640. Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (1984) Dir. Edgar Reitz, 924 mins.
Shot in 35 mm, the sixteen hour epic TV series depicts over sixty years, beginning 1919 and ending in 1982, German political history through its impact on family life in the fictitious German rural village of Schabbach in the Rhineland. A revisionist film, Reitz pursues history in terms of personal stories, seeking to restore a sense of continuity to the discontinuous and fragmented history of Germany. He integrates the Hitler regime into the lived experiences of the simple, unpolitical German villagers who consequently appear more as victims than anywhere near participants in the Third Reich. Becoming the most widely known and critically acclaimed history film of New German Cinema, it features remarkable attention to detail in its reconstructions of the various historical periods. It was screened as a film in two parts in European film festivals and all major German cities in the summer of 1984 before its release on TV.
639. The New Land (1972) Dir. Jan Troell, 204 mins.
In a sequel to Troell’s 1971 film The Emigrants, Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as the Swedish immigrants establishing their home in Minnesota, during the Dakota War of 1862. With totally believable characters and stunning photography The New Land makes for brilliant and compelling cinema.
638. The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) Dir. Wojciech Has, 182 mins.
Based on the novel by Jan Potocki and set during the Napoleonic Wars, two officers from opposing sides find a manuscript in a deserted house, which tells the tale of the Spanish officer’s grandfather, Alphonso van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski). Van Worden travelled in the region many years before, being plagued by evil spirits, and meeting such figures as a Qabalist, a sultan and a gypsy, who tell him further stories, many of which intertwine and interrelate with one another.
637. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) Dir. David Yates, 130 mins.
The eighth and final instalment of the massively successful Harry Potter franchise follows Harry’s continuing quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes in order to stop him once and for all. It’s a hugely entertaining and visually strong finale that may just be the best of the series and features a terrific ensemble cast, including Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort and Alan Rickman as the unfortunate but ultimately redeemed Professor Snape.
636. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Dir. Wes Anderson, 87 mins.
Anderson’s first full length animation, using stop-motion effects, is about a fox (voiced by George Clooney) who steals food each night from three mean and wealthy farmers, despite promising his wife (Meryl Streep) he’ll stop his chicken thievery. The farmers have become so fed up with Mr. Fox’s theft that they try to kill him, digging their way into the foxes’ home, but the animals are able to outwit the farmers and live underground. While the American accents don’t seem right for an adaptation of Roald Dahl and the female characters are under used, Anderson’s amusing tale successfully channels the writer’s darkly comic humour.
635. Eastern Promises (2007) Dir. David Cronenberg, 100 mins.
An exploration of violence and identity, Cronenberg’s gripping gangster thriller tells the story of a Russian-British midwife, Anna (Naomi Watts), who delivers the baby of a drug-addicted 14-year old Russian prostitute who dies in childbirth. After Anna learns that the teen was lured into prostitution by the Russian Mafia in London, the Russian gangsters threaten the baby’s life to keep Anna from telling the police about their sex trafficking ring. Soon she herself is under threat from the temperamental mobster (Vincent Cassel) and his driver (the excellent Viggo Mortensen). Particularly notable for the atmospheric cinematography and the visceral fight scene in a Turkish baths.
634. The Revenant (2015) Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 156 mins.
The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and Iñárritu is based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, describing frontiersman Hugh Glass’s experiences in 1823.
633. The Fly (1986) Dir. David Cronenberg, 95 mins.
Another visceral horror from the master, David Cronenberg that’s loosely based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name. The film tells of an eccentric scientist (Jeff Goldblum) who, after his molecular teleportation experiment goes wrong, slowly mutates into a fly-hybrid creature. Like some of Cronenberg’s earlier output the film addresses his fears of illness and deformity and even with the horrifying gore, he manages to find poignancy and humour, helped greatly by Goldblum’s sensitive performance.
632. Kin-Dza-Dza (1986) Dir. Georgiy Daneliya, 135 mins.
A dystopian comic satire that follows two Russians, a gruff construction worker and a Georgian student, who find themselves transported to an alien landscape after pushing the wrong button on a strange device. They’ve ended up on a planet named Pluke, a barren desert world that’s home to an oppressive bureaucratic society and where the humanoid inhabitants are telepathic. An imaginative cult sci-fi that parodies Russian society with the sort of absurdist humour that could be classed as Pythonesque.
631. The Secret in their Eyes (2009) Dir. Juan José Campanella, 127 mins.
The Argentine-Spanish crime drama depicts a judiciary employee and a judge in 1974 as they investigate a rape and murder case that turns into an obsession for all the people involved, while also following the characters 25 years later reminiscing over the case and unearthing the buried romance between them. Full of excellent performances and with an unpredictable narrative, the film is well on its way to becoming a classic of world cinema. It placed 91st on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.
630. The Twilight Samurai (2002) Dir. Yoji Yamada, 129 mins.
Set in mid-19th century Japan, a few years before the Meiji Restoration, it follows the life of Seibei Iguchi, a low-ranking samurai employed as a bureaucrat. Poor, but not destitute, he still manages to lead a content and happy life with his daughters and his mother who has dementia. Through an unfortunate turn of events, the turbulent times conspire against him.
629. Safety Last! (1923) Dir. Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor, 70 mins.
With Safety Last, star Harold Lloyd introduced the special style of comedy of thrills with which his name became always associated with. It’s the story of an average country boy trying to make good in the big city. The Boy (Lloyd) leaves his sweetheart, The Girl (Mildred Davis, later the real-life Mrs. Lloyd) in Great Bend while he pursues his fortune in a teeming metropolis. The film’s famous final third sees Lloyd attempting to scale the side of skyscraper.
628. Apollo 13 (1995) Dir. Ron Howard, 140 mins.
The film depicts astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise aboard Apollo 13 for America’s third Moon landing mission. En route, an on-board explosion deprives their spacecraft of most of its oxygen supply and electric power, forcing NASA’s flight controllers to abort the Moon landing, and turning the mission into a struggle to get the three men home safely. Howard delivers a detailed and compelling true story of what happened to the crew of the seemingly doomed mission and is helped along by strong performances and a terrific soundtrack from James Horner.
627. Dead Man (1995) Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 121 mins.
A western black comedy, shot in black and white, about a city slicker clerk (Johnny Depp) who goes to a wild west town to take an accountancy job and, after accidentally killing a man, ends up a gunfighter on the run with an enigmatic Indian buddy in the Northwest wilderness. It’s as odd as one would expect from Jarmush, but there are some memorable sequences and an interesting and well used supporting cast that includes Robert Mitchum, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne and Iggy Pop.
626. Fireworks (1997) Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 103 mins.
Writer/director Takeshi Kitano plays a beleaguered policeman, Nishi, whose life is falling apart around him. His daughter was murdered, his wife is dying of leukemia, and his partner was ambushed by gangsters and paralysed. Nishi further complicates his situation by borrowing money from the Yakusa so that he can quit his job and spend more time with his wife. Fascinating, unique and with brutal flashes of violence, Fireworks helped transform Kitano’s reputation into that of a serious filmmaker in his native Japan.
625. Alphaville (1965) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 99 mins.
Set in the future and shot entirely on location in Paris, using high contrast super fast black and white film, Alphhaville is a dystopian thriller in which a totalitarian society is ruled by the computer ‘Alpha 60’. It’s both a stylized sci-fi adventure and a social myth about the competing claims of human love and new technology.
624. Spartacus (1960) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 184 mins.
Kirk Douglas dominates Kubrick’s sword and sandal epic as the gladiator who defies an empire. Having worked with Kubrick on Paths of Glory, it was Douglas, also executive producer on Spartacus, who hired him to replace Anthony Mann after only the first week of shooting. The film was the most expensive made in the US up to that time, and the only one that Kubrick didn’t have complete artistic control over. However, despite some creative battles, he was still able to bring out his masterful cinematic techniques and intellectual ambitions within an industry framework.
623. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Dir. Stanley Kramer, 179 mins.
Set in Nuremberg in 1948, the film depicts a fictionalised version of the Judges’ Trial of 1947, one of the twelve U.S. military tribunals during the Subsequent Nuremberg trials. The tribunal, led by Chief Trial Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), sees four German judges and prosecutors (as compared to 16 defendants in the actual Judges’ Trial) stand accused of crimes against humanity for their involvement in atrocities committed under the Nazi regime. The film deals with non-combatant war crimes against a civilian population, the Holocaust, and examines the post-World War II geopolitical complexity of the actual Nuremberg Trials.
622. Pixote (1981) Dir. Hector Babenco, 128 mins.
The plot revolves around Pixote (Fernando Ramos da Silva), a ten year old boy living on the streets of Sao Paulo, who is used as a child criminal in muggings and drug transport. Babenco delivers an hallucinatory vision with an uncompromising realism that offers no easy solutions to the plight of Pixote and his fellow street boys. The story takes on further resonance with the knowledge that six years after the film da Silva was killed in a shoot out with police.
621. Z (1969) Dir. Costa-Gavras, 127 mins.
One of the most highly praised political films of the post-war era, Costa-Gavros’s thriller presents a thinly fictionalised account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. It’s fast paced action cinema and a satirical attack on Greece’s military junta who ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.