TIFF via Craig from LivinginCinema released their 100 essential films. I’m only doing this post so that I can push back the other stuff I’m already working on/done. Lists like this are supposed to make me feel inferior, but as I’ve watched 48 of these already I kinda feel good about myself. But then, you know, I’m the only douchebag that wrote down a number, and tomorrow someone’s gonna say 72, or 81, or 90.
These are the ones I haven’t seen and will hope to see. This list and post also exists for the purpose of telling the four or five people who read this blog who actually know me in real life and telling them what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year, unless hindered by unexpected circumstances like bankruptcy, or worse, Rob Ford shutting down government institutions that supports the arts.
1 THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer) Seen parts in TCM.
3 L’AVVENTURA (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
5 PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson)
7 PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)
11 ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
13 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein) Clips in film class.
15 TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
19 L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)
20 CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore)
21 LA GRANDE ILLUSION (Jean Renoir) Parts at TCM.
23 PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman) Saw THAT part.
27 VOYAGE IN ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
29 CITY LIGHTS (Charlie Chaplin) Parts
31 SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
32 RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir – 2)
35 L’ARRIVÉE D’UN TRAIN À LA CIOTAT (Frères Lumiere Louis Lumière and Auguste Lumière)
37 LA JETÉE (Chris Marker) (parts on TCM)
39 NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais)
47 SALÓ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (Pier Paolo Pasolini) August 3!
48 THE SEVENTH SEAL (Ingmar Bergman – 2) Parts.
49 LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (Georges Méliès)
53 VIRIDIANA (Luis Buñuel)
54 LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Roberto Benigni) Saw the ending.
55 THE SORROW AND THE PITY (Marcel Ophüls)
57 THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE… (Max Ophüls) Parts on TCM.
59 THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (Abbas Kiarostami)
60 LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Marcel Carné)
63 JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray)
65 MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea)
67 SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger)
69 DUST IN THE WIND (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
70 SCHINDLER’S LIST (Steven Spielberg) Saw ‘Look at the snow!’
71 NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
72 CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee) Seen enough of it.
73 WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
75 CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch)
77 GREED (Erich von Stroheim)
79 JAWS (Steven Spielberg – 2)
81 THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith) Can’t wait for the picketing!
82 CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar Wai – 2)
87 ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky)
90 WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Douglas Sirk) Saw the beginning. Betty?
91 THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed) TCM has been dicking me on this movie.
94 BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier) Parts.
95 A NOS AMOURS (Maurice Pialat)
96 CLEO DE 5 A 7 (Agnès Varda)
97 ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Pedro Almodóvar)
99 OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook) My cousin Antoinette’s favourite.
100 PLAYTIME (Jacques Tati)
Inspired by Nick and Antagony via Nathaniel . Se nervous. It took me like a month of listing and can and can’t to do this. How do I even judge a great performance? Physicality? Double or triple threats? Filling the shoes of a memorable literary character? And I combine leading and supporting performances because I’m cool like that. Anyway, here goes –
Vivien Leigh. “Gone with the Wind,” as Scarlett O’Hara. Directed by David O. Selznick & George Cukor, 1939. Oscar winner.
I’m pretty sure I”m gonna be clobbered if I didn’t include her in the list. I tried not to, but I can’t help it. Watching the film means finding another great line that Leigh delivers, considering that she doesn’t have the best lines in the film (the honour would go to Melanie Wilkes). Of course, there’s watching Leigh in four hours going through different stages of Scarlett’s life, in different eras, and both actress and character fit well. She grows into an adult yet her eyes hint of childlike mischief. She’s a character, on paper, that we should love to hate, and yet we still love her.
Hattie McDaniel. “Gone with the Wind,” as Mamie. Directed by David O. Selznick, 1939. Oscar winner.
Writing this, I realized that Mamie’s often brings bad news. Most of the time, she’s the one to tell other characters whether a member in the family has died or is suffering. She’s also there to tell Scarlett if she’s making a mistake. She’s family whether Scarlett thinks otherwise., arguably Scarlett’s surrogate mother, feeding her and clothing her. In “Gone with the Wind, McDaniel puts some subtlety into crucial scenes not permitted to any actress of her race in any other movie at the time. McDaniel took on Mamie character with tragedy and comedy and ambiguity.
Bette Davis. “The Little Foxes,” as Regina Giddens. Directed by William Wyler, 1941. Oscar nominee.
Despite of the performance’s reputation, Davis doesn’t make her character that much of a monster. There’s honesty in Regina’s wish to give her only child Alexandra a better life she couldn’t have in her youth. Yet she’s an anti-Scarlett, or a more ruthless version of the Southern woman. She has the ability to attack after being vulnerable and cheated, has to do certain unspeakable things for her ambition and survival, crushes her family like enemies and in minutes she treat them like friends. All of that done with great finesse.
Moira Shearer. ‘The Red Shoes,” as Victoria Page. Directed by Michael Powell, 1948.
I apologize for the forthcoming use of adjectives and nouns, but who else can show youth and exuberance and pathos. She has this childlike quality, and her ambition for a dance career has thrust her into this adult world where people, sepcifically her boss (Anton Walbrook) and husband, would be pulling and tugging for her. I make it sound like a coming of age story, but Shearer’s performance shows the difference sides youth and the decay of that youth. She goes from rosy to fragile. That and being the quintessential pre-mod British girl holding our attention for at least fifteen minutes in that dance sequence.
Isuzu Yamada. “Throne of Blood,” as Lady Asaji Washizu. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1957.
This is Noh and Kabuki at its best. It’s also one of the most interesting interpretations of Lady Macbeth, as well as any royal consort who has to act through her man instead of being free to do so in her own right. The audience sees her sitting down, like in meditation, symbolic of someone so ingrained her own rhetoric and dragging down her devoted husband with her. She is calm as a person who helped her husband kill a man. Yet in public she is a gracious host and tries to behave as if she’s advising her husband and not suffocating him. She shows her as guiltless because those with guilt actually live through the end – she won’t. She spends the final act being tortured on earth. More conventional interpretations of the character shows her as hollowed out, yet Asaji is fully fleshed yet possessed. She’s a monster and not a queen.
Helen Mirren. “Age of Consent,” as Cora Ryan. Directed by Michael Powell, 1969.
Helen Mirren’s trademark is to show off her body, but she uses it in this movie to its fullest potential. When she’s skipping and posing on the beach or in the dirtiest places, trying to hide money from her tyrannic grandmother, she’s that kind of actress that you can tell her what to do or say and she’s game. Her Shakespearean training helps convey this class and strength, surprising for this feral child in the middle of nowhere, yet still make us believe that she’s innocent. No wonder James Mason’s character Bradley was attracted to her and wanted her as a muse. Like and unlike a Galatea-like character she professes her love for her man and she’s so certain of it that Bradley nor the audience can doubt it. Her accent work’s good too. Mirren’s later performances will be that on an ice queen, and we’ll probably never get something as invigorating as this performance from her again.
Faye Dunaway. “Network,” as Diana Christensen. Directed by Sidney Lumet, 1976. Oscar winner.
She knows how to walk into a room. To talk Max Schumacher’s (Billy Holden) ear off and let him just stand there and take it. Being a seductress yet frigid is a hard thing to pull off, and Dunaway does it. Her performance, especially the ending, makes its audience wonder whether she’s a victim or survivor. Max condemns her, that she’s probably gonna jump off from her corner office in a year or two. Yet she placidly and without hesitation plans for an assassination without Max’s words clouding her brain. Also, here and in any other movie, Dunaway is a master of modern American elocution. She doesn’t veer off in a fake British accent like most of her predecessors not does she talk like an accordion like most American actresses. She commands the other person so quickly yet doesn’t get them and the audience lost.
Helena Bonham Carter. “A Room with a View, ” as Lucy Honeychurch. Directed by James Ivory, 1985.
Bonham Carter’s work in this movie can arguably be that on an ingenue’s, but you know the Chinese proverb of an apprentice’s limitless possibilities. As Lucy, she goes on vacation in Italy to learn about art and culture and watch Italians fight, but her stature while absorbing this information that makes her less passive than any other character in that film. She speaks a certain way depending on her situation. She could be ghostly and trapped, childlike in her complaints, or assert to others that her conventional life makes her happy. There’s also that moment when she answers a crucial question and breaks down and becomes free, and is so matter of fact about that answer. Bonham Carter’s recent reputation as Tim Burton’s wife and muse also makes this early performance a discovery of how soft and subtle she could be.
Cate Blanchett. “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” as Meredith Logue. Directed by Anthony Minghella, 1999.
She’s a star even in her many supporting roles like this one. Watch Blanchett’s performance create a back story in a few seconds by a look, by simply flipping her hair and being swept by her surroundings. Meredith is one of the Americans in Venice, yet refreshingly not as jaded as her peers. She doesn’t just use her appearance to shape her role. That insufferable inflection as she calls Tom Ripley ‘Dickie’ is one of the most memorable parts of the film. Fact: Gwyneth Paltrow arguable stole Blanchett’s Oscar, and in return this movie gets Blanchett to steal Paltrow’s boyfriend.
Viola Davis. “Doubt,” as Mrs. Miller. Directed by John Patrick Shanley, 2008.
This wonderfully paced supporting work reveals so much about the shocking words coming from Mrs. Miller. Another way of talking about this scene stealing performance is that of a pressure cooker, a women dogged by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) until she explodes and tells the truth. She uses the words ‘caught’ and ‘nature’ not like innuendos but a natural part of an oppressive vocabulary. She makes herself understood. Remember that in the film version, their conversation happens in public and Davis doesn’t hush up nor careless go into histrionics. She doesn’t apologize for her presence and makes herself an equal by sharply telling Aloysius that she has to go back to her life, and to defending and loving her son without making the latter nor the audience think that she didn’t ask for him, as many fictional mothers like her do.
Sure, Scarlet O ‘Hara (Vivien Leigh), the (anti)heroine of “Gone With The Wind,” is the one getting the ‘bitch’ label and Mamie (Hattie McDaniel) has her share of berating Scarlett and trying to tell her what to do, but Melanie Hamilton Wilkes (Olivia de Haviland) had the best zingers. I would love to have known this character and the kind of bitchy stuff she would have said in confidence.
Olivia De Haviland is a star on her own right. It’s somehow baffling that she’d play second fiddle to Vivien Leigh and sometimes, Bette Davis. She portrays Melanie with such placidity that some in the audience might not notice the frankness in rebellion in her words. Like “Phil Meade, you hush your mouth. Do you think it will help your mother to have you off getting shot too? I never heard of anything so silly.”
One of her character traits is her persistence in protecting and defending Scarlet. Scarlet did save her life after all, something that the other characters around her has forgotten. When Scarlet shoots a Yankee, she drags her husband’s sword, if she’d be called to help. She tells Scarlet that she’s glad the latter killed him. Glad? Anyway, to hide this murder, she assures the others at Tara – “Don’t be scared, chickens. Your big sister was trying to clean a revolver and it went of and nearly scared her to death!”
I think Melanie’s held more deadly weapons than any other character in the movie, male or female. Again, she tries to defend Scarlet, who might be blamed for causing the males’ drunken behaviour and for her second husband’s death. Mellie finds her husband, Ashley (Leslie Howard) under arrest for drunkenness. I can’t believe that I missed her telling off the Yankee captain that ‘If you arrest all the men who get intoxicated in Atlanta, you must have a good many Yankees in jail, Captain.’ With rapid fire impatience from her this time. Her character’s a great observer, being a woman and a Southern wife of a former plantation owner in occupied Georgia. She knows how to behave in any circumstance.
People know Mellie for her kindness especially in her last days. Her last command to Scarlet, to ‘take care of Ashley,’ if we can indulge on some overreading, inadvertently sets off a series of events that somehow made sure that we’d never see Scarlet and Ashley together, nor Scarlet with her third husband Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Mellie and Scarlet might be best friends, but she keeps her husband, perhaps after her death.
Remember when John Wayne was hot?
With him is a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a whiskey peddler, a soldier’s wife, a Confederate gambler, and a banker. That’s pretty much a capsule representing The West, all of whom are stuck with each other in the titular “Stagecoach.”
I wanna focus on the female characters in this movie. There’s Mrs. Mallory, a woman who I decided to like because of her complexity, but boy was it hard to like her. Her determination is admirable as she goes on a suicide mission to see her husband deep in the West where the Americans and the Apache are in war. Also, the film shows her worry about her husband while upping the bitchy treatment towards Dallas the prostitute (Claire Trevor). Some of us may excuse her condescending attitude to Southern breeding, but she already decided to ride the coach with Dallas. Would it hurt if she was two places away from her on the dining table? Besides, I’ve always preferred the whore over the virgin because the former juggles love, compulsion and loyalty while the latter is disgruntled like Mallory is sometimes. What made me turn around to liking her is seeing these two separate emotions and states of mind switch within seconds and still the same person, a woman having to deal with a volatile environment while learning more about herself.
Dallas is a more straightforward character, deeply affected by societal rejection. Besides, if the Ringo kid (John Wayne) likes her we must follow suit. The film also drops the bomb that she’s an orphan, something that she and Ringo have in common. Like Mallory, she gets a little bitchy towards Ringo because she doesn’t deserve him, she’ll just end up breaking her own heart.
I don’t even know why I’m questioning if they’re great characters or not, since they both have one problem atop another and both use meanness as a crutch. Maybe having those problems are a surefire way for us to like them despite their flaws. Or perhaps we get to know their past as a way of compression and to balance out the growing up that they have to do in a short time. Does having one problem after another equal nuance? Sure. Happens to male characters all the time. They’re the best written women in the John Ford movies or even better than half of the female characters written then and now.
I also wanna talk about how the movie looks. It’s visually uneventful and even badly acted in the beginning, and the burned stagecoach stop could have had more gravitas, but we get a zoom towards Ringo and it’s one good shot and moment after another. Documentary-like shots of the horses dipping across a river, Hatfield the Southerner (John Carradine) pointing the gun at Mallory’s head in slow motion, the light on Ringo and Dallas capturing the romance and the fear. Orson Welles apparently said that all he needed to follow the shot schemes at “Stagecoach” for “Citizen Kane,” but I saw the John Ford film as a precedent for “Touch of Evil,” the chiaroscuro and speed in both films capturing the chaos and violence of the time.