|Raise the Red Lantern
|Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli
|Singin' in the Rain
|Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
|Mad Max: Fury Road
|On the Waterfront
|In the Mood for Love
|Wong Kar Wai
Katsuhiro Otomo somehow managed to take his sprawling manga and condense it into a two-hour movie that kept the central themes of the source material with a focused narrative married to some of the most explosive action scenes ever imagined. Everything about this is intoxicating, from the animation to the sound design and music. Blew my mind the first time I saw it and on every subsequent watch since.
Raise the Red Lantern
An achingly beautiful film about betrayal, cruelty, and the patriarchy. Zhao Fei’s cinematography is glorious and Gong Li gives her finest performance as a woman trying to navigate the plots and machinations of her wealthy husband’s scheming concubines.
Seven Samurai was the most expensive film ever made at Toho when it was released, eight months behind schedule and massively over-budget. Kurosawa's film is a sharp critique of the feudal system and a thrilling action adventure. Takeshi Shimura exudes patience and wisdom as the leader of the seven, but its Toshiro Mifune's unbridled energy as the rowdy Kikuchiyo that stands out. His furious denunciation of the cruelty of Japan's rigid class system is one of cinema's greatest humanist speeches, delivered almost direct to camera, right up there with Chaplin's monologue in The Great Dictator.
Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli
A tragedy worthy of opera, Rocco and His Brothers is a gut-punch of a movie. In Renato Salvatori’s performance as the selfish and destructive Simone, there’s a portrait of toxic masculinity long before anyone coined the term. Stylistically, Visconti moves between stark neorealism in the portrayal of economic migrants seeking a better life in the city, offset against the grand melodrama of the love triangle between the two brothers at the centre of the story, played by Alain Delon and Salvatori, and Annie Girardot’s doomed prostitute Nadia.
Singin' in the Rain
Kelly and Donen’s musical is a parade of delights. From Donald O’Connor’s magnificent slapstick-filled routine in 'Make 'Em Laugh', to the ravishing set design of 'Broadway Melody', and the irresistible charm of Kelly’s performance of the title song, it’s 103 minutes of joy.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Miller takes a spectacular, high-octane action film and crafts it into a story about reproductive rights and smashing the patriarchy. It shouldn’t work at all, but it’s magnificent. Tom Hardy might play the title character, but Charlize Theron drives away with this one as the indefatigable Imperator Furiosa.
Chaplin’s final screen outing in the Little Tramp persona sees him taking on the impact of industrialisation on the working class, expressed eloquently when the tramp becomes literally trapped inside the huge cogs of a machine. As cinema transitioned out of the silent era, Modern Times marked Chaplin’s first use of dialogue onscreen, although in Chaplin’s typically adventurous, unconventional form, when the audience finally hears the Tramp’s voice, he’s singing total gibberish as the character improvises the lyrics to a song. While the Tramp rotates between prison and employment and life seems a constant struggle, Modern Times remains stubbornly hopeful and hilarious.
On the Waterfront
Kazan’s portrait of violence and corruption amongst the longshoreman’s union in New Jersey is like touching a raw nerve. Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb’s performances are vital and primal in their intensity, with Cobb bristling with the constant promise of violence. Brando’s "I coulda been a contender" speech has been referenced and imitated so often that it’s easy to underestimate the visceral power of that scene, and how Brando and Rod Steiger so deftly express the sadness of the two brothers who find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict between the dock workers and the mob.
Masaki Kobayashi’s chanbara film is an unflinching examination of man’s inhumanity to man, with a powerhouse performance by Tatsuya Nakadai as a destitute ronin who presents himself at the estate of a wealthy samurai clan asking permission to use their grounds to perform the act of ritual suicide. A veteran of World War II whose work expresses a profound anger about Japan's imperial leaders, Kobayashi’s film is a scathing assault on militarism and a society that serves to protect prestige and reputations above human lives. The sword fights are masterpieces of tension and release, expertly staged and choreographed, but the film ultimately rejects violence as futile. Nakadai’s lone swordsman can never topple an unjust society, however skilled he may be with a blade. A devastating experience.
In the Mood for Love
On the one hand, In the Mood for Love is typical of Wong Kar Wai’s oeuvre, with its unspoken feelings and unrequited love, as a pair of neighbours, played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung, realise their spouses are having an affair. Where Wong’s earlier films made extensive use of narration and internal monologues, here Wong trusts his cast to communicate their emotions through the smallest, most intimate details of their performances. The cramped alleyways and corridors of Hong Kong become the stage for a romance of exquisite bittersweetness, filmed in a fashion that can only be described as ravishingly beautiful. Maggie Cheung’s cheongsam dresses became instantly iconic hereafter.
Thanks so much for inviting me to participate!