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The Pendragon Society

The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2018) 720-701


720. Excalibur (1981) Dir. John Boorman, 140 mins.

Excalibur is a 1981 American epic fantasy film directed, produced, and co-written by John Boorman that retells the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, based on the 15th century Arthurian romance Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory. Much more than a mere sword and sorcery blockbuster, John Boorman’s audacious attempt to place the Arthurian cycle into less than 2 1/2 hours is visually superb. Some may struggle with the overly theatrical style.

719. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 120 mins.

The first of Fassbinder’s so-called ‘Federal Republic of Germany trilogy’, provides a despondent picture of West German misery considering the subjugation of emotions to mercenary material greed in the reconstruction years. The film shows the inevitable conflicts that arose from a collective denial of the past and ends with annihilation.

718. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965) Dir. Sergei Parajanov, 97 mins.

Though derided by Soviet authorities, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is considered one of the most striking stylistic achievements in world cinema. Rich in folkloric elements, costumes, rituals and songs, the film is set among the Hutsul people of the Western Ukraine, an isolated ethnic group who live in the upper reaches of the mountain range. Their lives take place within a harsh environment and an ornate cultural system little changed since the 18th century. With its minimalist narrative and ever moving held camera shots, the film is a visual tour de force of symbolic colours.

717. Bob le Flambeur (1956) Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 98 mins.

Co-scripted by the popular crime writer Auguste Le Breton (Rififi), the film is the story of ex-bank robber and compulsive gambler Bob (Roger Duchesne), who plans one last big heist at the Deauville casino. Placing the ambience of a Hollywood film noir into a Parisian milieu, the film features deft cinematography from Henri Decae and although Melville grew to hate the dialogue the film was a great inspiration to the directors of the New Wave phenomenon.

716. The Best of Youth (2003) Dir. Marco Tullio Giordana, 366 mins.

Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana and La Meglio Gioventu, this film chronicles the youth, emotional development, and milestone events in the lives of brothers Nicola (Luigi Lo Cascio and Matteo Carti (Alessio Boni) between 1966 and the early 2000s.

715. Straw Dogs (1971) Dir. Sam Peckinpah, 118 mins.

To avoid the Vietnam-era social chaos in the U.S., American mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) moves with his British wife, Amy (Susan George), to the isolated Cornish town where she grew up, but their presence provokes antagonism among the village’s men.

714. Blood Simple (1984) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 99 mins.

M. Emmett Walsh plays Visser, an unscrupulous private eye hired by Texas bar owner Marty (Dan Hedaya) to murder Marty’s faithless wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and her paramour, Ray (John Getz), one of Marty’s employees.

713. Scarface (1932) Dir. Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson, 93 mins.

Written by former news reporter Ben Hecht to be like the story of the Borgias set in Chicago (at the request of Hawks), this ground-breaking and complex gangster film is essentially a family drama. At its core is the barely repressed incestuous desire of Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) for Cesca (Ann Dvorak). While controversial due to the graphic depiction of violence and Muni’s disturbing characterization of the gangster as grotesque and abnormal, the film boldly outlines the motivations behind Camonte’s actions with a clarity that’s missing from similar gangster stories.

712. The Long Goodbye (1973) Dir. Robert Altman, 112 mins.

Based on Raymond Chandler’s novel but set later in the 1970s, the film follows smart-aleck, cat-loving private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) who is certain that his friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) isn’t a wife-killer, even after the cops throw Marlowe in jail for not cooperating with their investigation into Lennox’s subsequent disappearance.

711. The Fifth Seal (1976) Dir. Zoltan Fabri, 116 mins.

The story takes place in the twilight of World War II: the five protagonists are buddies who try to have as much fun as possible without treading on anyone’s toes. One of the five, however, makes an offhand remark which proves insulting to a military functionary. The boys are arrested, and forced to perform a series of tasks to test their loyalty.

710. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Dir. Richard Lester, 87 mins.

Appropriating the documentary technique of cinema-verite but giving The Beatles their own cinematic fiction, Lester’s hugely successful A Hard Day’s Night follows a couple of days in the lives of the band that had become a major cultural phenomenon. Their irrepressible energy and youthful irreverence leaps off the screen in what feels like a feature length version of what we now call a pop promo.

709. Koyaanisqatsi (1982) Dir. Godfrey Reggio, 86 mins.

The first of Reggio’s trilogy of non-narrative examinations of landscapes and people-escapes with non-stop musical backing from Philip Glass.

708. 28 Days Later… (2002) Dir. Danny Boyle, 113 mins.

The film depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious “rage” virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors. A brilliantly atmospheric dystopian nightmare film from Boyle.

707. In the Heat of the Night (1967) Dir. Norman Jewison, 109 mins.

The Hollywood social conscience genre of the 1960s reached its pinnacle with this classic race relations drama that won the Academy Award for best picture. The confrontational narrative pits a sophisticated black Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) against a bigoted southern white police chief (Rod Steiger). The film works within the traditional framework of a crime thriller but is clearly more interested in how the black protagonist can operate in a hostile Southern white environment than the resolution of the murder he’s investigating.

706. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 127 mins.

In the film, set largely in 1938, Indiana searches for his father, a Holy Grail scholar, who has been kidnapped by Nazis. Works best during the riotous moments when Jones (Harrison Ford) and his father (Sean Connery) are escaping the nazis.

705. The Thief of Bagdad (1940) Dir. Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, 106 mins.

Korda’s productions mostly had a vigour and a sweeping ebullience of conception, which is the case with this soaring fantasy. In ancient Bagdad, Abu, a good-natured young thief (Sabu), befriends the deposed king Ahmad (John Justin) as both are imprisoned in the palace dungeon, awaiting execution under orders from the evil vizier Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), who has seized the throne. But they escape and make their way to Basra, where Ahmad, now living as a beggar, meets and falls in love with the Princess (June Duprez), who has been betrothed by her father the Sultan (Miles Malleson, who also wrote the screenplay) to Jaffar.

704. Empire of the Sun (1987) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 154 mins.

One of the films with which Spielberg attempted to gain greater recognition as a serious artist. The film tells the story of Jamie “Jim” Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp, during World War II. The director deploys his considerable skill at evoking emotions although some will say he is too heavy handed.

703. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 114 mins.

Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost 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.

702. 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 (Neal) of a small-market radio program in rural northeast Arkansas. Rhodes ultimately rises to great fame and influence on national television.

701. Heaven Can Wait (1943) Dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 112 mins.

The film tells the story of a man who has to prove he belongs in Hell by telling his life story.