Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Discoveries '05.

Mmmm... more lists. This time I'm posting my favorite "old" films that I saw for the first time in 2005.

  • The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)
    I'm cheating right off the bat. I'd seen The Birds years ago, but my second viewing was such a completely different experience that I might as well've been seeing it for the first time. I was completely unprepared for how truly frightening and complex and smart it really is. The bold narrative loop-de-loops (it begins as a romantic comedy morphs into family drama then into a slowburning thriller and finally an outright horror film) coupled with that saturated Technicolor palette and Tippi Hedren's mutant variation on the Hitchcock blond in the lead... Bliss.

  • The Conformist (Bertolucci, 1970)
    The best film I saw all year and one of the greatest I've ever seen. In a year where critics are fawning over the pop-politics of Syriana and Crash, Bertolucci puts them to shame decimates them.

  • The Devil Thumbs a Ride (Feist, 1947)
    I randomly Tivo'd this nasty bit of noir-bile when it was shown as part of TCM's night of hitchhiking movies. I loved every delicious/evil moment. A word of advice: if you've had one too many to drink and Lawrence Tierney asks for a ride back to Los Ang-el-eese, don't do it.

  • Elevator to the Gallows (Malle, 1958)
    Français refroidissez à une crête tôt.

  • The Fallen Idol (Reed, 1948)
    A criminally overlooked film from Carol Reed (via a Graham Greene short story) that manages to be both an unsentimental look at childhood and an unbearably tense thriller.

  • Fanny & Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
    One word: thunderous. One more: perfect.

  • Pickup on South Street (Fuller, 1953)
    This is what struck me about South Street: it's a hardboiled procedural, but Fuller infuses it with such heart and empathy that you forget how nasty it can be.

  • Le Samourai (Melville, 1967)
    Suddenly the zen-pulp of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog doesn't seem so special considering Melville perfected it thrity years prior.

  • The Small Back Room (Powell & Pressburger, 1949)
    Alcoholism and post-war paranoia as refracted through the Archers's prism; smaller in scale when compared to P&P's Technicolor masterpieces, but no less epic.

  • Spider (Cronenberg, 2002)
    You know how everyone feels about A History of Violence? That's how I feel about Spider. It's a brainy and ice-cold bit of stunt-filmmaking anchored by the superb Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richards in a shattering performance that's a career highpoint.


At 3:52 PM, Blogger girish said...

Spider gets my award for the most outrageously underappreciated English-language film of recent years.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Seriously! I can't believe the silence. (The one exception: Amy Taubin.)

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Tuwa said...

Fanny and Alexander is one of my favorite films ever.

Spider, on the other hand ... I remember watching it and then sitting there awhile thinking something along the lines of "um ... okay." I think I didn't get it, really. Maybe you and/or Girish will post about it? :-)

At 4:52 PM, Blogger girish said...

Actually, Ben, that would be two.

At 11:06 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

Man do I love Spider. It was so harrowing and smart and horrific. I just think it slipped through a lot of people's fingers because it wasn't, on the surface, very Cronenbergian. If one just peeps under the covers, though, it's as gruesome and visceral as anything the man has done.

And, while I do love AHOV, Spider is still better. By miles.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Sam said...

a Criterion fan, then, uh? :P
huge thumbs up on South Street. saw it back in 2004 and i've been itching to get it ever since.


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