We’re only ten days into the new year and I’ve already seen at least five films that could be considered masterpieces. I’ve also knocked off two films from my Blind Spot 2017 series, one discussed here and another that I hope to write up soon.
Brief Encounter (1945) David Lean
Previously discussed here as part of my Blind Spot 2017 Series
A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
Flicker Alley Blu-ray (0:15)
The Extraordinary Voyage (2011) Serge Bromberg, Eric Lange
Flicker Alley Blu-ray (1:18)
When Flicker Alley announced last month that its Blu-ray release of A Trip to the Moon (1902) was going out of print and that they were offering it at a discount, I jumped on it fast. (The discount has since expired, but you can still get the Blu-ray.)
Anyone who loves and appreciates film already knows what an important place A Trip to the Moon holds in cinematic history, so I’m not going to belabor the point here. The work is only 15 minutes long, but it is amazing it what it does, how it does it and how it continues to influence films over 100 years later. For modern audiences watching the film who may not “get it” or may dismiss it as a charming relic from ancient history, I urge them to watch the documentary also included on the Blu-ray, The Extraordinary Voyage (2011) which not only explores the life of Georges Méliès, creator of A Trip to the Moon, but also details the process and importance of film restoration better than any other documentary I’ve seen. If you love movies, this is a must-own, not only for yourself, but also to show others.
The Boss (1956) Byron Haskin
We’re used to seeing John Payne as a sort of everyman trapped in situations not of his own making, trying to find freedom, redemption, etc. It’s a bit jarring to find him here as a World War I veteran coming home to take the controls of a political machine from his brother (Roy Roberts), and becoming a real nasty. Although this may be Payne’s most unlikable role, it’s also perhaps his finest performance. The film features a Dalton Trumbo screenplay and an early performance by Joe Flynn, who was in about a zillion TV shows during the 50s and 60s, most notably McHale’s Navy.
Hell or High Water (2016) David Mackenzie
Lionsgate DVD – library (1:42)
Previously discussed here
In a Lonely Place (1950) Nicholas Ray (5x)
The Great Movies – library (1:34)
I previously discussed this amazing film during my Noir City DC stint last year, but wanted to show the film as part of our Great Movies series at the library. 34 people braved the weather on a nasty, snowy night to see the film and discuss it afterward. Only four of those people had previously seen it and I’m still getting comments from people who loved the film. If you haven’t seen it, you must.
Black Narcissus (1947) Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Criterion Blu-ray (1:40)
With each Powell and Pressburger film I see, I keep thinking, “These guys just can’t top themselves any further” and yet they do. Black Narcissus certainly deserves far more space than I have time to devote to it here, so I’ll only say that this story of a group of Anglican nuns being placed in a remote Himalayan mountainside dwelling examines so many themes and emotions you could write dissertations about them. The use of Technicolor combined with Jack Cardiff’s brilliant cinematography will literally steal the breath from your body.
La La Land (2016) Damien Chazelle
Regal Waugh Chapel Stadium 12 & IMAX (2:08)
Previously discussed here
Napoléon (1927) Abel Gance
BFI Blu-ray (Region B) (5:32)
I’m not even going to try. The first 15 minutes of the film alone will knock you into the middle of next week and it just gets more impressive as you watch for over five more hours, a stretch of time that feels more like 15 minutes. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start talking about this monumental masterwork. Maybe after I’ve seen it again I’ll be able to give this a full review. I’ll just say that you simply must see it.
Currently the film is available only through a release from BFI, a Region B release that requires a region-free Blu-ray player. There are rumors that a U.S. release is coming, but some of those same rumors claim that the film may look and will certainly sound different (with a different soundtrack). Silent film historian Kevin Brownlow should be given an award (or several) for spending the last 50 years of his life piecing together and restoring the film. See it and you’ll understand why.
Paris When It Sizzles (1964) Richard Quine
DVD – library (1:50)
I’m afraid it’s a case of Paris When It Fizzles… This story about womanizing screenwriter Richard Benson (William Holden) and Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn), the temp secretary hired to type his newest script, is cute for awhile, but gets tiresome quickly. If you want to see these two together, watch Sabrina (1954) instead. (Apologies to my friend J. who loves this one. Sorry, J….)
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) Anatole Litvak
Warner DVD (1:27)
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse is an odd little crime picture that works due to the charm of Edward G. Robinson, which makes your suspension of disbelief a little more reasonable than it would be otherwise. Robinson plays the titular doctor who decides to study and hang out with a group of dangerous criminals, helping them plan and commit jewel robberies while taking notes on how crime affects them psychologically, physiologically, and emotionally. All in the name of science, you understand. The film never takes itself too seriously but neither does it aim for something completely over-the-top. Robinson, of course, was a well-established name at this point, but Humphrey Bogart – even though this was his 16th film after The Petrified Forest (1936) – is still given only a supporting role as the leader of the gang. (This first picture might make you think we’re in film noir territory, but we’re really not, although it’s a great shot.)
L’Avventura (1960) Michelangelo Antonioni
I’ll cover this film in my next Blind Spot 2017 post
Photos: Ravepad, O’Brother, Toronto Film Society, Once Upon a Screen, Daily Grindhouse, BFI, ithankyou, Making Nice in the Midwest, Alex on Film