840. Night Train (1959) Dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 93 mins.
Two strangers, Jerzy (Leon Niemczyk) and Marta (Lucyna Winnicka), accidentally end up holding tickets for the same sleeping chamber on an overnight train to the Baltic Sea coast. Also on board is Marta’s spurned lover, who will not leave her alone. When the police enter the train in search of a murderer, rumours fly and everything seems to point toward one of the three as the culprit. Buy
839. Pepe le Moko (1937) Dir. Julian Duvivier, 94 mins.
The film follows Pepe le Moko, a well-known criminal mastermind, who eludes the French police by hiding in the Kasbah section of Algiers. He knows that he is safe in this labyrinthine netherworld, where he is surrounded by fellow thieves and cutthroats. Buy
838. Odd Man Out (1947) Dir. Carol Reed, 116 mins.
In the aftermath of a botched hold-up, intended to finance the activities of his IRA cell, a wounded Johnny McQueen takes shelter in the back-alleys of Belfast, a shadowy underworld where sanctuary is freighted at every moment with peril. Meanwhile, a vast police manhunt is launched, a net that closes steadily, remorselessly in upon him. Watch
837. Siberiade (1979) Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, 275 mins.
Spanning much of the 20th century, Konchalovsky’s Soviet epic takes place, primarily, in the small village of Yelan, which has lain hidden in the Siberian backwoods since time immemorial. The film revolves around two families, the relatively wealthy Solomins and the poor Ustyuzhanins, who live in Yelan and have been feuding for as long as anyone can remember. Buy
836. Hugo (2011) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 126 mins.
Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the magic of early cinema was his first use of 3-D. The film is an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s award-winning, imaginative best-seller, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” and follows a 12 year old boy who lives alone, after his father is killed, in the walls of the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris in the 1930s. The boy embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of a broken automation his father has left him. A charming and moving children’s tale that should appeal to all lovers of cinema. Watch
835. Good Will Hunting (1997) Dir. Gus Van Sant, 126 mins.
If you can accept the central premise and the predictable outcome there’s plenty to take from the Boston set drama about a 20-year-old labourer, Will Hunting, who is an unrecognised mathematical genius until his talent is discovered by a renowned MIT professor. Robin Williams is on Oscar winning form as the therapist who tries to help Hunting (Matt Damon) after he assaults a police officer. A real breakthrough for Damon, who also wrote the script with pal Ben Affleck. Watch
834. Hud (1963) Dir. Martin Ritt, 112 mins.
The film centres on the ongoing conflict between principled patriarch Homer Bannon and his unscrupulous and arrogant son, Hud, during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease putting the family’s cattle ranch at risk. Lonnie, Homer’s grandson and Hud’s nephew, is caught in the conflict and forced to choose which character to follow. Watch
833. A Face in the Crowd (1957) Dir. Elia Kazan, 125 mins.
The story centres on a drifter named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes who is discovered by the producer (Patricia Neal) of a small-market radio program in rural northeast Arkansas. Rhodes ultimately rises to great fame and influence on national television. Watch
832. Star Trek (2009) Dir. J.J. Abrams, 127 mins.
Managing to revitalise the Star Trek franchise, J J Abrams’s visually strong reboot follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard the USS Enterprise as they combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. The story takes place in an alternate reality because of time travel by both Nero and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Using big budget digital effects and the clever narrative, Abrams entertains enough to ensnare a new audience but also finds the right amount of nostalgia, particularly the presence of Nimoy, to please existing fans. Watch
831. La Chienne (1931) Dir. Jean Renoir, 91 mins.
Bleak, pessimistic and highly controversial (it wasn’t shown in the US until 1975), Renoir’s precursor of Italian neo-realism follows Maurice, a meek bank clerk and aspiring painter, who is trapped in a marriage with an abusive woman who mistreats him. After a work celebration, Maurice sees a young woman, Lulu, on the street being beaten by a man. He protects her and takes her home. Maurice soon falls in love with her, unaware that she’s a prostitute and that the man who was beating her is her pimp, Dede. Janie Pelletier gives a notable performance as Lulu, but didn’t get the chance to enjoy the acclaim, as just weeks after the film was completed she was killed in a car crash. Watch
830. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 114 mins.
The winner of the much coveted Grand Jury prize at Cannes, the film follows Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who, afflicted by acute kidney failure and convinced he will soon die, chooses to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears and brings him guidance, and his estranged son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave. Writer, producer and director Weerasethakul delivers an oddly unique dose of often profound magical realism that removes the boundaries between life and death and which has been recognised as one of the best films of the 2000s in several polls. More…
829. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Dir. Roberto Rossellini, 89 mins.
Written by Rossellini and Federico Fellini, the film dramatises about a dozen vignettes from the life of St. Frances of Assisi and his followers. Buy
828. Nanook of the North (1922) Dir. Robert J. Flaherty, 79 mins.
Operating on the border between fiction and documentary, the film captures the struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic. Seen at the time as a masterful depiction of a vanishing way of life, the director Flaherty was actually guilty of romanticisation and adapting the tale for the western audience. He had the Inuits dressed in traditional costumes they no longer used to reenact events they no longer practised. These people were certainly not the naive primitives he depicted as mystified by a simple record player as they actually fixed his camera, developed his film and actively participated in the film making process. Ultimately, Flaherty was more interested in the spirit of the Inuits rather than just recording what he witnessed and the film remains a landmark production for its part in the development of documentary cinema. Watch
827. Great Expectations (1946) Dir. David Lean, 118 mins.
After an anonymous patron provides him with an income, orphaned Pip sets out for the life of a young gentleman. But soon a criminal to whom Pip once showed kindness resurfaces, leading to some surprising revelations. With a polished look that was much appreciated in America, Great Expectations was one of several British films of the 40s to win an Oscar for their photography. Watch
826. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) Dir. Peter Weir, 138 mins.
The film takes place in 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Aubrey (Russell Crowe) of HM Frigate Surprise is ordered to pursue the French privateer Acheron and “burn, sink, or take her a prize.” Watch
825. The Proposition (2005) Dir. John Hillcoat, 104 mins.
In 1880s rural Australia, a British lawman (Ray Winstone) offers criminal Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) a difficult choice. In order to save his younger brother from the gallows, Charlie must hunt down and kill his older brother (Danny Huston), a dangerous sociopath who is on the run from the law for rape and murder. A revisionist western that’s both brutal and beautiful and features memorable performances particularly from Pearce. Watch
824. Hunger (2008) Dir. Steve McQueen, 96 mins.
Michael Fassbender delivers a brilliant and committed performance as Bobby Sands, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer and MP who led the second IRA hunger strike, in artist Steve McQueen’s potent debut. Watch
823. Spider-man 2 (2004) Dir. Sam Raimi, 127 mins.
The second of Raimi’s trilogy (and probably the best) is set two years after the events of the first and finds Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggling to juggle college classes and his job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle with carrying out his duties as Spider-man. Meanwhile Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) becomes a diabolical villain after a failed experiment kills his wife and leaves him neurologically fused to mechanical tentacles. Spider-Man must stop him from successfully recreating the experiment, which threatens to destroy the city. Propelled by exciting action and with plenty of humour, Spider-Man 2 is smarter and darker than its predecessor. Watch
822. The Passion of the Christ (2004) Dir. Mel Gibson, 127 mins.
Artistically audacious, Gibson’s controversial and visceral biblical drama primarily covers the final twelve hours of Jesus’ life. This includes the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the crucifixion and a brief depiction of his resurrection. Some critics found the brutal violence excessive and there were question marks around antisemitism, but many found The Passion of Christ a powerful and moving experience. Watch
821. The Legend of 1900 (1998) Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, 121 mins.
Tim Roth stars in the title role as a virtuosos musician born at sea, who leads a brilliant, but rather unconventional life staying entirely within the confines of a trans-Atlantic steamer. With a stunning score by Ennio Morricone, Tornatore’s charming fable, his first English-language film, has some magical moments enhanced by beautiful imagery. Watch