negatives damaged during the German occupation in France during the Second World War. It would not be until 1966 that Jean Renoir received a Bodil Award for Best European Film at a festival held in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is a clear sign that audacious and controversial (under the standards of a coward and democratic society) film projects are most likely to transcend over time and acquire a considerably high historical relevance.

Jean Renoir showed an extremely confident vision towards the bourgeoisie. Mirroring the experience he acquired serving in the air force during World War I, his direction style denotes veracity and politically correct accuracy. If the results of its screening ended up in an almost burned-down theater, its banning in French cinemas for about a month after its initial release, the accidental destruction of the original negatives and in its banning by the Nazi party, not to mention many burned prints by the Germans, it is clear that the commotion it provided had more serious reasons than just for preserving the morale of the country due to imminent war. The audacity of the film could finally establish Renoir as a representative auteur, providing a totally identifiable and effectively ambitious direction style without overly resulting to disrespectful pretentiousness in a similar way D.W. Griffith did with The Birth of a Nation (1915). It is, fortunately, a perfectly filmed social criticism, and not an insulting essay towards the mores of the entire country. The characters represented the extreme opposite of those portrayed in La Grande Illusion, the people that had caused such a lamentable and disastrous European situation already present in 1939, especially with arguably the greatest war humanity has gone through in its history coming along the way.

Once more, Jean Renoir develops the scenario and witty dialogue, counting with the collaboration of the (ironically) German screenwriter Carl Koch. The brilliance of the resulting screenplay is notorious throughout, originating several critique branches concerning love, romance and poverty mockery, but always preserving the main purpose of the film, making it one of the most extraordinary and well-developed screenplays in the history of the motion picture. Providing fully rounded characters, an unstoppably entertaining pace and unforgettable hypocritical one-liners, and dialogues that ultimately end up being hilarious because of the conviction with which they are naturally spoken, La Règle du Jeu does not have a main character, but several main characters. We have a collective protagonist, each of its members having peculiar characteristics that, as a whole, give birth to the everlasting defects present in the past and modern aristocracy. These are the same defects that put a tragic end to the personality's psychology, thus causing the sensation of not being able to tolerate oneself. Such repulsion towards life and towards everything that does not belong to the bourgeoisie is unconsciously reflected on them, which explains the catastrophe that they unleash upon them. The mansion only serves as the vehicle that drives them to insanity, especially when their own pride and ego are accentuated when becoming a "national hero" just because of setting a flight record, an undeniably human deed that does not contribute to the progress of humanity. Mass media is the one that slows it down in front of our very faces.

From lovable and attractively expert long shots that tend to last more than a minute to a high amount of quick shots during the chaos sequences, the cinematographic technique has been noticeably perfected since La Grande Illusion (1937), their racism being illustrated by one of the most haunting and memorable scenes ever filmed: the rabbit hunt, a scene that was beautifully referenced in Robert Bresson's Mouchette (1967). Slightly and almost unnoticeably resorting to surreal elements typical of Luis Buñuel, the absurdity of the film is undeniable, but arguably realistic. The mansion room from which the dinner guests are unable to leave in Buñuel's El Ángel Exterminador (1962) could be a direct reference to the bear suit Renoir's character (Octave) wears without anyone helping him to remove it. Members of the upper-class are incapable of helping each other to get out of their blind world of hypocrisy, let alone getting out of it for themselves.

As a character study it wonderfully works, using smart comedy and love triangles only to enlighten the human condition. As a social criticism, it also works, being arguably the best and most intelligent ever directed, as well as an influential one. Goodness and justice exists in this world in the sense that Renoir's definite masterpieces were about to become lost arts, but were reconstructed (perhaps) for the sake of humanity. Hated before and worshipped now, Renoir is one of the best filmmakers of French classic cinema, depicting the human being in its most complex, complete, accurate, natural, ambitious and empathetic way possible.

100/100
39
L'Atalante 1934,  Unrated)
L'Atalante
- Don't worry, Ma. She's married a fine man.
- She'll be back someday!


L'ATALANTE (1934)


Director: Jean Vigo
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Romance
Length: 89 minutes

L'Atalante,Jean Vigo,Michel Simon,Dita Parlo,1934


L'Atalante is one of the greatest films ever made. With that fact already stated, we may now proceed comfortably. Jean Vigo composed in 1934 a truly remarkable drama of impeccably moving proportions. If D.W. Griffith was the father of epic filmmaking, Sergei M. Eisenstein the author of editing, and F.W. Murnau the promoter of an innovative camera work, Jean Vigo is definitely the creator of a groundbreaking, ambitious photography. To call L'Atalante a romance film is an understatement; although it is true, it is not precise. It is a study of the human condition under an unsuccessful love relationship. Therefore, it could be vaguely referenced as the French response to Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927). The film signed the period of a cinema era where benign positivism and inspirational melodramas predominated. These projects were abundant in mastery thanks to their influential characteristics and their unique storytelling. Despite Jean Renoir being recognized as a new master of cinema during that period, Jean Vigo's only complete masterwork is a testament aimed directly to the heart that specifically tried to appeal to the sentiments of past decades, yet it has hold a modern universal validity and a noticeable, graphic poetry nowadays.

The film opens with a celebrated wedding between the gorgeously-looking Juliette and Jean, the owner of a ship. Juliette immediately accepts to live on his ship, on board of which is the scraggly second mate Jules and a cabin boy. After they come to Paris, Juliette grows increasingly bored and decides to sneak away in order to appreciate the nightlife of the city. This results in the anger of Jean, who impulsively leaves Juliette behind. However, his character will suffer a transformation since the repentance of his actions towards his wife leads him to a deep depression.

Due to the censorship measures of the 30s, the main focus of such simple story is not the suspense, or the thrilling wait for the finale. Fortunately, we already know how the film will end. It is all about the innocent naturalness, the great performances and landmark cinematography, not to mention the cathartic appeal it built (and still builds) with the viewer. We are introduced with what may seem typical characters: the curmudgeon and manipulative husband, the tender and naïve wife with romantic and escapist ambitions, the sloppy and often humorous supporting character, and a cabin boy of almost null, but complementary presence. The appeal is primordially derived from the portrayed romantic entanglement and the believability of the strictly human personages. Naturally, Jean Vigo attempted this by creating a purely human sense of humor based on the dialogues of the characters, the dailiness of the depicted events aboard the ship, the facial expressions and the constant personality contrasts.

Cinema was barely escaping its silent era, and the effort involved in the improvement of the technical aspects is noticeable, but very much appreciated. The film first offers us a great glimpse of a colonial France, constructing considerably long shots and achieving a visual balance of great effectiveness, and all of this with the purpose of emphasizing the atmospheric happiness of the protagonistic newlyweds. From there, we accept to aboard the ship with the couple in the same way Juliette does: it is like accepting a new adventure of unpredictable outcomes. The comedy (or tragedy) of the film is first encountered in the uncomfortably painful relationship between Jules and Juliette and the short time that had to pass so they could perform their first argument. Vigo depicted a marriage we could empathize with. He does not force us to adopt a particular side; the sequences are just shown without debating morality or what is right and what is wrong. An unreachable emotional escapism is the symbolic role given to the city of Paris. The worldly known place because of its romantic fame is transformed in the supporter of the separation between Jules and Juliette.

In order to average out the seemingly depressing atmosphere of the film, Jules assumes the comedic role of the careless, disinterested, patriotic and womanizer male of incredible stories of high doubtfulness that defines "consultation" as visiting a fortune teller just for seducing her. Just like the city of Paris is contrasted with the life on the ship, the ship itself contrasts the room of Jules. It is a space full of odd artifacts that, according to him, have several worldwide origins derived from unbelievable anecdotes. There is a particular scene where Jean encounters Juliette in the room of Jules and severely questions them both. Out of hatred, Jean ends up messing up the room and being angered to his wife, symbolizing the destruction of their emotional stability because of the intolerance towards external issues. His role may seem inappropriate especially when directing an essay of the human impulses and the childish attitudes that are originated from an impotence of empathy and romantic companionship. Nevertheless, the protagonist's remorse comes when the analysis of the past actions is executed, actions that were based on manipulation, tactlessness and jealousy. This forces him to jump into the river. The most obvious cinematic conclusion of such act may lead us to think that this idea involves suicide; nevertheless, Jean is plagued by the beautiful and "ballet-ish" image of his wife and starts to gather past moments of their lives in his head. Now, this is a true allegory! What aspects or features are the ones that define the escapist measures of a particular individual? It is understood that the purpose of this scene, which is undoubtedly the most outstanding and moving, works for achieving a merely artistic emphasis, besides obviously explaining more about the character and metaphorically inviting the viewers to reflection.

The ship is the motor of the psychology of the characters and the beautifully photographed Paris is the background for their melodramatically tumultuous relationship. However, the purposes of L'Atalante, although simple, are not as easy as they seem. It goes beyond a "chick flick" or a romantic tale of separation and redemption. It is a film that mirrors the impulsive acts committed by man when in front of a new situation or a new life stage. It serves the purpose of being an analytical masterpiece of delicate proportions. It is the remarkable direction and the unparalleled cinematography the ones that sweeten the plot with elements of humanism and an effective reflection. More than attempting to bring separated couples together, it is one of the most sublime French projects of the 30s, almost reaching the quality and universality of Renoir, and rivaling the scope of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), despite that the film clearly borrowed some plot elements from the original silent masterwork.

100/100
40
L' Âge d'Or (Age of Gold) (The Golden Age) 1930,  Unrated)
L' Âge d'Or (Age of Gold) (The Golden Age)
"A lover of darkness, it burrows under stones to escape the glare of the sun. Antisocial, it ejects the intruder on its solitude. Such lightning strikes, such virtuosity in attack! Even a rat, for all its fury, falls prey to it."

L'ÂGE D'OR (1930)


Director: Luis Buñuel
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Romance / Comedy / Fantasy
Length: 63 minutes

The Golden Age,Age of Gold,Luis Bunuel,Luis Buñuel,Surrealism


One year ago (1929, that is), the world witnessed two highly important events in cinema history: the birth of cinematic surrealism and the rise of a genius. The title of the short film is Un Chien Andalou (1929) and the name of the master behind the camera is Luis Buñuel. Juxtaposing incongruent elements with extreme depictions of absurdity along with the vision of the famously unique artist Salvador Dalí, Buñuel decides to construct his first feature film, a landmark in surrealistic filmmaking. L'Âge d'Or ventures into the never-ending realm of the mind's subjectivity and the blaspheme world of the bourgeois class, an aspect that Buñuel would find rather funny during the upcoming four decades, turning it into a filmic habit. Its power and controversy have effectively stood the test of time and it still functions as the masterful work of an audacious machinist of sexual impulses and the morality decadence of man. Despite the huge criticism and the wide banning the film was subject to, Buñuel's first masterpiece has been revived and disseminated through the world as a reminder of how expressive and talented cinema tended to be when the sound was even firstly introduced.

L'Âge d'Or could be referenced as a virtually plot-less and incongruent film, although it mainly deals with a man and a woman who passionately love each other. However, they face problems with their respective families, the surrounding bourgeois society and the Catholic Church when they want to consummate their passion. The film is partially based on Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom", as clearly implied in a particular orgy sequence. The film was subject to heavy censorship and banning, periods that lasted almost 50 years, such as in France, Australia and Portugal.

Despite being amateurishly shot, cinema itself was in its earliest stages. Surrealism is a cinema branch that has been under constant renovation, innovation and even intentional degradation, thus creating other forms of imaginative visual expressions. For Luis Buñuel, cinema was a cathartic instrument through which he could express ideas that had to be either revealed or morally accepted under a conventional societal code. The main attack would be strictly aimed towards the privileged social classes who would drown in money and hide their stupid and pretentious personalities under false conducts of fanciness and etiquette. As if this scandalous idea, especially for the 30's, wasn't enough, he also throws in a groundbreaking criticism towards the Catholic Church as an institution, rather than insulting a particular religion. With these two huge monsters combined, the missing element is immediately added: a normal couple that is deeply in love. More than interpreting this couple as a rather simple symbolism of the standard citizen of any particular society, the main focus of L'Âge d'Or is the moral extermination of the human race through the blasphemous idolization of religious imagery and a very prophetic portrayal of sexual depravation.

The film opens with a documentary segment of a scorpion, a living being that possesses five prismatic articulations that culminate in a sting. Then, the scorpion proceeds to commit suicide with its own poisonous sting. Are we humans so different, possessing five extremities including the arms, the legs and our twisted heads that originate the ideas of a literal assassination of our own kind? We are reduced to an almost insignificant being that can pass unnoticed, but the truth is divided in layers. On one hand, we have religion, on the other hand, we have a ludicrously wealthy society, and on top of the head we have an atheistic science that denies the real existence of God. All of these elements intertwine in an explosive orgy of bad manners, masturbation, kissing of a religious statue, cadavers and ridiculous suppers, not to mention the Duc de Blangis and his physical resemblance of Christ. Sexual repression is an imminent factor in the development of the events, consequently showing a rather excruciating conclusion if the final sequence is deeply analyzed.

Love is not the principal motor. There is no motor whatsoever. What keeps the engine of the plot running is its spoof nature. To fully comprehend the film, one must understand that the film is an ultimate spoof of every degrading and insulting defect of the world we live in and how, when shown to our very faces, the result is rejection. Why was the film banned by Fascists? Why were Judaism, masonry and revolutionary sectarianism immediately blamed? The answer is rejection. Another answer is hypocrisy. And yet another answer is pride. If the film was not supposed to provide an utterly cathartic feeling to a particular audience, then the outcome came from the very minds of the conservatives. Perhaps Buñuel never intended to insult; he let the scenes of the film to be interpreted in any way the world wanted them to be. Can the consequences of such open-minded attitude be so strong? Naturally, they can. They were. Just like Un Chien Andalou (1929), L'Âge d'Or raped social standards and raised necessary questionings about the people's latter conduct. After all, not a single person can deny its high sensibility, the characteristic that identify us as supposedly rational and emotional beings. The power of this testament was not properly executed because of the particular perspective it was seen with, but Luis Buñuel cannot fully be blamed.

Whereas Jean Conteau's (Le Sang d'un Poète [1930]) surrealist vision abounded in theatrical poetry and occasionally quiet delicacy, Luis Buñuel was far more aggressive and expressed his liberal ideas with an anarchic style while slapping the cheeks of much bigger societal entities. Those are the main reasons that make his first feature film a timeless masterwork of the surrealism genre. It has no scruples and there are no strings attached. The film opens, shows, laughs, shocks and puts the "The End" title on the screen. One could say this is the process that life itself should assimilate, according to this magnificent auteur. It easily belongs to the greatest films ever made and the overall visual style and an elegant cinematography, accompanied by a jovial music, make of this mindless journey a delicious piece of insanity to taste.

100/100
41
Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) 1930,  Unrated)
Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)
"You must drink. I'm not paying for your art."

DER BLAUE ENGEL (1930)


Director: Josev von Sternberg
Country: Germany
Genre: Drama / Musical
Length: 124 minutes

Photobucket


Der Blaue Engel is, perhaps, one of the most dramatically influential movies of all time. It is certainly not universally acclaimed as the best film ever made, but it is, in my honest opinion, an extraordinary achievement of classic cinema. Der Blaue Engel was the immediate ticket of Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich to Hollywood stardom. Josef von Sternberg would be afterwards nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Director for his films Morocco (1930) and Shanghai Express (1932), precisely starring Marlene Dietrich. Der Blaue Engel and Blackmail (1929), by Alfred Hitchcock, introduced the use of sound for talking pictures in European cinema, just like The Jazz Singer (1927) did for American classic cinema. Despite it is not one of the most thought-provoking and complex films directed by a giant of cinema, it is a wonderful feature film that appealed audiences will find hard to forget considering the honesty with which it is portrayed and the brilliant psychological analysis it represents.

Der Blaue Engel tells the heartbreaking story of Immanuel Roth, a university professor who finds out that his pupils tend to frequently go into a speakeasy called "The Blue Angel" after class every night in order to see a singer named Lola Lola to perform. After deciding to confront his pupils one night searching for the speakeasy, he inevitably falls in love with Lola. Once that he is submitted to the power of attraction, his personal and working life begins to descend into a catastrophic turmoil of depression and a weak emotional dependence.

The movie is well-filmed, making it seem very simple. Der Blaue Engel is the most personally powerful film I have ever laid my eyes on, since it touched and broke my heart like no other, thoroughly identifying myself with the main character. These aspects turn this film into one of the most beautiful ones I know, considering the fact that the term "beauty" is alarmingly subjective and can be appreciated and interpreted in various forms. I suddenly felt I could see myself on screen, not necessarily because the character is found in a situation where he falls in love of a considerably younger singer in a speakeasy, but because of the most identifiable characteristics and human flaws of his personality. This is, arguably, the best character analysis ever directed in cinema history along with the German silent classic Der Letzte Mann (1924). The movie had several remakes. Besides having an alternative American (English-language) version also directed by Sternberg in the same year, it had another American remake directed by Edward Dmytryk in the year of 1959 that was highly inferior to the original.

Emil Jannings, who actually also was the main protagonist in Der Letzte Mann (1924), portrays the professor Immanuel Roth, one of the most human and well-interpreted characters that ever graced the screen. Jannings literally redefines the meaning of the term "acting". The character starts to develop an overwhelming emptiness in his soul which possibly was caused by an illusion of something missing in his life. He may live alone and may also lack of a dreamed life, but he is one of the most honest and graphical representations of the consequences an individual must face when the feelings are allowed to govern over reason. Roth apparently looks for an exit that seems the easiest one possible for him: love. Evidently, love was not the need nor impulse that made him pay a visit to "The Blue Angel" club, but something more... perhaps the lack of feeling of authority over his pupils and the difficulty that involved facing the emptiness of his existence which was tragically introduced with the death of his bird, symbolizing the beginning of the loss of hope and utter disillusion. This is the instinct that urges him to defy a nonexistent paternity between him and the only people that seem to be close to him: his class students, who pay no respect to Roth, and a passionate feeling towards the symbol of beauty and seduction was the drop of water that overflowed the glass.

Very much to his surprise, he finally metes Lola, a highly, yet intentionally stereotyped female character, and inevitably beautiful. Lola is the living illustration of the fact that a person, who is initially external to our lives, can make us become irrationally and emotionally blind beings, provoking us to fall into the most degrading humiliations. Unfortunately, people tend to be like that, making Immanuel Roth a very complete character from which numerous conclusions that will aid us to reflect over our own personality and to take precautions against our own emotional dependencies can be obtained. Lola, on the other hand, finds only one single useful usage for a person that even she considers pathetic an inferior: to make him be part of an act for attracting people. The illusion of being with Lola is utterly destroyed and, perhaps, forgotten. The tremendous whirlpool of negative emotions and the resulting low self-esteem pushes Roth to his limits.

Despite its modest and complicated use of sound and its overall visual quality, Der Blaue Engel tops the genre with some other universal masterpieces and can be considered as a totally brilliant and heartbreaking requiem for the soul. The screenplay based on Heinrich Mann's novel leaves a lot of room not only for knowing the character's true motivations, but perhaps of the director as well. The musical numbers presented throughout are a small, contrasting previous psychological preparation aimed towards the audience for the personal chaos that is about to be witnessed, having its major opera number during the last ten minutes of the film. Sternberg achieved to gain fame, but also to give to the world a wonderful and reflexive drama to humanity where the birth of stereotypes first happened in a fashioned, yet masterful way. With one of the best performances of cinema, a gorgeous starring girl, a gripping story, heartbreaking and shocking sequences and a well-written script, Der Blaue Engel has become an immortal German treasure.

100/100
42
Krzyzacy (Knights of the Teutonic Order) (Knights of the Black Cross) 1960,  Unrated)
Krzyzacy (Knights of the Teutonic Order) (Knights of the Black Cross)
A cornerstone in European cinema and period pieces alike, Aleksander Ford achieves an enormous task: to balance the most common human reactions that one as an audience may feel towards a motion picture. Hatred, desperation, excitement, nostalgia, even a Shakesperian thirst for blood and revenge. Extraordinary take on the infamous knights, adressed with patriotism and melodrama but never forgetting the true nature of the focused novel by Sienkiewicz. More than being one of Poland's finest, it is unquestionably among the best 100 movies ever made, and it easily outdoes any project directed by David Lean; the final battle sequence still remains officially as one of the best scenes ever filmed. Eisenstein's feature has been remade!

100/100
43
Megalexandros, O, (Alexander the Great ) 1980,  Unrated)
Megalexandros, O, (Alexander the Great )
"Once upon a time, many years ago, a foreign king came to the land where our ancestors lived. Alexander, then, who descended from the aeolian, a race of warriors that governed in the mountains around, created a group of select macedonians that finished the foreigner and freed our land. Overcoming and liberating nations and tongues, he saw the depths of Asia. One afternoon he was sitting, looking at the sun that drowned at a great river, and he got sad. That night he abandoned his partners and left, in search of the end of the world."

O MEGALEXANDROS (1980)


Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Country: Greece
Genre: Drama
Length: 210 minutes

O Megalexandros,Alexander the Great,Greece


O Megalexandros is one of the most difficult cinematic experiences to analyze and interpret. Theodoros Angelopoulos closed a historical cycle that determined the societal future of Greece as a democratic nation and achieved a colossal maturity in the process of introducing a population of the early 20th Century. This intentionally complex masterpiece is cinema reaching a state of human perfection. It is one of those very rare and thought-provoking masterworks that have the capacity of surpassing the artistic and cinematic perspective of any viewer and fan. Not even the avid admirers of Angelopoulos were handed the proper tools and the necessary psychological preparation for witnessing and fully appreciating such a cerebral epic work of art... not with a single viewing, at least. There is not a clear influence behind this massive film project, but instead of depending on the legendary character, the birth of a new century is the unstoppable, materialistic machinist of the brutally honest events that are depicted through a political point of view, yet not rejecting the artistic brilliance and implicit totalitarian horror that instantly appeals to modern masses.

A Greek bandit who believes himself to be Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek liberator whose tale was originated in the year of 1453, kidnaps a group of English aristocrats and takes them to a mountain village where he is trying to establish an agrarian commune with the help of a group of Italian aristocrats. His generousness and constant worshipping from the inhabitants transform the socialist hero into a Stalinist dictator, affecting the lives of the commune and being absorbed by its political power. Director Theodoros Angelopoulos won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden Lion under the category of Emerging Cinema at the Venice Film Festival of 1980. The film won 4 Greek Competition Awards for Best Sound, Best Set Decoration, Best Cinematography and Best Film, and also won a Hellenic Association of Film Critics Award for Best Film at the Thessaloniki Film Festival of 1980.

Angelopoulos has been constantly going through exceptional and remarkable transitions of style. This time, historical knowledge is not required, and the film is much more than a mere successor of the films that formed A Trilogy of History. O Megalexandros promised a metaphysical ride full of mythical allegory and mysticism at its purest form since the beginning, and that is exactly what its slow-paced and hypnotic hours ended up providing. The film itself is a retelling of the infamous Dilessi incident of 1870 in which brigands in the Greek countryside kidnapped three English aristocrats and one Italian aristocrat while touring the area around Marathon, demanding a large ransom. During those times, the French and the British gave financial and military support in order to install a constitutional monarchy in Greece. Such event is adapted to a fable set in the dawn of the twentieth century in order to highlight the director's disillusionment towards a modern authoritarian tyranny. Besides, it is left clear that the main character is a fusion of the famous liberator and the malevolent bandit.

O Megalexandros possesses an exhaustive number of references towards Greek mythology, most of the symbols being shown through literal objects. The film draws with expressionistic strokes the human idolatry of the society to an authoritarian figure, not precisely because of his/her particular social ideologies and benignities, but because of the political influence such figure has obtained regardless of the means. This filmic element is represented as a one that has always been a transcendent and undeniably influential factor in the governmental evolution of mankind. It is this landmark point in history the one that divides the plot of the film in two very separate chapters. In the first chapter, a new society is born because of the result of a necessary and celebrative renaissance that was originated from a complete historical reconstruction. The second chapter opens a criticism towards any kind of government that bases its rules, values and morals on the oppression of a lower class.

It is also noticeable how the slow development of the events does not happen in their most literal forms. The protagonist is a so-called hero created by a social class and is ultimately destroyed by the same class out of desperation. It is the law of the survival of the fittest combined with issues that appeal the new dawn of man, even taking the classical Greek art of sculpture and assigning it a meaning of complete destruction, like if the attitudes that a more modern society currently has were the same that led the past generations to a completely unbalanced state, originating cruel and dystopian dictatorships. The most explicit and graphic fact expressed in the film is the corrupted transformation of Megalexandros. His origins are unknown despite that he is introduced with a very theatrical and Shakesperian scene. It is not a responsibility of ours to understand their true motivations or the perfectly executed false promises that the commune received. Lies and impossible illusions disseminated through any means have resulted to be an effective method of brainwashing. This is the same Megalexandros that clearly has plagued the nineteenth century because of the roots that may have culminated in the creation of such figures. History, just like the film, is an irreversible chain of events.

Once again, a high attention to detail, a masterful direction that mixes past and present, and a breathtaking cinematography result in a destructive, cataclysmic explosion of mysterious layers of complexity and human astonishment. The main aspect that may lead to an utter state of catharsis is the neutrality of O Megalexandros, since it is a commentary aimed towards the followers of fanaticism. With an emphasis on the grandiosity of the scale and a satirical art direction rather than in the performances, Angelopoulos is able to modify his present atmosphere and play with the consequences without worrying any single second, being elegant in one moment and mystical in the next one. Solid performances strengthen the intentions behind the curtain and a haunting, Eastern musical score exalt is ambition, but to see Megalexandros in this film is to see the presidents are emperors that rule nowadays without any significant differing. Avoiding pretentiousness and introducing us to a time that may have determined the course of humanity if it weren't because of our constant complaining towards organized forms of government instead of deciding to take action, O Megalexandros is arguably the most challenging political act of our times disguised as an epic drama of breathtaking proportions, visual enchantment and a seducing atmosphere which lucidity seems to resemble the unique realm of human dreams. The ending is a reflection of the opening monologue, and the film, of our inner monsters.

100/100
44
Marketa Lazarová 1967,  Unrated)
Marketa Lazarová
Vaguely speaking: Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957) meets Andrey Rublyov (1966).

Reknowned auteur Frantisek Vlácil, whether you accept that he grabbed European influence or not, created a masterpiece. This masterpiece deals with the brutal transition from Paganism to Christianity, and the overall religious and social background is reflected in Marketa's fragile yet determined personality. Through dreamlike sequences and an episodic structure, the Middle Ages are explored through malicious eyes with most explicit detail, from the repulsive to the chaotic and the poetic. How Marketa's curiosity (not necessarily a submission per se) could be contrasted with the religious modifications destroying portions of traditions in ancient societies is a promising analysis. What a genious move!

This is one of the best movies ever created.

100/100
45
Zerkalo (The Mirror) 1974,  Unrated)
Zerkalo (The Mirror)
"It seems to make me return to the place, poignantly dear to my heart, where my grandfathers house used to be in which i was born 40 years ago right on the dinner table. Each time i try to enter it, something prevents me from doing that. I see this dream again and again. And when i see those walls made of logs and the dark entrence, even in my dream i become aware that I'm only dreaming it. And the overwhelming joy is clouded by anticipation of awakening. At times something happens and i stop dreaming of the house and the pine trees of my childhood around it. Then i get depressed. And i can't wait to see this dream in which ill be a child again and feel happy again because everything will still be ahead, everything will be possible..."

ZERKALO (1975)


Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Biography / Drama / War
Length: 108 minutes

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1975, coincidentally, was the year where two giants of cinema decided to construct an autobiographical manifesto of extremely gigantic proportions that paralleled their respective pasts with the nostalgic history of the Soviet Union and Greece: Andrei Tarkovsky (Zerkalo) and Theodoros Angelopoulos (O Thiasos). Whereas the latter had a massive approach of political turmoil, Tarkovsky's fourth film (and, consequently, fourth masterpiece) is a haunting testament of indescribable beauty, breathtaking stillness and complete mysticism. Therefore, he is an extremely dangerous filmmaker... dangerous in the sense that he has the capacity of ruining cinema. When a viewer willingly decides to witness a spectacle of such huge magnitudes of artistry, he/she is even compelled to stop seeing films for a determined period of time in order to not be disappointed by the next film that was supposed to be seen. Also, the futility of constructing and objective review is maximized: it no longer makes sense and, yet, one wants to share the message and to at least let the world know of the influence and undeniable power of such cinematic artwork. The short filmography of one of the greatest directors of all times is immediately compensated by the superiority, originality, poetry and remarkable vision he possessed towards a world dominated and judged by God.

The protagonist is a man in his forties. His death is imminent, and relying on a narrative structure and a filmic style that obeys the rules and nature of a stream of consciousness, the film thoroughly examines through flashbacks the key moments that defined the political structure of the Russian nation. Mixing historical footage, Zerkalo displays the childhood of the protagonist during the Second World War, his adolescence and the emotionally painful divorce he latterly went through. In a brilliant form, his nonlinear memories are intertwined with political and societal reflections about the Soviet Union as a society whose members work united in order to surpass the infinite hardships that have molded their history.

This is the first film within Tarkovsky's filmography that makes the plot to rely heavily on the visual style and the complex psychological symbolisms. The script is expertly written, like imitating the strongest provocative literary features of the greatest and most renowned poets, and adapting them to an autobiographical tale for the whole world to watch and appreciate. Its power is literally unprecedented, and the director's mastery is present all the way through. However, what makes this film so brilliant is its uniqueness in storytelling. The basic premise of the film is a man dying in his forties; we are totally transported inside his mind and are forced to recall the most important events of his life in the order his heart dictates him to. Naturally, Tarkovsky did not remain with his arms crossed and therefore decided, along with the genius screenwriter Aleksandr Misharin and the poems written by Arseni Tarkovsky, to add a cinematographic signature. Throughout, we witness divine transitions, mystical editing, nightmarish sequences of unexplainable supernatural phenomena, a haunting musical score that resembles Solyaris (1972) in the opening credits and provocative, emotionally heartbreaking and powerfully nostalgic time travels, from a devastated landscape to the still inescapable present time.

The description does not end there. With an unparalleled, complex screenplay, the cast of actors and actresses that impersonated the different emotional roles that have a strong connection with the protagonist change. This is, at a certain sequence, an actor plays a role and, at a much later scene, the same actor plays another character. The answer to the question about why did the director decide to employ such technique can be found in the title of the film: Mirror. A disillusioned grandmother, a confused and abandoned son, a forcedly optimistic, distant and conservative mother... All of them mirror psychological characteristics; all of them share the same tumultuous environment; all of them are being internally shattered by the same universal din. "Mirror" is the metaphor for disillusionment and the subsequent endless pursuit of happiness. The magic of the film is irradiated from the fact that Tarkovsky grabs a world that is conventional to the society. Nonetheless, this does not mean that Zerkalo is specifically aimed towards Russian audiences; it appeals to any falsely democratic and governmental nation that has existed throughout the last decades, including the actuality.

Witnessing historical footage, both brutal and inspirational, serves the purpose of a nostalgic environment and, at the same time, we understand the sentiments of a politically traumatized society so we can compare them with the fictitious characters of the movie. It means reconstruction, not revolution. Dividing itself in three different parts (pre-war, war-time and post-war), Zerkalo is a magnificent tribute to the fortitude of past political figures, but also to those unknown family members that had a remarkable strength and had to face incredibly tumultuous hardships, finally surviving for the sake of their closest relatives. However, its graphic complexity was audacious enough to add surreal sequences of merely symbolic meaning, from representing the psychological transformation of the characters so they could begin a new face of their lives, to incarnating the deepest desires of unrequited love, non-corresponded family companionship and sentimentalist redemption. Tarkovsky, like the passionately religious filmmaker that he is, captures an extraordinarily omniscient and evident presence of an almighty God that witnesses the great diversity of personal and universal events in a non-neutral way, almost interfering in their respective fates. And as for influencing future filmmakers along with Theodoros Angelopoulos like Béla Tarr (Kárhozat [1987], Sátántangó [1994]), Tarkovsky implements for the first time a dazzling and ambitious camerawork that captures every single element and object of an everyday lifestyle that normally go unperceived and assigns them a significant, atmospherically satisfying meaning, including a method that consists in long shots that follow the steps of the characters at their own rhythm.

Frankly, that is all I can do. No review can make this film justice and, normally, a film of such epic scope is perfectly developed in a longer running time. Giant of cinema Andrei Tarkovsky only needed 108 minutes and ¡voilá!... an unforgettable series of events with a revolutionary, non-narrative structure has already been displayed in front of our eyes. We do not want this journey to end, but it must. It is a cycle, but in order for a new beginning to take place, there must be a prior ending. The purpose of this magnum opus is not to confuse, but to celebrate and to exalt the human condition. There is goodness in the world, and there is evil. There are incidents that mark the heart of a woman and a man permanently and, then, there is oblivion. There is love and there is hatred. There are injuries and there are cures. There is the real world and there is the dream world. There is the perceivable and there is the imagined. For Tarkovsky, everything works as fitting pieces of a puzzle: a puzzle called life. Nevertheless, this puzzle has a complicated peculiarity: if the pieces are arranged differently, the puzzle will not be mistakenly made, but it will form a different result. Zerkalo, on a cathartic level, may mirror our own consciousness. Our perception towards the world is challenged, and reflection is an inevitable psychological reaction, impossible to avoid. It is one of the best films ever made. Oh my... such a gorgeous imagery!

100/100
46
Kurutta ippêji (A Crazy Page)(A Page of Madness) 1926,  Unrated)
Kurutta ippêji (A Crazy Page)(A Page of Madness)
A one-hour nightmare with jaw-dropping remnants of the German Expressionism that you'll wish you never had in your lifetime.

100/100
47
Den-en ni shisu (Pastoral Hide and Seek) 1974,  Unrated)
Den-en ni shisu (Pastoral Hide and Seek)
Autobiographical, poetic, analytical, cathartic, honest and masterfully uneven. Terayama is highly influenced by Fellini's take on the disturbed mind of earthly circumstances and adresses it with Jodorowskian surreal elements. This strange hybrid, though, deepens quite enough into the realm of the psyche; it is a neverending speening wheel of philosophy, epiphanies and forbidden passions, an inevitable and prolongued soliloquy to come to terms with oneself's existence which, in the end, provokes nothing more than accepting the surrounding reality, a concept geniously represented by the torn-down walls in the end.

100/100
48
The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet) 1957,  Unrated)
The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)
"If all is imperfect in this imperfect world, then love is most imperfect in its perfect imperfection."

DET SJUNDE INSEGLET (1957)


Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden
Genre: Drama / Fantasy
Length: 96 minutes

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Undoubtedly, Ingmar Bergman is one of the most genius, brilliant, allegoric, symbolic, complex and intelligent auters in the entire history of cinema. He was the one who helped Swedish cinema to rise out of the blue and acquire a characteristic style of its own, but it was in the year of 1957 when he received complete international attention through two of his first and most financially successful films: Det Sjunde Inseglet and Smultronstället (1957). Det Sjunde Inseglet immediately belongs to the most superior category of cinema. Its extraordinary inventiveness, visual style and apocalyptic perspective has been several times imitated, but never duplicated. Never before had cinema questioned the true essence of life, the existence of God and the negative consequences of religion towards its society when seen as the opium of the masses in such a straightforward manner. With an extraordinary cast that includes the Swedish cinema legends Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Bengt Ekerot and Gunnar Björnstrand, not to mention one of the scariest and most sensational antagonists ever portrayed in celluloid, Det Sjunde Inseglet has the power to shatter the already established code of ethics, to attack and criticize the monstrous consequences of misleading religion and even to modify the perspective towards life itself.

A man named Antonius Block and his squire return to their homeland from the Crusades only to find the country completely devastated by the infamous Black Plague. In case this wasn't enough, Block has an encounter with Death who tells him that his time is already up. With the mere and obvious purpose of buying time, Block challenges Death to a game of chess that will ultimately decide the fate of the knight while he is given the chance to return to his wife after ten years and to question the meaning of life, the senselessness of death and the very existence of God. Director Ingmar Bergman was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival of 1957, which unfairly lost against William Wyler for his film Friendly Persuasion (1956). However, Bergman won the Jury Special Prize, which tied with Andrzej Wajda's Kanal (1957). He also won a Silver Ribbon for Best Director - Foreign Film at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists in the year of 1961.

The title Det Sjunde Inseglet is a direct reference towards the eighth chapter of the Book of Revelations of The Holy Bible, citing the text during the first minutes and just before the shocking, implicit ending. To cite such literary source may imply a context of apocalyptic perdition and existential confusion. The character of Antonius Block, masterly interpreted by Max von Sydow, would be completely remade in Andrey Tarkovsky's timeless, religious masterpiece Andrey Rublyov (1966). He is a man whose faith in God is suddenly shattered into pieces because of the catastrophic environment that always surrounded him. Nonetheless, it is this same environment the one that starts to build and ultimately experience a highly religious way of life. Chapels are being constructed while people suffer a destructive plague which origins remained unknown by that time. The easiest and most logical explanation such degraded and increasingly violent society found for such tragedy was the very plague being a direct punishment of God for the sins of the human being. And so begins the personal journey of self-discovery of Block exactly at the time when, ironically, death has already assured its victory.

Det Sjunde Inseglet possesses an extraordinary cinematographic work by Gunnar Fischer. The camera catches and consequently attracts all of the symbols and elements that beautifully decorate the mysterious and unpredictable development of the plot. From the vast ocean to the interior of the chapels and the breathtaking landscapes through which a group of unusually funny travelling players go through, Block starts to gather pieces of a possible meaning of life that may acquire a more significant meaning if rather strong emotional connections start to be worked on. It is interesting how, throughout decades of moviemaking, directors have given a somewhat surreal and symbolic connotation when travelling players are used as either main or secondary characters. In this case, they serve the mere function of the protagonists' epiphany. One of them swears to have visions of the Virgin Mary while Block is seeing Death, so they could be interpreted as the counterpart of an imminent and unavoidable fate. Despite its relatively short running time, enough character development is offered, visionary sequences, partial surrealism and religious imagery is offered in order to magically expand it. Bergman's direction is absolutely phenomenal and instead of mistakenly resorting to exaggerated grandiloquence, he decided to treat the story with such delicacy that one may even feel that it must be analyzed like the tenderest physical features of a rose.

Det Sjunde Inseglet may also be subject to an escapist analysis. It is an essay on the easily corrupted soul and the most negative outcomes when external facts utterly deteriorate any possible optimistic perspective. Its existentialist subject matter may ultimately lead to either a depressing reaction from the audience or to a cathartic one. Bergman's ethereal and heavenly screenplay, which was also based on his play, contains outstandingly surprising and hidden layers of wisdom. The most typical and somewhat ridiculous faults of the human being are contrasted with what seems to be the end of mankind... or so they perceive it. It also pays a strong attention to detail, from having conversations of the importance of family relationships to the normally devastating hardships of failed romances. The performances are phenomenal, from a comical theatre actor to an idealist, violent, but undeniably charming squire. The film slowly reveals several moments of brilliance, like if the screenplay allowed a gorgeous piece of art to blossom under the influence irradiated by the power of darkness. Such plot is remarkably unpredictable, thus enhancing the power of the final conclusion: eternal wandering and never-ending doom. The philosophical material of the film is overabundant and it has the sheer capacity of strengthening the faith in every single religious man, not to mention a possible questioning of the atheists' point of view and take on life.

Ingmar Bergman has achieved to create one of the best films of all time, but the description doesn't end there. It has been subject to multiple references and critical discussions about the ideas depicted, and although its temporary controversy and its depressing content may pretend to be spiritually dangerous, Det Sjunde Inseglet is arguably the most original and visionary adaptation of the Book of Revelations that introduced the condemnation to every single non-believer person. The character of the Grim Reaper, of course, is not real. It is an illusion of our hopeless attempts to achieve redemption because of our past actions with brand new ones. If we make a list of the things that remain at the end, we would be definitely shocked to see that if such things can be written down, they would be negative and disastrous.

100/100
49
The Holy Mountain 1973,  R)
The Holy Mountain
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973)


Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
País: México / Estados Unidos de América
Género: Aventura / Comedia / Drama / Fantasía / Horror / Misterio / Ciencia Ficción
Duración: 114 minutos

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SPANISH REVIEW:

En 1973, la definición y concepción tradicional del cine fue superada en todos los aspectos. Alejandro Jodorowsky ha redefinido el término de pretenciosidad y lo ha reemplazado con un concepto de superioridad fílmica. Perfeccionando el estilo fílmico surrealista típico de Jodorowsky desde los comentarios sociales y religiosos llamados Fando y Lis (1968) y El Topo (1970), The Holy Mountain mantiene viva la típica costumbre de Jodorowsky de jugar con el cine de una forma simbólica y espiritual, dejando la misma interpretación de los hechos a cargo del espectador a un nivel personal y transformando el arte audiovisual del cine en una experiencia inolvidable tanto para los sentidos como para el alma. El alto grado de ambición y perfección mezcladas con una interminable pretenciosidad tuvieron como propósito incluir básicamente casi todo aspecto benigno y maligno, espiritual y religioso, científico y tecnológico que gobierna a la sociedad actual, añadiendo toques fantásticos de ciencia ficción para la mayor representación mística y simbólica posible de hechos cuya trascendencia en la existencia del ser humano resultan, en última instancia, irrechazable, una vez más, enalteciendo la cristiandad.

El peso de la trama dentro de The Holy Mountain alcanza niveles extraordinariamente épicos. Separada en diferentes capítulos, The Holy Mountain representa gráficamente y con un guión relativamente corto la historia de un ladrón que falsamente desea representar a Jesucristo en las regiones más degradadas y pecaminosas de la sociedad moderna. Mientras vaga por bizarros escenarios plagados de simbolismos profanos y blasfemos sumamente cargados de un surrealismo total, el ladrón se encuentra con un guía místico, denominado el alquimista. Después de tener un duelo fracasado con el alquimista, él le introduce a otros siete seres humanos quienes representan a siete planetas del Sistema Solar. Éstos abundaron, en un pasado, en riqueza y poder, y están destinados a convertirse en los seres más poderosos del Universo. Junto con estos siete seres, el alquimista y su asistente, una mujer afroamericana cuyo cuerpo está cubierto de símbolos religiosos, emprenden un viaje a la Montaña Sagrada, un lugar donde se les promete descubrir el secreto de la inmortalidad y convertirse en dioses.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, uno de los genios pretenciosos más brillantes de la historia de la cinematografía, siempre tuvo en mente en qué consistía el proceso de crear cine. Aplicando una vez más su estilo fílmico de principio a fin, adueñándose no solamente de la dirección, sino también de la elaboración del poético guión, de la producción, de la composición de la banda sonora y del montaje, siendo también escultor, pintor y el director de arte, sin mencionar que él mismo interpreta al alquimista, el largometraje acaba convirtiéndose en un viaje espiritual y catártico sin igual. La película cuenta con la más vasta, impresionante e hipnótica imaginería y cinematografía que jamás se haya visto en una película, como si ésta violara al cerebro en contra de su voluntad pero acabara sintiendo culpa y placer. El manejo de cámara, gracias a la cinematografía de Rafael Corkidi, quien también brindó su maravilloso trabajo en El Topo (1970), brinda paisajes hermosos de la naturaleza, la arquitectura y calles típicas de la Ciudad de México, y escenarios surrealistas con movimientos de cámara vertiginosos, como si se nos tratara de enamorar con el ciclo de la vida, representado una vez más por la perfección del círculo. El vestuario varía, lo cual implica un gran esfuerzo por parte de Jodorowsky. Desde vestuario novedoso y moderno para representar a la completamente lasciva, pecaminosa y egoísta clase alta hasta un gran repertorio antiguo mayormente oriental, The Holy Mountain ofrece una muestra de colores tan vivos y vastos como una paleta de pinturas.

De nuevo, a The Holy Mountain no se le puede escribir una crítica ni reseña constructiva, pues se podría decir que la película es al cine como Baraka (1992) es al género documental: Representan un mundo con distintas realidades. Desde el principio, la carta de El Tonto, la cual forma parte del tarot convencional y muestra a un personaje en el borde de un risco, es encontrado en el suelo, pues ya ha caído del risco. Es claro que el personaje necesita un renacimiento para adquirir un nuevo significado a su existencia. Inmediatamente, un enano sin brazos ni piernas lo levanta, quien representa a la derrota, la carta del cinco de espadas. Las almas más ciegas e inocentes, las cuales son representadas por un grupo de niños desnudos (con el posible propósito de enaltecer su estado de inocencia) proceden a simular la tortura y crucifixión de Jesucristo. Después de vagar por escenarios de la Ciudad de México y una inusual representación de la Conquista de México con un circo de ranas y camaleones cubiertos de escombro y sangre, el ladrón se da cuenta de su propia personalidad al percatarse de que ha vivido bajo una ilusión, y que su cuerpo se haya sujeto a una imagen que no le pertenece, pese a su gran religiosidad.

Una vez que el ladrón simula el proceso de la Eucaristía mientras "devora" el cuerpo de Cristo y envía su imagen al cielo, la película introduce a un nuevo capítulo, cuando el alquimista es presentado por primera vez. El rol del alquimista simboliza el balance del bien y del mal, y tratando de evitar ser una película estrictamente religiosa, recurre a filosofías budistas, de yoga, y enseñanzas y costumbres de Gurdjieff, del Kabbalah y del I Ching, contrastándolas con los crímenes y personificaciones del pecado en sus formas más escandalosas. Fon, representante del planeta Venus, se dedica a la comodidad y confort del cuerpo humano. Isla, representante del planeta Marte, fabrica y vende armas. Klen, representante del planeta Júpiter, posee una fábrica de arte. Sel, representante del planeta Saturno, fabrica juguetes de guerra mientras ofrece entretenimiento a infantes. Berg, representante del planeta Urano, es consejero financiero del presidente. Axon, representante del planeta Neptuno, es un jefe de policía coleccionador de testículos. Lut, representante del planeta Plutón, se dedica al negocio de la arquitectura. Cada uno concentra los pecados y faltas a la moral más degradantes y desafortunadamente comunes de la actualidad, desde alusiones a la Inquisición hasta una infrenable y totalitaria anarquía posmoderna.

Venus revive, insultantemente, los estereotipos que han degradado la imagen física del ser humano a través de la creación de imágenes falsas, especialmente en la mujer, que nos permiten aparentar ser humanos que no somos en realidad, llegando a la conclusión de que son nuestras acciones y creencias en vida las que nos otorgan personalidad. Marte es un ataque directo en contra de la altanería del ser humano en posición de poder y en contra de la religión, dejando en claro que la religión que posea un ser humano en particular no lo enaltece ni le otorga una mayor autoridad ni relevancia significativa a comparación de sus semejantes. Es su mera sensación de poder y pertenencia a una clase social o culto religioso el que le nubla la conciencia, teniendo como el efecto más devastador la guerra y la creación de armas. Júpiter reafirma las falsas creencias adoptadas en la sociedad de Venus y los empuja a un extremo ridículo de perversión sexual y discriminación a las maravillas y la capacidad del cuerpo de la mujer, incluyendo el causar el milagro de crear vida, convirtiéndola en un objeto. Saturno constituye un recordatorio a la forma en que la irresponsable emisión de contenidos inapropiados a masas juveniles e infantiles corrompe la inocencia inicial del hombre, destruyendo completamente el mundo inofensivo de fantasía en el que viven e introduciéndolos de una manera inadecuada a la cruel realidad en la que se vive en la actualidad, creando monstruos en el proceso. Urano personifica al ridículamente excesivo poder que los gobiernos totalitarios poseen sobre una nación, ejecutando la voluntad que más parezca acorde a sus respectivos miembros, mezclando esto con un extremo absurdo de detestación a las ceremonias sociales y control del crecimiento de masas a través de genocidios. Neptuno es la imagen viva y fiel de un gobierno más extremista y utópico con un toque anárquico sadomasoquista y la forma en que éste suele tomar las posesiones más valoradas de una sociedad en particular, simbolizadas por los mil testículos y la pérdida de las vidas de la gente, haciendo mayor énfasis a la brutalidad a través de la exageración de emociones con un acercamiento ligero al renacimiento y que la superficialidad es lo que menos cuenta. Plutón vende la idea de refugio físico al ser humano, cuando, en realidad, el verdadero refugio es la forma valerosa de enfrentar la vida misma ante las tribulaciones que ésta trae consigo. El alquimista clasifica a todos estos personajes como ladrones, no necesariamente en el sentido estricto de la palabra, sino ladrones de pertenencias y posesiones valoradas del ser humano que, por ironía del destino o por crueldad de la vida para crear un balance, las obtuvieron. Ningún humano, por más imperfecto que sea, está exento de alcanzar la perfección.

Compartiendo las ideas de eliminación de objetos y posesiones materiales que solemos considerar como dioses, tales como las riquezas y el poder sobre otros, así como la destrucción de ilusiones e imágenes personales falsas que no nos pertenecen ni nos representan como seres existentes únicos, el hombre forma parte de una naturaleza cuya perfección no se le puede deber a la casualidad ni a la Teoría de la Gran Explosión (la cual ni siquiera es oficial), sino a un Creador, que es Dios, la verdad absoluta y el dador de vida. Asimismo, se invita incluso al público a vivir la verdadera vida sin basarnos en ilusiones predominantes, las cuales son, en última instancia, humanas, sin pretender ser nuestros propios dioses ni que la vida está bajo nuestro estricto control. De ahí radica la superioridad y sabiduría de The Holy Mountain. La Montaña Sagrada es una ilusión cuyos mitos místicos los adquirió por su altitud y sus características físicas, por lo cual se asegura que alrededor del mundo se ha hablado de montañas sagradas en diferentes costumbres. "The Pantheon Bar" es un lugar donde los humanos han renunciado en su búsqueda de la Montaña Sagrada y han sido absorbidos por su propia egolatría y sus talentos inútiles, considerándose superiores al significado de la vida misma. Al final, el único medio mediante el cual se puede vencer a la naturaleza es uniéndose a ella, formando un solo ser vivo.

The Holy Mountain ofrece temas de la vida tan variados como lo es su banda sonora, la cual incluye géneros de todo tipo, desde música clásica hasta rock and roll, entre otros. Así como la ilusión del término "película" es rota durante los últimos minutos, así logró The Holy Mountain superar al cine mismo. No necesariamente quiere decir que haya superado al Séptimo Arte, convirtiéndose en la mejor película jamás dirigida por la humanidad, pero sí se encuentra dentro de las experiencias más asombrosas que se pueden experimentar, con un sentimiento predominante de asombro. De la misma forma en que los personajes tienen que enfrentar sus miedos y ambiciones más profundos mediante visiones epifánicas extraordinariamente bizarras y simbólicas, así es la vida misma, no dejando a nadie exento de dicho reto. The Holy Mountain es la película que más ha cambiado mi perspectiva de ver la vida y disfrutarla al máximo, y la que más ha fortalecido mi fe en Dios Todopoderoso. "La verdadera vida nos espera."

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

In 1973, the definition and traditional conception of cinema was surpassed in every single aspect. Alejandro Jodorowsky has redefined the term of pretentiousness and has replaced it with a concept of filmic superiority. Perfecting the filmic surreal style typical of Jodorowsky since the social and religious commentaries named Fando y Lis (1968) and El Topo (1970), The Holy Mountain maintains the typical habit of Jodorowsky of playing with cinema in a symbolic and spiritual form, leaving the interpretation of the facts in the hands of the spectator at a personal level and transforming the audiovisual art of cinema in an unforgettable experience both for the senses and the soul. The high level of ambition and perfection mixed with an endless pretentiousness had as a purpose to include basically almost every single benign and evil, spiritual and religious, scientific and technological aspect that governs the modern society, adding fantasy elements of science fiction for achieving the maximum mystical and symbolic representation possible of events which transcendence in the existence of the human being ultimately result irrejectable, exalting Christendom once more.

The weight of the plot within The Holy Mountain reaches extraordinarily epic levels. Divided into different chapters, The Holy Mountain graphically represents, with a relatively small screenplay, the story of a thief that falsely wishes to represent Jesus Christ in the most degraded and sinful regions of the current society. While he wanders through scenarios riddled with profane and blasphemous symbolisms considerably loaded with a total surrealism, the thief finds a mystical guide called the Alchemist. After having an unsuccessful duel with the Alchemist, he introduces him to other seven human beings that represent seven planets of the Solar System. These beings abounded, in a certain past, in richness and power, and are destined to become the most powerful beings of the Universe. Along with these seven beings, the Alchemist and his assistant, an Afro-American woman whose body is covered with religious symbols, embark on a journey to the Holy Mountain, a place where they are promised to discover the secret of immortality and become gods.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, one of the most brilliant and pretentious geniuses in the history of cinema, had always in mind the overall process of cinema creation. Applying his filmic style from beginning to end once again, becoming the owner not only of the direction, but also of the elaboration of the poetic screenplay, the production, the composition of the soundtrack and the mounting, being also a sculptor, painter and the art director, without mentioning his interpretation of the Alchemist, the feature film ends up becoming an unparalleled spiritual and cathartic trip. The movie has the vastest and most impressive and hypnotic imagery and cinematography I have ever seen in a film, like if these raped the brain against its will but ended up feeling guilt and pleasure. The camera work, thanks to the cinematography of Rafael Corkidi, who also offered his extraordinary work in El Topo (1970), brings beautiful nature landscapes, the typical architecture and street composition of Mexico City, and surrealistic scenarios with vertiginous camera movements, like if we were being convinced to fall in love with the cycle of life, represented, once more, by the perfection of the circle. The costume design constantly varies, which implies a great effort from part of Jodorowsky. From a modern and novel wardrobe that represents the completely lascivious, sinful and selfish upper class to a great antique and majorly Eastern repertoire, The Holy Mountain offers a sample of colors that seem as alive and vast as a painter's palette.

Once again, The Holy Mountain doesn't allow a constructive critic or review to be written, since it could be said that the film is to cinema like Baraka (1992) is to the documentary genre: They represent a world with different realities. From the beginning, the The Fool card that forms part of the conventional tarot and shows a character at the edge of a cliff is found on the ground, since he has already fallen from the aforementioned cliff. It is clear that the character needs a rebirth in order to acquire a new meaning to its existence. Immediately, an armless and legless dwarf picks him up, who represents defeat, the five of swords. The blindest and most innocent souls, which are represented by a group of naked kids (with the possible purpose of exalting their state of innocence), proceed to simulate the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. After wandering through scenarios characteristic of Mexico City and an unusual representation of the Conquest of Mexico with a circus of frogs and chameleons covered with blood and rubble, the thief realizes his own personality after he notices he has lived under an illusion and that his body has been subject to an image that doesn't belong to him, despite his heavy religiousness.

Once that the thief simulates the process of the Eucharist while "devouring" the body of Christ and sending his image to Heaven, the movie introduces a new chapter when the Alchemist makes his appearance for the first time. The role of the Alchemist symbolizes the balance between good and evil, and while avoiding being a strictly religious film, it resorts to Buddhist philosophies, yoga, and teachings and customs of Gurdjieff, the Kabbalah and the I Ching, contrasting them with the crimes and the personifications of sin in its most scandalous forms. Fon, He whose planet is Venus, is dedicated to the comfort and commodity of the human body. Isla, She whose planet is Mars, manufactures and sells weapons. Klen, He whose planet is Jupiter, owns an art factory. Sel, She whose planet is Saturn, manufactures war toys while offering entertainment to children. Berg, He whose planet is Uranus, is a financial adviser to the President. Axon, He whose planet is Neptune, is a chief of police and a collector of testicles. Lut, He whose planet is Pluto, is dedicated to the business of architecture. Each and every one of them congregates the most degrading sins and insults to morality which, unfortunately, are common nowadays, from allusions to the Inquisition to the unstoppable and totalitarian postmodern anarchy.

Venus revives, insultingly, the stereotypes that have degraded the physical image of the human being through the creation of false images, especially of women, that allow us to seem to be humans that we are really not, arriving to the conclusion that it is our own actions and beliefs in life the ones that grant us a personality. Mars is a direct attack against religion and the haughtiness of the humankind when being granted power, making clear that any human being in particular isn't exalted nor given a bigger amount of authority or significant relevance in comparison with the rest of the world regardless of the religion he or she possesses. It is the same feeling of power and membership of a social class the one that blinds our conscience, having as its most devastating effect the war and the creation of guns. Jupiter reaffirms the false beliefs adopted by the society of Venus and pushes them to an extreme ridicule of sexual perversion and discrimination towards the wonders and capacities of the woman's body, including the creation of the miracle of life, converting her into an object. Saturn constitutes a reminder of the way in which the irresponsible emission of inappropriate contents to juvenile and children masses corrupts the initial innocence of man, completely destroying the inoffensive world of fantasy in which they live and introducing them, in an inadequate manner, to the cruel reality in which we live nowadays, creating monsters in the process. Uranus personifies the excessively ridiculous amount of power that totalitarian governments possess over a nation, executing the will that most appeals to the taste of its members, mixed with an extreme absurd of detestation towards social ceremonies and of mass growth control through genocides. Neptune is the live and faithful image of a most extremist and utopian government with a sadomasochistic touch of anarchy and the way this tends to take away the most valued possessions of a particular society, an aspect symbolized by the one thousand testicles and the loss of the people's lives, making a higher emphasis in the brutality through the exaggeration of emotions with a slight approach to rebirth and to the fact that superficiality is the least relevant thing. Pluto sells the idea of a physical refuge for the human being when, in reality, the real refuge is the valorous form of facing life itself with the tribulations and hardships it involves. The Alchemist classifies these characters as thieves, not necessarily in the strict sense of the word, but they are thieves of belongings and possessions valued by the human being which, due to the irony of fate or the cruelty of life that creates a balance, they achieved to obtain. No human, regardless of its overall flaws, is exempt from reaching utter perfection.

Sharing the ideas of the elimination of objects and material possessions that we tend to consider as personal gods, such as richness and the power over others, and the destruction of illusions and personal fake images that do not belong to us and do not represent us as uniquely existent beings, man forms part of a nature whose perfection cannot be owed to chance or the Big Bang Theory (which is not even official), but to a Creator, who is God, the absolute truth and the giver of life. Likewise, the public is invited to live the real life without basing it in predominant illusions, which are, ultimately, humans, without pretending to be our own gods and that life is under our strict control. From there, the superiority and wisdom of The Holy Mountain irradiates. The Holy Mountain is an illusion whose mystical myths were acquired thanks to its altitude and physical characteristics; consequently, it is clarified that people have spoken about holy mountains in different parts of the world based on regional customs. "The Pantheon Bar" is a place where humans have renounced to their quest of the Holy Mountain and have been absorbed by their own egotism and useless talents, considering themselves superior to the meaning of life itself. Finally, the only means through which nature can be beaten is to converge with it, becoming one single living being.

The Holy Mountain offers themes about life so varied as it is its soundtrack, which includes all types of genres, from classical music to rock and roll, among others. Just like the term "movie" is broken during the last minutes, The Holy Mountain achieved to surpass cinema itself. This does not necessarily mean that it achieved to surpass the Seventh Art, becoming the best film ever directed by mankind, but it is found within the most astonishing experiences that can be experimented with a predominant feeling of awe. In the same way the characters have to face their deepest fears and ambitions through extraordinarily symbolic and bizarre epiphanic visions, life itself is like that, leaving nobody exempt from such challenge. The Holy Mountain is the movie that has modified my perspective towards life the most at the expense of enjoying it at its fullest, and the one that has strengthened my faith in God Almighty the most. "Real life awaits us."

100/100
50
Citizen Kane 1941,  PG)
Citizen Kane
"Rosebud..."

CITIZEN KANE (1941)


Director: Orson Welles
Country: United States of America
Genre: Drama / Mystery
Length: 119 minutes

Photobucket


Orson Welles / United States of America / 1941... When any film critic puts such terms into one single sentence, the inevitable memory that instantly pops up into the mind is arguably the best American film ever made: Citizen Kane. To make a review and a deep analysis of such giant icon may inevitably cause the writer to resort to terms like "best", "greatest", "influential", and "landmark". However, to resort to such words is the most truthful and factual reaction any cinema admirer normally experiences. Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films in the history of the motion picture. Without the creation of this gigantic magnum opus, the history of the art of filmmaking would not be the same nowadays. A statement comparing the influence of Citizen Kane over cinema and the influence of the Second World War over human history reaches almost the same magnitude regarding the peculiarities of their own topics. Orson Welles, as the underrated director that he really is, established a new narrative structure without forgetting in the slightest way what the filmmaking process intrinsically had to involve, like mixing the brilliance that Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) conglomerated and raising the bar to an unimaginable level.

The legendary story begins when a group of reporters start to make an exhaustive investigation about the meaning of the last enigmatic word spoken by the newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane seconds before he heaves his last breath inside his extravagant mansion, Xanadu: "Rosebud". Through flashbacks we see the rise of a journalism emperor until he reaches the top of the world just to fall, irremediably. The film received 9 Academy Award nominations for Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound, Recording, Best Director and Best Picture, winning only the first Oscar. Obviously, the fact that the film was stolen eight (!) awards it really deserved mainly by Gary Cooper's Sergeant York (1941) and John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941) emphasizes Orson Welles' visionary brilliance, not only because Citizen Kane was a box-office failure while being generally disliked, but also because cinematic geniuses do not fully obtain the recognition they deserve in their own eras. It may seem unconceivable nowadays, but frankly, How Green Was My Valley (1941) offered the inspirational power-of-family feeling that Citizen Kane could not provide while the Second World War was brutally taking place.

This filmic phenomenon opens with the introduction of the Xanadu mansion with a noticeably style that deliciously combined film-noir cinematography with a macabre sensation of horror and solitude. Through a masterful camera work and a genius use of lights and shadows, the death of the main character Charles Foster Kane is shown during the first five minutes, an event that caused the conventional narrative structure of American cinema to be completely challenged and shattered into pieces, like telling the ending of a story before it starts to develop. Naturally, the purpose of such technique has not passed unnoticed nowadays. Getting straight to the point, that is, the mortality of the human race despite the material and financial empire one single person may create through talent and influence over masses, may have been one of the characteristics that provided hatred and boredom to the film from the audience. However, this genius work of art is the result of the multitalented cinematographic capacities of an ahead-of-his-time auteur. The direction of Citizen Kane is extraordinarily ambitious and fast-paced, but with the help of the screenplay he developed with the collaboration of Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenplay that belongs to the category of the best ones ever written and brought to the screen by human hands, took a premise that constituted an audacious and striking political commentary against the brainwashing that journalism causes in a consumerist society to the most superior category of cinema.

Such powerful capitalist testament required believable and transcendent performances, a task that was basically achieved by the mere presence, tenacity and authoritarian personality of Charles Foster Kane alone. And how could such a colossal cinema icon could be effectively captured if not with a revolutionary camera work? The cinematography enhances the patriotic effectiveness the film had without being nauseating, a sensation that modern mindless directors are pretty much successful at creating. Welles went too far... and he had several good reasons. The aerial shots are spellbinding, pretty much like Fritz Lang accomplished in M (1931), but Welles portrayed the world from a very high perspective, seemingly resembling the view that the character of Kane had towards the world. The world, according to him, was a giant sphere to be conquered, a sphere full of people whose minds could be influenced for serving a particular purpose. It was the moral of such worldwide individuals the one that would irrevocably determine particular life decisions. Consequently, journalism was his motor, his principal motive to fill a psychological void that a rather empty and unpleasant childhood had created. These characteristics are strengthened by an awesome storytelling. Relativity and the personal trust towards people play a very important implicit role in the plot. The screenplay relies on the perspective of a reporter who gathers several versions of the life of the famous citizen. Through their own versions, which may not necessarily connect with each other, we have a very modest sample of how such a wonderful man raised out of the blue. This would be the structure that would influence several other films in the future, such as Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon (1950).

To ruin the meaning of "Rosebud" is atrocious, so a particular film fan may better be careful of those who found the particular meaning pointless and ludicrous. We, as the audience, are offered the opportunity to solve the mystery behind that legendary filmic word. We see "Rosebud" after witnessing vast scenarios with a spectacular set decoration. We see Kane die. We are able to see that Kane was still a man with emotional connections and unfulfilled ambitions of materialism. He was just one more citizen, despite the monster he represented in society. Several citizens Kane are found nowadays and the idea behind the story that Welles imposed was the cleverest prophetic sample of the unkind personalities of superficial politicians. The reasons that put this film among the best ever created abound. Modern audiences may still share the initial reaction that the audiences of seven decades ago had, but their numbers have gradually decreased, and the day with which critics dreamed of has finally arrived, since the actual reputation of Citizen Kane has overshadowed the prejudiced opinion and predominant blindness that it was subject to, not to mention the never-ending conservatism of the AMPAAS. In case that you are planning to whisper "Rosebud" as your final world, do not feel guilty or surprised. It's natural.

100/100
51
Obchod na Korze (The Shop On Main Street) (A Shop on the High Street) 1965,  Unrated)
Obchod na Korze (The Shop On Main Street) (A Shop on the High Street)
"Krtko!"

OBCHOD NA KORZE (1965)


Director: Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos
Country: Czechoslovakia
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 128 minutes

Obchod na Korze,Czechoslovakia,Ján Kadár,Elmar Klos,Shop on Main Street


The ones that have actually dared to go deep enough into the world of cinema have surely realized of the fact that the Seventh Art can be one of the most extraordinary wonders if one is willing to look for lost masterworks scattered worldwide. Unfortunately, classic art cinema is not disseminated in my country as much as I would wish, and Obchod na Korze was a film which I had an enormous luck of discovering on television one day after midnight. That's right: I discovered it being aired after midnight. That's one of the best nights I have spent alone staying up late. Was it worth it? Instead of exaggerating my feelings in an excessive way as I normally tend to do it while writing my favorite films' reviews, the following review will be partially characterized by its simplicity, tranquility and honesty of its structure and grammar, so I really hope that my reaction towards the film is interpreted correctly. Have you ever had that beautiful feeling of watching any favorite movie of yours which is so great that from the moment that the "The End" title appears on screen in any language you like you feel like your life should immediately go through a brief reflection process? Has your life ever been literally changed by a movie? All of this has happened to me, and Obchod na Korze is definitely the most powerful and honest movie I have seen in my entire life, dramatically speaking.

Obchod na Korze is set on the Slovakia of World War II where the Arian protagonist Antonin Brtko, who lives in poverty, receives the opportunity by the authorities of becoming the owner of a Jewish old widow that works on a small sewing material shop. This confused and charming old lady hires Brtko under the belief that he was seeking for a job. Once they start to live together and let time go by, their unusual relationship starts to become a friendship, soon after the authorities decide to expel the Jewish people from the city. What decision will Brtko take under that critical situation? The movie received two Academy Award nominations including Best Foreign Language Film in 1966 and Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1967. I'm so glad that it received the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, not only because it obviously was the best film among the nominated ones, it had serious competition. Among the nominated films were Matrimonio all'italiana (1964) directed by Vittorio de Sica and Kaidan (1964) directed by genius Masaki Kobayashi. Onibaba (1964) directed by Kaneto Shindô was also released that year, which was certainly a splendid movie, but it wasn't nominated.

Obchod na Korze is mainly characterized because of being one of the most humanly honest films ever created, instantly becoming the best movie in cinema history about the Holocaust. People that claim Schindler's List (1993) and The Pianist (2002) as the best movies about World War II should alter their viewings and they are several miles away from getting out of their tiny little bubble called "Hollywood" in which they are in. The narrative structure of the film is managed with a high realism degree, which adds a lot of quality and credibility to this work of art. Very few films have this talent, so that's why Obchod na Korze is among the top 5 most realistic films that I have seen so far. The screenplay is beautifully crafted and effectively written, not only for narrating the events that take place in a World War II Slovakia, but also for creating completely human and real characters who have a wide range of feelings, emotions and reactions towards the lessons they learn during course of the war.

The protagonistic combination of social classes is brilliant just as it is controversial. An Arian, a race that considered itself as the superior and perfect race over any other, befriends the most adorable old lady in the city, who ironically is Jewish. The concept is extremely effective and highly unusual. The show is completely stolen by Ida Kaminska, who interprets Rozalie Lautmann, one of the tenderest and most human and innocent characters cinema ever gave birth to. The fact that she hadn't won an Academy Award is beyond absurd, without mentioning that the same film received both Oscar nominations in two different years. The capacity she had for totally becoming a character who, if analyzed deeply enough, wasn't so easy of portraying is absolutely brilliant. I agree with Elizabeth Taylor's performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) being fabulous and deserving the Oscar, but Ida Kaminska's performance was superior to the one by Julie Christie in Darling (1965). Unfortunately, realistically speaking, even if Ida Kaminska had been nominated in 1965 and Julie Christie hadn't won the award, the Oscar would have gone to Julie Andrews for The Sound of Music (1965), which would also have been an erroneous decision. The acting by Jozef Króner as the Arian Antonin Brtko is decent enough as well, making of his emotions, established priorities and the aspects that motivated him to take some decisions in particular something very clear.

This is the only movie among my favorites that has two persons in its directing. Both Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos had a very well established vision of the portion of the world they wanted to portray, and it is remarkable in its set decoration and in the general atmosphere creation. The costume design was also a considerate aspect. The use of music was very adequate and it was occasionally beautiful, especially the music that is used in the final scene. The pace the events have is hypnotizing without being hasty at all, and the editing is pretty decent overall.

Obchod na Korze deals with the struggle for getting rid of the boundaries and differences imposed by society between different social classes, and describes tragedy to a high degree without resorting to extremely dramatic and sentimental scenes and/or sequences; it simply required a magisterially achieved directing and performances so it could cause the desired effect in worldwide audiences of any generation, and not only the Czech audience. That is why it is a very powerful anti-war statement without using brutal sequences of violence and action. It simply shows its devastating effects seen through human eyes, just like the ones we own, the side which is normally ignored. The movie does not focus on battlefield heroes or in magnificent deeds of popular characters, but in common people admirable because of their own qualities and personal attitude towards life. These are the kind of people that are the true heroes in real life.

Obchod na Korze is the most powerful and realistic drama film I know, and the best film I have seen from Czechoslovakia. As it is expected, the ending is brutal, but totally unexpected and unexplainably beautiful. It must be seen to be believed. A gem that, as my opinion goes, is about to be lost and forgotten, Obchod na Korze is one of the most brutally honest commentaries against war of classic cinema, followed by Hadashi no Gen (1983), Idi i Smotri (1985) and Hotaru no Haka (1988).

100/100
52
Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) 1945,  PG)
Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise)
"Jealousy belongs to all if a woman belongs to no one."

LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (1945)


Director: Marcel Carné
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Romance
Length: 190 minutes

Photobucket


One decade after France temporarily dropped the cinematic criticism towards the bourgeois class and one decade before the French New Wave grew in size and worldwide importance, the visionary and sagacious directors Marcel Carné and Jean Cocteau molded the bases for meaningful French filmmaking. Almost no epic tale of love, betrayal, romance, affairs and strictly human relationships had been permanently immortalized in such a powerful way. Les Enfants du Paradis is one of the best epic tales that, although executed most of its influence in the subsequent soap-opera formula, does not fail to magically transport the dumbfounded and enamored audience to an ecclesiastical world of religious influence and passionately emotional connections. Class members and human qualities collide in a delicious story. Ultimately, the film is life itself, and a perfectly orchestrated opera of visual beauty, extremely rich character development and a witty screenplay. Never before had cinema been so movingly explicit, but it is the direction by Carné the one that provides to the unforgettable three hours of length a substance as significant as the purpose of any admirable art form.

This triumph made during the Second World War is set in the beautiful times of 19th-century Paris, and revolves around the proud woman named Claire Reine who is loved by four very different men: the theater mime Baptiste Deburau, the unstoppable Casanova of pretentious acting abilities named Fréderick Lemaître, the scheming thief Lacenaire, and the ambitious Count Edward of Monteray. Claire goes under the name of Garance, a reference to a beautiful flower, and starts a love relationship with Baptiste, until the fates and misadventures of each character intertwine in an incredible connection of deceptions, kisses and broken hearts. Jacques Prévert received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay in 1947, ridiculously losing it against Muriel Box and Sidney Box for the film The Seventh Veil (1945).

Les Enfants de Paradis is the main film that is commonly found in any lists made by renowned critics regarding the best films of all time, especially those who refer to the important cinematic samples in the history of France. It is also catalogued as the French Gone with the Wind (1939). This vague and almost insignificant trivia offers a brief glimpse of the magnificence of the movie. Nevertheless, it is an experience that speaks for itself, even making the suggestion to the viewer to not know any single plot element before seeing the film so this grandiose ride acquires a bigger quality of unparalleled unexpectedness. As a film of more than three hours in length, it may be subject to several interpretations. Regardless of the almost endless perspectives one may own towards this giant icon of romance, the truth is it was the gigantic air of hope that a devastated society needed, and the inspirational ray of light that the people needed to see in such tumultuous times. If the habit of past and future generations of film critics consists in comparing the technical aspects and the epic atmosphere of this masterpiece with the internationally acclaimed Gone with the Wind (1939), irony will be found. Whereas one film was made on the eve of World War II, Carné's most memorable effort was stuck in the middle of turbulent times and the story was set in a historical period of Romanticism proportions of theater and poetry.

In Les Enfants du Paradis, we get the incarnations of several metaphors of the time. Garance is as important just as Baptiste is interesting. All of them do not lack character substance, but to witness the perfectly performed personalities of several counterparts collide in amorous affairs and non-prioritized confusion makes of this artwork an involuntary comedy. Garance is the woman whose moral standards, extreme feminism and elegant snobbishness are challenged when a street performer falls in love with her because of being an eye witness of a minor, but typical crime (for those times, evidently). The Occupation of France is, therefore, illustrated through the several acquaintances she meets because of her lifestyle, resulting in several affairs of realistic hilarity. What seems to be a torrid affair between these two characters is transformed into a story with random and casual events interlacing between each other. Is it the force of fate or is it the glorious power of irony? Baptiste is the humorously neorealist representation of a classy society, not in abundance of goods but in abundance of human delights of psychological enchantments. Considering the times in which it was made, the materialistic count stands for the Nazi brutality that was being disseminated throughout the world, perhaps with the merely humble purpose of showing an empathetic attitude towards an audience that urged for better life conditions and, consequently, more peace. Lacenaire is the "bad influence" that, inevitably, always wanders through the streets of any city, despite of its low economy and of its particular glamorousness.

Finally, this analysis leads us to the consideration of Baptiste's theatrical talents, representing a society that was folklorically attached to street shows, slapstick humor, carnivals, Shakespearian plays and Baroque and classical art and music. The way to show culture towards the surrounding fellow men was the discussion of the influence of the works of the most renowned poets, playwrights and musicians. This characteristic is beautifully decorated with a dazzling costume design and a very accurate art direction, and the primary source of power for the film are the facial gestures, the ingenious camera shots and an intimate musical score of deftly constructed nostalgia. The total length of the film is completely justified, and more than assuming the role of an epic story of almost-documentarian nature, the extraordinarily written screenplay of Jacques Prévert alludes the futility of illusions built towards materialism, snobbishness and multiple love affairs, whether they are extramarital or not. Hence, an ambiguous, implicit eroticism plays its role of comedy and ambiguity. Taking into consideration the physical appearances of the male cast featured in Les Enfants du Paradis, it is hard not to point out the androgynous personification of Baptiste, perhaps a detail that contrasts the homosexuality of Carcel Carné in times of intolerance.

Les Enfants du Paradis is a glorious masterpiece of glowing brilliance. In the Boulevard of Crime, one may be asking: "To what crime does the boulevard refers to?" In the end, one realizes that the answer is not the robbery of a golden watch. It is the submission of the soul and the spirit to unnecessary earthly blessings rather than to the dedication and commitment to an artistic purpose or a merciful one. The irony of the title is found in the fact that the director and the power of a dedicatedly genius cast is trying to remember a past paradise. It is not literally a paradise, but the molding of a modern society with Nazism and technological warfare as its bases ultimately leads to a more equivocate existence? Where did the Casanovas disappear? At least they were passionate and classy. When were provincial towns conquered by entrepreneurial forces and commercialism? Where is the romance, and why was it forgotten? Of course thievery and a social system partially determined the life conditions of families and individuals, but art was escapist and love was the solution for any issue. Thanks, Carné, for reminding us a better "paradise", and for using childhood as a reference to a purer state of innocence.

100/100
53
The Saragossa Manuscript 1965,  Unrated)
The Saragossa Manuscript
"- We are like blind men lost in the streets of a big city. The streets lead to a goal, but we often return to the same places to get to where we want to be. I can see a few little streets here which, as it is now, are going nowhere. New combinations have to be arranged, then the whole will be clear, because one man cannot invent something that another cannot solve.
- I no longer follow."


REKOPIS ZNALEZIONY W SARAGOSSIE (1965)


Director: Wojciech Has
Country: Poland
Genre: Drama / Fantasy
Length: 182 minutes

Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie,The Saragossa Manuscript,Surrealism,Wojciech Has


Luis Buñuel, a cinema master who seldom watched movies more than once, was so fascinated by Wojciech Has' masterpiece titled Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie, that he saw it three times. Surrealism is a highly versatile film subgenre, and in this case, the Polish director decides to deliciously construct the most inventive ride of lunacy! Besides being the most film by the director, a fact that clearly indicates that he obtained international recognition, Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie is a film that can be interpreted in several ways. No matter how seemingly retarded the interpretation is, that is the correct one. It was highly influenced by past satirical masterpieces of fantasy, but it also establishes a landmark in unconventional storytelling, unconditional comedy and the importance of artistic subjectivity. With an extremely confusing and attractive mixture of events, incredible incidents, a gorgeous sense of humor, highly implied eroticism and a rarely-seen audacity, this film is arguably the best and most creative Polish work of art, leaving room for philosophical discussion, but smartly adding direct questionings towards the current way of life.

The film takes place during the Napoleonic wars. It opens with an officer entering an abandoned house and finding a book that relates the story of his grandfather Alfons van Worden, captain in the Walloon guard. On his way of seeking the shortest route through the Sierra Morena, he sups with two Islamic princesses at an inn named Venta Quemada. After being seduced and being called their lost cousin, he wakes up next to corpses in the middle of a gallows. The rest of the movie puts van Worden in unbelievable situations of real and imagined dementia, travelling to unusual places and hearing stories within stories within stories within stories within stories of hilarious anecdotes and unfaithful love. The film obtained a Special Award at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain, in the year of 1972 under the category of "Movies of special movie theatres".

Captain Alfons van Worden repeats that he belongs to the Walloon guard around five times. He is a man of pretentious honor, patriotism and courage, but perhaps it is the force and irony of destiny the one that drives him into a complex web of crazy sequences. Symbolisms abound and their particular meaning is subject to complete relativity. He is seduced by enchanting women who, according to them, have never met a man in their lives, which has led them to express their love to each other. He wakes up under corpses in gallows. He is told an extremely creepy story involving ghosts and violence by a Catholic priest and his supposedly possessed goatherd who stops being possessed under the religious commands of the priest. He wakes up under corpses in the same gallows. At this point, the film makes a clear statement. The mere purpose of the Saragossa Manuscript, considering its constant, unexplainable and senseless apparitions throughout, is to cause confusion and psychological craziness. It is not a mental journey that is supposed to be taken in its most literal form. We do not longer know the relevance of particular events portrayed until they are explained later on in the film and, moments after, the explanation that had been already given is proved wrong... The importance of early sudden and random appearances of characters is explained several segments later.

Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie definitely contains one of the best, smartest and most complicated screenplays in the entire history of moviemaking. Such creation laughs when pretending to be all over the place when it actually isn't. To understand the unsettled timeline and the deceiving chronology is not a difficult task. The real magic and complexity relies on the work of deciphering the meaning of the aforementioned structure. The film is explicitly divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the small process of surrealistic comedy that is slowly built inside the protagonist's mind, destroying all possible logical interpretation and making blasphemous references towards the modern culture, lesbianism, sexuality, carnality and the Catholic religion. In the second part, the now terrifying manuscript acquires a much stronger presence and a more significant philosophical meaning, and the "captain of the Walloon guard" hears an endless story-within-story narration of impossible experiences that end up making the respective personalities and experiences of the displayed personages to collide in a climax that, at the end, make more sense.

The possible intention of adapting a surrealist story to the late eighteenth century is unexplained, yet it is utterly irrelevant. It is the gorgeousness, the elegance, the insanity and the delicacy of the characters the ones that make of Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie a vehicle of senselessness. A visually outstanding art direction, a great vastness of character richness, a royal costume design worth of the royal halls of any location in Europe and a superbly written adaptation of Jan Potocki's original novel exalt the grandiosity of a Manuscript that seems to have been made in order to cause unstoppable existential dooms. The film is plagued with talented Polish stars offering very convincing performances and a highly artistic cinematography makes the film to derive the possibility of becoming a top-notch experience set in turbulent times. The futility of war, the implications of violence, the most common consequences of mindless sex and seduction, memorable dialogues, ghastly tales, disturbing imagery, a vaudevillian environment, a delightful use of the Spanish language and an omniscient God orchestrating a complex web of impossible sequences and an opening-credits sequence featuring the paintings of famous surrealists make of this masterpiece one of a kind.

The influence of Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie is an element that cannot be rejected. It is troubling, scandalous, daring... and also visionary! Surrealism had never been subject to such a multiphacetic and polished Polish brilliance. The multitalented aspects that govern this provocative piece of art from beginning to end seems to be the result of the conglomeration of every single signature of the most famous and visionary poets put into a single feature film of three hours. Time is erased, logic is raped, beauty is distorted, discretion is invited to a party of lavishness and snobbishness, and cinema adopts a new face of inventiveness and intelligence. Repetitive elements emphasize the ridiculousness of the plot and the huge audacity that Wojciech Has had to adopt. A theatrical feeling and a dramatist perspective is briefly shown, but just for the fun of it, like if William Shakespeare had written a play under the influence of a strong hallucinogenic. It is one of the greatest fantasy films ever made.

100/100
54
Il conformista (The Conformist) 1970,  R)
Il conformista (The Conformist)
"I've already repented. I want to be excused by society. Yes. I want to confess today the sin I'll commit tomorrow. One sin atones for another. It is the price I must pay society. And I shall pay it."

IL CONFORMISTA (1970)


Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Country: Italy / France / West Germany
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Length: 111 minutes

The Conformist,Il Conformista,Bernardo Bertolucci


Bernardo Bertolucci is a passionate sensationalist. The remarkable Italian auteur ventures into the never-ending realm of romance, sexuality, broken hearts and political Fascism. Therefore, Il Conformista is immediately positioned among the most brilliant and intelligent political thrillers of modern cinematography, even reaching the filmic category of Costa-Gavras' Z (1969). Moreover, the unparalleled and poetical vision of Bertolucci give a very different twist to the genre, from being a smartly shot direct criticism towards Fascism to becoming a wonderful essay on the human condition and the corruptibility of socially influential overpowerment. To call it influential may be a partially misleading statement; it relies more on the film-noir visual style without the black-and-white photography, the bourgeois and elegant approach established by Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita [1960], [1963] and Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte [1961], L'Eclisse [1962]), and old criminal stereotypes than executing a noticeable influence among its genre. However, it IS influential. Bertolucci's definitive work of art and best film of his entire filmography is an absolute masterpiece, a feast for the senses and a strong questioning towards the veracity of politics.

The story is set in the pre-war, 1938 Rome where Marcello, a submissively operational man, courts a young woman and both organize a honeymoon in Paris. There, he slowly starts to become a fawning fascist after accepting a job from Mussollini contacts that consists in assassinating an old professor of his, now a political dissident, who had fled Italy when Fascism had already been established. Being troubled by the memories of a pedophilic, homosexual encounter he had in 1917, a tragic event that is shown through flashbacks, Marcello's loyalty and prioritized necessities will be put to a hard test, unleashing catastrophic and unforgettable consequences. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, stupidly losing it against William Friedkin's The French Connection (1971). Bernardo Bertolucci won the Interfilm Award - Recommendation and the Journalists' Special Award, and was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1970.

In order to fully appreciate such a unique masterpiece like Il Conformista, it is always a mandatory necessity to analyze both the previous political context of Italy before and after the Second World War and the possible intentions of the director. Fascism was an authoritative and nationalist power which tremendous force was executed in order to give false promises about the utter extermination of a disorganized anarchy through a corporatist economic system, yet such persecution of an ambitious order ensued violent means because of the resignation of relevant political liberties. The main character Marcello, a heavily influenced man who works for Mussolini and whose weak will and low capacity of decision-taking symbolizes the Italian society, is a political puppet. Of course, a natural and humanistic perspective had to be applied to a conventional, male character. However, it is the very submission he presents to his bosses and, quite possibly yet not justifiably, the psychological trauma because of what he went through during his childhood the elements that strengthen the mental connection he slowly built towards sex and violence. The sex and violence, therefore, are the bases of his impulses, impulses that are challenged when he experiences an encountering with a romantic relationship that had failed in the past. The job for which he is assigned for is the emotional motor that is supposed to trigger the dependence of his will.

The pace is undeniably demanding, but rewarding during several enchanting sequences throughout. The events slowly unfold in front of our eyes with a very striking poetry, deliciously orchestrated through a considerably powerful, gorgeously balanced and ambitiously vast colored cinematography thanks to the work of Vittorio Storaro. The attention to detail from inanimate typical objects to the emphasis put to a floor full of autumn leafs dancing with an aggressive, yet peaceful wind constructs a visually beautiful experience. A celebrative musical score is displayed, most of it consisting in background and partying music, highlighting the absolute charm of the sequence where Giulia, brilliantly interpreted by actress Stefania Sandrelli, disseminates joy and convinces several people, under the influence of a total state of alcoholism, to hold hands and start dancing together, exiting and reentering the bar. The main performance of Jean-Louis Trintignant as the troubled assassin Marcello is decent enough to guarantee a full analysis of his personality and the societal condition that surrounds him. The calculated editing and a wonderful, brutally painful climax are offered in order to close another chapter of a solitary existence.

Technically speaking, cinema was entering a period of fully explicit and audacious expression. The standards of worldwide censorship were ultimately challenged in the same way Il Conformista, among other scandalous, controversial and cult films, raised the bar for the creation of ideas that generated important debates. The Seventh Art was already a more financially successful art form than literature by that time; therefore, the extraordinarily talented adaptation that Bernardo Bertolucci made from Alberto Moravia's sensational novel was full of poetical elements that disguised a possibly dangerous political and anarchic nature. The explicitness of the sexual content and the mercilessness of graphic violence had been enhanced, adapting a role of meaningful substance and maximizing the intentions of the movie aforementioned magnum opuses rather than serving the purpose of senselessness and perversity. Nevertheless, the original roots and influences of the twist that Bertolucci gave to the genre are still present, like if the French New Wave and the Italian neorealism had a cataclysmic encounter. Thus, the massive explosion of sensations instantly erased the relevance of the audience belonging to any particular party or trend. Il Conformista is neutral; nevertheless, the conformism of the main character is the aspect that is immediately questioned. With some symbolisms, references towards totalitarian governments that even resemble dictatorships and a unique direction, the film is one of the greatest achievements within its genre, a movie that has the capacity of shaking the floor of a conventional code of ethics and a tormenting, instrumental sonata where the most basic human impulses and colossal governmental monsters collide.

100/100
55
Let's Go with Pancho Villa 1939,  Unrated)
Let's Go with Pancho Villa
"¡Nos vamos! ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa!"

¡VÁMONOS CON PANCHO VILLA! (1936)


Director: Fernando de Fuentes
País: México
Género: Drama / Guerra
Duración: 92 minutos

Francisco,Pancho,Villa,Mexico,Fernando,Fuentes


SPANISH REVIEW:

Fernando de Fuentes, uno de los directores clásicos más reconocidos en la industria cinematográfica mexicana, se dio a conocer significativamente con las dos obras maestras más representativas de su visión de la sociedad mexicana. Una de ellas fue ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa!, un drama revolucionario cuyo reconocimiento lo obtuvo décadas después de su estreno inicial, y la segunda fue el aclamado musical romántico Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936), que rompió récords de taquilla para su tiempo. ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! es considerada como la mejor película mexicana de todos los tiempos por una versión de la revista SOMOS publicada en 1994, ocupando el primer puesto justo antes de Los Olvidados (1950), de Luis Buñuel. A pesar de que Los Olvidados (1950) es mundialmente amada como la mejor película del cine mexicano, incluyéndome a mí, la obra de arte más simbólica de Fernando de Fuentes es un extraordinario tesoro nacional que permanecerá por generaciones como una de las muestras cinematográficas más grandiosas del país.

Rodrigo Perea (Carlos López "Chaflán"), Máximo Perea (Raúl de Anda), Tiburcio Maya (Antonio R. Frausto), Melitón Botello (Manuel Tamés), Martín Espinosa (Rafael F. Muñoz) y Miguel Ángel del Toro "Becerrillo" (Ramón Vallarino) conforman el patriótico grupo de "Los Leones de San Pablo", un grupo de campesinos que deciden unirse al ejército del norte liderado por el famoso estratega (y uno de los personajes más destacados y famosos en la historia mexicana) Francisco Villa, quienes luchan en contra del general Emiliano Zapata y el ejército del sur en 1914, cuatro años después de que la Revolución Mexicana iniciara.

Siendo la primera superproducción mexicana en la historia, la película alcanza niveles extraordinariamente épicos. ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! posee la dirección más perfecta, complicada y ambiciosa que Fernando de Fuentes haya realizado en su entera carrera fílmica, convirtiendo al año de 1936 en un año tanto definitorio como controversial para él. El trabajo cinematográfico de Jack Draper y Gabriel Figueroa es maravilloso, el cual es mayormente notorio en las bellamente orquestadas escenas de guerra, cubriendo vastos paisajes con ángulos de cámara apropiados sumamente calculados y movimientos de cámara balanceados y armoniosos, y las locaciones fílmicas fueron de gran ayuda para realzarlo, las cuales fueron Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Coahuila y San Luis Potosí, principalmente.

Debido a que el cine sonoro había comenzado apenas hace 5 años con la película Santa (1932) gracias a la ayuda de compatriotas de Hollywood que habían emigrado una década antes, ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! presenta un esfuerzo notorio implícito en lograr campos de batalla visual y sonoramente creíbles. La edición es asombrosa, capturando cada imagen de la manera más efectiva, y la participación de los extras para dichas escenas es digna de mención. Los efectos de sonido son clásicos, pero son editados de la manera más aceptable posible no solamente para la época, sino también para el país en que se hizo y el presupuesto con el que se contó, considerando que fue uno de los más grandes con los que el director llegó a contar.

Uno de los aspectos más atractivos que ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! posee es que la película tuvo varios y diferentes propósitos que fueron expresados claramente a través de ideas bien establecidas. Uno de ellos es presentar al general Francisco Villa como un líder autoritario, brillante y prominente, pero innegablemente humano, lo cual es representado a través de su frialdad y crueldad hacia sus soldados. Domingo Soler fue el actor que realizó el trabajo de actuación más sobresaliente y extraordinario, no solamente dentro de la película, sino probablemente también dentro de la historia del cine mexicano. Su personificación precisa y apantallante del general revolucionario raya la perfección y, curiosamente, su similitud de complexión física con el original Francisco Villa es completamente sorprendente. Otro posible propósito es enaltecer de manera evidente el patriotismo y valentía del pueblo mexicano de inicios de siglo como un tributo a aquellas valientes vidas que fueron dadas, más que por el país, por la admiración que dichas personas le otorgaron al general, sin recurrir a secuencias o momentos más dramáticos de lo necesario. También se presenta a la guerra como un evento sin sentido cuyas épicas tragedias pueden sobrepasar a la realidad y a nuestras propias expectativas. La desesperanza y la perdición suelen alcanzar a algunos personajes mientras son testigos de las muertes de sus compadres en un ambiente hostil y violento, el cual vino sin previo aviso afectando sus vidas cotidianas.

Cada personaje es único, lo cual convierte a ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! en uno de los primeros largometrajes en contar con un héroe colectivo memorable, especialmente cuando el reparto contó con actores mexicanos legendarios. A pesar de que la posibilidad de representar la típica cobardía humana en momentos críticos de supervivencia pudo haber sido retratada, fue un elemento que acabó siendo desechado, pues analizando los principales temas y la ambientación en la que se sitúa, no hubiese funcionado. El score musical maestramente compuesto por el prominente músico Silvestre Revueltas (quien hace una humorosa aparición como un pianista en un bar de Torreón) paga completa fidelidad tradicional al México que incluso hoy en día conocemos, y el elenco, tanto principal como secundario, homenajea apropiadamente al típico charro mexicano que tanto simboliza la cultura nacional.

¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! pertenece al conjunto de joyas nacionales que otorgan un amplio orgullo a la audiencia mexicana, pues no hay duda de que La Época de Oro fue el mejor momento para México y contó con sus más grandes expositores, como Emilio Fernández (Enamorada [1946], Pueblerina [1949]) e Ismael Rodríguez (Los Tres García [1947], Nosotros los Pobres [1948]). El enfoque del director en considerar la importancia de la veracidad histórica en el largometraje es admirable también. Se creó, asimismo, un final alternativo, el cual fue censurado por el presidente Lázaro Cárdenas por exceso de crueldad. En mi opinión, el final es inadecuado y fue un intento forzado y deprimente para romper con los esquemas Hollywoodenses de finales felices, por lo que el final original es el que mejor concluye la trama de manera directamente fuerte, pero inspiradora. Uno como amante del cine debe demasiado agradecimiento y admiración a Fernando de Fuentes, sobre todo cuando se es mexicano.

¡VIVA MÉXICO! ¡VIVA VILLA!

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

Fernando de Fuentes, one of the most recognized classic directors within the Mexican cinematic industry, significantly achieved to gain his name popularity thanks to his two most representative masterpieces about his vision towards Mexican society. One of them was ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa!, a revolutionary drama which would obtain its recognition decades later after its initial release, and the second one was the acclaimed romantic musical Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936), which broke box office records for its time. ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! is considered as the best Mexican film of all time by the 100th edition of a Mexican magazine called "SOMOS" published in the year of 1994, reaching the 1st spot just before Los Olvidados (1950), directed by Luis Buñuel. Although Los Olvidados (1950) is loved as the best movie of Mexican cinema worldwide, including me, the most symbolic work of art of Fernando de Fuentes is an extraordinary national treasure that will remain for generations to come as one of the most grandiose cinematic samples of the country.

Rodrigo Perea (Carlos López "Chaflán"), Máximo Perea (Raúl de Anda), Tiburcio Maya (Antonio R. Frausto), Melitón Botello (Manuel Tamés), Martín Espinosa (Rafael F. Muñoz) y Miguel Ángel del Toro "Becerrillo" (Ramón Vallarino) conform the patriotic group "Los Leones de San Pablo" ("The Lions of San Pablo"), a group of peasants that decide to join the army of the north leaded by the famous strategist (and one of the most distinguished and famous characters of Mexican history) Francisco Villa, who struggle against general Emiliano Zapata and the army of the south in 1914, four years later after the Mexican Revolution had started.

Being the first Mexican super-production in history, the film reaches extraordinarily epic levels. ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! owns the most perfect, complicated and ambitious direction that Fernando de Fuentes had ever made in his entire filmic career, turning the year of 1936 to a year that was as defining just as it was controversial for him. The cinematographic work of Jack Draper and Gabriel Figueroa is marvelous, which is majorly notorious in the beautifully orchestrated war battle scenes, covering vast landscapes with appropriate and highly calculated camera angles and harmonious and balanced camera movements, and the filming locations came to be of great help for enhancing it, which were the states of Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Coahuila and San Luis Potosí, principally.

Since sound cinema had started only 5 years ago with the film Santa (1932) thanks to the help of Hollywood compatriots that had emigrated decades before, ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! presents a notorious implicit effort in creating visually and soundly believable battlefields. The editing is amazing, capturing each image in the most effective way, and the participation of the extras in these scenes is worth mentioning. The sound effects are classic, but are edited in the most acceptable and possible way not only for that time, but also for the country in which it was made and the budget that was used, considering that it was one of the biggest budgets the director ever used.

One of the most attractive aspects that ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! has is the fact that the movie had various and different purposes that were clearly expressed through well-established ideas. One of them is to present the general Francisco Villa as an authoritarian, brilliant and prominent leader, but undeniably human, which is represented through his coldness and cruelty towards his soldiers. Domingo Soler was the actor that made the most outstanding and extraordinary acting job, not only in the film, but probably also in the history of Mexican cinema. His precise and impressive personification of the revolutionary general approaches perfection and, curiously, his physical constitution resemblance with the original Francisco Villa is completely astonishing. Another possible purpose is to highlight, in an evident manner, the patriotism and bravery of the Mexican population of the beginning of the century as a tribute to those people that gave their courageous lives, more than for the country, for the admiration that they had for the infamous general, without resorting to overdramatic moments or sequences. War is also portrayed as a senseless event which epic tragedies can surpass reality itself and our very own expectations. Despair and perdition tend to reach some of the characters while they are witnessing the deaths of their fellow "compadres" in a violent and hostile environment that came without previous warning, affecting their daily lives.

Each character is unique, which turns ¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! to one of the first feature films that had a memorable collective hero, specially when the cast possessed such legendary Mexican actors. Although the possibility of representing the typical human cowardice in critical moments of survival could have been portrayed, it was an element that ended up being rejected, since if we analyze the main themes and the atmosphere in which the movie is set, it would not have worked. The musical score, masterly composed by the prominent musician Silvestre Revueltas (who makes a humorous appearance as a pianist in a bar located in Torreón) pays complete traditional fidelity to the Mexico that even nowadays we know, and the cast, both leading and supporting, appropriately pays tribute to the typical Mexican "charro" that significantly symbolizes the national culture.

¡Vámonos con Pancho Villa! belongs to the collection of national jewels that grant a wide pride to the Mexican audience, since there is no doubt that The Golden Age was the best moment for Mexico and had its greatest filmmakers, such as Emilio Fernández (Enamorada [1946], Pueblerina [1949]) and Ismael Rodríguez (Los Tres García [1947], Nosotros los Pobres [1948]). The approach of the director of considering the importance of historical accuracy in feature films is admirable as well. An alternate ending was also created, which was censored by president Lázaro Cárdenas due to its excess of cruelty. In my opinion, the ending is inadequate and was a forced attempt to overshadow the typical happy-ending clichés of Hollywood, so that is why the original ending is the one that best concludes the plot in a directly strong, yet inspiring form. One as a cinema lover owes a lot of gratitude and admiration towards Fernando de Fuentes, especially when you are a Mexican inhabitant.

¡VIVA MÉXICO! ¡VIVA VILLA!

100/100
56
Roma, città aperta (Open City) 2014,  Unrated)
Roma, città aperta (Open City)
"I am a Catholic priest. I believe that those who fight for justice and truth walk in the path of God and the paths of God are infinite."

ROMA, CITTÀ APERTA (1945)


Director: Roberto Rossellini
Country: Italy
Genre: Drama / War
Length: 100 minutes

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The neorealist Italian cinema has been one of the most inspiring, powerful and brutally honest artistic movements that have ever been orchestrated in cinema history. While an economically and socially destroyed world caused by one of the greatest wars in the history of humanity was searching for hope and a new start, Roma, Città Aperta was released in Italian movie theatres in September once that World War II had ended. It was precisely with the masterwork Roma, Città Aperta that the Italian neorealism achieved to acquire world fame as a revolutionary protest movement towards the crude reality people constantly lived in. Despite the fact that the film didn't quite possess absolutely all of the elements that characterized neorealism, the way the common Italian citizen, who constantly struggled for survival under the German occupation in Rome, was affected by the horrors of war is explicitly shown. In my honest opinion, this is one of the best films of all time, and both the performances and filmmaking quality should not be underestimated considering the tragic economical condition which was already present in most parts of the world by those days. That is why I think Roma, Città Aperta does not get the full credit and appreciation it really deserves. It is frequently considered as an irrelevant feature-film that, although significantly influenced the Italian neorealism, did not achieve to stand out so grandiosely in a similar way like the films of the biggest filmmakers of neorealism such as Federico Fellini (La Strada [1954], Le Notti di Cabiria [1957]), Vittorio de Sica (Ladri di Biciclette [1948], Umberto D. [1952]) and Luchino Visconti (La Terra Trema: Episodio del Mare [1948]) did.

The story is extraordinary and well developed. During the German occupation in Rome in the year of 1944, Giorgio Manfredi, the leader of the Resistance, is being chased by the Gestapo, so he decides to ask for help to his friend Francesco who is about to get married with the widow Pina. Along with the priest Don Pietro Pellegrini, they search for a procedure that allows Manfredi to acquire a new identity so he can escape from Rome. However, Marina Mari, Manfredi's lover, plots to betray him so she can ruin his plan. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay in 1947 losing it against The Best years of Our Lives (1946). I agree with the fact that the wonderful screenplay could have been better developed, and even the movie Brief Encounter (1945) directed by David Lean had a simpler screenplay, yet with a better structure. It also won the Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival of 1946 along with directors like Emilio Fernández for María Candelaria (Xochimilco) (1944), David Lean for Brief Encounter (1945) and Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend (1946).

The influence that Roma, Città Aperta had over the newly originated Italian neorealist genre is very clear, and more than calling it "neorealism", we could simply consider this film as a cinematic source of realism. Roma, Città Aperta is one of the most realistic and honest masterpieces I have ever seen in the history of cinema. Its talent comes from the fact that the film represents the voice of a town that has been devastated by the Germans in exceedingly tragic times speaking out loud, causing the film to be banned in several countries throughout Europe. Roberto Rossellini literally had the guts to portray a reality that society was determined to reject, forget and surpass so the process of literal reconstruction the whole world was going through could have a new beginning in a much easier way and with a significantly greater amount of enthusiasm.

The screenplay was written by Roberto Rossellini himself with the collaboration of Sergio Amidei, a screenwriter that would work along Rossellini in several future projects such as Paisà (1946), Germannita Anno Zero (1948) and Stromboli (1950), and of Federico Fellini just before his directorial debut with his film Luci del Varietà (1950). The overall structure it possesses is beyond decent, but due to the complicated plot the film had and the various characters that portrayed specific and important roles, it lacked the necessary effort put throughout it so a beautiful script could be created. The performance of Anna Magnani, who is one of my favorite actresses just after Giulietta Masina, is extraordinary. I have always admired her acting talent and her role of Pina in this film is, by no means, an unusual exception. In fact, Roma, Città Aperta does not stand out as a film specifically because of the technical aspects, since not even Roberto Rossellini had the required budget and means necessary to complete it in the first place, but because of the subject matter implied.

The direction is considerably remarkable since a simple, noncreative story was not told in order to justify the neorealist genre. Something that added a heavy dose of realism and effectiveness to the plot is that the spectator gets to know the motivations of each character considering the fact that Roberto Rossellini was one of the first directors who employed a mostly inexperienced acting cast for obtaining the most natural and believable human reactions that were possible. Since the subject matter irrevocably appeals to society in a very direct form, one as a spectator is offered the feeling of being shared the same anguish the protagonists are going through and of walking through the streets of Rome. However, the film itself offers, from the very beginning, a devastated landscape that stinks of tragedy. Consequently it would seem evident at this point that Rossellini was psychologically prepared for a specific audience's rejection. Picture the similar consequences of Goodbye Lenin! (2003) being released in the year of 1990. This is where the cinematography, which caused mixed feelings, plays its role. At some points it is spectacular, especially when vastly showing open spaces such as in the beginning and ending of the movie, but sometimes it gave the impression that a different person was in charge of the camera work. Ubaldo Arata did a good job, which made me get to the conclusion that his cinematography could be bitterly appreciated in a considerable way if the film received an adequate restoration.

Overall, Roma, Città Aperta has actually passed the test of time and should obtain more recognition and consideration based on what it achieved in cinema history including the creation of the most memorable Italian cinematic trend. I dare to say that it is one of the most important feature films ever conceived, and one of the most tragic, realistic and controversial as well. Despite its highly violent tone, this is the definitive masterwork by Roberto Rossellini and, inevitably, will remain being spoken about by critics and cinema lovers for several future decades to come. Besides establishing a new subgenre, it opened the eyes of the world towards the cruelty that mankind can perform towards human beings themselves.

100/100
57
Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari) 1953,  G)
Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari)
- Isn't life disappointing?
- Yes, it is.


TÔKYÔ MONOGATARI (1953)


Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama
Length: 136 minutes

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Japan may be the superlative country for creating timeless masterpieces, which may be a daring and controversial statement that may originate debate. However, Yasujiro Ozu reportedly belongs among the greatest directors of all time, exposing simple and honest ideas about life itself in the purest form possible. Tôkyô Monogatari officially ranks as one of the best films ever made in cinema history. The reasons are as abundant and justifiable as they are commonly accepted. In a time where Eastern culture was inspired by tales regarding honor, bravery, existentialism and a strong Buddhist influence in films (specially since the 50's), Ozu directs a strong contender for the most heartwarming, reflexive, humanist and quietly peaceful drama ever conceived within cinema.

Tôkyô Monogatari deals with a pretty simple plot set in postwar Tokyo, where an old couple decides to take a vacation and visit their children and grandchildren in the city: the Hirayama family. However, they soon find out that their own children have no time for them, seemingly due to their busy and productive lives. Since the parents unintentionally are in the way of the children the whole time, they end up being sent to a health spa in an attempt of getting rid of them. Epiphanic self realizations and haunting consequences torment all of the characters in their own way according to their role within the family and particular actions once that tragedy inevitably ensues.

The humanist vision and unique direction of Ozu has always been admired and this is, perhaps, his most representative and personal classic film. The contrast present between the parent's home and the city is perfectly synchronized with the contrast between their tender, mature and loving personalities and the selfishness, ingratitude, egocentrism and emotional insensitivity of their own family with which they are horribly welcomed. There is no acting in this film, but just characters. The actresses and actors become their own characters to portray and add an incredible dose of credibility and naturalism. From the selfish and uninterested characters to the loving and caring ones, including a compassionate and beautiful widowed daughter in law who smiles with every phrase and statement she makes until she submits herself to the healing and moving power of tears, we are offered a complete and compelling dramatic story that invites to deep reflection, a characteristic that was successfully represented through the performances of the brilliant cast.

The cinematography is as peaceful and harmonic as the pace of the film. Both are slow, but enchanting, and enhance the ironic beauty of life itself. The camera, instead of focusing on "where we are", shows "what is there" and explains the emotions that can be found in both the characters and the environment. It doesn't require a hyperactive movement throughout, but an emphasis on the hypnotic power of locations and landscapes and on facial expressions, as if they were prioritized. Kojun Saitô's lovable work for the musical score is relaxingly respectable, an effort that allowed maximizing the emotions and ideas transmitted through the film including its technical aspects, which is as simple and classically common for its time as the story. The screenplay developed by Yasujiro Ozu and Kôgo Noda is fascinating, not because of its poetic brilliance and simplicity, but because of its effort to create completely human characters and for adding a tremendous power to the overall cinematic feeling of the film, which resorted to situations that, ironically, may appeal to modern audiences in even a more significant way that it did back in the 50's.

At first glance, Tôkyô Monogatari may not seem the great masterpiece it really is. Stereotypes and clichés in modern films, among several other negatively affecting influential factors, have deteriorated not only the classic and decent form of filmmaking and direction that existed in the first decades since cinema was created, but also the very image of cinema itself. Cinema was originated from the use of a camera that documented seconds of real-life events, until the idea of fiction came up, allowing the birth of a genre called drama, as it was an already existent concept since theatre and literature were existent arts. The purpose of drama was to depict fictional stories with empathetic characters that, thanks to the unstoppable force and irony of destiny, had to face determined believable situations, some of them which mirrored real life. That was exactly the purpose of Yasujiro Ozu through Tôkyô Monogatari, among other drama artworks that he had already done and would do later, from dramatic comedies like Otana no Miru Ehon - Umarete wa Mita Keredo (1932) to dramas like Ukigusa (1959).

Tôkyô Monogatari naturally deals with common topics such as self-acceptance, family's love and rejection and the possible outcomes of mortality, topics which supposedly prioritized importance are frequently ignored. It is a social criticism set in times of destruction and necessary reconstruction, where the catastrophic consequences of war, politics and the thirst for power caused such a wonderfully intellectual and artistically cultured country to plan a new beginning for itself after a noticeable economical, social and spiritual downfall. The parents unconsciously represent the past and classic lifestyle of Japan, where the simplicity of life predominated and irrevocably included family love without excluding the possible purposes of life, whereas their younger family and children portray the lost hope of a nation submerged in modernism. The roots (that is, origins) of a life style are always homage around the world according to the customs of every country and region, and Tôkyô Monogatari perhaps does the same thing, establishing a connection to the past and the changes and modifications that actuality has forced humanity to go through and assimilate.

Tôkyô Monogatari is a modest, yet gigantic triumph, as well as a landmark in Japanese cinema. The greatest masterpiece of Ozu according to the majority's opinion, including mine, has left a legacy that will be kept for decades to come, just like it has been kept until nowadays. Although it may not exactly be the most accessible film for Western culture, it is undeniably moving and inevitably appealing, like a screaming wake-up-call for modern audiences who have forgotten faith and hope and lost the original vision we as human beings had towards the world when we were kids and, interestingly, people from past decades, where existence seemed to have enough challenges of its own with a fast and modernized constant progress. It works as a drama film, as a morality story, as a reflection on mortality and life purposes, as a family tale, as a heartwarming piece of cinema, and, ultimately, as a Tokyo story.

100/100
58
La Dolce Vita 1960,  Unrated)
La Dolce Vita
"You are the first woman on the first day of creation. You are mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home."

LA DOLCE VITA (1960)


Director: Federico Fellini
Country: Italy / France
Genre: Drama
Length: 174 minutes

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Reportedly, after being asked about the main inspiration of La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini replied that "one year the fashions made the women in Rome look like big flowers". With this idea in mind, Fellini constructs one of his biggest and most celebrative and daring masterpieces of his entire filmography. Would it be enough to say that the film contributed the term "paparazzi" to the language? Such term was derived from the protagonist?s photographer friend named Paparazzo. To what extent can a masterpiece that introduced a new era and represented the exact moment when Fellini suffered a filmmaking style transition influence the actuality culture? Condemned by the Italian Catholic party Democrazia Cristiana and the Vatican because of the film?s representation of the exaggerated lasciviousness and snobbishness of the aristocratic portion of the society and banned in several countries for approximately two decades, La Dolce Vita is a provocative masterwork that would help one of the greatest directors of cinema to solidify his style and to technically improve his artistically surreal perspective towards life. It is a deliciously constructed satire.

Marcello is a young playboy gossip columnist. Like several people of his age, he is a man who is constantly struggling to find a significant place in the world. After being encapsulated in a spherical and senselessly habitual sequence of habits, the famous film star Sylvia arrives to Rome and he purposely hunts her. He is completely charmed by her and reaches a point of complete obsession and, in his eternal path of becoming a successful writer, he is submerged each time more into his bourgeois world that uses sex, judgmental criticism, alcohol, violence and suicide as their most primitive way of living. The film received 4 Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay ? Written Directly for the Screen and Best Director, winning only the first Oscar and losing the last one against Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for the film West Side Story (1961). Director Federico Fellini won a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival of 1960, and the film won 3 Silver Ribbon awards for Best Actor, Best Original Story and Best Production Design at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists the following year.

La Dolce Vita is Fellini?s first attempt to adopt a Renoir-ish filmic style while permanently abandoning the neorealist subgenre after having directed two brilliant films: La Strada (1954) and Le Notti di Cabiria (1957). His first groundbreaking masterpiece of the 60s is a revolution in technical, directorial and screenwriting aspects. If this wasn?t enough, it constitutes a direct commentary against the upper class and the prophetic societal characteristic of fan worshipping that Renoir had represented in his accurate La Règle du Jeu (1939). In this way, the arrival of Sylvia mirrors the appraisal and applauding that the aviator André Jurieux received after having set a flight record. It is all about mindless fanaticism and superficial admiration. All of the characters are taken to an extreme, but instead of resorting to Buñuelian surrealism and bizarre elements, the film makes a hypnotic combination of sexual tension, fantasies and realities. It is the result of the conglomeration of all of the longings and personal obsessions that the aristocracy collectively shares and exploits them in a huge orgy of sensationalism, scandalmonger mass media and dark comedy.

Vaguely, the society is commonly divided into two categories: the common, ?boring? citizens and the outstanding, famous actors and media stars. Marcello would belong to the first class; however, he is a nonconformist. He denies the fact of belonging to any of those. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, a job, a home? a typical life of his own. The unfortunate insatiableness of the modern era compels him to urge for more. Searching for an adventurous existence, he willingly is submerged to a world of stereotypical bad vices and a lustful existence. Sylvia, gorgeously interpreted by Anita Ekberg, is a stereotype herself. She is the sensually vivid representation of the media idolization, the incarnation of financial ambition, the wet dream of fans and journalists, and a beautiful and seductive woman that hides a destructive monster beneath her persona. The story spins around her just like ambitions and carnal disillusions spin around the character of Marcello. In a strict sense, the film is a satire that mocks a society that started to be originated since the birth of the Hollywood empire.

Technically, La Dolce Vita is a groundbreaking achievement. Constantly following the adventures and misadventures of the collective protagonist, including Marcello, making sudden appearances of characters with their inventive dialogues, perfectly capturing the landscapes and the mysteriousness of the night through an artistic chiaroscuro, the cinematography is simply breathtaking. The screenplay of the film is definitely among the most intelligent, varied and expertly written ones in motion picture history, promising the predominant brilliance that could be found in 8½ (1963). A smart, improvisatory and multilayered editing addresses the talent of the photography, and the pace of the film seems to passionately dance to the music of an obsessive orchestra that has an astounding three-hour length. Just like Fellini is disinterested towards the public?s reaction, the performances are equally disinterested. They just talk, celebrate, dance and have orgies in the most natural way, an aspect that increases the improvisatory nature of the film and enhances its realistically unrealistic believability.

La Dolce Vita is the reunion of the ideals of the most inventive, renowned and controversial provocateurs that abounded in the 60s and 70s. From great directors like Jean-Luc Godard to masterful auteurs like Michelangelo Antonioni and Pier Paolo Pasolini, Fellini is the most inspirational source of originality and clever portrayals of the degraded state of a bourgeois class that is conquered by the benefits of materialism. Yet again, the film is an extraordinarily beautiful experience. The first half is an introduction to the mess that the second half has prepared, but it seems to obey the patterns of a cycle. The randomness of the events makes the viewer to consider the idea that the film does not follow a conventionally chronological course. The brilliance in Fellini?s direction transforms a documentary perspective in a feast for the senses and the most hidden attitudes of our persona. The screenplay hides layers of never-ending complexity. The editing makes us dance to an unstoppable and attractive cinematic rhythm. Its honesty makes us question our morally established priorities. Will you dare to dance with madness, or will you accept and fall in love with the abounding beauties of a very Dolce Vita?

100/100
59
Ugetsu monogatari 1953,  Unrated)
Ugetsu monogatari
"The finest silk / Of choicest hue / May change and fade away / As would my life / Beloved one / If thou shouldst prove untrue."

UGETSU MONOGATARI (1953)


Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama / Fantasy
Length: 94 minutes

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Kenji Mizoguchi's quiet, yet hauntingly inspiring introduction to his epic tales of gigantically epic proportions set in ancient times begins with Ugetsu Monogatari, a film unanimously hailed as one of the greatest cinematic masterworks in the history of the motion picture and a landmark in Japanese cinema, becoming Mizoguchi's most extraordinary achievement. Resorting to a high dose of humanism, euphoric nostalgia, imaged illusions and blind ambitions, Ugetsu Monogatari is the classic cinematic ghost tale of Japan, a story of unparalleled power and underlying shocking messages aimed towards worldwide masses. Introducing a filmmaking style that would just happen to be completely perfected in a future cinematic project called Sanshô Dayû (1954), which is his most powerful and redeeming odyssey of unequaled existentialist and dramatic proportions, Ugetsu Monogatari, a film which title was widely popularized as "Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon After the Rain" with the possible purpose of enhancing the natural and implied mysticism of this prime opera, constitutes a true homage and a poetic reminder of the ancient Japanese society and the most human factors that weaken our condition and increase our tendency to perdition, confusion, non-prioritized personal wishes and to walk through the paths of inevitable consequences. Beauty, once again, falls in love with a predominant hell.

Opening in a small village set in times of the civil wars of 16th-century Japan, two peasants, Genjuro and his brother-in-law Tobei, ambition to build their own fortunes despite the constant warnings of their respective wives. Whereas Genjuro dedicates his life to the business of pottery, Tobei wants to become a world class samurai. After their village is attacked by plundering armies and the kiln of Genjuro is unbelievably left undestroyed, they decide to escape from their home and try to make fortunes in the big city, which is already a risky decision. While Tobei decides to accompany Genjuro so he can buy a spear and a samurai suit for himself, Genjuro leaves Miyagi and his son in the middle of their journey, sending then home and promising to come back. Later on, Tobei abandons his wife, splitting the family business plan and starting to slowly unfold catastrophic consequences. It is here when Lady Kasaka, a wealthy and certainly creepy noblewoman, becomes interested in Genjuro's pottery and asks him to visit the Katsuki mansion. The movie received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White in 1956 and Kenji Mizoguchi won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953.

Perhaps this film being the 78th piece of filmmaking by Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi implies experience. It certainly is a towering achievement, which ultimately would be surpassed the next year. The direction, as simple as it may seem, starts to evolve through quietness and hypnotic visual cinematography with prolonged sequences of silence, songs, dancing, nature, drama and water, thanks to its classic and haunting plot. Kazuo Miyagawa, talented cinematographer of films by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu such as Rashômon (1950), Ukigusa (1959) and Yojimbo (1961), shows the first sign of poetic brilliance through the construction of beautifully captured frames and wide shots, providing an aesthetically balanced feeling of tranquility and increasing tension, culminating in nostalgia. Mizoguchi seemingly felt necessary to portray a very Japanese atmosphere adapting, with the screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda, two ghost stories from the eighteenth century by Akinari Ueda called "Tales of Moonlight" and "Rain", adding personal elements of his own. This is the point where the screenplay becomes an inspirational piece of writing which perfectly fitted into the film and where the direction of Mizoguchi is split into two visionary styles. On one hand, we can fully appreciate the classic Japanese society at its fullest expression with a predominant feeling of homage towards the beauty of ancient times, thus exalting the sympathy towards the characters. On the other hand, we have various camera angles depicting the otherworldly, the supernatural concept applied by Eastern culture to the term and definition of ghost, relating it to an evil and malicious entity since it does not belong to earthly life anymore, as well as the consequences of submitting our conscience to false illusions.

This is where the haunting introductory soundtrack, which is used in ghastly sequences throughout the film later on, prepares the viewer for a supernatural experience dominated by beauty. It is true that Ugetsu Monogatari depicts characters whose false decisions become the very foundations of their respective epiphanies and culminating personal dooms, not to mention the ignorance towards the truth and the rejection of past errors. However, the story and main purpose of the film ends up focusing on Genjuro, the man who witnesses a supernatural event. Illusions, being these material or imaginary, are the ones that tend to blind and seduce our own consciousness, separating the soul and the mind from what should be important and prioritized, from a pottery business to the unconditional love of a good wife.

Irony is present all the way through, especially at the end. The typical ambition that complicates the successful and honorable achievement of personal goals was a vital aspect for the plot's development, particularly for enlightening the precarious decisions made from beginning to end that would result in tragedy. Even if we put an imaginary shield in front of us in order to avoid being attacked by strong and unbearable consequences, the effects of our actions will never go away if we are not willing to reject evil once and for all. Although unfaithfulness pushed the limits of Genjuro so he could fall in love with a gorgeous and seductive ghost, he decided to write a sacred text tattoo all over his body so he could push the whost away despite being warned about his situation and him having a wife. This decision does not make any sense at all, and it is not far away from believability since we consider that the ambition for richness was a principal motor that moved the wheels of the vehicle of destruction.

The movie itself is timeless and uses fantasy as a false image of the mind, a reality of a society set in any time in history. Mizoguchi understands this concept and applies it to cinema in a feast for the senses, relying on the beauty of every frame the film contains instead on a dose of terror. Family bonds and the supposed relevance of family union aren't excluded as key elements of the plot, but Ugetsu Monogatari, deservingly referred to as one of the best films ever made, is cinematic brilliance turned into gold for the soul, a cathartic experience of powerful influence.

100/100
60
The Gold Rush 1925,  G)
The Gold Rush
Charles Chaplin achieves a spectacular landmark direction and features miraculous visual effects in what is his most iconic, memorable and, arguably, his best comedy. The tramp is put in epic situations and he responds with equally epic and genius originality, from the tilting cabin to the heartwarming, tear-inducing, smile-causing sausage-dance sequence. Finally, a king of comedy was born and started to grow rapidly.

100/100
61
The General 1926,  Unrated)
The General
"If you lose this war don't blame me."

THE GENERAL (1926)


Director: Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
Country: United States of America
Genre: Comedy / Romance / War / Action
Length: 75 minutes

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Comedy is subjective. Specifically talking about the art of cinema, the very first face that comedy adopted is the slapstick subgenre. What are the main characteristics of slapstick comedy? Intelligent gags, violence-oriented hyperactivity, action humor, exaggerated facial expressions, comical characters and hilarious, nonsense dialogues. Most of the times, however, especially during the silent era, such stories were addressed with romance. Romance served the purpose of appealing peaceful audiences and, most of the times, for strengthening the audaciousness and characteristic motivations of the main character, decisions that would lead him to a memorable climax and a demanding happy ending. Charles Chaplin understood it; Harold Lloyd and his several directors applied the aforementioned concepts; the Marx Brothers took those measures to an extreme. Buster Keaton's The General shared all of these characteristics and added one more: his definitive and now legendary masterpiece constituted a direct criticism towards the futility and ultimate senselessness of war. However, this plot-wise courageousness was addressed, precisely, with the slapstick subgenre, being a landmark comedy film rather than a controversial one.

The General is the famously humorous story of Johnnie Gray who has two great loves: his girl named Annabelle Lee and his Confederate train named "The General". When the Civil War begins, he is unable to enlist in the Confederate army since his officer considers him more valuable for the South as an engineer. After Annabelle considers him as a coward for not enlisting, the Union steals The General in order to supply Unionists in a sneak attack against the Confederates. Unbeknownst to them, they stole the train while Annabelle Lee was on board. Now, it is up to Johnnie Gray to rescue the two great loves of his life and, latterly, warn the Confederates. The film was awarded the National Film Registry at the National Film Preservation Board, USA in 1989.

The General has several remarkable talents: it is intelligent, humorous, creative and hyperactive. Johnnie Gray, hilariously interpreted by the comedy genius Buster Keaton, represents the patriotic American that the standard citizen would yearn for becoming. Once again, we are introduced to a character that is involuntarily drawn into an unbelievable and involuntarily funny series of events, thus emphasizing the purposelessness of a devastating event such as a war. His beloved girl, perhaps the most tender and lovably dumb woman in cinema history, contrary to the past's popular opinion, does not degrade women. She is naive, weak and careless, but dedicated, loyal and romantically submissive. If we put a duo of such caliber together, the result is an insane ride full of positivism, endless fun and perfectly planned gags.

There are several sequences that make of this film an antiwar statement, most of them represented through the character of the never-smiling Keaton. The motivations behind his persona that urge him to enlist are not related to his peaceful and undeniably careless personality. He is just seeking for the attention of Annabelle and for obtaining a patriotic status, perhaps for the sake of happiness and self-esteem. Also, at some point, the character coincidentally finds a house, breaks into it in order to find food, and finds out that the house is being used by Unionists as a base of operations. This makes Johnnie Gray to hide under the table, learning the details about the next plot they are planning against the Confederates. Quite obviously, the nature of the film demanded a character that sought for good once he has involved in the army in a way he had never anticipated. Along with Annabelle, they start a new mission. Most of the comedy can be found in the fact that the film employs most of the time in showing Johnnie protecting Annabelle from any possible harm. The genius of Keaton (and Chaplin) always applied a certain danger degree to the most innocuous and inoffensive objects possible, almost transforming a seemingly peaceful surrounding into, ironically, a war zone.

The editing is very smart and precise, calculating the best possible angles for transporting us into the middle of the action, making us board The General and inviting us to an action-oriented journey of Unionist and Confederate lunacy. Performing incredible and nearly-impossible stunts throughout, the story culminates in one of the most memorable climatic war sequences. We are not compelled to sympathize with the characters; such effect is incredibly accomplished with the pace alone. Also, the genius concept of constructing and latterly unfolding a precise character development with a slapstick environment enhances the film's talent. It is not until the protagonists encounter a ferociously dangerous situation when we get the opportunity to build a schematic map of their personalities through the analysis of their hilarious and intentionally unrealistic reactions. The musical score and the cinematography achieved a very satisfying audible and visual balance, since The General also required a high attention to detail and very elaborate, single shots.

The General is a timeless masterpiece of the comedy genre. Clyde Bruckman's direction was merged with Keaton's incomparable vision of vertiginous pace and sense of humor, and the result is an unforgettable, rollercoaster ride. The film constituting a social commentary was the main element that influenced legends of comedy to add substance behind their stories. Before this film, the genre focused exclusively on the slapstick humor of the stories and the character development, such as The Kid (1921) and Safety Last! (1923). Later on, films criticized authoritarian figures that caused poverty-stricken life conditions (City Lights [1931]), the shocking impact of the industrialization in the modern age (Modern Times [1936]) and totalitarian control derived from ambitious ideologies (The Great Dictator [1940]). The brilliance and originality of The General have and will remain eternally untouched, symbolizing the birth of a film branch and the inspiration of future filmmakers before resorting to intellectual humor, sexual references and unnecessary, crude sensibilities.

100/100
62
Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey 1931,  Unrated)
Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey
A milestone in cinema. Dreyer juxtaposes a dense atmosphere with lights, shadows and gothic visuals having a feast in a ball of horror. Vampyr still ranks as one of the greatest (and scariest) movies of all times, but it initially demands the viewer to let himself/herself to be fully submerged into its supernatural world. The payoff is of a tremendous size. Edgar Allan Poe would be scared.

100/100
63
Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la bête) 1946,  Unrated)
Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la bête)
"Love can turn a man into a beast, but love can also make an ugly man handsome."

LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE (1946)


Director: Jean Cocteau
Country: France
Genre: Drama / Fantasy / Romance
Length: 96 minutes

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The 40s was a splendorous time for French filmmaking. The famous French surrealist Jean Cocteau was internationally known because of his multilayered, provocative talents within the art of cinema after directing his first feature film, Le Sang d'un Poète (1930). In the case of La Belle et la Bête, one of the most beloved and famous fairytales ever known by all generations of mankind, he adopts a different facet. This time, he displays a more strict and conventional narration for obtaining a more accessible storytelling. Marcel Carné had directed an astoundingly moving and passionate epic of romance last year, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), and Jean Cocteau heals the injuries of the hearts of the Second World War the next year, an era of reconstruction and of a new beginning. The surreal influences of Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau himself are noticeable throughout the filmic style of La Belle et la Bête. However, it is undoubtedly the best and most magical and moving cinematic adaptation of the immortal play by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, including the great, colorful musical Beauty and the Beast (1991) directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise released by Disney 5 decades later.

Belle is one of three daughters and a son of a nearly ruined merchant. Her two other sisters, Félicie and Adélaïde, are authentic termagants who exploit Belle as a full-time servant. After returning from a business trip one day, the merchant gets lost in a forest nearby and stumbles upon an isolated castle. He knocks the door expecting for an answer of the owner, receiving no answer. Finally, he decides to enter the magically surreal and fantasy-filled castle and picks up a rose for Belle. On his way out, he finds the owner of the castle, who just happens to be a half-human, half-beast monster with magical powers. The Beast sentences the merchant for death unless he agrees to give up one of his daughters. The tender and always faithful Bella decides to sacrifice herself for the father and, after being sent to the castle of the Beast and living with him, he finds out that the Beast has also human qualities and feelings despite her monstrous appearance. Director Jean Cocteau won a Prix Louis Delluc in 1946.

In Cocteau's adaptation of La Belle et la Bête, sentimentalism abounds. However, it is this sentimentalism the one that exalts the human condition and assigns to the nature of man a physically scary and unpleasant appearance. The original play serves the purpose of being a representation of intolerance, an unintentional objective successfully achieved by the books that inspired the retelling of the story The Elephant Man (1980), by David Lynch. This message is fairly summarized with the statement "people are frightened by what they don't understand". Director Jean Cocteau was very careful at considering such fact and, although significantly reducing the total running time, displays a massive amount of mythical symbolisms, fantasy elements and allegorical imagery. The concept of the Beast is not derived from a meaningful humanization, always paying tribute to the concept that the Beast symbolizes the sadness, the ego and the external solitude we build in our lives through the significance and influence of our particular actions. Belle, of course, represents love as the solution of all problems, the powerful machinist of expressive sentiments and the escape train from a seemingly inescapable, internal doom.

Due to its classical and bourgeois nature, the atmosphere of the movie represents both sides of the coin: good and evil, materialism and snobbishness versus modesty and conformism, ambition against benign intentions, superficiality contrasting emotional profundity and the appreciation of the soul, and the list goes on. The plot elements inside this metaphorical love story maximize the importance of the heart. Through an extensive use of fantastically groundbreaking and underrated special effects principally obtained through the clever use of diverse camera techniques, the internal walls of the castle acquire a dense atmosphere of gloominess and surrealism. As the merchant walks in, candles start to light by themselves while arms coming out from the walls hold them. Several casual artifacts in the dining room become alive in front of Cocteau's lens while the expressive gestures of the protagonists react to the supernatural phenomena. Performances, therefore, carry a heavy importance in the story.

All of this would not be obtained without a dazzling art direction and an exquisite, elegant and varied costume design that resembles a 19th-Century Paris. The screenplay written by Cocteau contains a delicious amount of poetry and self-reflexive dialogues of impeccable precision and thought-provoking messages of love and morality. Josette Day incarnates the character of Belle, the misunderstood and mistreated sister whose loyalty forces her to give her life for the most important person in her life: her parental figure. On the other hand, we have the theatrically multiphacetic artist Jean Marais, who plays three different and respectively important roles: Avenant, The Beast and, naturally, the handsome Prince that appears at the end thanks to the power of respectful empathy and corresponding love. Despite the fact that the actions of our dear female protagonist have the influence of an emotional background (her father), the humanity inside Beast is the one that awakens her humanitarian interest of help, even slowly persuading Beast to achieve redemption. Regardless of the reason behind the initial, monstrous transformation of the character, it is treated as the least interesting fact. This event is never explained, not even presented as a prologue. The true moral message is given in the end, when the already known final transformation of Beast to a stereotypically handsome Prince occurs due to an interesting, climatic decision of a supporting personage. Nonetheless, this strictly male stereotype of bourgeois aroma is not supposed to be taken as a cliché: it is a symbol of perseverance and the oblivion of a past that should be used as a reference for the correction of today's decisions.

Basically, La Belle et la Bête is a French masterpiece that cannot be subject to a review that contains new ideas to say: everything has been said before. Even so, it does not really matter. So much magic and haunting moments never seem to tire the audience of repeating the experience of reading the play, of seeing the act in a theatre, of seeing the musical of Disney, of analyzing and falling in love with Cocteau's version. It is a spectacle for the eyes and a sonata directly written for an inspiring commotion of the heart. The screen offers a tear-inducing and breathtaking finale, just to leave the viewer hoping for more. Every single technical and cinematographic element of this gorgeous and definitive magnum opus makes of Cocteau's best film a beautiful experience to live. It is one of those artistic creations that should make Jeanne-Marie very proud. Much more than a family film, it is a feast for the soul and one of the best adaptations ever written.

100/100
64
Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) 1955,  Unrated)
Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road)
"Whatever God does is for the best."

PATHER PANCHALI (1955)


Director: Satyajit Ray
Country: India
Genre: Drama
Length: 122 minutes

Satyajit Ray,Subir Bannerjee,Apu Trilogy,India,Song of the Little Road,Pather Panchali


Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959): the song of a seemingly little road to walk, the unvanquished, and the world of a soon-to-be existentialist protagonist. And all of them form one of the three best trilogies ever committed to celluloid: The Apu Trilogy, directed by Satyajit Ray. Considered among international and Indian film critics as the absolute Indian masterpiece, it is also the result of the work of a true cinema master. Satyajit Ray raised not only his popularity, but also Indian cinema out of the blue and achieved international attention since the release of Pather Panchali. Despite the great neorealist influence of Italy (mainly from Vittorio de Sica), it is one of the strongest and most memorably powerful and heartbreaking movies ever made around the world. Rivaling the humanism of Masaki Kobayashi's Ningen no Joken (1959-1961) and the universality of other foreign masterworks, Ray's trilogy started slowly to be accepted and welcomed with open arms in several countries throughout the decades and is now referenced as the director's best effort. A single review will not suffice, since this absolutely complete and appealing work mirrors life itself: its impactful moments, key events, traumatic incidents, birth, happiness, sadness, disappointment, departures, growth, maturity and independence are few of the aspects developed in this beautifully orchestrated opera of conglomerated sensations.

In Pather Panchali and Aparajito, the films open with the year of 1327 according to the Bengali calendar, which means 1920 according to the Gregorian calendar. Apu is born to a poor Brahmin family in a village located in Bengal. Living under extremely deplorable life conditions, each one of the family members faces several life problems individually and some others collectively. Apu is an innocent character who has a fantasized vision of the world, finding magic wherever he goes and being astonished by the natural wonders of the earth and by the extensive cultural diversity around the world. Durga is the problematic sister that won't stop stealing guavas from the orchards of the neighbors. Harihar is a poet and a priest who can't sop encountering difficulties in the process of finding a stable job and affording his family the necessary economy for their subsistence. Sarbojaya is the extremely caring and maternal, yet disciplinary and objective mother. Aparajito deals with the family living in Benares for some time after they had to surpass a very tragic incident and then moving in with Sarbojaya's uncle. Once there, Apu's curiosity for acquiring knowledge about the world compels his mother to subscribe him to a school in Calcutta, where his abilities and constant studying offer him a remarkable status of recognition. Nevertheless, the mother faces a huge emotional challenge when she must accept the fact that her little bird must leave the nest. After a huge separation between Apu and Sarbojaya, a terrible tragedy occurs, and a new stage in the character's maturity begins. Apur Sansar concludes the story in an astonishing way. Apu is now a jobless ex-student who lives a life of independence and solitude. While he is dreaming of a successful future as a writer and being largely inspired for writing an autobiographic novel, an old friend from school finds him and invites him to assist to a village wedding. Unfortunately, it is discovered that the bridegroom turned out to be insane, thus causing the wedding to be canceled. Because of the region's superstition, it is believed that the bride will be subject to a curse. Out of sadness and desperation, Apu's best friend convinces Apu to become the bridegroom. Since he makes this remarkable decision, he embarks on a journey of meaningful self-discovery, causing his vision towards the world to be significantly distorted, culminating in one of the best endings ever filmed.

Director Satyajit Ray was nominated for a Golden Palm for his film Pather Panchali, which lost against Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle for their documentary Le Monde du Silence (1956), and won the OCIC Award - Special Mention and another Award for Best Human Document at the Cannes Film Festival of 1956. He also won two Golden Gate Awards for Best Director and Best Picture at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 1957. In 1967, he won a Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film. When Aparajito was released, Satyajit Ray won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film festival of 1957 and another Golden Gate Award for Best Director at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 1958. Thanks to Apur Sansar, the director won the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute Awards of 1959 and the film won an NBR Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the National Board of Review, USA the following year. In total, the trilogy gathered 4 BAFTA Film Award nominations, besides other 12 wins and one single nomination.

Reportedly, Satyajit Ray was a great admirer of Vittorio de Sica's Ladri di Biciclette (1948), one of the best neorealist films ever made. Thus, its similarity with the plot of Apur Sansar is obvious and justifiable. However, the nature and atmosphere of the trilogy started to change with the style of the director. Pather Panchali has a strictly neorealist environment, yet not deviating from the portrayal of Indian poverty. Despite being a very simple film, it is the absolute best of the trilogy. It shows the poverty with no clichés or pretentious grandiloquence. Like a masterful and faithful, loyal-to-life documentary, it shows a world that is very distant from us, yet it irrevocably finds a place inside our hearts. The depictions of poverty may be overwhelmingly difficult to endure; however, it is completely compensated with an indescribable visual beauty and a strong hope in the progress of humanity, mirrored in the characters and, most specially, in Apu. Pather Panchali is mainly composed of solid performances by an inexperienced cast, facial expressions, character development and daily hardships that stick to the basic necessities of man: food, shelter and security. The inevitability of death was a necessary topic to be treated, but instead of bringing the protagonists to their doom, it makes them grow spiritually. It is clearly said during the first film: "What God decides is for the best". Their main hope relies in the father getting a job and being paid fairly since his payment is delayed sometimes three months.

The previous paragraph may seem ultimately depressing but, as almost all masters of cinema have, Satyajit Ray adds a very innocent and peculiar humor. Tenderness can be found in the faults of Durga; Apu's innocence and ambition is a relieving source of comedy (especially in Aparajito before he becomes an adolescent); the simplicity and well-intentioned pretentiousness of the father is inevitably laughable; the auntie in the first film represents the character that is alienated from the family because of her lifestyle and behavioral attitude and that, ironically, supports the thievery of Durga since "she has good intentions and is having fun", a fact that always upsets the mother. The visual beauty is derived from a surprisingly skillful and visionary cinematography, being surprising because of the country and the conditions in which it was made. Before letting us enter into a more civilized environment, the only glimpse of industrialized technology we are offered in Pather Panchali is a train loudly running over the railroads located beyond the beautiful rice fields. Excitedly, Apu and Durga flee home so they can see the train closer, becoming the most extraordinary thing they have ever seen. Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay is the author of the novel that inspired the direction of the trilogy, and he developed the screenplay exclusively for the first film, a piece of text that allowed good performances to be originated. Although its simplicity was predominant, it had enough thought-provoking substance to make of Pather Panchali an unforgettable, landmark and memorable Indian masterpiece.

It was the financial success and international recognition that Pather Panchali received the one that allowed Aparajito to exist. Satyajit Ray, with a more improved photography, a more precise editing and better performances, directed a sequel that was not supposed to be made. Not staying away from the nature and the inspiration of the original novel, he stuck to a neorealist tone. Nonetheless, the literally astonishing cinematography of the first 10 minutes has a strong emphasis on architectonic beauty and colonial wonders typical of Benares, focusing on the visual stillness of the inhabitants bathing in the waters of a common river while doves fly in the air above them. This is the new scenery that we will receive for the first third part of the film, until the real purpose of the subject matter is launched. Apu, as a maturing and growing character, will show an insatiable ambition and curiosity of acquiring knowledge about the world and every single meaningful object and cultural element it contains. From the lifestyle of Africa to the basic definitions of geography and classical samples of literature, the character is now subjected to an intellectualist perspective. Bandyopadhyay never aimed towards the depiction of a progressive India mirrored in the psychology of the protagonist through scholar learning, but Ray still portrays the same neorealist elements he showed in the previous film in order to strengthen the emotional relationship between Apu and his mother. Although Apu will not cease to be the protagonist, Aparajito builds, at some point, a structure that allows Sarbojaya to be the main focus of attention temporarily, bringing along one of the strongest universal emotions that can be found in every single culture: the mother-and-son relationship. She will face a huge emotional obstacle when Apu, now an adolescent of outstanding knowledge thanks to his dedicated learning of the English language as a tool for opening new opportunities, must separate ways with her. Seemingly, this was the instrument of the director for achieving a universal appeal, strengthening the fact that, regardless of the folkloric diversities and international habits, there are strictly human and merely emotional laws that follow the same pattern thanks to the rational sensibility of mankind. Apu, on the other hand, will learn the price of personal decisions and will be forced to surpass one of the greatest and most landmark events in his life in the end, almost offering an open ending.

Satyajit Ray was being threatened by the fact that there was not enough material in order to warrant a third film. However, avid fans of such groundbreaking story were willing to wait patiently for the new project of Ray. What was meant to be one single film was magically expanded to the trilogy we know nowadays. Despite this, the director kept in mind the atmosphere and the humanistic intentions of Bandyopadhyay, who kept being credited as the author of the original epic. Just like the direction of Ray throughout the trilogy kept being technically developed, so did Apu, both reaching a higher state of maturity and psychological complexity. In Apur Sansar, we are strictly taken to the mind of a man that now calls himself Apurba Roy perhaps with the purpose of assuming a more serious and independent identity. Even so, he is still Apu. Just like the direction and the main character, we are now transported to an extremely different scenario: a city of financial order and industrial features. The more the plot advances, the more our tears want to come out of our eyes when we remember the life conditions and story of Pather Panchali, culminating in an increasing nostalgia for the audiences. Suggesting that the nature of the story has not taken a drastically different course, the director makes Apu to start to reflect on the mistakes of his past and is inspired to construct an autobiographical book. After he is impulsively driven by solitude and decides to embark on his journey, abandoning all responsibilities (including his son), Ray grabs a much more Eastern influence, highly resembling Japanese filmmaking. The cinematography keeps showing an inspirational improvement and the musical score is still heartwarmingly joyful, but mysticism is added to the formula. Existentialist philosophy is now contemplated by Apu, who now owns a very Christian physical appearance that could be said it references Luis Buñuel's Nazarín (1959). Despite how different and alienated the first half of the film feels, the second one is very rewarding, achieving the audacious task of adopting an effective filmmaking style that contrasts considerably the neorealist tone shown in the past and that symbolizes rebirth. A new beginning has been propelled. Materialism and forced love is not the solution. Instead, we are offered a huge quantity of moral lessons of vast appeal. Human beings are still human begins, and man cannot embark on a journey of independence and successful relationships without prior self-acceptance and complete spiritual and religious awareness.

Basically, there is nothing left to say. Being an almost-never paralleled experience, this is one of the most complete and multilayered stories ever told. The huge transition it suffers from neorealism to civilization and Eastern philosophy is as transcendental just as it is meaningful. Satyajit Ray is not only the master of spiritual strength, but also of the extermination of internal doom and earthly banalities. With an astounding technical progress and a great capacity of finding a huge place inside the hearts of international audiences, The Apu Trilogy is composed by transitioning layers with different purposes, all of them leading to a single, final conclusion. It must not be seen, it must be lived. Ray is mirroring his personal experiences since Aparajito just like the character reflects on his past. Stories within plots within stories within inspirations of life. We will be mirrored as well.

100/100
65
Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest) 1951,  Unrated)
Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest)
Bresson's minimalist scope in his masterful and ahead-of-its-time essay on fortitude, faith and humanity allows us to appreciate how many directors including Tarkovsky, Bergman, Buñuel, Vlácil and even Scorsese grew up admiring this legendary milestone of metaphysical proportions. Exclusively aimed towards those that recognize cinema as an art and search for several perspectives regarding the most trascendent questions of our existence, Journal d'un Curé de Campagne punches the soul of its viewer with a catastrophic magnitude.

100/100
66
Ikiru (Doomed) (Living) (To Live) 1952,  PG)
Ikiru (Doomed) (Living) (To Live)
"Drinking this expensive sake is like paying myself back with poison for the way I lived all these years."

IKIRU (1952)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama
Length: 143 minutes

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Leaving the crime moviemaking aside and focusing on effusive sentimentality, Japanese master Akira Kurosawa continues with the films that may be interpreted as the fortunate and the equivocal foundations of the human nature. This time, Ikiru is the ultimately heartbreaking masterpiece he directs, accompanying his visionary talent with nearly unparalleled cinematographic dramatism. Establishing the cathartic bases that would influence Ingmar Bergman for directing Smultronstället (1957), we are confronted with a heartbreaking and spiritually challenging journey of deep reflection and self-discovery. Introspectiveness is the main keyword that defines the filming style, almost reaching a neorealist tone. Despite this, it is Kurosawa's brilliance and delicacy the ones that allow Ikiru to hold an eternal and immortal remembrance, not only as a groundbreaking project of humanism, but also as a benign model of influential standards of a healthy and productive lifestyle. With an unforgettable leading role, it is considered, fairly enough, as one of the best films that Kurosawa ever directed, not to mention one of the best made dramas in cinema history.

The film takes place in post-war Tokyo and focuses on the story of a bureaucratic chief of department of the City Hall named Kanji Watanabe. As several members of the office, he spends his life doing relatively nothing. He is forced to reflect on the meaning of his existence when he is diagnosed with stomach cancer, trying to reestablish communication with the members of his family and finding companionship with a town novelist and with a peculiar young woman from his office. Latterly, his sudden change of attitude and his assertiveness in his job is discussed, utterly influencing other workers. Director Akira Kurosawa won the Special Prize of the Senate of Berlin at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1954.

Unlike in Bergaman's Smultronstället (1957), the transformation that the main character experiences in Ikiru is subject to an irreversible fate. Isak Borg experiences an epiphany derived from a sequence of surrealistic, horrific dreams; Kanji Watanabe has the certainty of his death, even owning an approximate idea of his time left. During his final days, his conscience urges him to obtain moralistic and spiritual redemption through the reestablishment of communication with those that had a determined relevance in his life. The fact of him being a chief of department enhances the idea of the futility of his life, living encapsulated in a scheduled and habitual sequence of meaningless actions. The first questioning that the film imposes to audiences of any generation is: "What do you need to wake up, open your eyes and start living?" Living through constant exhibitions of gratitude without being too effusive or sarcastic is the main message. Is a terminal cancer diagnosis the only means to begin finding significance in the existence of oneself? A deep analysis follows.

As an examination, its attention to the psychological detail of the protagonist is very thorough. It is thanks to the masterful performance by Takashi Shimura that we realize of his true troubled, existentialist nature. The remaining parts of his past attitude is scattered throughout the opinions that several of the workers provide. However, the heavy dose of drama the film acquires is finally strengthened during the most heart-wrenching "happy birthday" sequence ever filmed. People start to remember the predominant faults of Watanabe and the consequences they had in his life; perhaps unintentionally, they proceed to describe his sudden assertiveness in his seemingly boring and senseless work and realize the influence he started to have on them. The strongest cathartic element may rely on the fact that there are still several Kanji Watanabes propagated throughout the globe, some of them experiencing the futility of depression and anger unfairly executed on others, and the rest drawing a new map of their lives. A curmudgeon old man is transformed into a man who forcedly had to gather the pros of his life, the cons, and weigh them on a balance. We know the result, yet we are not capable of understanding it. We do not have the exact measure either. However, we do get to see a particular consequence: Watanabe singing a personal tune while sitting and going back and forth on the swing under the heaviness of the night rain.

The nearly two-and-a-half-hour length is justified since it even provides the time rapidness of life. When we look back, our destiny has set a certain course. Consciously or not, we either took an appropriate one or a self-destructive one. Akira Kurosawa and his movingly talented screenplay collaborators Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni perfectly nail the message of the film without being too melodramatic, yet assigning the correct dose of heartwarming thoughts, even inducing the viewer to shed tears more than once. It is a strong learning experience which effectiveness still applies to the modern era. A gorgeous black-and-white cinematography maximizes an unbearable depression while we see the last chapters of the protagonist's life. Visiting a renowned novelist and finding emotional void and disappointment, walking through the local post-war streets of Tokyo, spending time with a young woman from his office that shows him a toy rabbit, exploring the city hall and playgrounds while dedicatedly designing a city park as the last meaningful action before departing, we are invited to contemplate the adventures and misadventures of a human being... and nothing more.

With a memorable musical score and a neorealist photography, this extensive analytical masterpiece is a reminder of a simple fact: the cycle of life is unstoppable. However, this cycle is an immediate object of our crassness and our preposterously blind lack of optimism. Joy can be found in every corner, from the personal testament of a mistreated child that is now living a much happier and fulfilling life to a toy rabbit that may constitute the missing spark of happiness. Death is not presented in a macabre tone; instead, it is presented as the vehicle of a meaningful epiphany, as the promoter of a healthier lifestyle, as the flame that triggers the rope of a megaton of never-ending life appreciation. Exalting the human condition and condemning the loss of time derived from a spherical group of habits that, when put together, form part of a psychologically claustrophobic whole, Ikiru is one of the most outstanding pieces of Japanese cinema that could have only been orchestrated by a master of visual tragedy. After all, the literal translation of "Ikiru" is "to live"...

100/100
67
Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) 1957,  Unrated)
Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries)
"If I have been feeling worried or sad during the day, I have a habit of recalling scenes from childhood to calm me. So it was this evening."

SMULTRONSTÄLLET (1957)


Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden
Genre: Drama
Length: 91 minutes

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Ingmar Bergman is one of the few filmmakers within the history of cinema that achieved the unachievable goal of directing two of the best films of all time in the same year, not to mention that he also managed to transform the remote Swedish cinema into an internationally visionary one. With Smultronstället, he creates the counterpart of Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957). Whereas one film focused on the humanly obstinate questionings about the existence of God and the meaning of life and death, this film takes such plot from an imminent death to a necessary reconstruction of life itself. The influence of Smultronstället is immense, but its vision and filmmaking quality still remain unparalleled and unrepeatable. Avoiding filmic clichés, the depiction of a flatly boring character and nonsense events, Bergman masterfully conglomerates the elements that are universally accepted as the most relevant ones to be analyzed in the existence of oneself and makes an outstanding, visually beautiful and spiritually compelling masterpiece of only ninety-one minutes long.

Doctor Isak Borg is a seventy-three-year-old man who lives in solitude and who is about to be invited by destiny to a journey of epiphanies and self-discovery after having lived a life marked by coldness, loneliness, intolerance and hatred. During his journey, he will have to face the mistakes that led him to his actual state of being while revisiting old and new relatives and reencountering several acquaintances. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay ? Written Directly for the Screen, ludicrously losing it against Michael Gordon's Pillow Talk (1959). However, director Ingmar Bergman won the Golden Berlin Bear and Victor Sjöström won the FIPRESCI Prize for the body of his works and his performance in the movie at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1958. Ingmar Bergman also won a Silver Ribbon for Best Director ? Foreign Film at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists of 1960 and the Italian Film Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival of 1958 under the category of Parallel Sections.

Smultronstället is the most complete and fully-developed essay on disillusionment and existentialism, featuring one of the best leading performances of all time, thanks to the highly talented actor Victor Sjöström. His character is exactly the one that inspired the principal one in Pixar's Up (2009): both are seventy-three years old, both are bespectacled and curmudgeon men who are about to begin an unforgettable and emotionally striking journey, both have spent a life of solitude because of the personalities they executed in their surrounding society, both are convinced to suffer an attitude transition because of external events. However, Ingmar Bergman's second perfect masterpiece is one of the most challenging character studies ever committed to celluloid and has the capacity of transforming even the people?s lives. It is the very behavioral transition the character suffers the one that may culminate in inspiration and self-reflection because of its thought-provoking nature. Bibi Andersson, who plays the character of Sara, Isak?s daughter, made an outstanding acting work as well.

Most of the dramatic and ultimately cathartic cinematic power of Smultronstället is originated from the psychological similarity that Isak Borg may share with the viewer. He is a man who lives encapsulated in a sphere of imagined independence and human intolerance. Being based on these characteristics, the floor under the feet of this man had to be shaken. The event that triggers the bomb of his transformation is an extraordinarily well-shot, scarily mysterious and unpredictable surrealistic dream sequence in which he finds himself walking through empty streets and encountering faceless, anthropomorphic beings and handless clocks. Suddenly, a coffin that was being transported by a pair of horses falls right in front of him. The coffin is finally opened, revealing his own corpse, causing an absolute sensation of terror in him. When he wakes up, his journey finally begins. What was initially meant to be a trip towards Lund University for receiving an honorary award after fifty years of medical practice ends up being a challenging experience that involves total awareness of his current physical and emotional personality and a possible realization of insufficiency.

Ingmar Bergman wrote the remarkably poetic script while he was in hospital suffering from gastric ulcers. Moreover, the original concept came to Bergman?s mind when he drove to Uppsala, the place where he had been born, and stood outside his grandmother?s house wondering how it would be like to enter the house and to find out that everything has been the same just as it was during his childhood. The idea of ?realistically opening a door and entering a specific stage of our lives for then opening another door so we could come back to the present reality? was a striking idea for him. On a personal note, I find this idea considerably challenging and nostalgic since, at some point in my life, I reflected over the same concept several times after the desire of changing several mistakes I had committed in the past went through my mind. Despite the film working on death?s inevitability and the humankind?s unstoppable mortality, everything is irreversible, and Smultronstället offers the wise conclusion that the only and most adequate solution for obtaining redemption is to correct our faults, to see life as a nonstop river of events and consequences, to gather the pieces of the past and to work on the present.

Gunnar Fischer is, once again, the film?s cinematographer, offering a very-well calculated family atmosphere and using the magic of black-and-white images in all of its visual glory. The film?s nature somewhat demanded a certain attention towards the musical score, and the direction by Bergman is wonderfully delicate. What may be a cultural and immortal piece of entertainment filmmaking is actually a compelling study of the human condition. The bubble of stubborn doom must be broken and we, as an avid cinematic audience, are asked to read between lines. Symbols are scattered throughout with troubling dreams, but the ethereal beauty that Berman has imposed throughout Smultronstället make of this cerebral ride more of a literal reference towards the weakness of the soul and the fortitude of the spirit. Condemning materialism and exalting the social coexistence and the love obtained through the family, this is one of the best directed dramas in the entire history of moviemaking. Its introspectiveness, its vibrant filming locations and its decoration with the aroma of recalled wild strawberries restore the faith in mankind.

100/100
68
Goryeo jang 1963,  Unrated)
Goryeo jang
Kim Ki-young emphasizes human emotions and the struggle for survival with great turmoil and chaotic consequences. The audacity of Goryeo Jang consists in the demolition and destruction of ancient traditions if injustice and senselessness prevail among a population. The rural depiction of mankind is not a coincidence: bestiality and greed is even in the most remote areas of the earth. Nevertheless, the controversial chain of events shown bring along implacable outcomes, something that allowed not only the construction of one of the best climactic sequences ever filmed, but one of the most honest and accurate as well.

100/100
69
Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring) 1960,  Unrated)
Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring)
"You are not alone, Mareta. And God alone bears our guilt.

JUNGFRUKÄLLAN (1960)


Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden
Genre: Crime / Drama
Length: 89 minutes

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Like a divine allegory, Ingmar Bergman directs his second "medieval drama", a film plagued with mystical symbolisms of spiritual fortitude and the performance of personal justice against unfair external events. Thanks to his prior internationally famous films Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957) and Smultronstället (1957), the genius auteur raised the bar for Swedish filmmaking. With the disturbingly powerful Jungfrukällan, he was solidifying his reputation and constructing a vastly admirable filmography. Considering the dramatism and literary sentimentalism that would characterize his style some time later, this masterpiece stands out and can be considered as the last symbolic testament of the director. Despite being subject to an exploitative and so-called hideous remake directed by Wes Craven titled The Last House on the Left (1972), and to a second highly formulaic Hollywood remake by Dennis Iliadis released in 2009, Bergman's testament to the loss of purity in the essence of mankind still maintains a meaningful brutality hidden beneath its layers of complexity and provocative visual beauty. It is a remarkable drama of impeccably groundbreaking proportions and, more than belonging to a surrealism branch, it can be defined as a heart-wrenching metaphor of destructive nature.

Set in the tranquil 14th-century Sweden, this strong movie tells the story of Karin, the favorite, virginal and gorgeously-looking daughter of a family of religious peasants. Töre and Märeta, her parents, send her and her pregnant stepsister on the day of Our Lady of Virgins to a distant church so she can deliver some candles. After having invoked a pagan curse before the beginning of the journey, the stepsister convinces Karin to leave her alone so she can rest in a flat, so Karin continues her journey alone. In the way, Karin meets three shepherd brothers and invites them to share her food. Latterly, the goat herders brutally rape and kill her while the stepsister witnesses the events without taking any significant action. Finally, not lacking a sense of irony, the plot takes the three criminals, who were looking for shelter, to the house of the already dead woman, unleashing a devastating and supernatural sequence of events. The film received two Academy Award nominations in 1961 for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, winning the first Oscar and losing the latter against The Facts of Life (1946). Director Ingmar Bergman was nominated for a Golden Palm, losing the award to Federico Fellini for the film La Dolce Vita (1960), but received the Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival. He also won two Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Foreign Language Film Director and Best Foreign Language Film.

Is this film a tribute? Despite the fact that one cannot expect a straightforward reply, if a particular viewer or critic decides to answer to the question positively, the outcome is exceptional. Bergman discusses in the incredibly short running time of 89 minutes the eternal topics of virginity, religion, sex, family, Catholicism, internal peace, physical and internal beauty, divine justice and human vengeance. Jungfrukällan serves the audacious task of serving as a fable stuffed with religious symbolisms and graphic representations of amoral actions. Karin is the favorite daughter of a family, yet her snobbish and delicate personality abounds through noticeable facial expressions and a loafing attitude of opportunism. In order to create the demanded character that must represent her counterpart, a half sister appears in the role of the envious and unintentionally evil one. The parents are the faithful, theatrical incarnations of catholic purity and the admirably objective strength provided by faith. Due to the disturbing nature of the film, God is suggested as an implicit, omniscient character that executes justice among the characters portrayed and makes a breathtaking miracle in the climax of the plot, an event that unarguably stands for internal rebirth, redemption and the start of a new hope.

Religion is not suggested as a blind means of existentialist escapism. Like Andrei Tarkovsky always suggested since Andrey Rublyov (1966) and Bergman himself had stated since the making of Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957), the will of God involves the submission of the soul to his divine and ultimately incomprehensible purposes. The departure of a loved one is maximized through the violent and painful assassination of what is the female protagonist during the first part of the film. In order to add irony to the troubling atmosphere of Jungfrukällan, the criminals, instead of returning to the "scene of the crime", ask for hospitality in the house of Karin. When Töre cannot stand the emotional suffering derived from the realization of the truth, he decides to take vengeance with his own hands instead of asking justice from God. Therefore, the second half ensues, displaying assassination. Should we empathize with Töre's final decision, or should we raise our right hands and put his violent explosion of rage into questioning? All of this considering that, at some point, the evilness of the half sister disappears and, confessing her guts out, accepts guilt and symbolizes an already unobtainable redemption, regretting her neutral participation during the horrifying murder of Karin. Consequently, the film does not exalt the human condition to a level of innocence and imperfection; rather, it diminishes the human race in morality and importance, actually making the audience to question its priorities and the acceptance of the incomprehensible and divine purposes of a superior will. At first glance, the structure of the story and the "coincidental" events that take place throughout and actually not coincidental. They are orchestrated by a bigger force that can either distort the everyday world with horrible consequences, or can bring peace to the soul with the oblivion of the sins of man and creating a watery spring from a dry land in the middle of nature.

In order to contrast and ultimately lessen the shock value that the film caused back in the 60s and, surprisingly enough, still causes today, a wonderfully constructed and atmospherically brilliant art direction has been built, decorating it with a religious costume design and a musical score that reminds us of past, pastoral times. Giant Swedish star Max von Sydow is as talented as he had always been in the past, almost assimilating the flesh-and-bone version of a Greek sculpture, equally vengeful and paternal as an infuriated animal. Birgitta Pettersson is, quite probably, the most beautiful actress to ever grace the European screen. In the same way a film's lack of substance and plot should not be replaced with special effects, her physical beauty does not replace her acting abilities. Perhaps it is this beauty the one that is quite often perceived as a stereotype for virginity, consequently suggesting the idea that only attractive appearances can symbolize a state of physical and emotional purity. That is a misleading statement. Bergman is a multifaceted director of several talents and artistic purposes. With the most memorable birth of a "virgin spring", we are reminded of how extreme measures and unbearable events are the only means we finally accept the fact that life does not belong to our hands. 1960 introduced a decade of cinematic shocks and controversial scandals (Psycho, Jungfrukällan, La Dolce Vita, Jigoku), but it was also the decade when cinema took another course, when surrealism would adopt a new face and when audiences would be invited to appreciate movies differently. As for Bergman, he kept maturing.

100/100
70
Kynigoi, Oi, (The Hunters) 1977,  Unrated)
Kynigoi, Oi, (The Hunters)
"The fact that he is here is a historical mistake."

OI KYNIGOI (1977)


Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Country: Greece / France
Genre: Drama
Length: 168 minutes

Theodoros Angelopoulos,Greece,Oy Kynigoi,The Hunters


Greek cinema master Theodoros Angelopoulos abandons, permanently, the nostalgic genre of war and suffers a complete transformation of delicate expressionism. The third and final chapter of A Trilogy of History is titled Oi Kynigoi, an absolute masterpiece of a revolutionary cinema that closes a cycle of the events that were depicted in the past two films (Meres tou '36 [1972], O Thiasos [1975]) and also of the most relevant ideas implicit in the ideologies and politics that Greece went through the Second World War according to Angelopoulos. With this film, better known by its English title "The Hunters", the director is wholeheartedly offering a reconstruction of such events and alluding the patriotism that, supposedly, the modern citizens of Greece should have. This ambitious task is accomplished through a critical depiction of the guilt and the blasphemous snobbishness of the bourgeois class, a concept that could be described as a poetical marriage between Jean Renoir's La Règle du Jeu (1939) and Luis Buñuel's Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (1972). With a breathtaking cinematography and a razor-sharp screenplay of patience, Oi Kynigoi is among the best films of the decade.

The film takes place during the New Year's Eve of 1976 on a Greek island. A group of bourgeois hunters stumble across a dead man whose body has been miraculously preserved by a predominant, frosty landscape. The group of characters comes to the conclusion that the corpse must belong to one of the thousands of partisans killed during the Civil War held between the Left and the Right because of the uniform he is wearing. When the body is exhumed, blood begins to flow from his body and it is taken to a lodge where the bourgeois members keep it while questioning and admiring his current state. The film was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival of 1977, losing it against the Italian film Padre Padrone (1977).

Theodoros Angelopoulos has the remarkable and unusual talent of changing his style. Regardless of the plot and the particular genre to be treated, he always managed to change perspectives and to modify his scope. Not only the historical periods are different, but the image quality, the emphasis and the pace adopt a different atmosphere. In Oi Kynigoi, its mysteriousness is such a heavy element that a certain macabre intention can be perceived. It is a collective character study. We are invited to analyze the psychology of the members as a collective entity of lavishness and of the characters in their own, individual personalities. A timeline mixture is the means used, showing through flashbacks, perhaps some of them imagined, each of the crimes and sins committed by the party. Angelopoulos' intention remains partially clear if we base the effectiveness and the symbolisms of the images and sequences shown throughout on the fact that he clearly stated that "in Greece, the ruling class is afraid of history and, for this reason, hides it." This sentence immediately allows us to comprehend, at some extent, the shocking psychological guilt and subliminal horror shown at the ending sequence.

The film can be interpreted as an allegory of the political fear insultingly held by a post-war Right movement. We are not precisely invited to belong to a particular political ideology, but the genius of Angelopoulos transforms Oi Kynigoi into a nearly surrealistic experience, touching both the realms of symbolic mysticism and wonderfully shot stillness. Applying a very intelligent use of peace and desperate silence, the true horrors of the film start to slowly and unpredictably rise to the surface while the pieces that are meant to be put together are shown in perfectly calculated time lapses. Besides hiding "guilt", they party. They party and celebrate a war that has ended, ignoring that they should face an inner struggle caused by their own actions, especially considering the senselessness of their decision. More than a political film, it is an attack to the senses with a moralistic code of ethics as its main element. Extraordinary performances make of Oi Kynigoi a masterpiece rich in character.

The attention to detail is completely spellbinding. Considerably long, single shots are the main technical ingredient of this revolutionary recipe, surpassing the 10-minute mark. The camera work contains the same mastery and visionary experience we had already witnessed before. From places with implicit claustrophobic desperation to wonderful, prolonged scenes of ethereal suspense and vast, natural landscapes of watery beauty, Oi Kynigoi is a challenging ride. Despite its constant modification of character emphasis, it contains some sort of unrepeatable introspectiveness. We are compelled to see the gravest political faults of the Greek society through the most criticized and universally repulsed social class. It doesn't really matter if sympathy is not built towards them; it is not a requirement. If it is seen as a societal / governmental spoof, the film may work on several, different levels, thanks mainly to the slow pace and the exceptional screenplay by Angelopoulos and Stratis Karras.

Perhaps it is the sensationalism and the irony that Oi Kynigoi easily managed to contain. Angelopoulos started to show a very characteristic disillusionment towards his native nation. Just like O Thiasos (1975), the film covered a vast period of time, focusing on 1976, yet representing the catastrophic outcome of political movements that had been originated since 1949 and had their highest peak in 1952. Brief humorous moments of foreign interventionism are scattered throughout an unconventional storytelling, culminating in one of the most memorable and tense climax in movie history, a sequence that involves sexual parallelism with the false excitement that the bourgeoisie pretends to experience when belonging to a supposedly democratic, yet totalitarian government. In a particular scene of complete humor, the hunting party and a bourgeois member are shown having an argument in the middle of a corridor and returning to their apartments after shouting their points of view in front of the camera so the next character is able to speak. These sort of comical allusions are what cause Oi Kynigoi to have a very peculiar signature consisting in a mixed bag of talents that was rarely put together before. It may not be an influential film, but it is a complete piece of art epic in scope and unpretentious in its ambition. It is an experience out of this world.

100/100
71
Fantasia 1940,  G)
Fantasia
Fantasia expanded boundaries way before audiences were prepared for it, including (quite probably) Walt Disney himself! I'm not quite sure whether if I fully approve its release date, but generations have moved on, and this sublime, unparalleled and absolutely unsurpassable animated masterpiece has stood the test of time, multiple perspectives and upcoming international deliveries with their respective animation styles. From the classical music style, to the macabre, to the unbelievable, to the allegorical (Mickey in Wizard's Apprentice), this is, and always shall be, the best creation of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Behold its magnificence. Flixster user "ahhh1989" provides a quite fair description: "A visual and aural feast of the imagination and a true celebration of the magic of animation." Ladies, gentlemen: This is the best animated film of all times. 100/100
72
The Adventures of Prince Achmed 1926,  Unrated)
The Adventures of Prince Achmed
Blasphemously forgotten and ignored, Reiniger's visual delight of mythical creatures, magic, romance, exotic lands and wonderful tales remains as a longstanding legend in international celluloid. This is my second personal favorite animated film of all times, of any era, of any kind.

The mere thought of the fact that this movie was in danger of extinction gives terror to my soul. May God bless the hearts and souls of those who emptied their time and effort to restore this craved gem.

100/100
73
The Temptation of St. Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine) 2009,  Unrated)
The Temptation of St. Tony (Püha Tõnu kiusamine)
Paying fair homage to the disturbing mind of Lynch, the symbolisms of Pasolini, the aesthetic beauty of Bergman's image compositions and the cannibalism of Greenaway, Püha Tõnu kiusamine lurks in the dark as an obscure gem of extraordinary cinematic relevance for the present millennium. Cinema connoisseurs around the world deeply thank Veiko Õunpuu for this mindblowing and unique gradual, downwards spiral to insanity that destroys the fine line between dreams and hallucinations with such impeccable artistry. 100/100
74
Werckmeister Harmóniák 2000,  Unrated)
Werckmeister Harmóniák
- You are the sun. The sun doesn't move, this is what it does. You are the Earth. The Earth is here for a start, and then the Earth moves around the sun. And now, we'll have an explanation that simple folks like us can also understand, about immortality. All I ask is that you step with me into the boundlessness, where constancy, quietude and peace, infinite emptiness reign. And just imagine, in this infinite sonorous silence, everywhere is an impenetrable darkness. Here, we only experience general motion, and at first, we don't notice the events that we are witnessing. The brilliant light of the sun always sheds its heat and light on that side of the Earth which is just then turned towards it. And we stand here in it's brilliance. This is the moon. The moon revolves around the Earth. What is happening? We suddenly see that the disc of the moon, the disc of the moon, on the Sun's flaming sphere, makes an indentation, and this indentation, the dark shadow, grows bigger... and bigger. And as it covers more and more, slowly only a narrow crescent of the sun remains, a dazzling crescent. And at the next moment, the next moment - say that it's around one in the afternoon - a most dramatic turn of event occurs. At that moment the air suddenly turns cold. Can you feel it? The sky darkens, then goes all dark. The dogs howl, rabbits hunch down, the deer run in panic, run, stampede in fright. And in this awful, incomprehensible dusk, even the birds... the birds too are confused and go to roost. And then... Complete Silence. Everything that lives is still. Are the hills going to march off? Will heaven fall upon us? Will the Earth open under us? We don't know. We don't know, for a total eclipse has come upon us... But... but no need to fear. It's not over. For across the sun's glowing sphere, slowly, the Moon swims away. And the sun once again bursts forth, and to the Earth slowly there comes again light, and warmth again floods the Earth. Deep emotion pierces everyone. They have escaped the weight of darkness
- That's enough! Out of here, you tubs of beer!
- But Mr. Hagelmayer. It's still not over.


WERCKMEISTER HARMÓNIÁK (2000)


Director: Béla Tarr
Country: Hungary
Genre: Drama
Length: 145 minutes

Bela Tarr,Hungary,Werckmeister Harm


Béla Tarr, on the way of becoming an absolute giant of cinema, on the way of portraying a strikingly gorgeous poetry, on his way of transforming real life into cinema, is back with the best film of the year: Werckmeister Harmóniák. This film is still questioning the utter meaning of existence, the outside factors that affect the stubbornness and the weakness of the human condition, and the complexity of life itself. It still possesses questions about the undeniable present reality and it still provides a wonderfully strong and cathartic feeling, not only towards an individual viewer, but towards a society... towards a mass as a whole. The harmonies still belong to the category of "the most beautiful pieces of cinema ever committed to celluloid". God is still an implicit character, perhaps the one that provides his best omnipresent performance. Reviews still do not do any deserved justice to the film. Words still cannot suffice. However, it is an undeniable fact that it is one of the best (modern) films ever made. The film references itself and references past projects of Béla Tarr, but that does not deviate the film from its purity state and from its wonderful dose of reflection.

In a small Hungarian town completely surrounded by frost and with a temperature of nearly 20 degrees below zero, several people congregate around the circus tent after a very peculiar arrival: "The World's Largest Giant Whale and Other Wonders of Nature!" with a man named The Prince as its guest star. The arrival of foreigners starts to disturb the tranquility and peacefulness of the town while everybody follows the new circus sensation like mindless beings, a state of affairs that ends up in tragedy. Béla Tarr won the "Reader Jury of the "Berliner Zeitung"" award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. It was also greatly received by Hungarian Film festivals, including the Hungarian Film Critics Awards.

The magic of the director's filmmaking style can be found in the fact that he may do the exact same film several times and still cause the gigantic breathtaking effect on cinema. The only aspects that really change are the plot, the characters and the length, especially since he first found his cinematographic perspective with his film Kárhozat (1987). Werckmeister Harmóniák has the peculiarity of utilizing a gigantic symbol for representing the evilness and intrinsic inner destruction of the human being: the world's largest giant whale. The similar idea is shared in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): despite our physical evolution, our primitive instincts have remained intact. Our body has acquired the anthropomorphous shape we know today, language has been created for serving our purposes, but we are still an animal race. God planned since the beginning to create us as apes. He did not give us the humanly physical and psychological characteristics we possess today. We did not choose to evolve; the nature played its role. Some other questionings arise from the aforementioned statements: how different are we now since then? Since nature plays its role however it wants it to play, is Mother Nature a positive aspect considering the evolution of the worldwide species? Did God transformed nature into a puppet so this giant whale, a being that has been submitted to an eternal suffering outside its oceanic environment, could arrive to this Hungarian town and cause such turmoil without even blinking? We can see it in The Holy Bible, we can prove it through a deep study and analysis of worldwide history: the corruptibleness of man, a feature that is instantly originated from free will, has led the human race to create an extraordinary sense of ego, overpowerment and resulting wars. Catastrophe and tragedy ensue from this whale, the mystery of a personality that calls himself "The Prince" and a sensation that has the cost of 100 forints.

Unlike Sátántangó (1994), the screenplay of this film required much more underlying layers of challenging complexity. The title of the film comes from the German musician Andreas Werckmeister (1645 - 1706), a music master who is offered a tribute consisting in a long explanation and analysis of his lyrics and their possible meanings. Valuska is a humanist. He is the typical well-intentioned man who wants the best for the people around him without receiving anything in return. His idiosyncratic portrayal and his extreme saintliness, a saintliness based on his Catholicism, contrast the size of a man with the influence that the Universe executes on us, although not in a direct form. The epilogue of the film opens with a 10-minute shot of Valuska in a bar surrounded by drunk, agnostic drunk men who do not understand the current functioning of the Solar System. Naturally, Valuska uses words of wisdom and tear-inducing poetry to explain how the Moon spins around the Earth and how the Earth and the planets spin around the Sun. Intentionally or not, they are aware of their utter "insignificant significance" in this human and earthly existence, until an outside factor arrives to town. After all, how can this ambitious idea could work without portraying life as it really is? We accompany Valuska and the characters that surround him in their prolonged walks. We live with them inside their respective houses and we have supper with them. We talk with them; we are allowed to imaginarily state our personal opinions about a particular discussion they are currently having. Cinematography is still reaching an indescribable level of visual perfection and realistic amazement. The performances have an ultra-talented neorealist experience and the musical score is one of the most extraordinarily moving, beautiful, quiet, haunting, heartbreaking, inspirational, reflexive and melodramatically moving despite its constant repetitiveness.

Werckmeister Harmóniák has a more reasonable length and, consequently, a more appealing narrative structure. It does not make the backgrounds of the characters to intentionally intertwine. It has one main character. It has a single story, rather than several put into one single movie. We are offered a third-person perspective. We witness the inevitable atrocities that were meant to happen without any chance of preventing it. Man is a tool for his own destruction. The women are the promoters of such perilous outcome. God is merciful, but we won't allow it. Shocking epiphanies are born throughout the film's length, and it is up to us to accept them and literally digest them. Why so much hatred, why so much pain? Violence is not the perfect measure to measure, after all. This film has achieved an almost unreachable status. Béla Tarr has established vision towards the world as a moving image, as a living painting, as colored literature, as moving sculptures. It is perfection at one of its finest forms, and it is easily one of the most patiently ambitious films ever made. Béla Tarr has restored the true meaning of cinema. Unfortunately, after he is gone, he will be finally recognized. This film lets you live without breathing, providing you with a restored heart that had been previously destroyed by an unsuccessful relationship or by the unexpected, complicated death of a rather close relative. It may save lives...

100/100
75
Kumonosu Jô (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth) 1957,  Unrated)
Kumonosu Jô (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth)
"Admirable, my Lord. You, who would soon rule the world, allow a ghost to frighten you."

KUMONOSU-JOU (1957)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Action / Drama / Fantasy / Thriller / War
Length: 110 minutes

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Following the extensive literary work of one of the most famous and renowned theater dramatists, William Shakespeare, the Japanese master of tragic cinema Akira Kurosawa bases his talent and vision on the huge worldwide, financial success that he obtained through his best and definitive masterpiece Shichinin no Samurai (1954). Cinema has made several influential and significant Shakespeare adaptations, from the macabre inventiveness of Laurence Olivier (The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France [1944], Hamlet [1948]) to the predominant sentimentality of Kenneth Branagh (Henry V [1989], Hamlet [1996]). In this case, Shakespeare and Kurosawa team up for the first time, even surpassing the success and huge popularity of his last magnum opus titled Ran (1985). Never had cinema been subject to such a great and spellbinding honor, not only resulting in one of the most inventive and original adaptations ever committed to celluloid, but also becoming one of the most ambitious feature films of all times, all of this just to be enhanced and glorified by a breathtaking Toshirô Mifune signing up for the leading role.

Kurosawa's unparalleled take on Macbeth is set in the 16th Century Japan, and opens with the Lords Taketori Washizu and Yoshiteru Miki being lost in the Cobweb Forest after a great military victory. There, they meet a spirit in the form of a mysterious old woman who prophesies the future greatness of the fate of Washizu and the upcoming prosperity for Miki's descendants. When they leave the forest and arrive to the Spiders' Web Castle, they are immediately promoted by the Emperor. After Washizu narrates his supernatural experience at the forest, his ambitious wife forcedly convinces him to work harder on the fulfillment of the prophecy and even plots the assassination of the Emperor. However, the consequences of the particular decision taken by the ruthless lord will come back haunting him. Director Akira Kurosawa was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1957, losing it against Satyajit Ray for his noticeable Indian masterpiece Aparajito (1956).

Several Shakespearian cinematic perspectives had focused their emphasis on the character development through a loyalty towards the original dialogue. This time, Kurosawa focuses his vision on adapting it to a breathtaking ancient tale of Japan, transporting us to a whole new world. The brilliance of this particular adaptation is making a very direct and undeniably scary social statement: human history has been plagued by lords that share the authoritarian and ambitious characteristics of Lord Washizu. Not only have they executed their will to a submissive society, but also have achieved to gain political power through doubtful and non-moralistic actions, including blackmail and murder. With Kumonosu-jou, the director straightforwardly offers a story of revenge, ambition, overpowerment, totalitarian control and the subject matter commonly shared by dictatorships and monarchies.

Kumonosu-jou effectively makes an addition of the supernatural elements that have always governed most of Shakespeare's work: the apparition of the ghost of a brutally murdered character who desires for revenge through his mortal acquaintances or relatives, a ghost that predicts the future of a cold-blooded warrior only to result in his doom, surreal sequences that regard either an irreversible past or future equivocate decisions. This time, the terrifyingly looking female spirit possesses a macabre feeling, regardless of her possible intentions. The narrative structure suggests that her mostly implicit performance plays a role of irony and unintentional cathartic doom. To what extent can the certainty of the future affect the present life? How much will the pride and primitive ambition of mankind be maximized? What are the reasons behind these humanly controllable consequences? Kurosawa had exalted the human condition, the honor and the glory of justice through the characters of his past films. This time, he degrades and even mocks the contradictory nature of influential political figures. Even the femme fatale, passionately incarnated by the actress Isuzu Yamada, represents the desperate urge of power and an infuriating insatiateness of materialism.

Toshirô Mifune has finally suffered the extraordinary serious, cold-blooded and samurai-type transformation since Rashômon (1950) and Shichinin no Samurai (1954). The samurai assassin with no scruples that would assume the role of the ronin Tsubaki Sanjûrô in the subsequent Kurosawa films can be seen here, disguising his cruelty with a strict discipline and a distorted patriotism. The cinematography is extraordinary, surpassing the balance and vastness of past Kurosawa projects and enhancing the tragic proportions of this tale that has the ability of leaving audiences totally breathless. A very precise and razor-sharp screenplay allows the characters to exploit their very distinguished and brutal personalities, with the necessary amount of Shakespearian words and thought-provoking wisdom. Splitting the film in half, we witness a marvelous pace of hypnotic rhythm and an inevitably predictable, yet equally devastating, action-oriented climax, showing the necessary rebellion of a certain population against those monstrous political forces that shame the term "monarchy".

To interpret Kumonosu-jou as a literary adaptation of Macbeth in the strictest sense of the term is a misleading perspective. A tale of morality, unavoidable doom and self-destruction is unfolded through Kurosawa's beautiful handling of aesthetics. The extraordinary performances, an epic costume design, facial gestures resembling feudal and traditional masks and a powerfully artistic direction set the bases for subsequent filmic attempts, including Ran (1985). However, this film had a moral purpose, whether the rest fall into the same category. We are invited to explore the devastating implications of war during feudal Japan with the Buddhism as the machinist of benign motivations and the filling of emotional voids. The extensive length of the Shakespeare plays has always been characteristic; nonetheless, the several writers that contributed to the development of the screenplay could accurately sum up the elements and the subject matter that composed such an ambitious play like Macbeth is. Avoiding ineffective stereotypes and constructing Japanese archetypes that can symbolize greed, egotism and mindless power, the artistic proportions of Kumonosu-jou are artistically jubilant, culminating in a feast for the senses and in a self-reflexive masterpiece of Noh reaching its highest peak of expression.

100/100
76
Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying) 1960,  Unrated)
Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying)
Flawless war masterpiece, mostly captivating and heartbreaking, but honest drama about a doomed romance set in war times. Kalatozov uses powerful ideals of moral, a wonderful photography and ambitious editing techniques to create unforgettable sequences, from the car accident to the brilliant ending, a scene that definitely should be applauded.

100/100
77
Macario 1960,  Unrated)
Macario
"Cuando nacemos, ya traemos nuestra muerte escondida en el hígado, o en el estómago, o acá... en el corazón, que algún día va a pararse. También puede estar fuera, sentada en algún árbol que todavía no crece, pero que te va a caer encima cuando seas viejo."

MACARIO (1960)


Director: Roberto Gavaldón
País: México
Género: Drama / Fantasía
Duración: 91 minutos

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SPANISH REVIEW:

Constituyendo un fiel y respetuoso tributo a las costumbres antiguas de la sociedad mexicana, el proyecto cinematográfico perteneciente a la Edad de Oro del Cine Mexicano llamado Macario es un controversial y espeluznante llamado a la vida, contando con un ligero toque melodramático brillantemente yuxtapuesto con elementos religiosos y surrealistas. Uno de los más aclamados y nacionalmente reconocidos escritores y directores, Roberto Gavaldón, decide centrarse por primera vez en la ironía de la vida, el variante efecto del cristianismo en nuestras vidas, la brutal y cruel influencia de la Inquisición en el país y la inesperada ironía de la muerte, contrastando dichos elementos con una de las más antiguas y características celebraciones mexicanas: el Día de Muertos. Siendo considerada como una de las mejores películas mexicanas de todos los tiempos por una versión de la revista SOMOS publicada en 1994, ocupando el puesto número 59, Macario es un comentario en contra del mal y los objetos materiales a los que nosotros convertimos en dioses personales.

Macario es un campesino creyente de Dios quien, junto con su esposa y su familia de cinco hijos, viven en extrema pobreza. Situándose en la celebración del Día de Muertos en el siglo XVIII, Macario no soporta más vivir en semejantes condiciones de vida y, gracias a un gran sentimiento de egoísmo, jura morir de una vez por todas a menos que coma él solo un guajolote entero sin compartirlo a nadie. Una vez que su esposa roba un guajolote para él, Macario decide adentrarse en el bosque para que nadie le pueda molestar. En el camino, muy a su sorpresa, tiene tres apariciones: Satanás, Dios y la Muerte. Cada uno de ellos le pide a Macario que comparta el guajolote, pero negándoselo tanto a Satanás como a Dios, decide darle la mitad a la Muerte. A cambio, la Muerte le ofrece un jarrón de agua, la cual tiene el poder milagroso de curar cualquier enfermedad humana y prevenir la muerte. Macario adquiere una gran responsabilidad bajo la condición de sanar a la gente que tenga la aparición de la Muerte en el lecho de la cama de la persona, mas no en la cabeza de la cama. Consecuencias predecibles, pero innegablemente catastróficas y merecidas le esperan al incrédulo campesino. La película fue nominada a un Premio Óscar por Mejor Película Extranjera en 1961, perdiendo contra Jungfrukällan (1960), dirigida por Ingmar Bergman. Asimismo, Roberto Gavaldón fue nominado a la Palma de Oro en el Festival Internacional de Cine de Cannes en 1960, perdiéndola contra La Dolce Vita (1960), dirigida por Federico Fellini.

Gracias a la adaptación del escritor alemán B. Traven, quien vivió más de cuatro décadas en México y escribió la historia llamada "El Tercer Invitado", Macario es una fiel representación de la antigua sociedad mexicana apelando a las masas actuales. El guión está muy bien ajustado a los personajes, desde la familia de Macario hasta los miembros de la Inquisición, la cual estuvo presente en México por casi 4 siglos y fue contemporánea al origen de la celebración del Día de Muertos. Gabriel Figueroa, cinematógrafo de varias películas de Buñuel incluyendo Los Olvidados (1950) y El Ángel Exterminador (1962), captura de una forma hipnótica tanto la Ciudad de México como los escenarios fantásticos. Una fantasmagórica visión de la guarida de la Muerte es mostrada, donde la luz de diversas velas representando almas humanas alumbrando una caverna predomina en la toma, un concepto probablemente tomado de la película Der Müde Tod (1921), dirigida por Fritz Lang.

La edición es lo suficientemente efectiva como para mostrar los efectos especiales involucrados de una manera modesta y verisímil. Pese a su corta duración, el ritmo de la película es acelerado sin resultar tedioso. Macario evita mostrar estereotipos de una manera ofensiva, un aspecto que es mayormente notorio en la representación gráfica de Satanás (interpretado por José Gálvez), quien hace su aparición como un vaquero avaro y malintencionado cuyo traje está compuesto por piezas de oro. Dios, personificado por José Luis Jiménez, aparece como un anciano con bastón y vestiduras blancas, mientras que la Muerte (Enrique Lucero), quien probablemente ofrece la mejor actuación de la película de una manera emocionante y fantasmagórica, luce como un hombre delgado y malnutrido. Evidentemente, la película no depende completamente de iconografía católica ni emite un comentario en contra de la Iglesia, pero contrasta el horror de los miedos y ambiciones más profundas del hombre con un terror vivido a un nivel más general: la Santa Inquisición española.

Por otro lado, Macario ofrece una perspectiva social en contra de la injusticia. No necesariamente busca justificar el origen de la delincuencia a causa de la pobreza y la desigualdad de clases, sino que busca la justicia en situaciones de crueldad y egoísmo. La clase alta no es enaltecida, así como la clase baja tampoco es sobrestimada sobre los ricos afortunados cuyos dioses personales son los objetos brillantes de valor y amplias mansiones. Es interesante como se enfatiza la extrañeza de la clase alta en presencia de sucesos insólitos, sin saber relacionarlo con Dios y la religión o con lo sobrenatural. La Santa Biblia afirma que de los pobres es el Reino de los Cielos y, ante los ojos de Dios, uno como persona no requiere de determinada posición económica para lograr la perfección espiritual a través de la Fe. En una forma similar a los sucesos retratados en los Evangelios, a Macario le es ofrecido posesión de tierras y riqueza a cambio de un guajolote. A Jesucristo, Satanás le ofrecen tierras y riqueza a cambio de que él se postre sobre sus rodillas y le adore, sin mencionar la sed de Jesús, la cual es probablemente simbolizada con el agua curativa hacedora de milagros.

Macario no se salva de la epifanía, la cual viene inevitablemente cuando se percata de su decisión errónea y prejuiciosa de alejarse de Dios y negarle caridad, lo cual constituye un posible mensaje indirecto hacia las masas mundiales creyentes, mas no solamente a la clase baja mexicana. Roberto Gavaldón, gracias a una brillante dirección y una visión fantástica muy bien establecida, logró dar vida al cuento de B. Traven de manera que constituyera para México un inolvidable y reflexivo tesoro cinematográfico nacional. Merecidamente ocupando un lugar entre las mejores películas mexicanas de todos los tiempos y recibiendo reconocimiento por parte de los Premios Óscares y el Festival Internacional de Cine de Cannes, Macario es un llamado a la vida y a la reflexión de nuestra religión y la fortaleza de la fe.

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

Constituting a loyal and respectful tribute to the ancient customs of the Mexican society, the cinematographic project belonging to the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema called Macario is a controversial and hair-raising call to life, counting with a slight melodramatic touch which is brilliantly juxtaposed with surreal and religious elements. One of the most acclaimed and nationally recognized writers and directors, Roberto Gavaldón, decides, for the first time, to focus in the irony of life, the variant effect of Christianity in our lives, the brutal and cruel influence of the Inquisition in the country and the unexpected irony of death, contrasting these elements with one of the most ancient and characteristic Mexican celebrations: the Day of the Dead. Being considered as one of the best Mexican films of all time by the 100th edition of a Mexican magazine called "SOMOS" published in the year of 1994, reaching the 59th spot, Macario is a commentary against evil and material objects that we convert into personal gods.

Macario is a believer-in-God peasant who, along with his wife and his family of five children, lives in extreme poverty. Set in the Day of the Dead celebration during the XVIII Century, Macario does not withstand living in such life conditions anymore and, thanks to a great feeling of egoism, swears to die once and for all unless he manages to eat a whole turkey for himself without sharing it to anybody. After his wife ends up stealing a turkey for him, Macario decides to go deep into the woods so nobody can disturb him. In the way, very much to his surprise, he has three different apparitions: Satan, God and Death. Each one of them asks Macario to share his turkey, but denying the favor both to God and Satan, decides to give half of his turkey to Death. In exchange, Death offers him a vase of water that has the miraculous power of curing any human sickness and preventing death. Macario acquires a great responsibility under the condition of healing the people that has the apparition of Death at the foot of the bed of the person, but not at the top end of the bed. Predictable, but undeniably catastrophic and deserved consequences await the incredulous peasant. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1961, losing it against Jungfrukällan (1960), directed by Ingmar Bergman. Also, Roberto Gavaldón was nominated for a Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, losing it against La Dolce Vita (1960), directed by Federico Fellini.

Thanks to the adaptation of the German writer B. Traven, who lived more than four decades in Mexico and wrote the story called "The Third Guest", Macario is a faithful representation of the ancient Mexican society appealing to modern masses. The screenplay is well-adjusted to the characters, from the family of Macario to the members of the Inquisition, which was present in Mexico for almost four centuries and was contemporary to the origin of the celebration of the Day of the Dead. Gabriel Figueroa, cinematographer of several Buñuel films including Los Olvidados (1950) and El Ángel Exterminador (1962), captures, in a hypnotic way, both Mexico City and the fantasy-filled scenarios. A phantasmagoric vision of the hideout of Death is shown, where the light of several candles representing human souls illuminating a cavern predominates in the shot, a concept probably taken from the film Der Müde Tod (1921), directed by Fritz Lang.

The editing is sufficiently and effectively enough to show the special effects involved in a very modest and believable way. Despite its short running time, the pace of the film is quick without being tedious. Macario avoids showing stereotypes in an offensive manner, an aspect that is majorly notorious in the graphical representation of Satan (played by José Gálvez), who makes his appearance as a greedy and malicious cowboy whose suit is composed by golden pieces. God, personified by José Luis Jiménez, appears as an old man with a walking stick and white clothing, whereas Death (Enrique Lucero), who probably offers the best performance of the film in an exciting and phantasmagoric way, looks like a thin and malnourished man. Evidently, the movie does not completely depend on Catholic iconography and does not emit a commentary against the Church, but contrasts the horror of the deepest fears and ambitions of man with a vivid terror to a more general level: the Spanish Holy Inquisition.

On the other side, Macario offers a social perspective against injustice. The film does not necessarily try to justify the origin of delinquency originated from poverty and the class inequality, but searches for justice in situations of cruelty and egoism. The upper class is not exalted, just like the lower class is not overestimated over the fortunate rich ones whose personal gods are the shining valuables and vast mansions. It is interesting how the strangeness felt by the upper class when being in presence of unusual events is emphasized, without knowing how to relate them with God and religion or with the supernatural. The Holy Bible affirms that the poor people is predestined to live in the Kingdom of Heaven and how, before the eyes of God, one as a person does not require of a particular economical situation in order to achieve spiritual perfection through Faith. In a similar form that the events portrayed in the Gospels, Macario is offered possession of lands and richness in exchange for a turkey. Satan offers Jesus Christ lands and richness in exchange for Him to kneel down before Satan and worship him, without mentioning the thirst of Jesus, which is probably symbolized by the curative, miracle-maker water.

Macario is not exented from epiphany, which inevitably comes when he realizes his own erroneous and prejudiced decision of stepping away from God and denying Him charity, which constitutes a possible and indirect message towards believer worldwide masses, but not only to the Mexican lower class. Roberto Gavaldón, thanks to a brilliant direction and a fantastic and well-established vision, achieved bringing to life the story by B. Traven in a way that could constitute for Mexico an unforgettable and reflexive national cinematic treasure. Deservingly occupying a spot among the best Mexican films of all times and receiving recognition from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Cannes Film Festival, Macario is a call to life and to reflection over oue own religion and fortitude of faith.

100/100
78
The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups) 1959,  Unrated)
The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
"I'm an unstable psychotic individual with perverted tendencies."

LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS (1959)


Director: François Truffaut
Country: France
Genre: Drama
Length: 99 minutes

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François Truffaut's first feature is perhaps his most famous one. You may attribute this fact to its very characteristic melodrama, a similarity it shared with several worldwide movies of the same year. However, Les Quatre Cents Coups is arguably the director's best film, a gorgeous piece of art that combined the devastating proportions of the Italian neorealism and the innovative features of the French New Wave. This time, the element used to contrast the humankind's original state of purity with the adulthood's moral corruption is an adolescent, a little young man whose perspective towards a brighter world is not compatible with the present reality. The result is a heartbreaking drama as honest and sincere as it can get. Complexity, once more, is originated from simplicity. The nature of the film has been numerously referenced even nowadays, but its sheer power and realistic depiction of the consequences of an abandoned soul since its youth is what gives Les Quatre Cents Coups the great honor of belonging to a list where the best films of all time can be found.

Antoine Doinel is a 14-year-old Parisian boy who constantly lacks the proper attention and love of his parents; consequently, he keeps skipping school so he can go to the city?s fair and to the movie theater with his friends. However, he soon discovers that her mother has been having an affair. Under so much pressure and lack of comprehension, he decides to steal a typewriter and is suspended from school. This particular chain of events will have a very important meaning in the life of Antoine, a meaning he will understand sooner or later. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen, losing it against Pillow Talk (1959). François Truffaut was nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival of 1959, losing it against Marcel Camus for his film Orfeu Negro (1959). However, Truffaut won the OCIC Award and a prize for Best Director.

The streets of Paris are represented from a dramatic perspective. A full French society ? its capital city ? is represented so its degrading characteristics and the already-decaying innocence of Antoine can be utterly contrasted. An immediate comparison with Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) may inevitably arise because of its Dostoyevskyan approach to the topic considering his novel "Crime and Punishment". On a personal note, it is a very interesting analysis since both films have as its main character a person who decides to take the criminal, yet seemingly easiest path with the sole purpose of fitting in their surrounding environment. Nonetheless, whereas Michel makes a living out of it, Antoine has not the proper age for becoming an independent person yet. His main problem is his family, the relevant nucleus of the society that hides him some truths and treats him unfairly without any significant love. A very accurate psychological reaction the youth have under these circumstances is to gain attention through any means possible. That is why the final decision of Antoine is plot wise justified, despite being a universally rejected action under determined moral standards.

Unlike neorealism, Paris is not represented as a city in chaos. It may mirror the depiction of the village Bresson decided to film in a more recent movie: Mouchette (1966). French drama as a genre always showed a conflict through a very cathartic symbol, which would be either a boy or a child. They are put in very peculiar situations that are out of their reach for controlling the upcoming consequential events. In the case of Antoine, he consciously kept making decisions: to skip school, to go to the movies, to steal. On the other hand, he never decided when and where to be born. He wasn't given the choice of deciding his biological family. None of us can. Because of the treatment and humiliation he receives, the parental figures lose any sign of authority and positive influence over him. Such events are not easy to show on a film, but Truffaut was very aware of the fact that a character study implicates several varying factors that directly depends on the individual's unrepeated personality. He is emotionally forced to perform actions he may not have wanted to perform in the first place. A movie theater cannot fill the emptiness inside him. Mechanical games and the fun of having friends will never compensate the absence of happiness his parents stand for, since they are the most important human relationship he will be able to have in his life.

Because of this intense cause-and-consequence relationship portrayal, the film presents its conclusion with one of the most surprisingly beautiful and arguably devastating endings ever put to film, a long shot that does not have to show any single frame more. The ending may symbolize the search of hope and freedom that material means never allowed him to obtain. Whether a worse fate still waits for him or he manages to acquire independent liberty, it is an irrelevant fact. The religion that heavily plays its implicit role may also be a factor the viewer will want to take into consideration. The purpose of the poetical cinematography is to reflect either the ugliness or the visual beauty of the landscapes and the filming locations, not to mention the strong tension of the atmospheric family dinner scenes. The modesty of the screenplay, a modesty that hides a great amount of literary talent, enlightens the weakness and the corruptibleness of the human condition. A fully-developed character is offered to the film thanks to an extraordinary performance by the young actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, a performance which talent and effect where relied on believable and natural reactions and facial expressions rather than screams, tears and endless monologues. The technical aspects did not precisely ask for an exaggerated perfection. It is the Italian feeling the plot itself provided to the film the one that makes Les Quatre Cents Coups to shine.

François Truffaut managed to construct a grand drama masterpiece in his first attempt. Cinema could not have offered him a better welcome to the fantastic world of moviemaking. The Parisian streets weep and the sound of the waves run along Antoine in Les Quatre Cents Coups, perhaps his most successful, popular and groundbreaking feature film. The people have the least interest in surrounding Antoine, but the film surrounds him. It protects him. It understands him. This experience may also provide a strong cathartic epiphany throughout its running length; it is one of the main risks the viewer will be subject to. Even so, it is not a negative aspect. Les Quatre Cents Coups makes the French New Wave to show its sentimental side, and it ends up being an adorable film, an easy-to-treasure European gem. 1959 is one of the best years cinema has ever experienced, and this is just one more solid proof.

100/100
79
Yojimbo 1961,  Unrated)
Yojimbo
"I'm not dying yet. I have to kill quite a few men first."

YOJIMBO (1961)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Action / Comedy / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Length: 110 minutes

Yojimbo,Sanjuro,Toshiro Mifune,Tatsuya Nakadai,Akira Kurosawa,Samurai


Famous movies like Sergio Leone's Per un Pugno di Dollari (1964), Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966), Walter Hill's Last Man Standing (1996), Paul McGuigan's Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) have two things in common: the first one is that all of the were directly inspired from Dashiell Hammett's suspenseful novel "Red Harvest", and the second one is that all of them borrowed elements present in one of the most celebrated and worshipped films by Akira Kurosawa. The film was also subject to a sequel, also directed by Kurosawa. Yojimbo, however, has a substance that few "cool" and action-oriented films have been able to nail effectively. Consequently, it can be found among the most innovative and undeniably influential samurai films of Japanese cinema. Quentin Tarantino admits it, and Johnnie To acknowledges it. With a powerful leading role, surprisingly dark humor, a brutally hilarious story and a very adequate pace, Yojimbo is one of the several masterpieces by the director, and its mercilessness is highly provocative. Even without the "cool" factor, what remains is an uncompromising work of art.

A wandering, lawless ronin named Sanjuro Kuwabatake arrives in a small village in the late 19th-century Japan. After arriving to an inn, he learns from the innkeeper that the town has been divided between two lords: Seibei, producer of Silk, and Ushitora, producer of sake. Both are constantly fighting against each other while using gangster means in order to protect their respective business. Sanjuro offers his service as a former bodyguard and, while expecting the best offer, he unleashes a violent chaos between the two rival clans. The film received an Academy Award nomination in 1962 for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, losing the Oscar against La Dolce Vita (1960). Director Akira Kurosawa was nominated for a Golden Lion, which lost against Alain Resnais' L'Année Dernière à Marienbad (1961), and Toshirô Mifune won a Volpi Cup for best actor at the Venice Film Festival of 1961.

When talking about Yojimbo, the first fact that must be clarified about the film is that it is not a usual masterpiece. A samurai film is the least thing that Yojimbo is. The conventional definition of a samurai is broken and it is replaced with a ruthless and crafty masterless, expert swordsman. The only boss of Sanjuro is Sanjuro himself, an appealing concept that Melville would later apply in Le Samouraï (1967). His priorities do not include the option of premeditating his actions before committing them. His neutrality may seem primarily inoffensive, yet his past life remains unknown to the viewer, making of him a completely terrifying and unpredictable character. Since the beginning, he had no predetermined direction. The screenplay suggests that, for some reason, the particular town depicted was the one that fate condemned (perhaps even punished) because, out of "coincidence", Sanjuro had to stumble upon it. Through the eyes of Sanjuro, events happen and they need a solution. His decisions may be confused with motivations of morality; however, such theory is discredited throughout the development of the plot. Justice becomes less interesting than vendetta.

The reasons and intentions behind the famous ronin are unexplainable; they were meant to remain that way. His cold-blooded and attitude that lacks any sign of scruples is masterly propelled through an extraordinary performance by Toshirô Mifune, perhaps even the best performance of his entire filmography. Giant Japanese cinema stars Tatsuya Nakadai and Takashi Shimura also make unforgettable appearances, assuming the roles of Unosuke, the gunfighter and deadly sibling of Ushitora, and Tokuemon, the sake brewer, respectively. Kurosawa's breathtaking art direction that illustrates the lifestyles of the past centuries in Japan has always been a visually astounding achievement. Unlike its incredibly fun sequel, this film is extremely focused on the character development, becoming a film rich in analysis and poor in action. Naturally, ludicrous measures of mindless action were unnecessary, but when Sanjuro enters into action, his skillfulness and cinematically unparalleled ability of swordplay leave audiences gasping for breath. The couple of action scenes are as incredibly, precisely and carefully edited as the suspenseful pistol showdowns of the spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone.

The principal cultural context of the film is no longer a feudal Japan. Instead, Yojimbo follows the devastating tracks that the Shogunate's breakup of warrior clans in 17th-century Japan had caused, throwing several samurais into poverty and forcing them to continue an aimless destiny. The majority of them had to face undesirable and almost unbearable life conditions; some others were lucky to find individuals who sought for bodyguard protection. Sanjuro does not belong to any of those categories. He blindly sought for his fate and found it. The comedy touch can be appreciated in Sanjuro's emotionless one-liners and memorable dialogues. At some point, Sanjuro saves a family who is crying out of gratitude. After Sanjuro has quickly killed two men and cutting the arm of a third, being the most entertaining and famous scene that features a rather graphic sword dismemberment, he speaks the dialogue "Cooper. Two coffins... No, maybe three." He sais to the family "Stop. Stop crying. It's pathetic." When the family keeps crying with no response, he then sais "I hate pathetic people. I'll have to kill you." Unosuke, on the other hand, is his counterpart, a character that specifically indicates how he feels naked if he goes out without his beloved gun and showing false signs of a supposedly badass personality shooting the town bell.

Yojimbo throws the typical, moralistic samurai code to the garbage and Hammett's novel receives a unique and very original treatment. This time, the nature of the film demanded a minimalist perspective, being massively successful in such task. Just like Mifune's character is uninterested towards the connection existent between actions and consequences, Kurosawa asks us for the first time to leave strict realism aside and to let our minds be captivated by one of the most genius, stereotypical performances of cinema history. Before Clint Eastwood became a famous gunman, Akira Kurosawa is the mastermind behind this delicately existentialist film and Toshirô Mifune is THE man, portraying a character that resembles his past role in Kumonosou-jou (1957) and that leaves the hyperactive stubbornness he had in his persona when he was still the member of a group of seven samurai that helped a hopeless town which rice was constantly stolen by bandits.

100/100
80
L'Avventura (The Adventure) 1960,  Unrated)
L'Avventura (The Adventure)
"Giulia is like Oscar Wilde. Give her all the luxuries and she will manage without the little necessities."

L'AVVENTURA (1960)


Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Country: Italy / France
Genre: Drama / Mystery
Length: 143 minutes

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Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni established himself as a poet for the first time since he released the first audacious part of his unofficial "Incommunicability Trilogy", which also included the films La Notte (1961) and L'Eclisse (1962). Whereas the subsequent two parts focused on unsuccessful love relationships because of the incapability of owning a respectful empathy and its impact on a surrounding society of snobbishness and delicacies, L'Avventura is a tale of thought-provoking exploration. Its hidden layers of complexity and psychological discussion made of this gorgeous masterpiece a commonly referenced landmark film of sensuous eroticism. When it was premiered at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, it was received with extreme ridicule. Its hype and controversy grew to such extent that a new generation of film critics praised the film and granted it a much better reputation. Sure, after Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960), the lavishness of the modern European high class was morally challenged and significantly degraded. Along Antonioni's fully developed essay about the human condition of the aimless bourgeoisie walking towards senselessness, it was clear that an era of charming and delightful musicals was over, and cinema had to adopt a more mature and serious face. Arguably, it is the best film of the director and a legend in Italian filmmaking.

A group of rich Italian friends head to a Mediterranean yachting trip, arriving to an isolated volcanic island. However, the mind of Anna is invaded with questionings about the authenticity of the love in his relationship with Sandro, his lover. When Anna reaches a point of confusion and desperation, she asks for some time alone and decides to explore the island alone. Magically, she disappears. The group of friends exhaustively looks for her with no success while, simultaneously, her lover Sandro and her best friend Claudia develop an attraction for each other. After finally returning to land, their relationship begins to intensify and the search for her missing friend Anna suddenly loses all of its importance once they become lovers. Director Michelangelo Antonioni was nominated for a Golden Palm, losing the award to Federico Fellini for the film La Dolce Vita (1960), but won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Giovanni Fusco won a Silver Ribbon for Best Score at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists of 1961.

There are almost no films that match the genius of Antonioni's L'Avventura. Unlike several other directors that establish their landmark styles, graphically displaying their particular ideologies and visions of an earthly sinful world, Antonioni opens, shows, develops and closes. He depicts a series of events, offers a conclusion and does not question the characters. This is a very generous invitation for an avid audience, but it is also a challenging decision. One as a spectator is about to omnisciently judge, from a purely third-person perspective, the respective motivations behind the actions and measures taken by the characters. From this perspective, however, the actions seem to be ultimately pointless and unexplainable. Through a wonderful scope and a Victorian cinematography in all of its visual glory and awe, Antonioni constructs strictly human personages that go from the extremists to the conformists.

The cast is astoundingly accurate. Gabriele Ferzetti is Sandro, the unfaithfully impulsive male character whose true superficial and opportunist nature is revealed with the sudden disappearance of Anna, her former lover. Claudia is the spiritually empty female of unstoppable passion but troubled existence, brilliantly performed by the gorgeous actress Monica Vitti. Anna is the irrevocably confused character that possesses an unfathomable inner horror when her priorities and feelings are challenged, being finally taken to physical nothingness, ridiculously disappearing from the face of the earth. Primarily, this is the trio that ensues most of the analytical nature of L'Avventura, excluding the sensual and materialistic Giulia, a woman that will latterly become a constantly interruptive nuisance. Whereas most dramas involving an extramarital affair involve secret meetings and climatic deceptions and tears, Antonioni's cleverness goes beyond such basic concept. Ironically, that happens in real life, but he decides to literally make the third vertex of the love triangle to vanish. It is the most extreme version of a typical real life issue.

Why does the director decide to exterminate Anna? Factually, Antonioni uses Anna as a symbolic object of internal doom and dissatisfaction. As members of an upper class, materialism is utterly destroyed and the nature of man is returned to its primordial roots: those ineffable impulsive acts derived from emotional motivations. Therefore, we as an audience should not focus on what happened to Anna. It is never described. The true protagonist is Claudia, the troubled woman whose reason ends up living under the government of emotions. So what if Anna was swallowed by the sea or eaten by a shark? Those events are not supposed to erase morality friendship and to start an affair. All of these aspects lead to one conclusion: the film is a complex exploration and a journey of self-discovery. Their lives should make the characters joyous and celebrative; nevertheless, they become soulless and blind human beings. The hope of achieving physical and emotional fulfillment slowly starts to dim into oblivion, and the concept of redemption is more distanced from their psychologies as the affair begins to intensify. Are physical attraction and the resulting passion capable of surpassing the top priorities of life? The true horror of the film relies on one possibility, regardless of its low probability: Anna may still be alive.

Antonioni invented the story and developed a spectacular screenplay full of dialogues that consecutively reveal hidden sentiments and strong epiphanies. Along with passionate kisses, sexual symbolisms and breathtaking sighs, the musical score plays an extraordinary role, especially during the last minutes, just to close the film with a horrifying conclusion. No more words need to be spoken after the film has run 140 minutes, revealing the last shot. Isn't the heart the least rational artifact of the human organism? L'Avventura is an unforgettable journey into the deepness of the mind and the deciphering of several meanings of love. What is defined by love? What does love define? This film develops a forbidden love, La Notte (1961) suggests man's struggle for maintaining a successful relationship, and L'Eclisse (1962) destroys all sings of hope, revealing shots of isolation and introducing us to a nuclear era. If considered as a whole trilogy, Antonioni's take on the flaws of mankind is atrocious, and it seemingly suggests that European financial ambitions and an unnecessary political overpowerment is the most effective road to internal perdition, which is substantially worse than the external one.

100/100
81
Suna no Onna (Woman in the Dunes) 1964,  Unrated)
Suna no Onna (Woman in the Dunes)
"Do you shovel to survive, or survive to shovel?".

SUNA NO ONNA (1964)


Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Length: 147 minutes

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After making some documentaries and short films, Hiroshi Teshigara managed to achieve popularity, respect and a good reputation when he directed his first three feature films, which were the most famous and admired ones. After his masterpiece Otoshiana (1962) allowed his name to be considered among the greatest Japanese filmmakers, his second film Suna no Onna allowed him to gain world recognition, since it is widely considered as his best movie and his most representative and iconic masterwork. Dealing with existentialist thematic elements and having a hypnotic direction and a thrillingly atmospheric pace, Suna no Onna had the talent of functioning as a deep reflection not only for Eastern audiences, but for worldwide audiences as well, cinematically speaking, thanks mainly to its unparalleled direction. Whereas samurai films and epic dramatic stories were predominant in Japanese cinema, Hiroshi Teshigahara explicitly portrayed his personal vision of the world and the meaning of life itself through his unique human and social commentaries since 1962, surpassing the genre of drama itself.

This emotionally compelling thriller slowly narrates the story of an amateur entomologist that is collecting insects near the sea and meets with some local villagers that offer him their hospitality, taking him to a place literally located in a sandpit where a woman who constantly struggles to avoid her house being swallowed by advancing dunes lives. However, after he stays one day in her house and is ready to leave for the next day back to his homeland, he tries to get out of the dune without receiving any help from the villagers, finding out later that he has been forced to live with the woman until it may be necessary. As if this wasn't enough, his desperation and hopelessness gradually start to increase and the house starts to be slowly swallowed by the dunes, while the entomologist begins a bizarrely erotic relationship with her that is prolonged for several years. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1965, unfairly losing against Vittorio de Sica's inferior film Ieri, Oggi, Domani (1963), and another nomination for Best Director in 1966, losing against the harmoniously clichéd direction of Robert Wise for The Sound of Music (1965). The film also won the Jury Special Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1964, and was nominated for a Golden Palm.

The beautiful screenplay elaborated by Kôbô Abe, who had also written the original novel, does fair justice to the caliber and power of the film, which entirely offers the desired and planned personal perspective of the screenwriter. Although it may not be an extensive and complex script, the imagery and symbolic meaning of this masterpiece totally make up for it. Suna no Onna speaks for itself. The simple plot is complemented by its complexity and symbolic meaning. The performances are decent overall, but the acting by Eiji Okada, who also starred in Hiroshima mon Amour (1959), is extraordinary. A character as complex as the entomologist Niki Jumpei is not an easy one to personify, specially because of the constant steady emotional downfall he has to go through, including the loss of hope while being trapped in a very different and infernal world that is heading towards an inevitable end.

The cinematographic work of Hiroshi Segawa is impeccably spellbinding, and was also present in Teshigahara's best films, including Otoshiana (1962) and Tanin no Kao (1966). The camera work is very delicate and has some extraordinary shots, whether they show a vast desert or the tiniest and most delicate details of an insect, or of a woman's body. The editing was mysteriously interesting and strongly suggested a subliminal layer resting underneath the movie's surface. I owe a lot of respect towards the musical score, which seemed like nothing people had heard before. Although we are first introduced to a desolate, quiet and pacific desert with the beautiful and calm breeze of the sea, the musical score implies that the viewer is being introduced into a psychological thriller, which it is. Besides being very loud, it is eerie and intense, but thoroughly fascinating.

Suna no Onna has a highly existentialist tone, and deals with humankind's loneliness, the acquisition of a more meaningful identity and the acceptance of a new life form that involves new responsibilities. The urban life of Niki Jumpei is never shown, and his love life with her wife briefly appears through flashbacks, making the allusion that the past life he had is about to be irrevocably modified in a supposedly permanent way, leaving his past far behind. The film and its sequences have a very symbolic meaning. The first direct idea that Suna no Onna portrays is the fact that life and existence are relative. While the character's urban life was abundant in useless monotony and lacked of any significant relevance and purpose, his boredom and emotional perdition was compensated by the relationship he had with his wife, but the despair he feels for being forced to assume a new identity against his will leads him to resort to the most basic human instinct and, ultimately, the most primitive pleasures, considering that the woman is not particularly beautiful in a stunning way.

The amount of sexual content, as well as its graphic depiction, was rather unusual for its time in a similar way that the violent content featured in Kihachi Okamoto's Dai-bosatsu Tôge (1966) was for that decade. Instead of resorting to perversion, the eroticism of the film is very provocative and haunting, and yet, the feeling of psychological ruin is still present. The advancing dunes unconsciously symbolize the man's total submission to the unpredictability and cruelty of fate, just like the physical body submits itself to carnal pleasure, utterly devastating the soul. The most outstanding honor the man could receive, according to his words, is to discover a new kind of insect and publishing it, making his name famous. This aspect is what remarkably emphasizes his need of a recognizable identity, worshipping that illusion over any other priority of life. The irony is born from how such little living things can have a big importance for him, and this is the same irony that suggests how life is composed by little daily miracles, from the fact that we are alive to the sun rising from the east.

Suna no Onna is an unforgettable cinematic view on the dependence of man towards our most primitive reactions and to what extent we decide to become close-minded in order to avoid the relativity of life and the subjectivity of existence. A considerably important epiphany is revealed at the end, which is strengthened by the discovery of water, dividing audiences into two categories: the ones that were overwhelmed by its oddity, and the ones that predicted it and/or considered it reasonable and obvious. I belong to the second category, and without that kind of conclusion, the new direction that the film could have taken would have caused it to lose its main point. A hypnotizing thriller, this film belongs to the best dramas ever conceived.

100/100
82
La Terra trema 1948,  Unrated)
La Terra trema
A longstanding monument of neo-realism made by an aspiring Italian communist that openly criticized neoliberalism in the world's economy. Labor exploitation has always been a politically important issue. La Terra Trema: Episodio del Mare is a controversial and extraordinary masterpiece, even visually, with the powerful presence of the sea as an inert character, as a prophet of upcoming misfortunes. Nature is not the one to blame, or destiny, for that matter; it's the economic structure. 100/100
83
Jalsaghar (The Music Room) 1958,  Unrated)
Jalsaghar (The Music Room)
Top class Indian actors, Satyajit Ray's impeccable direction, music and dance intertwine in a tale of moral decay overwhelmed by the heavy weight of material shallowness. Chhabi Biswas deserves full credit as the nobleman that longs for a past that is long gone and wishes everything around him, even family blood, to be destroyed so that his external circumstances can satisfy his perception of reality and his interpretation of past memories for his persona. Jalsagharcomes out todat as a multi-layered masterpiece of self-destruction as a downward spiral. Full review coming someday... 100/100
84
Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) 1957,  Unrated)
Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria)
"Wandering the streets of Rome may sound quite good, but it is just the same as anywhere else on earth, truth be told."

LE NOTTI DI CABIRIA (1957)


Director: Federico Fellini
Country: Italy
Genre: Drama
Length: 117 minutes

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In the strictest sense of the word, Le Notti di Cabiria shares one cinematic characteristic with La Strada (1954): both are neorealism tributes. However, Fellini's third masterpiece shows several technical and cinematographic improvements. This time, he directs the best neorealist film of his sentimental and melodramatic period, briefly showing some of the features that would be alive in his provocatively passionate style present in La Dolce Vita (1960). Through an expressionistic main character, arguably one the best female leading performances in the entre history of the motion picture, he captures the desperation of a devastated Italy and the hopelessness of a lower society trying desperately to be accepted in an unfair social structure. Although it is not precisely Fellini's greatest achievement, it is one of the most nostalgically heartbreaking, undeniably inspirational magnum opuses of Europe. Being more a melodrama than a dramatic plot, Le Notti di Cabiria is often considered as the best Italian film of the 50s. It may be, but its mawkish power is immense, executing a huge influence in subsequent decades of direction, perhaps the reason it was so greatly welcomed around the world during the decade this shining jewel belongs.

Giulietta Masina is back, this time playing the role of a wide-open, waif-like prostitute that wanders through the streets of Rome in search of love. She lives in a stark wasteland and dreams of a miracle to happen someday. As a viewer, we follow her numerous nights and days, meeting several cruel male characters, from a brutal boyfriend that steals from her 40,000 lire and tries to drown her, to a movie star and an accountant. However, she only finds heartbreak, disappointment, violence, selfishness and is subject to painful schemes. The film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958. Director Federico Fellini was nominated for the Golden Palm, which lost against William Wyler for his film Friendly Persuasion (1956), but won an OCIC Award - Special Mention and Giulietta Masina won an award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1959, the film won a CEC Award for Best Foreign Film at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain. In 1958, the film won 4 Silver Ribbon Awards for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Producer and Best Director at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. Giulietta Masina also received a Zulueta Prize for Best Actress at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. The film won 2 David Awards at the David di Donatello Awards for Best Director and Best Production, and it also received 4 Sant Jordi Awards for Best Foreign Screenplay, Best Foreign Actress, Best Foreign Film and Best Foreign Director in 1959.

Federico Fellini, instead of going overboard with a controversial subject matter, decides to team up, once again, with his screenplay collaborators in order to construct a visually beautiful opera of humanism honesty. At first, we are introduced with Maria "Cabiria" Ceccarelli, a prostitute that lives in a desolate wasteland and dreams of a better future. She is talkative, vulgar, unconventionally sociable, joyous, inelegant and hyperactively loud. This odd representation of prostitution, however, is meant to suffer a huge psychological transformation. Masina is, one more time, drawn into an unfortunate series of events; nevertheless, it is this internal energy and never-ending optimism fuel the one that allows her not to fall into spiritual oblivion and existentialism. After going through several horrendous nights of indescribable misfortune, the aspect that predominates in the end is her illusory world. Mirroring Guido's juxtaposition of fantasy with reality through his emotional escapism in (1963), Fellini divides the world of this film into two parts: the real world and the indestructible dreams of Cabiria.

Cabiria is a character of sensationalist nature smartly addressed with a universal appeal. She is the woman that stands for the seemingly unreachable dreams of a post-war Italy under a Fascist regime. The main purpose of Le Notti di Cabiria is not to constitute a political criticism though. Cabiria is the alienated individual living in deplorable life conditions, but with a materialized illusion. She is the member that seeks for comprehension and acceptance in an unjust society and, despite the constant rejection and disappointment, builds the hope that someday she will achieve such inspired goal. The farer this goal seems to be, the greater the intensity of Cabiria's fantasizing gets. Unfortunately, each time Cabiria retreats from the real world temporarily, she is brusquely brought back. Just like the film does not seek for the diminishing of the upper class through an extensive portrayal of materialism and cruelty, it does not fully empathize with the lower class, either. On the contrary, it questions the morality of bourgeois individuals and the very foundations of a democratic class division, being completely neutral with religion and the Virgin Mary's intercession in the process, but using it as a vehicle of spiritual redemption and consolation.

Technically speaking, Fellini has improved his inspirational lens. The camera perfectly captures the landscapes through the breathtaking magic of black-and-white cinematography, making Cabiria to join harmoniously with the hostile environment surrounding her. Nino Rota nails it again through the creation of a wonderful, emotionally compelling score that mixes diverse feelings, from sadness to joy, from depression to hope. Landscapes seem to comfort Cabiria during her diverse misadventures while the surrounding characters that stand for an incomprehensive capital city are indirectly suggesting her to move on and to accept her existence without losing his inspirations. The influence that the performance and the unexplained psychological background of the character executed in Pier Paolo Pasolini is more than obvious, since he was a screenplay collaborator and his first neorealist tribute, Mamma Roma (1962), referenced Fellini more than Italian filmmaking itself. Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, the screenwriters that caused the screenplays of Fellini's films to be plagued with memorable dialogues and powerful poetry, give to Le Notti di Cabiria that undeniably magical overtone.

Le Notti di Cabiria is influential and inspired cinema. Giulietta Masina, through the best performance of her entire filmic career, allows Fellini to cinematographically evolve, constructing a landmark sonata where heaven and hell collide in a world of devastating selfishness and meaningless hypocrisy. Cabiria is the individual that stands for liberalism while a conservative society physically demands her to get used to an established set of societal rules. A prostitute is a very commonly degraded image for women; however, this great masterpiece of cathartic proportions has the capacity of exalting the human condition, making an objective evaluation of the universally accepted moral standards and inviting us to accept the realistic fact that the background of a particular individual will always remain unknown to us, either totally or partially. The poor Cabiria had to suffer a huge modification, but who are the real prostitutes of society? The women that patiently wait on the sidewalk for a car to stop in front of them throughout a rainy night, or the conservative whores that sell their souls to either a dictatorship-like government or to useless, earthly materialism? Thanks to Masina, Cabiria is a remarkable character with an already iconic, gorgeous image.

100/100
85
Viridiana 1961,  R)
Viridiana
"Ya decía yo que mi prima Viridiana acabaría jugando al tute conmigo."

VIRIDIANA (1961)


Director: Luis Buñuel
País: España / México
Género: Drama
Duración: 90 minutos

Viridiana,Silvia Pinal,Fernando Rey,Luis Bunuel,Luis Buñuel


SPANISH REVIEW:

Ser un personal admirador de Luis Buñuel conlleva, de alguna manera, demasiada responsabilidad en cuanto a admiración artística y estética se refiere. Prohibida en España y totalmente denunciada por el Vaticano, Viridiana es una de las mejores películas española de todos los tiempos, una coproducción escandalosa con México que alude al despertar del espiritualismo del ser humano y referencia las emociones más controversiales que una persona, independientemente de sus creencias y posturas religiosas en particular, suele guardar en las capas más íntimas de su persona. Buñuel aún se aferra al estilo de La Edad de Oro del cine mexicano y le añade simbolismos pequeños encarnados por objetos que todo el tiempo estuvieron ahí, hasta que se decide mostrarse en pantalla de manera repentina. Probablemente sería este estilo de filmación y misticismo parcial el cual inspiraría a Tarkovsky optar por su profunda religiosidad y crear una de las mejores películas en la historia del cine: Andrey Rublyov (1966). Sin embargo, el maestro Luis Buñuel conglomera símbolos misteriosos y los esparce en cada escena mostrada a través de una cámara que, implícitamente, lleva al espectador a la epifánica conclusión de que la película tiene demasiados ideales anárquicos que mostrar, una vez más atacando a la institución de la Iglesia Católica y a la pretenciosa gente que la conforma.

Viridiana es una monja idealista que está punto de tomar sus últimos votos. A petición de la Madre Superiora, Viridiana visita a su tío Don Jaime, un hombre quien le proveyó de bienes y financió su educación. Ella posee una opinión considerablemente baja acerca de su personalidad; sin embargo, acepta finalmente la petición antes de consolidar su carrera religiosa. Cuando llega a su mansión, se encuentra simplemente con un conserje, un ama de llaves y con un hombre viviendo solitariamente, afligiéndose constantemente por la muerte de su esposa, una mujer quien poseía una gran semejanza física con Viridiana, lo cual causará que ella se enfrente a un destino brutal. Luis Buñuel ganó una Palma de Oro en el Festival Internacional de Cine de Cannes de 1961, la cual empató con Henri Colpi por su película Une Aussi Longue Abscence (1961).

Dos leyendas inmortales del cine, una mexicana (Silvia Pinal, quien interpreta a Viridiana) y otra española (Fernando Rey, quien interpreta al tío Don Jaime), colisionan en un choque masivo de alegoría religiosa, temas delicados vistos desde un punto de vista blasfemo y escándalo sexual. La delicadeza de Buñuel para dividir la historia de la monja Viridiana en diversos capítulos puede ser una estructura narrativa cuyas principales características puedan ser comparadas inmediatamente con cualquier texto bíblico que use a la prostitución, el rechazo de la sumisión personal a la voluntad de Dios y la falsa ilusión del hombre en cuanto a que él es el dueño de su vida como sus elementos epifánicos principales. Es ésta estructura narrativa la que divide a la historia en diferentes capas, cada una de ellas representando distintas debilidades de la irrevocable y fácilmente corruptible condición humana. Más que un ataque indirecto a la institución de la Iglesia, lo cual resultó en una reacción violenta y más que obvia por parte del Vaticano, el personaje sumamente femenino y parcialmente estereotípico de Viridiana puede ser contrastado con la forzadamente incrédula personalidad de Nazarín, un hombre que debía presenciar hechos increíbles y ser objeto de visiones reveladoras para poder justificar la Fe, algo que no requiere de dichos elementos. Viridiana, por su lado, expresamente intenta alejarse de la voluntad de Dios pese a las advertencias de la Madre Superiora, explicándole claramente la soberbia que dicha decisión implicaba.

Por las características previamente mencionadas, Viridiana se divide en dos capítulos, los cuales podrían ser titulados como "La Pasión de Viridiana" y "La Última Cena". En el primer capítulo, es su propio egoísmo y orgullo, los cuales son probablemente involuntarios en ella, lo que la hacen decidir alejarse de la voluntad de Dios, tomar decisiones por su cuenta y hacer justicia por sus propias manos. Sin embargo, esta falsedad es enaltecida por la perspectiva idealista que posee hacia el mundo. Esta visión es rota en pedazos a partir de la violación que sufre por parte de su tío, un hombre cuyos deseos carnales eran su máxima prioridad y, una vez satisfechas en el proceso de llenar un vacío insuperable según su mentalidad, acaricia su navaja con forma de crucifijo y se suicida antes de que pueda ser denunciado a las autoridades. Este hecho insólito arranca el segundo capítulo, donde Viridiana decide aceptar a una amplia comunidad de indigentes a la mansión que ahora ha está siendo envidiada por su brusco primo Jorge, interpretado por Jorge Rabal, culminando en una de las más blasfemas representaciones de La Última Cena jamás filmadas. Por consiguiente, la película no posee una sola secuencia climática, sino dos. La justicia adquiere un alto tono de relatividad. Desde un punto de vista católico y posiblemente cristiano, el final devastador que muestra a Viridiana completamente perdida, alejada de Dios, es certero. El Dios representado por Buñuel no necesariamente se interpreta como un control de población o como el opio de las masas, sino como el único camino para lograr alcanzar la divinidad que humanamente no es posible conseguir. Materialismo contra la religión es un concepto cuya ambición sobrepasa los límites de cualquier expectativa, especialmente las expectativas que se tenían en los sesentas. Dicho esto, las principales ideas expresadas por Viridiana forzosamente debían poseer cualidades catárticas, principalmente estableciendo el hecho de que la caridad no puede ofuscar la corrupción de una sociedad tan degradada y que el hombre, por su propia cuenta, jamás podrá alcanzar la vida eterna, no importa cuántas normas y conductas supuestamente religiosas y universalmente correctas uno aplique en su vida. El único juez es Dios, no el orgullo humano proveniente de un ateísmo incorregible.

El homenaje de Luis Buñuel a un neorrealismo deprimente resulta en una de sus películas más brutalmente honestas y memorables. Viridiana es más que un llamado a la vida; es una invitación a remover la venda que nublan los ojos humanos de cualquier forma de comunicación que Dios pueda tener con nosotros. En este caso, una actuación magistral y poderosa por parte de Silvia Pinal era necesaria para fortalecer las conclusiones a las que Viridiana, pese a su corta duración, logra llegar sin la más mínima dificultad. Buñuel aún no tenía un completo control artístico sobre sus producciones, algo que sucedería hasta El Ángel Exterminador (1962), pero la poética cinematografía y las locaciones fílmicas de España añaden efectividad al trabajo de un elenco menormente mexicano, convirtiéndola en un orgullo también para México. Su poder puede causar revelaciones difíciles de aceptar la primera vez, pero ése es uno de los mensajes más verdaderos que a Dios mismo se le ha ocurrido transmitir a través de la magia del cine.

100/100

ENGLISH REVIEW:

To be a personal admirer of Luis Buñuel somehow entails a great deal of responsibility, particularly concerning artistic and aesthetic admiration. Banned in Spain and utterly denounced by the Vatican, Viridiana is one of the best Spanish films of all times, a scandalous Mexican coproduction that alludes to the awakening of the spiritualism of the human being and references the most controversial emotions that a person, independently of the beliefs and religious opinions he or she may particularly have, is used to hide inside the deepest layers of his/her persona. Buñuel is still attached to the Golden Age of Mexican cinema and he adds to it rather small symbolisms that are embodied by objects that were there all the time until he decides to show them on screen in a sudden way. This filmmaking style and partial mysticism were the ones that would probably inspire Tarkovsky to opt for his profound religiosity in order to create one of the best films in cinema history: Andrey Rublyov (1966). Nevertheless, master Luis Buñuel conglomerates mysterious symbols and scatters them throughout each portrayed scene through a camera that, implicitly, leads the spectator to the epiphanic conclusion that the film has several anarchic ideals to show while attacking the institution of the Catholic Church and the pretentious people that constitute it.

Viridiana is an idealist nun who is about to take her last vows. At the request of her Mother Superior, Viridiana visits his uncle Don Jaime, a man who provided for her and founded her education. She possesses a considerably low opinion regarding his personality; however, she finally accepts the petition before consolidating her religious career. When she arrives to the mansion, she simply finds a caretaker, a housekeeper and a man living solitarily, constantly getting upset because of the death of his wife, a woman who had a high physical resemblance to Viridiana, a fact that would cause her to face a brutal destiny. Luis Buñuel won a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film festival of 1961, a prize that he shared with Henri Corpi and his film Une Aussi Longue Absence (1961).

Two immortal legends of cinema, one of them Mexican (Silvia Pinal, who plays the role of Viridiana) and the other one Spanish (Fernando Rey, who plays the role of uncle Don Jaime), collide in a massive clash of religious allegory, delicate subject matter seen from a blasphemous point of view and sexual scandal. The delicacy of Buñuel for dividing the story of the soon-to-be-nun Viridiana in several chapters can be a narrative structure which main characteristics can be immediately compared with any biblical text that uses prostitution, the rejection of the personal submission to the will of God and the false illusion of man concerning that he is the owner of his life as its principal epiphanic elements. This is the narrative structure that divides the story in different layers, each one of them representing different weaknesses of the irrevocable and easily-corruptible human condition. More than being an indirect attack towards the institution of the Church, an attack that resulted in a more-than-obvious violent reaction from the Vatican, the exceedingly female and partially stereotypical character of Viridiana can be contrasted with the forcedly skeptical personality of Nazarín, a man who had to witness unusual events and to be object of revealing visions so he could justify Faith, something that does not require such elements. Viridiana, on the other hand, expressly attempts to stay away from the will of God despite the warnings she received from her Mother Superior, clearly explaining to her the haughtiness that such decision implied.

Because of the aforementioned characteristics, Viridiana is divided into two chapters, chapters that could be titled as "The Passion of Viridiana" and "The Last Supper". In the first chapter, it is her own arrogance and pride, characteristics that are probably intentional within her personality, the ones that make her to stay away from the will of God, to take decisions by her own and to make justice with her own hands. Nonetheless, such falseness is enhanced by the idealistic perspective she possesses towards the world. This vision is shattered into pieces since the moment she is raped by her uncle, a man whose carnal desires were his most relevant priorities and, once that they were satisfied in the process of filling an insurmountable void according to his mentality, caresses his crucifix-shaped knife and commits suicide before he could be reported to the authorities. This shocking event marks the start of the second chapter where Viridiana decides to invite a wide community of poverty-stricken individuals to the mansion that is now being envied by her brusque cousin Jorge, played by actor Jorge Rabal, culminating in one of the most blaspheme representations of The Last Supper ever filmed. Consequently, the movie does not posses one single climatic sequence, but two. Justice acquires a high tone of relativity. From a Catholic point of view and possibly also a Christian one, the devastating finale that shows Viridiana as a completely lost and estranged-from-God woman, is accurate. The God represented by Buñuel is not necessarily interpreted as a population control or as the opium of the masses, but as the only path in order to reach the divinity that, humanly, is not possible to gain. Materialism against religion is a concept which ambition surpasses the limits of any expectation, especially the expectations that were held in the 60s. Having said this, the main ideas expressed by Viridiana forcedly had to possess cathartic qualities, principally establishing the fact that charity cannot dazzle the corruption of a much diminished society and that man will never be able to reach eternal life by his own, no matter how many norms and supposedly religious and universally correct conducts one applies in his life. The only judge is God, not the human pride that comes from an incorrigible atheism.

The homage of Luis Buñuel to a depressing neorealism results in one of his most brutally honest and memorable feature films. Viridiana is more than a simple call to life; it is an invitation to remove the bandage that clouds the human eyes from any form of communication that God may have with us. In this case, one masterly powerful performance from Silvia Pinal was necessary to strengthen the conclusions to which Viridiana, despite its relatively short running time, achieves to reach without the slightest difficulty. Buñuel had not a complete artistic control over his productions, something that would happen until El Ángel Exterminador (1962), but the poetical cinematography and the filming locations of Spain add effectiveness to the work of a majorly Spanish cast, converting it into a prideful success for Mexico as well. Its power may cause revelations that will be difficult to accept when witnessed for the first time, but that is one of the most truthful messages that God Himself has thought of transmitting through the magic of cinema.

100/100
86
Umberto D. 1952,  Unrated)
Umberto D.
"I was desperate to retire, but when I retired, I am now desperate to work again!"

UMBERTO D. (1952)


Director: Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy
Genre: Drama
Length: 89 minutes

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Ladri di Biciclette (1948) is among the best neorealist films ever made. Italian director Vittorio De Sica had so much sincerity during his introspective analysis of the human nature under poverty-stricken life conditions, that he was able to properly emphasize our independence towards necessary material means and significant emotional bonds. Umberto D. shares exactly the same characteristics. It may not be so surprising to see how the elderly are represented through an existentialist and epiphanic point of view. Perhaps some of the most renowned auteurs considered it as the most appropriate and directly cathartic means. Vittorio De Sica can be added to the long list of directors that includes F.W. Murnau (Der Letzte Mann [1924]), Josef von Sternberg (Der Blaue Engel [1930]), Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru [1952]), Ingmar Bergman (Smultronstället [1957]) and Andrei Tarkovsky (Zerkalo [1975]). Umberto D. is also one film that can be classified as a reminder of the beauty of life regardless of how impoverished, destroyed and politically degraded our surrounding environment may be. Although it is not exactly the director's best effort, it is one of the most heartbreaking, compensating an utterly pessimistic perspective with a new, refreshing air of necessary optimism and a memorable conclusion.

The film is set in post-WWII Italy. Umberto Domenico Ferrari, and aged government-pensioner and a retired civil servant, desperately strives to live his remaining existence under better life conditions. Being constantly threatened by his demanding landlady, he spends his days in a cheap furnished apartment with his dog named Flike and with Maria, a pregnant servant of the boarding house. Antonia, the landlady, asks him to pay money he cannot afford and, in order to avoid the humiliation of selling personal belongings in the streets, tries to get a loan from any of his acquaintances. Unfortunately, fate has something much bigger and tragic prepared for Umberto. The film received an Academy Award nomination in 1957 for Best Writing, Motion Picture History, losing it against The Brave One (1956). Director Vittorio De Sica was nominated for the Grand Prize of the Festival at the Cannes Film Festival of 1952, losing it against the directors Renato Castellani and Orson Welles for their respective films Due Soldi di Speranza (1952) and The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952).

At first glance, Umberto D. may seem to own a simplistic approach towards its delicate subject matter. It does not. De Sica was careful enough to slowly unfold, reveal and latterly develop a character that could implicitly empathize with the audience. Consequently, this absolute neorealist masterpiece of deep reflection exalts humankind and suggests a positive transition, this is, urges the modern era to gratefully appreciate life and to exterminate any psychological and behavioral fault. Umberto is a character of unfulfilled dreams; he is one of the thousands of film characters that are drawn into existence difficulties they never requested. Their true nature is tested when destiny is the one that omnisciently evaluates his decisions, his fortitude and the consequences of his actions. Just like in Ladri di Biciclette (1948), De Sica transforms us into that omniscient presence that wanders through the streets of a devastated Italy without being able to interfere, but just to appreciate, analyze and judge without criticism.

The condition of Umberto is emphasized through his surroundings. His only companionship is his dog Flike and a servant named Maria, a clear influence for Bergman's Smultronstället (1957). Maria is a woman who got pregnant by one of two soldiers, and neither will admit the responsibilities of parenthood. The director felt necessary to provide just one single example of life difficulties from Maria, excluding the focus that the film has towards the main character. This suggests that post-war society must hide hundreds of different stories. Umberto is ashamed to belong to such society. Being too proud to beg in the streets, he decides to ask money from acquaintances, not even having considered their respective situations beforehand considering the life of isolation he had led for some time. When this means fail, he tries to obtain money through the sale of his books and his valuable watch. Obviously, the money raised is not enough. What is next? Supposedly, one must patiently wait until fate plays its next card. Fate plays it, but it is not a good card. Umberto catches a sore throat and needs to be hospitalized, resulting in the very expected consequence of his financial situation being delayed. Later on, his room is taken over and he remains homeless.

Most of the emotional shock can be found in Umberto's final decision: to look for his dog Flike and commit suicide. Ironically, the dog is now missing and Umberto starts an exhaustive search for it, from the streets of Rome to the city dog pound. This raises the question: Are the motivations and reasons behind the character already established? The decision of committing suicide accompanied is a direct contradiction; it is as contradictory as living a hard life and not learning the wisest and most positive lessons that can be obtained during that period. Everything is temporary; nothing is eternal. To what degree may we let the hardships of life and their immediate outcomes to negatively influence our fortitude and positivism? A wonderfully balanced camera work, technical improvements over past neorealist testaments and a moving screenplay with a well-constructed execution may provide the answer through images, dialogues, abandoned buildings, destitute inhabitants and tears... all of this addressed with the remarkable work of an inexperienced cast and an accurate leading role.

There is a certain point in the film where the pace and the story become as depressing as few films dared to be. Umberto D. is the kind of film that could have been rejected by studio executives decades ago. That was the main source of audaciousness of directors like Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rosellini, creating the Italian neorealism and releasing it to the masses while honestly portraying facts in cinema that developed countries found too difficult to accept and disseminate in case that the films had not been banned in the first place. The Italian neorealism had the magical capacity of anticipating the problems that govern the actuality and, exclusively because of its thematic elements, the film is an essential classic of world cinema that treats the most basic human necessities (love, food, financial stability, shelter, spiritual tranquility, air) in the most empathic manner. It is an experience which plot can be resumed into a couple of lines; however, it is one of those films that should be given the opportunity to speak for themselves, just like the poor character of Umberto wanted to.

100/100
87
La Strada (The Road) 1954,  PG)
La Strada (The Road)
"The fool is hurt."

LA STRADA (1954)


Director: Federico Fellini
Country: Italy
Genre: Drama
Length: 108 minutes

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Federico Fellini is a cinema legend for several followers of his direction style, his always controversial subject matter and his vision towards the world. Before embracing the passionately antibourgeois filmmaking style (La Dolce Vita [1960], [1963]), Fellini managed to obtain worldwide recognition and great popularity thanks to what are nowadays two of the most heartbreaking neorealist films of the Italian cinema: La Strada and Le Notti di Cabiria (1957). It is clear that the positivism and optimism of the times were most likely to reject such a crude reality. Nevertheless, Fellini followed the footsteps that Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica had left behind a decade ago. Despite that his two absolute masterpieces of neorealism never reached such giant and heartbreaking status, they have a very particular power and sincerity of their own; their success was unprecedented. Today, La Strada is much more than the first film ever to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; it is a strong testament that glorifies the strength of the human spirit under unbelievable situations of hardship, spiritual growth and maturity. It is one of the most moving films ever made.

Gelsomina is a young girl that lives in deplorable life conditions with her mother. After much deliberation, her mother decides to sell her to an itinerant entertainer of great physical strength named Zampanò. Nevertheless, Zampanò treats her inhumanly despite that she accepted to help him during his shows. Latterly, Gelsomina meets a funambulist called "The Fool". Although she desires to go with him and escape, "The Fool" confuses her greatly when he tells her that Zampanò may be in love with her. The film received two Academy Award nominations in 1957 for Best Writing, Best Screenplay - Original and for Best Foreign Language Film, winning the last Oscar. Director Federico Fellini won a Blue Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Language Film the next year, and the film won a CEC Award for Best Foreign Film at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain. The director also received a Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1955, the film won two Silver Ribbons for Best Director and Best Producer at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. Finally, in 1954, Federico Fellini was nominated for the Golden Lion, which lost against Renato Castellani for his film Romeo and Juliet, and won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

La Strada is a shining triumph of neorealist cinema that was received with great appraisal and empathy around the world. Whether it was because of its cathartic capacity or because of its captivating atmosphere of realism, Fellini managed to direct a memorable story driven by a deep character analysis. It is intentionally devoid of negative representations of stereotypes; rather, it seeks for the comprehension of the audience, an audience that is being spoken in the most accessible, yet brutally honest manner, thus achieving a balance in the process. Although the surrounding environment and the art direction is not strictly neorealist, it is the humanism that predominates in the character of the gorgeous Giulietta Masina the one that enhances her fragility and naiveté and, therefore, mirrors a weak society incapable of controlling external factors of great magnitude. This argument is addressed with poor life conditions, putting the film into a derivative category. Even so, it is a very impactful journey of great proportions, and la strada (the road) is life itself with Anthony Quinn as a devil imposing obstacles in the way.

Gelsomina is the personification of naïve innocence. Her character is put in a context of injustice, unfairness and economical hardship. At first glance, her fate within the plot may be hard to watch; it seems that the factors that help us keep watching is her tender psychology and her clownish makeup that serves as a reminder of the happiness that, regardless of the difficult anecdotes that show their faces, must eternally endure. Instead of diminishing the lower class of Italy's societal structure, it suggests that monsters can exist in any stratum of the society. Anthony Quinn, the legendary Mexican director, offers what may be the best performance of his entire filmic career. Zampanò is the typical careless and irresponsible man that can be found in almost any dysfunctional marriage that disguises his low self-esteem and lack of meaningful sentiments with aggressiveness and bravura. This macho-type-of character, however, is very far from representing the antagonist. Regardless of the statements told by the funny funambulist, the personalities and reactions to certain events are two of the several main elements that define the persona. Whereas Gelsomina's relies mostly on her masterfully iconic facial expressions, Zampanò is shown screaming, being angered and breaking quarter-inch iron chains during his shows with the mere force of his chest. Not even his fakeness, nonetheless, is able to surpass the force of fate and the lives of the protagonist.

Exceptional performances and unforgettable moments of physical and psychological pain strengthen the remarkable argument of the original screenplay written by the talented Tullio Pinelli with the collaboration of Federico Fellini and the visionary Ennio Flaiano. A haunting musical score of exceptional power by Nino Rota decorates the final result with a touch of discreet sentimentalism, and the unequivocally flawless direction of Fellini, despite being one of his first projects, applies a distinguishable signature of genius, despite it being referential. The cinematography and a marvelous camera work helps us to comprehend the symbolic context of the characters and the road itself, mirroring the course of life and inviting disappointed human beings to overcome the unjust inequities of the existence of oneself.

La Strada is a tribute to neorealism, but instead of getting stuck in such description, it exalts humankind without resorting to grandiloquence or pretentiousness. It is one of those simple stories that find no difficulty in originating complexity through the analysis of the context and the most possible intentions of the director. Although it is not the best film of Fellini's neorealist period of filmmaking, it surely has a huge psychological appeal for the modern era. In order to be more accessible, the pace is gentle and sudden moments of strictly simple humor are added throughout, almost resembling the slapstick comedy of the 20s and 30s, this time featuring a tragicomic mime. It is its technical aspects and the honesty of the plot the ones that allow the film to feel natural rather than forced. External events are portrayed in an unfathomable way, but the human quality present in Gelsomina and the surrounding supporting characters are clearly pointing towards one single, clear direction: hope.

100/100
88
Breathless (À bout de souffle) (By a Tether) 1960,  Unrated)
Breathless (À bout de souffle) (By a Tether)
"New York Herald Tribune!"

À BOUT DE SOUFFLE (1960)


Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Country: France
Genre: Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Length: 90 minutes

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The title of "Breathless" is pretty self explanatory. The French New Wave had barely begun approximately five years ago, and Jean-Luc Godard was audacious and adventurous enough to portray his cinematic style in its most complete way in his first film. À Bout de Souffle contains every technical aspect, every charming detail and every single auteur frame that distinguished Godard as a revolutionary of cinema. At the end of terms, it may be referential cinema. However, its quirkiness and extreme improvisatory feeling allowed the art of filmmaking to be capable of taking elements that clearly distinguished the pop culture of the time, referencing famous stars and personalities and applying a unique signature. The cinematic movement that allowed France to be recognized as a stylish and gorgeously stereotypical country through its films was subject to an extreme boost precisely with À Bout de Souffle, a film that celebrates the unexpected outcomes of life, the animal and irrational impulse that love may cause (thus erasing any possible logical consequence) and exalting the human condition in the most romantic way possible, not necessarily resorting to an exaggerated portrayal of romance and melodrama, but relying on the effect that incongruent, yet realistic reactions of the film protagonists may ultimately cause on an audience.

The film opens with an impulsive and careless sociopath named Michel Poiccard, a man as passionate as love itself who loves to imitate the characteristic facial gestures of the famous actor Humphrey Bogart. He makes a living stealing cars and reselling them to Paris. After stealing a car and murdering the motorcycle policeman who had been pursuing him without any premeditation of his actions whatsoever, he flees to Paris and asks for money to an old girlfriend of his. However, he soon renews his relationship with a beautiful American girl. Her name is Patricia Franchini, an aspiring journalist who will be under the constant flattering and unprofessional romantic behavior of Michel despite his face being on the media while being chased by the authorities. On his plan of performing a getaway to Italy, the lives of the protagonists will soon be facing an unpredictable series of inevitable events. Director Jean-Luc Godard won a Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1960. He was also nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear, losing it against César Fernández Ardavín for his film El Lazarillo de Tormes (1959), a rather ingenious Spanish comedy.

Rumors ensued regarding Godard shooting the film without a previously elaborated script. Although this statement was not precisely truthful, the extreme improvisatory ability of Godard of writing scenes in the morning and shooting them the same day may be a factor that can be immediately contrasted and even compared with how life is never premeditated. Life is portrayed as a game and as a series of incidents that may surpass its old interest and usual importance if a daily routine is constantly broken. The film challenges the stereotypes of modern culture, urging them to test their audacity. Everything is subject of mockery and Godard does never hesitate to depict the people who constantly try to follow them, especially the ones that are principally disseminated through movies and mass media, and to make these people to question how honest and original this kind of attitudes really are regarding their particular personalities. The performance of Jean-Paul Belmondo is the source of this vision, a man who is subject to the influence of the popularity imposed by the mass media thanks to the motivations of financial aims. Moreover, he applies a personality that does not entirely belong to him and lets it take over his conscience, consciously. Opposite poles attract; therefore, a lovable and patient femme fatale was required. Although her highly Americanized appearance may seem to hide a tender and weak female personality beneath her persona, she ironically is a stereotype herself. A conceited criminal meeting a lover of artistic values strongly promises a cinematic explosion. It is like if the story by the already acclaimed director François Truffaut (Les Quatre Cents Coups [1959], Tirez sur le Pianiste [1960]) with the aid of the poetical screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard introduced reality with the fantastic realm of cinema. It provides the sensation to the viewer of suddenly being sucked by the screen and fulfill his/her dream of becoming (or living with) the characters that one may particularly love or be a fan of. This makes À Bout de Souffle easy to admire.

Godard scatters layers and stylish shots and unites them into a single fluent scene. This is where the editing plays its magical role, constantly jumping from scene to scene and cutting them with no remorse. This highlights life's subjectivity, an element beautified by the extraordinary musical score composed by Martial Solal. Although its repetitiveness is a noticeable feature, it effectively works to provide a fast-paced rhythm to the film, like if prophetically celebrating an upcoming sexual liberation and an anarchic lifestyle. Moral standards are broken and the sexual content is very present, a possible fact that may have caused the banning of the film for almost four years. His constant use of editing and changes in the use of music seemingly takes a break with a wonderful cinematography that gives life to shots that last nearly three minutes. The joyous and sexy feeling À Bout de Souffle provides the 75% of the time is partially interrupted by sequences that evoke romance and tranquility, a daring transition for the early days of a director. The film does not deviate from its nonstop emotiveness and its positive pretentiousness, giving away as a final outcome a scandalous commentary towards conservative values and supposedly unnecessary censorship.

It is the audacity of the film and its attempt of staying away from a high possibility of intentional banality what makes À Bout de Souffle the definitive manifesto of the French New Wave. Making homage to the genres that made American cinema and culture famous, it is a very important piece of filmmaking that ambitiously works as a testament towards the beauty of life and the negative implications of the human impulses. Godard was careful enough to add an internalized purpose of scandal into the film. Therefore, the sensations the movie caused worldwide are nowadays considered as the result of a landmark film. Long shots contrasted with discontinuity, a supposedly impossible romance, a man looking under the skirt of a woman and enjoying the consequent slap in the face, the unintentionally intentional comedy, a blasphemous depiction of the concept "popularity", the attack against conservatism and the aid that it shows towards liberal ideas with an anarchic touch, this is much more than the definition of "cool". It is a sexual liberation, cinematically speaking, and the director's best film, a task that very few filmmakers have achieved during the history of cinema.

100/100
89
Popiól i diament (Ashes and Diamonds) 1958,  Unrated)
Popiól i diament (Ashes and Diamonds)
The last installment of this stupendous trilogy draws some "Renoirish" technical aspects (the bourgeois balance of ridiculousness, dialogue-driven comedy, politics, the criticism of social stratums) resulting in what sometimes is wrongly considered as a pretentious focus. Wajda, of course, doesn't give a damn, and presents an unparalleled story of the power of decisions and their respective implications. All in all, Popiól i Diament has even achieved a high level of historical importance, and rightfully so, since few directors would be capable of directing a post-war vision of this fantastic caliber, including a couple of most obvious and spectacular highlights: the fireworks scene, the last dance sequence, the upside-down crucifix and the wonderfully conceived ending scenes.

100/100
90
Electra, My Love (Szerelmem, Elektra) 1975,  Unrated)
Electra, My Love (Szerelmem, Elektra)
The masterful Miklós Jancsó keeps moving forward in themes that shatter the balance and moral of men. After witnessing Kakogiannis' respectful, yet unnecessarily prolonged ambition, my hopes for an Electra version adapted to sublime perfection was lost until cinema took me to Hungarian landscapes. Pagan symbols, rituals, fields, dances, horses, betrayal, deceptions and poetic dialogue are merely the elements that constitute this glorious piece of miracles easily located on the pinnacle of high-art international filmmaking.

100/100
91
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles 1975,  Unrated)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Review to be written in December.

100/100
92
Hanyo (The Housemaid) 1960,  Unrated)
Hanyo (The Housemaid)
Ki-young's most accessible masterpiece is quite possibly the greatest Asian thriller ever conceived. If Hitchcock has invaded even mainstream fans, and if we now are used to know which direction the events depicted here will unfold, that does not stop Hanyo from invading the senses with trembling and noirish undertones of the macabre. Exceptional masterpiece with Eun-shim Lee in a flawless performance for the ages.

100/100
93
Sunset Boulevard 1950,  Unrated)
Sunset Boulevard
"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

SUNSET BLVD. (1950)


Director: Billy Wilder
Country: United States of America
Genre: Drama / Film-Noir
Length: 110 minutes

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Billy Wilder had always been a very prolific director. From tense thrillers to romantic comedies, the main characteristic of his filmic style was that it gloriously portrayed, in a joyous way, the American lifestyle. Such elements would be irremediably exalted through plots regarding deception, malice, crime and the exquisite cinematic film-noir genre. With Sunset Blvd. he managed not only to create one of the best and most glorious American classic masterpieces with some of the most memorable, dramatic and stylish one-liners, but also to reveal what had been by then a possible myth of the obscurity of Hollywood. As scandalous and possibly offensive this timeless and dark masterpiece may have been for some people in particular, especially those belonging to Hollywood stardom and eternal egoism, Sunset Blvd. is arguably the best American film-noir ever made as well as an unforgettably compelling drama based on the typical behavior of the characters popularized by the media.

In the unparalleled tradition of Citizen Kane (1941) without equaling it, the film opens with a floating corpse in a pool with his eyes wide open, staring at the deepness of the water. Resorting to a voiceover narrative structure that relies on a predominant flashback as dark as the streets of Sunset Boulevard during the night, the main character, movie screenwriter Joseph C. Gillis, slowly and wisely narrates his romance with an exceedingly egomaniac and undeniably gigantic bitch silent-movie star named Norma Desmond, who asks him to write a screenplay for her new film under the incredibly blind conviction that life, unexpectedly, is about to reward her with a big screen-comeback. Being selected as one of the twenty-five landmark films of all time by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1989, as the 12th greatest film of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time by the American Film Institute in 1998 and as the 16th Greatest Movie of All Time by the American Film Institute in 2007, the movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, which are Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, two for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture. As beautiful and brilliant as the old classic Hollywood times may have been for cinema, it is clearly that a peaceful audience was not yet ready for this kind of dark meta-Hollywood film-noir, since the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences ended up mistakenly choosing All About Eve (1950) as the best motion picture of the year with Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the best director, and Judy Holliday as the better actress for her fairly decent performance in Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor. All of these awards, including the one for best cinematography, were obviously stolen from the film.

The screenplay elaborated by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr. demanded a great complexity and constant strokes of genius. Creating an obscure Hollywood story and merging it with reality may seem as a fun challenge and an entertaining game for the screenwriters to show their knowledge about cinema, but it is ultimately a difficult task. Counting with several outstanding cameos such as of the prolific composers of the film Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (Rear Window [1954]), The Godfather [1972]), actresses Anna Q. Nilson (Adam's Rib [1949], An American in Paris [1951]) and Hedda Hopper (Wings [1927], The Women [1939]), actor H.B. Warner (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939], It's a Wonderful Life [1946]), actor, director, screenwriter, producer and editor Buster Keaton (Sherlock Jr. [1924], The General [1926]), and director Cecil B. DeMille (King of Kings [1927], The Ten Commandments [1956]), who actually plays a rather relevant role within the film, Sunset Blvd. has daringly ventured into a desperate downward spiral of psychological doom and soul abomination through the famous world of Hollywood, creating a believable atmosphere. What the cinematography accomplished to create is a darker and more vertiginous atmosphere where arising emotions culminate in tragedy and total madness, thanks to its dusty giant scenarios and its perfectly captured frames.

I'll dedicate an exclusive paragraph for the acting. William Holden offered a brilliant personification of the typical American and romantic detective of predominant stylish, with one minor detail: he's not a detective, but a credited screenwriter. His perfect love complement is interpreted by Nancy Olson, another romantically confused screenwriter named Betty Schaefer, who would only be the drop that would overflow the glass and unleash chaos. Erich von Stroheim (Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages [1916], La Grande Illusion [1937]) portrays a rather macabre character that, at first glance, seems to be hiding an extraordinary amount of secrets, and a psychological disorder and a dependent weakness. The whole show is, naturally, stolen by Gloria Swanson, who ironically was also an acclaimed silent-film actress. She is the ultimate reincarnation of the (unfortunately) typical film star who has already faded into the empire of goods abundance, an increased feeling of ownership of the world as being the reason of the creation and existence of cinema, and the creation of a powerful and greedy empire by an irremediably lost-in-life upper class. Her exceeding sensation of false despotism can be deliciously contrasted with the artistically awesome mansion scenario with an organ that constantly plays thanks to light wind gusts, like a human's soul harmonically tossing desperate screams of impossible freedom, concluding with hundreds of photos of an army of Norma Desmonds and a big movie screen where she can contemplate her own films, showing the real-life feature film Queen Kelly (1929), starring the real Gloria Swanson and directed by the real Erich von Stroheim.

Is this Hollywood's most audacious classic? Perhaps it is, but it is undeniably the best and most ambitious and visionary masterwork of Billy Wilder. Poetically speaking, the film is absolutely grandiose, from the literarily inspired script to the hypnotic black-and-white photography and an unforgettable and unequalled female leading performance. Myths and truths behind the scenes revealed, Sunset Blvd. is an American masterpiece released at the exact time, a period where American films reached a beauty that rarely is accomplished nowadays, but that it is not supposed to be remade for any reasons, not even for financial ones, but to be worshipped and admired as a source of true cinema landmarks.

100/100
94
The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie) 1972,  PG)
The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie)
"- I didn't know that chivalry still existed in your semi-savage country.
- Sir, you just insulted the Republic of Miranda!
- I don't give a damn about the Republic of Miranda!
- And I shit on your entire army!"


LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE (1972)


Director: Luis Buñuel
Country: France / Italy / Spain
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Fantasy
Length: 102 minutes

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,Luis Buñuel,Luis Bunuel,Surrealism


Ahhh, yes... Luis Buñuel. This genius actually made a sequel of the events that were depicted in the supposedly unintentional dark comedy El Ángel Exterminador (1962), one of the best Mexican masterpieces ever made. Perhaps it was the disappointment he felt after directing that surrealist gem without taking it to the extreme events he wanted to show because of the lack of means what motivated him to make one of the best surrealist movies ever committed to celluloid: Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie. This revolutionary French manifesto still attacks, degrades and depicts the bourgeois class in the most honest and truthful manner, upsetting the conventional moral code and resorting to extraordinary sequences of pure absurdity. However, his attention to detail and the complex plot web make of this movie a comedy in the strictest sense of the word. Considering his past magnum opuses, it is not a repetitive concept. It still works, it sill makes laugh hard, only this time, he applies a very strong signature, a sign that would lead the audience to think that this was supposed to be one of the director's last works. It was. It still is a revolutionary concept and an audacious portrayal of liberalist ideas that shatters the moral of the modern society and lowers the dignity of the bourgeois class to a repugnant, hilarious level.

The characters we left in El Ángel Exterminador (1962) are now living in Paris. Also, their numbers have been reduced. We now deal with six protagonists whose constant attempts of having dinner together are endlessly interrupted by a bizarre sequence of real and imaginary events within dreams within another complex web of dreams. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, winning the award. It was nominated for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Produced or Published, unfairly losing it against The Candidate (1972).

In Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie, we are offered an extraordinary cast with wonderful performances that play the roles of extremely retarded, snobbish, socially eccentric, morally racist and unbelievably stupid and perfectionist characters. However, it is impossible to hate them. The abundant defects of their respective personalities form a huge monster that could symbolize the totalitarianism of the Catholic Church and the structure of a governmental dictatorship when put together. They are part of a societal monster that slowly eats the guts of the remains of the positive moral conducts. Even so, the delusional events they are found in, the absence of total credibility one as a cinematic viewer may have towards the spectacular events they go through, and the bizarreness of their dreams explode in a cataclysmic outcome of hard guffaws. These sequences are not meant to be taken seriously, nor analyzed in their most literal form. In the same way, the characters are not meant to be important. Nothing around their environment, an environment that consists in tiny little worlds of mansions, snobbishness and ego, is taken seriously by them; nor should we. The complexity of the mind and the subjectivity of the dream realm are the motor that deliciously emphasize the idiocy of their attitudes and the sphere that encapsulates them from living in an honest and respectful manner. In El Ángel Exterminador (1962), their physical antagonist was a room inside the mansion. In this case, the antagonist does not possess a physical form. It has a deeper meaning that explains their utter incapability of bringing down those mental barriers that cause them to be so narrow-minded.

Of course, one element is missing in this delicious satire. They need a motive, an objective that must be constantly interrupted in the most ludicrous way possible. That is the purpose of the dinner. Murder, sex, the lack of coffee and tea, a randomly traumatized soldier who tells his story, a schedule misunderstanding, arrests, the death of a restaurant's manager and other ridicule factors are the ones that end up affecting either the small delicacy of a female protagonist or the food ambition of another male protagonist. Fernando Rey plays the role of the ambassador of Miranda whose name is Don Rafael Acosta, a delusional and self-centered man whose main priorities are the defense of his country despite his dependence on lies and socialism, and to always eat expensive meals. When either his persona or his country is attacked, he immediately arrives to the conclusion that he does not particularly fit in the group of people he is currently having a reunion with. Another comical aspect is the idolization of religious images and how the Catholic Church constantly assumes the role of God performing their own justice, a justice that may not concord with God's will, forgetting they are also humans and sons of God. This is especially highlighted in a scene where a bishop, under the excuse that the church is under constant modifications, asks for the position of a gardener. When he sneaks into the garage and wears the clothing of the gardener job he wants, he is kicked out of the house. However, when he changes to his bishop clothes, he is offered respect and welcome. Once again, the bourgeois class is disguising their horrendous beings with false signs of education towards wealthy social classes and a polite vocabulary, all of this handled with a brilliant sense of humor by Buñuel.

This wonderful auteur is back in his second last surrealist and mindless journey. One cannot deny the brilliance of relativity that Buñuel, after understanding such concept, applied to Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie. Comedy is based on an exaggerated depiction of the defects of man. Comedy appeals to audiences. That is why Viridiana (1961) was banned by authorities. That is why El Ángel Exterminador (1962) was wrongfully criticized. That is why L'Âge d'Or (1930) was forgotten for several decades. It lacked more childish humor so that wealthy social divisions could vociferate "OK, it is a spoof. We may laugh with the film." Moreover, censorship has been under constant modifications, although it still is a problematic factor in the process of filmmaking with evident financial reasons behind. Luis Buñuel is an expressionist. The screenplay he made in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière allowed him to exploit the universally accepted moral standards through fully-developed and painfully realistic characters, combining the twisted humor hidden behind a torture scene with a rare mixture of urban, ghostly myths and an orgy of falseness, while the characters blindly think they are walking in a straight line and will get to the end of a path full of flowers and a nice weather. The truth is that they will never arrive to a certain place. The path, full of little obstacles that attract their attention and keep delaying them, will keep going on and on and on... They will never be capable of taking a smarter detour, not to mention a more convenient transportation vehicle.

100/100
95
L'albero degli Zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs) 1978,  Unrated)
L'albero degli Zoccoli (The Tree of Wooden Clogs)
Magnificent and all embracing neorealist work of art, being directly inspired by the classic Italian masters and applying, at the same time, visual beauty of tremendous emotional weight almost worth of a Tarkovsky or an Angelopoulos masterpiece. Olmi shows, through his inspirational scope and an almighty musical score, the most realistic and invigorating depiction of peasant poverty, a rare human breed that shows an immense passion for life and independence of God, perhaps not in the way it is supposed to be, yet managing to incarnate humankind's universality and fortitude of the spirit, like if the soul and Nature itself were merged into one single entity of life idealization.

100/100
96
Salo (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) 1975,  NC-17)
Salo (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma)
"We Fascists are the only true anarchists, naturally, once we're masters of the state. In fact, the one true anarchy is that of power."

SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA (1975)


Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Country: Italy / France
Genre: Drama / Horror / War
Length: 116 minutes

Photobucket


In the process of finding the correct first sentence to begin with a proper review of Pier Paolo Pasolini's last film Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma, I failed miserably. In fact, I have already written it... it's somewhat hilarious. Words cannot and will not suffice for properly describing the artful subjectivity and political power of this extraordinary piece of art. Open-minded masses, supporter of all artistic expressions and, specifically, Pasolini fans cannot avoid the great personal amazement, pride and joy towards a director that never hesitated to express his anarchic, totalitarian and Marxist ideas through his religious and political manifestos, his daring and controversial magnum opuses, his visionary and influential masterworks. Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma is definitely one of the most audacious films ever conceived by the hands, the mind and the guts of an auteur. On a personal note, I have always classified and identified the decade of the 70's as the most influential era, cinematically speaking, for expressing ideas in expressionistic ways. Directors like Dusan Makavejev (W.R. - Misterije Organizma [1971], Sweet Movie [1974]) and Nagisa Ôshima (Ai no Corrida [1976], Ai no Borei [1978]) sought for the most shocking and graphically scandalous ways to depict socially accepted ideas that the totalitarian control and the limited liberty of expression did not allow to be portrayed nor propagated. Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma is arguably Pasolini's best film, the brave motion picture that caused him to be persecuted and presumably assassinated under mysterious circumstances.

The film is set in the Fascist, Nazi-controlled northern part of Italy during the Second World War where four libertines round up sixteen perfect specimens of youth and take them to a palace near Marzabotto to subject them to 120 beautiful days of all forms of physical, mental and sexual torture. It is loosely based on the stories of Dante and Marquis De Sade. After the four months have passed, the brutal execution of the youths is organized so that the fascist libertines can witness the spectacle from a voyeuristic point of view. It is officially one of the most controversial films of all time.

Pasolini's approach to the Fascism in Italy results in a "nauseating, depraved, pornographic, disturbing, senseless and mentally sick" film. It actually has been catalogued and classified under those retarded, immature and narrow-minded adjectives. It is a very natural psychological consequence that an audience that was not still prepared for such a graphic testament, not to mention a film depicting the horrors of war in the most explicit way, reacted with those arguments as their strongest defense. Soul injuries had not healed yet, and people still belonged to a particular political party. Most of its controversy rose from the fact that it was mostly considered as a political act rather than an important filmmaking sample of historical accuracy and political correctness. Was that an intentional and, therefore, correct film characteristic thanks to the ideals of Pasolini? Yes and no. The same thing happens with the films of directors like Makavejev and Ôshima. It is set on historical times depicting real events. However, the melodrama resulting from the magic of cinema may sometimes result in the dramatization and sometimes intentional tergiversation of events that, although they may reflect a particular period of the history of humanity, do not have a complete accuracy. It is a commonly used technique to enlighten and strengthen the ideas that a film wants to transmit. Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma is not meant to be taken seriously, historically speaking, especially when Pasolini declared himself as an artist. He did not name himself as an historian or a religious filmmaker. He was an atheist, yet the inspirational effect of Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo (1964) disseminated through the masses counted with a poignant success.

Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma contains one of the most explicit portrayals of sex, violence, psychological torture, mercilessly insulting racism and a wide range of paraphilias that include sexual masochism, sexual sadism, transvestic fetishism, urophilia and cropophilia within mainstream films. These physical and sexual perversions will eventually cause several reactions from a varied audience, but as film elements they ultimately function as a motor for the film's political and anarchic audacity. The film is basically divided into three parts: the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit and the Circle of Blood. The Circle of Manias consists in the submission of the youths to several forms of psychological abuse. The film is meant to mirror democratic societies and totalitarian governments that mentally construct a narrow-minded concept regarding the nation's control they suppose they own. They disguise their mediocrity and dictatorship-like habits with a seemingly organized governmental system. Licentiousness predetermines the catastrophic behavior of organized Fascism in the film, disguising their lack of sanity with formally planned events, such as the portrayals of social events with occasional, forcedly applied gender dysphoria and with the massive dinners accompanied by piano with Signora Maggi and other two middle-aged demented women telling arousing stories of their past. The concept of discipline is distorted; comedy is a decaying word; humor is no longer a clear dictionary word. The Circle of Shit gathers the victims in a feast of excrement consumption and rape. Once more, the possible symbolic context implied is how governments and democracies literally try to cover up their lies and the corruption caused talking shit and raping the trust and the democratic process through their rules and principles. This may sound like an offensive statement, but its honest substance behind it does not deviate from an utter truth. Finally, the Circle of Blood consists in the physical torture and execution of the already degraded souls, in case any consciousness and self-esteem remain. This is shown from a voyeuristic perspective, strengthening a horrifying and claustrophobic feeling to it, like if we were not capable of understanding the unbearable pain the victims are going through, consequently becoming a more disturbing and haunting sequence.

As any masterpiece clearly states, enjoyment, beauty and art are the most humanly subjective terms one should encounter throughout the process of deep analysis. This is one of the most beautiful films ever made. It is brilliantly filmed and visually beautiful, overshadowing with its grandiose cinematic gorgeousness the perverted brutality shown from the beginning of the film to its comical ending. The cinematography scratches the visual realm of perfection, like a mutant philosophy. The editing has a mysterious tone to it. You never know what will the next take will look like, yet it has no mercy at fading away with each shot; it immediately shows it, letting our eyes and mind (perhaps even the stomach) to react however it is supposed to react. The music has a mystical brilliance. It has the capacity of hypnotizing the viewer to an extent of confusing the emotions and distorting them. The images talk by themselves, and the beauty of the human body is so glorified that one feels in Paradise with Satan raping angels.

Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma is one of the best films ever made. The original ambition it achieved to obtain has established a landmark, a landmark that has lasted for generations. Glorifying human dignity and letting it be raped, sexually abused, raped and depraved to an unbelievably glorious extent because of totalitarian governments that still form part of the actuality culture, the main purpose(s) of the film are immediately justified and even strengthened because of the persecution and assassination of Pasolini and because of the censorship the film inevitably has been subject to. More than a political act, it is a marvelous magnum opus way ahead of its time that even modern cinemas would surely refuse to release. A criticism very few authoritative and democratic countries will fully accept, Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma belongs to arguably the most daring category of cinema ever created.

100/100
97
L'Hypothèse du tableau volé (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting) 1979,  PG)
L'Hypothèse du tableau volé (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting)
Ruiz constructs a unique celluloid project, unconventional to the core, with a unique purpose: to merge two drastically different art forms. Such purpose seems impossible, and a preposterous attempt to make two realms to interact in common features for reaching a hypothesis.

Frankly, not even I consider that such purpose was accomplished. But what about the ride? Flawless, hypnotic, dreamlike. Such mixture of the static and the mobile speaking to us under layers of paint, wood, shadows and images through orgiastic intellectual discussions is one of the most special and spiritually satisfying experiences that cinema has offered... EVER!

100/100
98
Terra em Transe (Anguished Land)(Land Entranced) 1966,  Unrated)
Terra em Transe (Anguished Land)(Land Entranced)
- What does your death prove?
- The triumph of beauty and justice!


TERRA EM TRANSE (1967)


Director: Glauber Rocha
Country: Brazil
Genre: Drama
Length: 106 minutes

Terra em Transe,Land in Anguish,Brazil,Anguished Land,Glauber Rocha,Political drama


Two years before Costa-Gavras constructed the best political drama of the decade and one year after Algeria achieved independence thanks to the vision of Gillo Pontecorvo (cinematically speaking), Terra em Transe became a rare phenomenon. Few political dramas have achieved a giant status of mastery and technical innovation. Glauber Rocha, who mostly focused his filmmaking style and talents in the direction of westerns, dares to speak out loud for the sake of the Brazilian nation. Due to the heavy censorship of the tumultuous 60s, he disguises the truths of the country with a fictional creation, which is one of the smartest and most stylish decisions I have personally witnessed. The almost insignificant budget was no obstacle for Rocha, despite some obvious, yet justifiable technical flaws, and the governmental totalitarianism and mass media control did not stop Terra em Transe from being released. More than a spectacular political testament of passionate proportions and heavy Latin-American influence, it is a landmark in Brazilian cinema and an irrevocably influential masterpiece of unforgettable uniqueness and an unfathomable accuracy.

Terra em Transe introduces us to a hypothetical and undeniably metaphorical Latin-American country called Eldorado. The protagonist is Paulo Martins, an idealistic and existentialistically anarchist journalist that fights against two equally corrupt parties. One party stands for the falsely populist form of government leaded by Felipe Vieira. The other party is headed by the conservative president Porfirio Diaz, who is supported by revolutionary forces. Amidst an imminent chaos, Paulo is taken to an emotional extreme when these two personages, who used to be two of his best friends in the past, unleash a catastrophic political turmoil derived from extremist measures and the mindless fanaticism and admiration of the masses. Director Glauber Rocha was nominated for a Golden Palm, which lost against Michelangelo Antonioni for his film Blowup (1966), and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. He also won the Grand Prix for the best Feature Film at the Locarno International Film Festival.

Terra em Transe is a political analysis loosely based on the history of Brazil since the director intelligently hides Latin-American elements that are supposed to be interpreted as metaphors. In order to cover up their respective symbolic meanings (just like corrupt activists inside governments hide their respective roles hypocritically after an atrocious and lawfully incorrect crime), Rocha disguises them. Naturally, Paulo Martins represents the jaded member of a corrupt society of indecisive citizens that are constantly expecting the best from the worst candidate. However, their political impotence is an irrevocable element given to them by an "organized" social system. Felipe Vieira is the exclusively "Eldoradian" politician of strong convictions and unstoppable motivations that, unfortunately, executes his actions through corrupt and destructive means of low moral. Porfirio Díaz criticizes the unpopular and conservative regime of the famous Mexican general that achieved to be in the presidency of the country continuously from 1876 to 1911, a regime characterized by its repression and corruption despite the modernization and economic growth that Mexico went through during those times. Finally, Eldorado references the legend invented by South American natives of the 16th Century mindlessly pursued by mindless and ambitious Spanish conquistadores. Consequently, the film's intentions are bigger than what they seem to be.

Audaciously typical of the political dramas that stood out during the 60s, the film represents the blind submission of the masses towards political figures because of false promises given prior to their respective periods in power. Moreover, the film makes a very important and noticeably outstanding questioning in the middle of the film: "How could an elected Governor answer to the candidate's promises?" Not to mention that Paulo sees politicians as equally corrupt beings: "speeches, principles, promises..." Perhaps it was the director's intention to mirror the political contradictoriness and complexity of the Brazilian state during the 60s with an avant-garde style of filmmaking, unintentionally addressing it with grandiloquence, yet not failing to achieve an unconventional structure of cinematic awe and a breathtaking camera work. Money, instead of morality and reputation speaks for the status of people while political assassinations occur amidst disturbing turmoil and chaos. Those who live under deplorable life conditions are brutally beaten under the excuse that they are extremists and, therefore, deteriorate a snobbish and pretentious image of their Third World country.

The film moves with an invigorating pace and suddenly reaches astonishing proportions of architectonic artistry and bourgeois lavishness. Despite some technical flaws, such as the sound editing and the original dubbing, Terra em Transe is an experience mandatory of political knowledge and a preconception of the governmental world status. Nevertheless, the bravery is highly rewarding throughout, naming the fictional country "Eldorado" with the mere purpose of enhancing and detailing the pursuit of an impossible golden land of social, political, religious and folkloric stability. Paulo's idealism may be exaggerated, but concise, and it serves a specific purpose of liberalism, no matter how disorganized it seems in the character. After all, democracy is supposedly about choosing who will own politically alienated lives. Hence the unpopular mentality of finding "speeches, principles and promises" doubtful and dishonest is strengthened. However, the film is not drowned into its own pretentiousness. It presents facts disguised with allegorical plot elements and captivating imagery, and remains dialectic. More than directly questioning the corruption of conservativism and modern democracies that slowly start to become dictatorships, it offers the responsibility of objective judgment to the viewer and finally says "goodbye" without even helping to digest the brutality shown.

Terra em Transe has the shadow of Latin-American injustice and the colonial imperialism behind it. Unbeknownst to the director, he immediately surpassed the intellectual emptiness and forced liberalism contained in the films of the 21st century. It confronts inequality and exalts the human condition, despite putting it in psychologically unbearable situations of political turmoil and societal disorder. Surprisingly solid performances and a poetical screenplay allows the film to reach a higher level of grandiosity and effectiveness while Rocha rings the alarm not only for Latin-American audiences, but for the world as well. Few times has a masterpiece been so allegorically precise. Despite that the best film of the director got immediate criticism from film fans because it seemed to subjective and utterly incomprehensible just to be banned by the Brazilian government, the film was latterly released since the Cannes Film Festival considered it for a brand new Golden Palm. More "incomprehensible" than the film itself is modern dictatorship and corrupt social systems. Riots are incomprehensible. Manifestations, although senseless, are not. Priorities are lost and the overpowerment of political figures will always stop the objectivity and rational capacity of the humankind to fairly govern and lead a nation to prosperity. Glauber Rocha, I have good news for you: you have been finally understood.

100/100
99
Hamlet 1948,  Unrated)
Hamlet
"To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action."

HAMLET (1948)


Director: Laurence Olivier
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Drama
Length: 155 minutes

Hamlet,Laurence Olivier,Jean Simmons


The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France (1944), Hamlet and Richard III (1955) compose the trilogy of Shakespeare adaptations that British icon Sir Laurence Olivier brought to the screen, indicating his outstanding talent as a poetical director and his delicate treatment of the plays by the greatest literary dramatist of all times. Arguably, Hamlet is his best and most ambitious Shakespeare cinematographic for releasing it through the Seventh Art. Adaptations had already been made, short films quickly depicted the nature of betrayal that always characterized one of Shakespeare's most famous fables, but Olivier's version is the one that was daring enough to establish a landmark in theatrical filmmaking, obtaining international attention and becoming the very first non-American production in history to win the big prize of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not to mention it is one of the few correct decisions taken by the Academy. With the passage of time, the importance of this masterpiece has been diminished and unjustly overshadowed by the qualities present in Olivier's two remaining stories, confusing its ambition with pretentiousness. However, seen with the right eyes, this film has maintained its epic scope since the 40s and has gained a status of brilliant gloominess and theatrical parallelism, and is one of the best Shakespeare adaptations of all times.

The immortal William Shakespeare tale of revenge and murder set in medieval Denmark tells the story of Prince Hamlet who, one night, has an encounter with the ghost of his father, the King of Denmark who was assassinated. He tells his son how Claudius, brother to the King, poisoned him in order to seize the throne and marry his mother the Queen. This epiphany increases Hamlet's mournfulness and regret of the fate of his parents and decides to seek revenge hiring a group of travelling players and recreating the evil deed of his uncle Claudius in order to torment his conscience. After expressing his personal anger with his mother the Queen, an unbelievable web of tragic events leads to a catastrophic destiny and, latterly, murder. The film received 7 Academy Award nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Director (an award that lost against John Huston for the film The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1946), Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White and Best Picture, winning the last 4 Oscars. It also won a Volpi Cup for Best Actress and a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1948, and received the Italian Film Critics Award two years later.

The main complaint that may be executed towards Olivier's masterful Hamlet is the very quality of its overall adaptation. Famous soliloquies have been exterminated, the appearance of several characters has been sacrificed and the original grandiose nature of the play has been trimmed to the surprising length of two-and-a-half hours. However, Olivier has reportedly stated that more than being a faithful adaptation, the film serves the purpose of a "study on Hamlet". Naturally, the main question that arises is: "What conclusions can be derived if we took a Hamlet and adapted to a modern era?" And thus begins the extensive examination of the main psychological characteristics of Hamlet. How much similarity exists between the negative implications of a classic tragedy, such as betrayal, deceit and murder, and the modern code of ethics? Hamlet is the character whose patriotism and defense of honor pushes him to a sentimental extreme. We know the motivations behind his actions and we notice the exact moment in which his emotional fuse is triggered, allowing him to reflect on the meaninglessness of his existence and his dependence towards imperialistic authorities and planning an elaborate play of revenge in order to upset the King's tranquility.

If we take merely the visual and photographic style of Hamlet, the result is extraordinarily astonishing. Hamlet's actions and incipient perversity is propelled by the nature and intentions of the surrounding characters, but a balance is achieved through the most gorgeous Ophelia ever portrayed thanks to the stellar performance by Jean Simmons. However, it is the very macabre atmosphere and a glorious black-and-white cinematography the one that transforms the viewer into an omniscient judge. The huge sets that represent royal halls are deliciously constructed and decorated with a dashing costume design, but it is the expert and passionate performances the ones that enlighten the dramatic proportions of such a philosophical tale. The biggest highlight is the apparition of the dead king making the confession to Hamlet, an aspect that may seem clichéd nowadays, but incredibly dark by those times, like if the film tried to explicitly mirror the heart's color of Claudius and the tormented soul of the Prince. A correct equilibrium between character development, third-person voiceovers, visual poetry, long takes exploring the vastness of the castle (and the psychology of its members) and action is built, culminating in the very-well known swordplay held between the Prince of Denmark and Laertes, Polonius's son because of the accidental assassination of his father.

To categorize Hamlet as a misleading adaptation is a mistake. The very definition of cinema was completely offered to worldwide masses and never before had a Shakespeare adaptation been so complete and precise. Courage, bravery, loyalty, passion, love and romance are still contrasted with deception, horror, fear and death. Nevertheless, Olivier's direction and breathtaking leading role also assign a particular meaning to the importance of the environment, the credibility of the multilayered dialogues, the perfectly captured angles, the famous scene with the skull, the richness in character and the powerful final outcome. The technical aspects, from the sound to the royal musical score also received the proper attention, and the screenplay text editor Alan Dent transformed Hamlet into a unique essay on the human condition and the elegance that past generations possessed but that is already lost. The camera work allows us to adopt an omniscient power, travelling through empty spaces and finally finding the troubled souls that, willingly or not, were drawn in a painful tragedy. Decorative objects play an artistic role and Olivier emphasizes the weakness of the soul, as if it were dependent of God's intervention. Bringing Hamlet up to a point where it even seems that death has seduced him after completely losing any notion of ethical priorities and emotional connections, Hamlet is undeniably one of the best films of the decade, a difficult cinematic triumph that could only have been achieved my the mind of a master that pays the enough respect towards transcendent tales that, ultimately, are formed by human beings... and nothing more...

100/100
100
Aparajito 1956,  Unrated)
Aparajito
"I hope you're careful on the roads. When are your finals? After that you can get a job and I'll stay with you. Will you have me? Will that ever be, I wonder? Who knows how long one has to live? Suppose I fall seriously ill,,,I'm not so well as I used to be. In the evenings I'm often feverish, I've no appetite. I thought of telling you... but I couldn't. I don't suppose you'd leave college to look after me, would you? Would you use your earnings to pay for me to have treatment? Why don't you answer me... Apu!"

APARAJITO (1956)


Director: Satyajit Ray
Country: India
Genre: Drama
Length: 110 minutes

Satyajit Ray,Apu Trilogy,Aparajito,The Unvanquished


Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959): the song of a seemingly little road to walk, the unvanquished, and the world of a soon-to-be existentialist protagonist. And all of them form one of the three best trilogies ever committed to celluloid: The Apu Trilogy, directed by Satyajit Ray. Considered among international and Indian film critics as the absolute Indian masterpiece, it is also the result of the work of a true cinema master. Satyajit Ray raised not only his popularity, but also Indian cinema out of the blue and achieved international attention since the release of Pather Panchali. Despite the great neorealist influence of Italy (mainly from Vittorio de Sica), it is one of the strongest and most memorably powerful and heartbreaking movies ever made around the world. Rivaling the humanism of Masaki Kobayashi's Ningen no Joken (1959-1961) and the universality of other foreign masterworks, Ray's trilogy started slowly to be accepted and welcomed with open arms in several countries throughout the decades and is now referenced as the director's best effort. A single review will not suffice, since this absolutely complete and appealing work mirrors life itself: its impactful moments, key events, traumatic incidents, birth, happiness, sadness, disappointment, departures, growth, maturity and independence are few of the aspects developed in this beautifully orchestrated opera of conglomerated sensations.

In Pather Panchali and Aparajito, the films open with the year of 1327 according to the Bengali calendar, which means 1920 according to the Gregorian calendar. Apu is born to a poor Brahmin family in a village located in Bengal. Living under extremely deplorable life conditions, each one of the family members faces several life problems individually and some others collectively. Apu is an innocent character who has a fantasized vision of the world, finding magic wherever he goes and being astonished by the natural wonders of the earth and by the extensive cultural diversity around the world. Durga is the problematic sister that won't stop stealing guavas from the orchards of the neighbors. Harihar is a poet and a priest who can't sop encountering difficulties in the process of finding a stable job and affording his family the necessary economy for their subsistence. Sarbojaya is the extremely caring and maternal, yet disciplinary and objective mother. Aparajito deals with the family living in Benares for some time after they had to surpass a very tragic incident and then moving in with Sarbojaya's uncle. Once there, Apu's curiosity for acquiring knowledge about the world compels his mother to subscribe him to a school in Calcutta, where his abilities and constant studying offer him a remarkable status of recognition. Nevertheless, the mother faces a huge emotional challenge when she must accept the fact that her little bird must leave the nest. After a huge separation between Apu and Sarbojaya, a terrible tragedy occurs, and a new stage in the character's maturity begins. Apur Sansar concludes the story in an astonishing way. Apu is now a jobless ex-student who lives a life of independence and solitude. While he is dreaming of a successful future as a writer and being largely inspired for writing an autobiographic novel, an old friend from school finds him and invites him to assist to a village wedding. Unfortunately, it is discovered that the bridegroom turned out to be insane, thus causing the wedding to be canceled. Because of the region's superstition, it is believed that the bride will be subject to a curse. Out of sadness and desperation, Apu's best friend convinces Apu to become the bridegroom. Since he makes this remarkable decision, he embarks on a journey of meaningful self-discovery, causing his vision towards the world to be significantly distorted, culminating in one of the best endings ever filmed.

Director Satyajit Ray was nominated for a Golden Palm for his film Pather Panchali, which lost against Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle for their documentary Le Monde du Silence (1956), and won the OCIC Award - Special Mention and another Award for Best Human Document at the Cannes Film Festival of 1956. He also won two Golden Gate Awards for Best Director and Best Picture at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 1957. In 1967, he won a Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film. When Aparajito was released, Satyajit Ray won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film festival of 1957 and another Golden Gate Award for Best Director at the San Francisco International Film Festival of 1958. Thanks to Apur Sansar, the director won the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute Awards of 1959 and the film won an NBR Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the National Board of Review, USA the following year. In total, the trilogy gathered 4 BAFTA Film Award nominations, besides other 12 wins and one single nomination.

Reportedly, Satyajit Ray was a great admirer of Vittorio de Sica's Ladri di Biciclette (1948), one of the best neorealist films ever made. Thus, its similarity with the plot of Apur Sansar is obvious and justifiable. However, the nature and atmosphere of the trilogy started to change with the style of the director. Pather Panchali has a strictly neorealist environment, yet not deviating from the portrayal of Indian poverty. Despite being a very simple film, it is the absolute best of the trilogy. It shows the poverty with no clichés or pretentious grandiloquence. Like a masterful and faithful, loyal-to-life documentary, it shows a world that is very distant from us, yet it irrevocably finds a place inside our hearts. The depictions of poverty may be overwhelmingly difficult to endure; however, it is completely compensated with an indescribable visual beauty and a strong hope in the progress of humanity, mirrored in the characters and, most specially, in Apu. Pather Panchali is mainly composed of solid performances by an inexperienced cast, facial expressions, character development and daily hardships that stick to the basic necessities of man: food, shelter and security. The inevitability of death was a necessary topic to be treated, but instead of bringing the protagonists to their doom, it makes them grow spiritually. It is clearly said during the first film: "What God decides is for the best". Their main hope relies in the father getting a job and being paid fairly since his payment is delayed sometimes three months.

The previous paragraph may seem ultimately depressing but, as almost all masters of cinema have, Satyajit Ray adds a very innocent and peculiar humor. Tenderness can be found in the faults of Durga; Apu's innocence and ambition is a relieving source of comedy (especially in Aparajito before he becomes an adolescent); the simplicity and well-intentioned pretentiousness of the father is inevitably laughable; the auntie in the first film represents the character that is alienated from the family because of her lifestyle and behavioral attitude and that, ironically, supports the thievery of Durga since "she has good intentions and is having fun", a fact that always upsets the mother. The visual beauty is derived from a surprisingly skillful and visionary cinematography, being surprising because of the country and the conditions in which it was made. Before letting us enter into a more civilized environment, the only glimpse of industrialized technology we are offered in Pather Panchali is a train loudly running over the railroads located beyond the beautiful rice fields. Excitedly, Apu and Durga flee home so they can see the train closer, becoming the most extraordinary thing they have ever seen. Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay is the author of the novel that inspired the direction of the trilogy, and he developed the screenplay exclusively for the first film, a piece of text that allowed good performances to be originated. Although its simplicity was predominant, it had enough thought-provoking substance to make of Pather Panchali an unforgettable, landmark and memorable Indian masterpiece.

It was the financial success and international recognition that Pather Panchali received the one that allowed Aparajito to exist. Satyajit Ray, with a more improved photography, a more precise editing and better performances, directed a sequel that was not supposed to be made. Not staying away from the nature and the inspiration of the original novel, he stuck to a neorealist tone. Nonetheless, the literally astonishing cinematography of the first 10 minutes has a strong emphasis on architectonic beauty and colonial wonders typical of Benares, focusing on the visual stillness of the inhabitants bathing in the waters of a common river while doves fly in the air above them. This is the new scenery that we will receive for the first third part of the film, until the real purpose of the subject matter is launched. Apu, as a maturing and growing character, will show an insatiable ambition and curiosity of acquiring knowledge about the world and every single meaningful object and cultural element it contains. From the lifestyle of Africa to the basic definitions of geography and classical samples of literature, the character is now subjected to an intellectualist perspective. Bandyopadhyay never aimed towards the depiction of a progressive India mirrored in the psychology of the protagonist through scholar learning, but Ray still portrays the same neorealist elements he showed in the previous film in order to strengthen the emotional relationship between Apu and his mother. Although Apu will not cease to be the protagonist, Aparajito builds, at some point, a structure that allows Sarbojaya to be the main focus of attention temporarily, bringing along one of the strongest universal emotions that can be found in every single culture: the mother-and-son relationship. She will face a huge emotional obstacle when Apu, now an adolescent of outstanding knowledge thanks to his dedicated learning of the English language as a tool for opening new opportunities, must separate ways with her. Seemingly, this was the instrument of the director for achieving a universal appeal, strengthening the fact that, regardless of the folkloric diversities and international habits, there are strictly human and merely emotional laws that follow the same pattern thanks to the rational sensibility of mankind. Apu, on the other hand, will learn the price of personal decisions and will be forced to surpass one of the greatest and most landmark events in his life in the end, almost offering an open ending.

Satyajit Ray was being threatened by the fact that there was not enough material in order to warrant a third film. However, avid fans of such groundbreaking story were willing to wait patiently for the new project of Ray. What was meant to be one single film was magically expanded to the trilogy we know nowadays. Despite this, the director kept in mind the atmosphere and the humanistic intentions of Bandyopadhyay, who kept being credited as the author of the original epic. Just like the direction of Ray throughout the trilogy kept being technically developed, so did Apu, both reaching a higher state of maturity and psychological complexity. In Apur Sansar, we are strictly taken to the mind of a man that now calls himself Apurba Roy perhaps with the purpose of assuming a more serious and independent identity. Even so, he is still Apu. Just like the direction and the main character, we are now transported to an extremely different scenario: a city of financial order and industrial features. The more the plot advances, the more our tears want to come out of our eyes when we remember the life conditions and story of Pather Panchali, culminating in an increasing nostalgia for the audiences. Suggesting that the nature of the story has not taken a drastically different course, the director makes Apu to start to reflect on the mistakes of his past and is inspired to construct an autobiographical book. After he is impulsively driven by solitude and decides to embark on his journey, abandoning all responsibilities (including his son), Ray grabs a much more Eastern influence, highly resembling Japanese filmmaking. The cinematography keeps showing an inspirational improvement and the musical score is still heartwarmingly joyful, but mysticism is added to the formula. Existentialist philosophy is now contemplated by Apu, who now owns a very Christian physical appearance that could be said it references Luis Buñuel's Nazarín (1959). Despite how different and alienated the first half of the film feels, the second one is very rewarding, achieving the audacious task of adopting an effective filmmaking style that contrasts considerably the neorealist tone shown in the past and that symbolizes rebirth. A new beginning has been propelled. Materialism and forced love is not the solution. Instead, we are offered a huge quantity of moral lessons of vast appeal. Human beings are still human begins, and man cannot embark on a journey of independence and successful relationships without prior self-acceptance and complete spiritual and religious awareness.

Basically, there is nothing left to say. Being an almost-never paralleled experience, this is one of the most complete and multilayered stories ever told. The huge transition it suffers from neorealism to civilization and Eastern philosophy is as transcendental just as it is meaningful. Satyajit Ray is not only the master of spiritual strength, but also of the extermination of internal doom and earthly banalities. With an astounding technical progress and a great capacity of finding a huge place inside the hearts of international audiences, The Apu Trilogy is composed by transitioning layers with different purposes, all of them leading to a single, final conclusion. It must not be seen, it must be lived. Ray is mirroring his personal experiences since Aparajito just like the character reflects on his past. Stories within plots within stories within inspirations of life. We will be mirrored as well.

100/100
101
Viskningar och Rop (Cries and Whispers) 1972,  R)
Viskningar och Rop (Cries and Whispers)
It's true. I think... about suicide. I've often thought about it. It's... it's disgusting. It's very degrading and everlastingly the same.

VISKNINGAR OCH ROP (1972)


Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden
Genre: Drama / Romance
Length: 91 minutes

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Literary sentimentalism and soap-opera drama has finally reached the formula that, for decades, stood for Bergman's perception of the world. Despite that drama was the key genre for his entire filmography, the 70s was the decade where he made testaments about human redemption and spiritual oblivion through exaggerated drama. Does this mean the usage of stereotypes, clichés and pretentious, tear-inducing stories? Not exactly. Ingmar Bergman conglomerates an extraordinary cast of brilliantly talented women and constructs yet another testament of hidden words, incapacity for empathy and extreme situations that trigger underlying sentiments. One thing is to build a predictable melodrama, and another thing is to orchestrate a masterpiece with the noticeable help of a brilliant writing, adding unprecedented moments of emotional shock value and uncomfortable awkwardness, addressing this hard-to-eat cake with unpredictable adventures, flashbacks and confessions. With an impeccable musical score and the meaningful use of a reddish art direction, Viskningar och Rop is one of the 5 giant films released in 1972, and one of the best modern dramas released in European cinema.

Set in the late 1800's of Sweden, approximating the turn of the century, the film displays an intense family drama when Agnes is visited by her sisters Karin and Maria in her rurally isolated mansion since she is dying of cancer. Her strongest comfort during her sickness has been her dedicated servant named Anna. The lives of the sisters are described through flashbacks throughout, revealing their respective pasts and their emotional difficulties that were derived from lies, deceit, insensibility, forbidden affairs and indifference. Meanwhile, the health condition of Agnes starts to drastically deteriorate, increasing her pain and suffering in the process. Thanks to this, the desperation among the sisters begins to be maximized and, finally, long repressed feelings and brutal confessions rise to the surface. The film received 5 Academy Award nominations in 1974 for Best Cinematography, Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material Not Previously Published or Produced, Best Costume Design, Best Director and Pest Picture, winning only the first Oscar and unfairly losing the rest against The Sting (1973). Director Ingmar Bergman won the Technical Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1973 and a Silver Ribbon for Best Director - Foreign Film at the Italian national Syndicate of Film Journalists of 1974, among several other international awards.

The international attention that the grandiose auteur Ingmar Bergman received during three decades is a remarkable achievement. Perhaps it was the empathetic psychological features he shared with universally accepted values and benign habits through his films. Perhaps it was his unusual way to heal injuries after periods of oppositions and world wars. Viskningar och Rop is no exception. Bergman is representing a time when an industrialized and progressive society was anticipating a new century of peace and productive evolution. Perhaps it was his intention to mirror, through the female characters, our constant desire of psychological improvement, hence the decision of the sisters to literally confess their guts out after the devastating outcome of an extreme event: a cancer-stricken protagonist with an imminent death. Its cathartic power relies on its self-reflexive nature. What event do we need to wake up and start mending past deceits, incorrect unfaithfulness and heart cracks? Therefore, Anna represents the woman that each of the sisters should have been: a comprehensive, supportive character of admirable strength and disinterested dedication and motherly caring.

With a breathtaking camera work and a feast for the eyes derived from a beautiful art direction, the visuals are contrasted with the heartbreaking atmosphere. Words, shouts, cries and whispers are the unfortunate trophies of the day. The performances are simply extraordinary, from a 34-year-old Liv Ullmann as the passionate Maria (and her nostalgic mother) to a pain-striking, realistic Harriet Andersson as Agnes, a flawed and maternal Kari Sylwan as Anna, and a proudly snobbish Ingrid Thulin as Karin. In the end, the film does not end in the diminishing and criticism of the female genre. It shows the inescapability of human imperfection and the irrevocable feelings that characterizes the human race. Just as a good work of art that shows both sides of the coin, the characters are also plagued with egocentrism, despotism, opportunism, hatred and negative, non-productive resentments. The element that adds the cherry on the top is powerlessness and the ignorance regarding how to develop a scheme of redemption and effective mending.

Due to the aforementioned aspects, the atmosphere of the film grows each time denser as the film progresses and we are invited into the minds of the characters, assuming their roles while we face death from a third-person perspective. Priorities radically start to be modified and pride is immediately challenged, leaving room for the analysis of the psychological and physical background. As we should know, Bergman is always identified because of his metaphorical ambitions which he captures through the direction of magnum opuses heavy in artistry. The following text fragment can be found in the book Images, written by Bergman: "All my films can be thought of in terms of black and white, except for Cries and Whispers. In the screenplay, it says that red represents for me the interior of the soul. When I was a child, I imagined the soul to be a dragon, a shadow floating in the air like blue smoke - a huge winged creature, half bird, half fish. But inside the dragon, everything was red." Through different and varied shades of red, the nucleus of the power of the film is the soul, represented by almost every single physical object and costume seen in Viskningar och Rop. Not only we are transported to the interior of the dragon, but we also see each of the organs working together with the purpose of keeping a huge organism alive. Agnes is the heart, and without the heart, everything is meant to die. Organ donation equals rebirth, allegorically speaking, which could explain the nature of the film's anticlimactic and depressing conclusion.

In the end, Viskningar och Rop is one of the strongest humanism testaments to the strength of the human spirit and the implications of helplessness. The grace and tranquility irradiated by Agnes when she is suddenly restored to a more comfortable health state in a drastic way represents the ability that God, in his almighty wisdom, gave humans to always surpass the difficulties of life. Death is portrayed as an unfathomable stage of the cycle of life, while the atmospheric horror and tension between the siblings is shown in a context of futile crassness. Despite its short running time, the film flows like a river. It is a reddish spectacle to watch and reflect on, and could be accurately referred to as the last perfect film by such a legendary filmmaker. More than a film, it is a shattering and compelling experience, and an honor to modern celluloid.

100/100
102
The Third Man 1949,  Unrated)
The Third Man
"You were born to be murdered."

THE THIRD MAN (1949)


Director: Carol Reed
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Film-Noir / Mystery / Thriller
Length: 104 minutes

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To create a successful film-noir is a challenging task, but to duel into the vast deepness of such genre and to create one of the most intriguing and suspenseful plots in the process is a remarkable achievement. Modest director Carol Reed (The Fallen Idol [1948], Oliver! [1968]) brings to the screen a wonderful adaptation of the original crime novel that would be released until 1950 written by Graham Greene, who also wrote the spectacular screenplay, and makes the screen shake with nonstop suspense and extraordinary revelations, referencing giant films in the process such as Fritz Lang's M (1931), Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) and Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942). Consequently, it is the director's towering achievement. Despite its great Hitchcockian influence present throughout the development's plot, it is a benchmark in thrilling storytelling, applying a wonderful and adequate pace that prevents the film from occasionally dragging. It easily belongs to a top list of the best mystery films ever made, and thanks to the exceptional cast and one of the most famous and exciting film sequences ever shot, The Third Man has become an influential icon of classic quality cinema and a reminder of the positive effect that a great cinematography may have on the overall premise, not to mention it is a unique British masterpiece.

The Third Man opens with the racketeer trade in the post-World War II era and the resulting predominant black market in the streets of Vienna, Austria, while the city has been quartered into sectors policed by American, English, French and Russian occupying forces. This is the economically devastated and bombed-out scenario where the American pulp writer Holly Martins arrives at the request of a long time-friend, Harry Lime. However, he soon finds out that Harry Lime has recently died in a car accident under mysterious circumstances, so he decides to start investigating his possible murder through the versions of Lime's associates and some visual witnesses, versions that do not coincide with each other. The version of the flat's porter states that two known friends of Lime carried his body with the help of a "third man", a man whose face the porter could not identify. The film received 3 Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing and Best Director, winning only the first Oscar and losing the last one against Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950). It also won the Grand Prize of the Festival at the Cannes Film Festival.

The most mentioned and discussed quality of The Third Man has been its decently developed cinematography. Although it is not as glorious and masterful as the definition of cinematography provided by classic Japanese films, it helps the streets of Vienna to shine in their most suspenseful way, like if the filming locations became alive and slowly started revealing multiple secrets that the darkest corners hide from the characters. A most genius editing is present all the way through, highlighting the suspense the movie implicitly has and strengthening the mysteriousness of the incongruence that the versions of the characters regarding the death of Lime have. The movie possesses a highly literary connotation, awarding a patient audience with the ability of decomposing the emotions and deepest possible thoughts of each character without the necessity of resorting to a deep and macabre voiceover. The masterful direction the film was subject to and the expectedly unexpected appearance of Harry Lime on screen, character played by Orson Welles, is a breathtaking moment not just because of how the film is divided into two separate and very distinct chapters, but because of the technical aspects that owe credit to a hypnotizing and balanced use of light and darkness and an extreme close-up that has no mercy towards the viewer. It is unexpected in the sense that the story and pace are handled with thrill and emotion. It is expected in the sense that Orson Welles is credited in the cast as Harry Lime, an aspect that motivates the audience to psychologically create a falsely effective sensation of surprise despite that it was meant to happen.

Slightly borrowing the narrative structure and written talent of Citizen Kane (1941), The Third Man contains every single essential element a good old film-noir requires: a grand twist, amazing visuals, a cold-blooded antagonist that disguises his personality with an empathetic charm and a great style of behaving, a Czech femme fatale and a watchable protagonist whose constant search for the truth is clouded with the maliciousness of the surrounding people. The introduction of the post-WWII era may be the excuse for justifying the dubious intentions of each and every one of Lime's acquaintances... and what a genius excuse it is! Carol Reed orchestrates a wonderful farce and the strong vibe that Welles transmits with his mere presence is indescribable. The musical score is effective enough to guarantee a mischievous cinematic ride, culminating in one of the most memorable sequences in cinema history: an endless chase through the nowadays revered sewer passages. The stupendous performances by Joseph Cotton, Anna Schmidt as Alida Valli, and Orson Welles magnify the influential proportions that the movie applied to its genres with no difficulty.

The Third Man is the breathtaking result of the work of several talented artists, from the delicate direction of Carol Reed, a director that was not very famous in the US, to Robert Krasker's multiphacetic photography. One risen hand questioning the particularly American perspective applied by Reed, not to mention the instant archetype that the film immediately meant for American cinema, is totally allowed. Nevertheless, its approach to a devastated Europe was not a subject particularly supported by the US, usually rejecting any filmic project with either partial or total neorealist depictions. Ruins and rubble are literally shown during the opening sequence, and it is the atmospheric catastrophe Europe has been recently subject to the one that offers a feeling of lack of control and goodness concerning the particular plot of the film. Charade has often been called as "the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never did". On a personal note, I would switch that movie description to The Third Man any day, especially because of the amazing early talent that UK Hitchcock films had in the 30's. The Third Man is a non-pulp fiction crime gem which story gets better with each viewing. The analysis of the context and story of it may not have a significant background mainly because of Carol Reed's mostly unknown filmography, but the power he first applied to The Fallen Idol (1948) has been maximized and taken to a definition of cool that few films of the 40's contained.

100/100
103
Akahige (Red Beard) 1965,  Unrated)
Akahige (Red Beard)
"The pain and loneliness of death frighten me. But Dr. Niide looks at it differently. He looks into their hearts as well as their bodies."

AKAHIGE (1965)


Director: Akira Kurosawa
Country: Japan
Genre: Drama
Length: 185 minutes

Akahige,Red Beard,Akira Kurosawa,Toshiro Mifune,Japan


Akahige is, simply, one of a kind. Regardless of the motivations that the multiphacetic Japanese master had in mind, one thing that has remained clear even nowadays is that he aimed towards a different perspective. He required a perspective that exalted humankind at its highest and most moralistic point. The protagonists were no longer drawn into epic battle scenes; ambitious lords were no longer the main characters; samurais did not abound in the screen anymore. Kurosawa's masterpiece is about the perseverance of the human condition and ends up becoming an incredibly powerful learning experience. Toshirô Mifune is back assuming a different leading role, yet mirroring the past personalities he had incarnated. Kurosawa may be an effusive sentimentalist but, during those decades, the Golden Age of cinema had that particular characteristic, a remarkable and unrepeatable capacity to move the hearts of worldwide audiences, to invite them to deep self-reflection and to make an eternal, unforgettable reservation inside their hearts, despite this being the last collaboration between Kurosawa and Mifune.

Akahige is set in the nineteenth-century Japan and focuses on the story of the young recent medical graduate Dr. Noboru Yasumoto who is assigned to work in the Koshikawa clinic for his post-graduate medical training. The non-profit health facility is ruled by the demanding and strict Dr. Kyojio Niide, known as "Red Beard", a man who will indirectly help Yasumoto to accept the crude reality of the impoverished surroundings in order to become a more objective man. In the process, Niide will be subject to several strong life lessons and his monastic lifestyle and emotionally careless patient treatment will become a challenge to surpass. Director Akira Kurosawa was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1965, losing it against Luchino Visconti for his film Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa... (1965). However, he won the OCIC award and actor Toshirô Mifune won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.

What may attract the attention of the film fan the most before seeing this timeless gem is its running time. However, the film retakes the heartwarming melodramatic roots that were present in the humanity of Rashômon (1950) and in the honesty of Ikiru (1952), and transforms them into a giant drama, giant in size and epic in scope. The typical ruthless and nearly emotionless Mifune we got used to has returned; however, a very interesting dose of humanism has been added to his persona. Kurosawa has the attractive habit of assigning psychological features to the characters of his films for then making them to collision in an extraordinary web of events. He also tends to construct rather humorous counterparts. Akahige is no exception. The film is plagued with moral lessons that appeal both the Eastern and the Western culture, and it intentionally pays a lot of detail to the patients inside the clinic. Moreover, the respective attitudes of Yasumoto and Niide are drastically different.

The performances are inspirationally astounding. The film goes from one patient to the next, while we experience nostalgic flashbacks of a devastated and obscure Japan where sadness and solitude seem to be stronger elements than the poverty itself. If this wasn't enough, we see their testimonies and ultimately depressing stories through the eyes of Yasumoto, stories that cover events from the loss of an eternal love in the rainy streets to incredibly traumatic incidents. And so begins the molding of Yasumoto's fate, greatly helped by the disciplinary and narrow-mindedly precise habits of Dr. Niide. Our perspective towards the world suffers exactly the same process that involves gathering the personal anecdotes of individuals who have seen the varied faces of a modern existence and taking the most productive and thoughtful aspects for personal benefit. The surrounding environment is under poverty-stricken life conditions, emphasizing the futility of materialism and the importance of benign and truthful humanity. Yasumoto suffers a great transition, from being a man who involuntarily fainted after seeing exposed guts to a growing man who is accepting the outcomes of his fate, a fate he decided to survive several years before. Naturally, a believable dose of comedy ensues when we see the straightforwardness of Niide disagreeing with the immature arrogance and proud of the young graduate in a nonconforming way. Nonetheless, Akahige divides itself in two separate chapters for introducing us to an emotionally unsatisfied Japanese society in the first half, and unfolding the behavioral changes that the protagonists must work on after going through a strictly visual and non-skeptical process of serious maturity and meaningful realizations during the second half.

The evolution of the technical aspects that Kurosawa applied during the 50s is not lost. He seems to have a certain visual obsession with rain, always assigning it several background roles. It served the purpose of a catastrophic isolation and utter disappointment towards the nature of man in Rashômon (1950); it emphasized the existentialist epiphany of the main character in Ikiru (1952); it created a gloriously epic atmosphere in the climatic battle sequence of Shichinin no Samurai (1954). This time, the rain suggests the great unpredictability of life and its unstoppable pace when seen as an irreversible sequence of significant events. Rain is there to enhance joy, or it is there