560. Ivan the Terrible, Part Two (1958) Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, 88 mins.
Made as being the second part of a projected trilogy, the film was banned by Russia’s Central Committee for portraying Ivan as an indecisive ruler and not the unifying hero of the first film, (he was shown to be too hesitant in killing his enemies). Part Two takes up the story of the complex leader (Nikolai Cherkasov) upon his return to Moscow from Alexandrov. Ivan must deal with a group of unfriendly boyars and becomes even more insulated after his mother is poisoned and an assassination plot is uncovered. With policy makers trying to reassert control of the arts and Eisenstein attacked by a wave of criticism, he was pushed into further poor health and isolation. The film was not shown until after the death of Stalin, by which time Eisenstein was also dead.
559. The Turin Horse (2011) Dir. Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky, 146 mins.
It recalls the whipping of a horse in the Italian city of Turin which is rumoured to have caused the mental breakdown of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
558. The Great Silence (1968) Dir. Sergio Corbucci, 105 mins.
Conceived by Corbucci as a politically-charged allegory inspired by the deaths of Che Guevara and Malcolm X, the film’s plot takes place in Utah prior to the Great Blizzard of 1899. It pits a mute gunslinger (Jean-Louis Trintignant), fighting in the defence of a group of outlaws and a vengeful young widow (McGee), against a group of ruthless bounty killers led by “Loco” (Klaus Kinski) and the corrupt banker Henry Pollicut (Pistilli).
557. 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.
556. Laura (1944) Dir. Otto Preminger, 88 mins.
Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), has been murdered. Tough New York detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates the killing, methodically questioning the chief suspects: Waspish columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), wastrel socialite Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), and Carpenter’s wealthy “patroness” Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson). The deeper he gets into the case, the more fascinated he becomes by the enigmatic Laura, literally falling in love with the girl’s painted portrait.
555. Ballad of a Soldier (1959) Dir. Grigoriy Chukhray, 88 mins.
While set during World War II, Ballad of a Soldier is not primarily a war film. It recounts, within the context of the war, the suffering and loss inflicted on ordinary Russians. It depicts various kinds of love, the romantic love of a young couple, the committed love of a married couple, and a mother’s love of her child, as a Red Army soldier tries to make it home during a leave, meeting several civilians on his way and falling in love.
554. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) Dir. Michael Curtiz, 97 mins.
The film chronicles the fictional rise and fall of the notorious gangster William “Rocky” Sullivan (James Cagney). After spending three years in prison for armed robbery, Rocky intends to collect $100,000 from his co-conspirator, mob lawyer Jim Frazier. All the while, Father Jerry Connolly tries to prevent a group of youths from falling under Rocky’s influence.
553. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) Dir. Sylvain Chomet, 80 mins.
The film tells the story of an elderly woman who goes on a quest to rescue her grandson.
552. The English Patient (1996) Dir. Anthony Minghella, 162 mins.
The film tells the tale of Count László de Almásy, who is burned from a plane crash and tells his past story in flashbacks involving a romantic affair while he is tended by a nurse (Juliet Binoche). Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott-Thomas play the ill-fated lovers.
551. Red River (1948) Dir. Howard Hawks, Arthur Rosson, 133 mins.
John Wayne revealed unsuspected depths in his portrayal of stoic patriarchal Texas rancher Tom Dunson. The film follows Dunson and his adopted adult son (Montgomery Clift), who are on the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Directed and produced by Howard Hawks, the film’s dramatic tension stems from a growing feud over the management of the drive, between Wayne’s character and Clift’s.
550. The Tale of the Crucified Lovers (1954) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 102 mins.
Set in 1693 during a period of rigid feudal hierarchy and strict social customs, the film unfolds in the estate of a miserly scroll maker named Ishun (Eitaro Shindo). While Ishun busies himself by harassing a comely worker named Otama (Yoko Minamida), Ishun’s wife, Osan (Kyoko Kagawa), is approached by her ne’er-do-well brother, Doki, who needs money. Knowing that there is no way that Ishun will agree to the loan, Osan turns to Mohei (Kazuo Shindo), Ishun’s most trusted clerk, for help and he agrees to use his master’s seal to allocate the funds.
549. Peeping Tom (1960) Dir. Michael Powell, 101 mins.
The notoriously vilified film was Powell’s most important outside of his prominent collaborations with Emeric Pressburger. The film follows the tormented son of a neurologist Mark Lewis (a chilling performance by Carl Boehm) who works as an assistant cameraman at a London film studio, but is also an amateur documentary maker, aspiring movie director and a part-time taker of pornographic pictures. His voyeuristic perversions lead him to murdering women while filming them, forcing his victims to view their own deaths in a mirror attached to his tripod equipped with a deadly protruding blade. At the time of release the film did not always connect with mainstream audiences and was attacked by many critics. As a result it was heavily cut and altered for overseas distribution. While it hugely damaged Michael Powell’s reputation, it has since been re-evaluated as a masterpiece of self-reflective perversity and been championed by the likes of Martin Scorsese.
548. Dunkirk (2017) Dir. Christopher Nolan, 107 mins.
Dunkirk portrays the evacuation from three perspectives: land, sea, and air. A visually powerful film with a narrative structure that will annoy some and as often goes with Nolan films it’s a little weak on the human drama.
547. Sanjuro (1962) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 96 mins.
Toshiro Mifune stars as a wandering samurai warrior who becomes the mentor for a bunch of budding samurai who are heading toward a showdown with their corrupt clan fathers.
546. Cria Cuervos (1976) Dir. Carlos Saura, 110 mins.
The film is an allegorical drama about an eight-year-old girl dealing with loss.
545. The Shop on Main Street (1965) Dir. Jan Kadar, Elmar Klos, 125 mins.
The Shop on Main Street is a Czechoslovak film about the Aryanization programme during World War II in the Slovak State.
544. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Dir. Woody Allen, 103 mins.
Hannah and Her Sisters is an American comedy-drama which tells the intertwined stories of an extended family over two years that begins and ends with a family Thanksgiving dinner.
543. Germany Year Zero (1948) Dir. Roberto Rossellini, 78 mins.
The third and final film of Rossellini’s neo-realist WWII trilogy, Germany Year Zero was mainly shot in Italy, although the director shifts his focus from his native land to the war devastated ruins of Berlin, where 12-year-old Edmund Koehler struggles for survival. Among the nine people he lives with are: a father, who is suffering from malnutrition and a fatal illness; a brother, who is a former Nazi soldier hiding to avoid arrest; and a sister, who has turned to prostitution. Scouring the rubble-strewn city for food, money, and cigarettes, he comes upon a former teacher, Herr Enning (Erich Guhne), who evinces a barely restrained sexual attraction to the boy while providing him with records of Hitler’s speeches that can be bartered on the black market. He also drums into the boy a classic piece of Nazi propaganda about the importance of having the courage to let the weak be destroyed. Under his influence, the confused young protagonist heads down a tragic path. Made as much for international audiences as it was for Italian, the film is a bleak vision tempered by a spirit of faint hope that understanding will prevail between the victors and the vanquished.
542. 2046 (2004) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 129 mins.
The film follows the aftermath of Chow Mo-wan’s unconsummated affair with Su Li-Zhen in 1960s Hong Kong.
541. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Dir. Denis Villeneuve, 163 mins.
Set thirty years after the first film, K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner, uncovers a secret that threatens to instigate a war between humans and replicants. While it lacks the strong dialogue and iconic supporting characters of the original the film works thanks to an excellent lead performance from Gosling and stunning visual work.