|Wings of Desire
|Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
|La grande bellezza
Wings of Desire
The story of two angels in Berlin (wonderfully played by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander), Wenders' film co-written with the poet and playwright Peter Handke, has a curious emotional register - both melancholy and a lust for life. As well as capturing the atmosphere of the then still divided Berlin, Wenders' most accomplished film also comments on German history, on mortality, on what it means to love and to die as it follows one of the angels who falls to earth to experience what it is to be human. And you get to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds perform in a dark club, and Peter Falk as Peter Falk, actor and former angel.
Frequently described as 'psychedelic ghost story', Nobuhiko Obayashi's Hausu in fact resists description. School girls staying with a friend's aunt whose warm welcomes belies a bad magic, Hausu offers a new take on the haunted house genre. Heads separated from bodies talk when plucked from a well, one girl is devoured by a piano, another is consumed by hair creeping up from the bath, the rescuer turns into a pile of bananas - and all of this set to a jaunty soundtrack better suited to a 70s sorority romcom. Obayashi's film is not just an experiment in surrealism but one that arguably reveals something of the traumatic legacy of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan 30 years earlier.
Lang's careful direction is controlled, makes great use of the relatively new idea of sound in film, and pulls you in to a story in which, against all instincts, you pity Peter Lorre the tragic serial killer of children unable to resist his urges. An insight into urban life in the Weimar Republic with glimpses of the instincts and positions that would emerge more forcefully just a few years later.
The madness of ambition - both of the film's protagonist, played by Klaus Kinski with more tempered zeal than he often exhibited, and of the film's director, Werner Herzog. A perfect combination and collaboration of these two frenemies results in a film whose scale is epic, locations extraordinary, and technical feats as impressive as they were questionable.
The soundtrack. The effects. The performances. A vision of the future inflected with past references, four decades on Scott's future noir has barely dated. Much-referenced and parodied, Hauer's time to die speech delivered in the rain whilst clutching a dove, shouldn't work but it does - an elegiac quality that perfectly fits the film's melancholic mood.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Karel Reisz's kitchen sink drama film, an adaptation of Alan Sillitoe's 1958 novel still looks fresh more than sixty years on - and that's mainly down to Albert Finney's exuberant turn as Arthur Seaton, the mischievous self-centred rogue at the centre of the film. A film between times, it serves as a key moment between a dour post-war Britain and Britain on the cusp of the sixties. Finney's brash young man working hard and playing harder connects with other protagonists in other new wave films across Europe.
Transcending most film noirs Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard looks like a postmodern noir, so knowing is it of the genre's tics and sensibilities. Wonderfully shot by John F Seitz, it offers a stylish sometimes oppressive view of Hollywood and LA, more a city of shadows than of angels.
Some of the best ideas are those that seem the easiest: caring for her young child, Agnès Varda could only venture so far from her apartment . She moves as far along her street as the cables from her residence allow but it's far enough to capture a microcosm of Parisian life among the shopkeepers and clientele of Rue Daguerre. A great documentarr, one in which Varda's compassion and understanding for her subjects shines through.
Is it a film? Well, it's on film. Grapes, blimps. A vivid colour scheme, singular costumes. Dance. A curious dream-like musical revue, allusive and elusive, unlike anything else and yet informed by recognisable pop culture. It's the entry point for his astonishing Cremaster Cycle.
La grande bellezza
A modern classic. Indebted to those stylish Italian films of the sixties, Sorrentino's film almost looks like a period piece and yet is clearly the Rome of today. The city is both backdrop and protagonist, as much the star of film as Toni Servillo in the role of Jep Gambardella, the author and man about town, a tired flaneur who strolls the streets and muses on past and present.