Directed by Robert Rossen and released in it’s home country of America in 1961.
The Hustler is a film that most will be familiar with probably because of it’s main attraction – Paul Newman. Either way, it’s took me until now to see it.
It’s a film about a pool hustler (played incredibly well by the ever enigmatic Newman) whose only ambition is to be the best at pool. Word around town is that Minnesota Fats is the best in the country so he makes it his top priority to beat him – first time around he loses out after a rigorous 25-hour session between the two, which makes for such compelling viewing it really was directed perfectly. Along the way though, Newman’s “Fast Eddie” falls in love with a girl (played brilliantly by Piper Laurie, who is just the cutest) and makes and loses friends – the most notable of which is George C. Scott’s Burt Gordon, another of the just incredible performances in the film.
The Hustler is just a truly magnificent film that instantly clicked with me and I’m not even that big of a sports fan. The final ten minutes are just brilliant. Really brilliant.
The Decalogue is a 10-film series, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and broadcast on Polish television in 1989.
Dekalog I: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.
While each of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ten films in the Dekalog series are based on the Roman Catholic interpretation of the Ten Commandments I have to stay that this first film is the best display of religious themes I’ve ever seen. To add to that Kieslowski presents themes of death, mortality and morality to go along with that. The man is obviously a very talented director and he presents a clear and distinct vision with each of his films and this is no different even though it stands at a short 52 minutes, the film still manages to bring out emotions from the viewer. The performance from the young boy here is the stand out of the entire piece but his father does well to bring out his character too. I also liked how the film started at the end and as a result ended with the start – rounded it off very nicely.
Dekalog II: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
While the first film was directly about religion, this one is more about death and, on the opposite spectrum, birth. Our main character is a woman torn between her dying husband and her new lover with who she plans to leave if her husband dies. Our protagonist is also bearing a child but she isn’t sure if she wants to keep it. Throughout this 56 minute piece (longer than the first) we are presented with spellbinding performances from our leading woman and the Doctor taking care of her husband. In addition to this the cinematography is much better than the first – a lone shot of water dripping onto the dying man’s bed is later matched with a handheld shot which follows the water from the ceiling into a dirty pot, a shot which stands out in the entire piece. Not as good as the first piece but a great follow up.
Dekalog III: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
The third part of the Dekalog takes place on Christmas Eve and follows a taxi driver who is torn between spending it with his family and helping an old flame find her missing husband. In conjuction with two other Commandments (You shall not commit adultery and You shall not lie) our taxi driver goes with his old flame to help find her husband but they soon rekindle their love. The score here is the best it’s been so far in the Dekalog – it’s not exactly in every single scene but when it does play a part it’s beautiful and helps you feel the connection between these two characters. There isn’t much in the way of religious themes aside from the day it takes place on, this is a much more character driven piece. It’s also the first film in the series to interweave main characters – the father from the first piece appears very briefly at the beginning. Another great addition to the series, better than the second but I can’t say it’s better than the first.
Directed by Evan Glodell and released theatrically in it’s home country of America in 2011.
Independent cinema has always been the most interesting place in cinema’s history. It gave us Scorsese and DePalma in the 70s, Cronenberg and Jarmusch in the 80s and Tarantino and PTA in the 90s. The 2000s (or the Noughties) however haven’t really given us many new and talented filmmakers willing to push the medium to it’s fullest. That may be because of the rise in big-budget no-brainer Hollywood movies. But with Evan Glodell, however, this is all about to change.
Bellflower begins as a story of two best friends who are in preparation for the apocalypse. Equipping their car like something out of a James Bond movie and building themselves a flame thrower the likes you’ve never seen before. Quickly, our main character Woodrow (played by Glodell himself) finds a girl and falls in love. Even quicker though is how she cheats on him and leaves him for broke. I won’t go too much into the details of the plot but in terms of the overall film it is absolutely batshit insane.
The performances are, to be perfectly honest, horrible – albeit the two lead females are smoking hot! Even with horrible performances, this film is incredible. The cinematography is perfect and the colour-coding is outrageously gorgeous. I couldn’t get my head around how with such a little budget half of the stuff in this film was even pulled off. There hasn’t been a film like this in a long time and I really can’t wait to see what this guy does next.
The last twenty minutes are easily my favourite of any this year. Woodrow’s descent into madness almost reminds me of Jack Torrance in The Shining – and I think the performances are very easily comparable too. Obviously this doesn’t even begin to touch Kubrick’s masterpiece but I mean come on, this film is perfect in almost every single way.
I think that this can only get better upon rewatch. Just a phenomenal film that needs to be seen to be believed.
Directed by Vittorio De Sica and released in it’s home country of Italy in 1952.
Umberto D. is essentially a story about a man trying to come up with the money to pay his rent, but by the end of the film it becomes a film about an old man and his dog trying to make the most out of life.
The film is a brilliant character drama with an absolutely fantastic lead performance from Carlo Battisti as the titular character. Coincidentally, this was his first and last film and like quite a few of the other cast members, he was not an established actor at all. Another great performance in the film comes from a young lady named Maria – whom Umberto befriends – she is expecting but isn’t sure of the father.
There are some greatly explored themes of fatherhood and the relationship between man and animal and it touches upon other themes of health and how the general public looks after or doesn’t look after the elderly. The final scenes with Umberto and his dog feature some great single shots including one of Umberto backing away slowly as he’s trying to leave the country but can’t find anyone to take his dog. There’a also another where he attempts to put him in front of a fast moving train but bails at the last minute having a near death encounter himself and then the beautiful final shot of the two of them walking into the distance gleefully playing with each other.
I really felt a connection to the main character here and felt a nice resolution with him at the end of the piece.
Directed by Peter Hyams and released in it’s home country of America in 1984.
2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favourite films of all time. A perfect science fiction film that goes way past any expectations any first time viewer can ever expect from it. Perfect visuals and a spellbinding performance from it’s lead actor. This, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, is a sequel of sorts to 2001 and it has a much larger cast but in terms of quality it’s much less than that.
I can’t exactly say it’s a “worthy” sequel to it’s predecessor but I can say it’s an interesting take on the source novel – which I’m now desperate to read. The ending is fantastic and a great parallel to that which we saw in 2001. Obviously it doesn’t even begin to touch on the first but like I say it’s a decent sequel.
Great performances all round but surprisingly the effects in 2001 are MUCH better even though this was made 16 years later. I guarantee Kubrick despised this and not just because it was a sequel to his film but because of the film itself.
Also worth mentioning is how on the day I watch this scientists discover ‘shallow lakes’ on Jupiter’s moon Europa which, if any of you have seen 2010 will know, holds a pretty important place in the plot of this film.
It’s not a dumb sequel and I was very impressed with how they handled this.
Directed by Dennis Hopper, filmed in the country of Peru and released in the director’s home country of America in 1971.
Dennis Hopper has always been one of the most rebellious filmmakers and actors in American cinema, so it’s really no surprise that the film he would make directly after Easy Rider (his directorial debut and an incredibly unconventional film in itself) would be The Last Movie – another unconventional movie but this time he really stretches the structure of your typical Hollywood picture and the meaning of the word “unconventional”.
The movie starts out in Peru and on the set of a western being made by, none other than, Samuel Fuller. Hopper is only seen in the background mostly during the first half an hour of the film as a stunt man. The film being shot is full of violence and death and soon enough the shoot ends in a real death of one of the actors. The film wraps up but Hopper decides to stay in Peru and shack up with a local prostitute. As they begin to settle into their home in the mountains a priest approaches Hopper’s character and tells him that the villagers are re-enacting the scenes from the movie but for real. They’ve no idea that what they saw previously was all faked. Soon enough they’re asking Hopper to re-enact the part of the stunt man who died.
In the style of Easy Rider, Hopper edits rapidly and there are random cuts to things that aren’t really relevant to much but it all makes you feel like you’re right there in Peru with these villagers re-enacting these scenes. Hopper’s performance goes from emotional to drunk within seconds in some scenes and this really is a showcase of both his acting abilities and his directorial abilities. The wide cinematography looks like it’s taken right out of a John Ford movie, but then when the camera closes in and gets closer to the characters it looks like a filmmaker toying with his camera on his first film.
This really is a splendid film and it’s one that challenges the viewer to think, not once, not twice but three times about how a feature film should be presented and for the filmmaker viewers it challenges them to rethink the linear structure in which these films are made. It’s not like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction in it’s structure but it’s definitely similar to films like those that tell stories in this way and in that respect this film is miles ahead of it’s time.
Hopper’s next film Out Of The Blue, which I have already seen, was – after seeing this – the logical step for Hopper to go and I now am dying to rewatch that because I know I will like it much much more.
Directed by John Mackenzie and released in it’s home country of England in 1980.
People have been telling me to watch this for years and I’ve only now gotten around to it. Marvellous film. I’m glad I’ve been watching a lot of 80s horror films lately, because this film utilizes an electronic score also so it made me appreciate the score in this movie a lot more.
Incredible performances from both Helen Mirren and the sensational Bob Hoskins – the level of emotion he displays is really brilliant, I’ve always loved his work and this is definitely my favourite performance from him. So many brilliant scenes, I can’t write this up without mentioning the gang bringing in a bunch of guys to their hideout and then hanging them upside down in a meat factory. The camera is actually strapped to one of them as they are brought through the factory – really great technique and it works extremely well.
The ending is also spectacular, even though I saw a few things coming I think the inevitability of those events were probably intended. Masterpiece of British cinema and one of my favourite gangster films.