The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2018) 760-741


760. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) Dir. Nicolas Roeg, 139 mins.

A British psychological science fiction film directed with his normal eccentricity by Nicolas Roeg and written by Paul Mayersberg, based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel of the same name, about an enigmatic extraterrestrial (an excellent debut from David Bowie) who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. However, despite becoming remarkably wealthy thanks to his alien invasions, the visitor is soon corrupted by the addictive and darker sides of earth culture. Not for the easily offended, but Roeg’s film is now lauded as a sci-fi classic full of unforgettable imagery and plenty of satirical bite against America’s corporate world.

759. Mildred Pierce (1945) Dir. Michael Curtiz, 111 mins.

Dropped by MGM, Joan Crawford signed with Warner Bros. and saved her flagging career by winning the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Mildred, a doting mother who rises from waitress to restaurant owner after the break up of her marriage. The film uses flashback to reveal the events leading up to the murder of her second husband and how her spoiled daughter’s selfishness results in heartbreak. Despite displaying elements of film noir in its narrative structure and visual style the film is known as a classic ‘woman’s picture.’ It’s well directed by Curtiz, who along with the moody photography, prevents the melodrama from becoming too much.

758. Holiday (1938) Dir. George Cukor, 95 mins.

A magical romantic comedy that tells of a man (a charming Cary Grant) who has risen from humble beginnings only to be torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée’s New York society family. Things are complicated further when he catches the romantic eye of his fiancee’s more free spirited sister (Katherine Hepburn). Hepburn, has perhaps, never quite lit up the screen quite like this, although she has plenty of help from a terrific supporting cast and an amusing and touching script.

757. Summer (1986) Dir. Eric Rohmer, 98 mins.

Unlike most of his work, Rohmer decided to have the actors almost entirely improvise their dialogue for this comedy drama about an unhappy Parisian student Marie Riviere (Rohmer’s star in all of the “Comedies et Proverbes”) who is left out of everyone’s summer vacation plans and so accepts an invitation to stay at her friend’s empty apartment in Biarritz. She is bored to begin with until she meets the man of her dreams.

756. American Graffiti (1973) Dir. George Lucas, 110 mins.

Making Universal a ton of money, Lucas’s American Graffiti spawned an ever growing number of Hollywood movies portraying teens trying to convince a sceptical adult world to take them seriously. Set in Modesto, California in 1962, the film is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation. The is narrative is a series of vignettes, telling the story of a group of teenagers and their adventures over a single night. Produced by Coppola the film was an early boost to the careers of Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss.

755. The Lady From Shanghai (1947) Dir. Orson Welles, 87 mins.

A romantic crime drama, met with anger and incomprehension from Columbia boss Harry Cohn, that follows an Irish-American sailor, (director Welles with an appalling Irish accent) who rescues a beautiful blonde from muggers in Central Park. Under the direction of her then husband, the blonde is portrayed by the normally redheaded Rita Hayworth, who despite the almost daft decision to to dye and shorten her hair, delivers one of her most impressive performances. The couple meet again when Welles is hired as a crew member of a yacht owned by Rita’s husband, a disabled defence attorney (a terrific performance by Everett Sloane). As he falls deeper under Rita’s spell, Welles gets involved in a bizarre insurance scam. Surprisingly watchable, the film is now best remembered for the superbly shot hall of mirrors finale.

754. Barton Fink (1991) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 116 mins.

The Coen brothers happily deliver a scathing attack on their own industry with this Kafkaesque drama, set in 1941, that follows a young New York realist playwright (John Turturro) who is hired by a Hollywood film studio to script a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. He’s quickly struggling and isn’t helped by having to deal with a hellishly nasty movie mogul (an Oscar nominated turn by Michael Lerner) and his next door neighbour, insurance salesman (John Goodman), who has murder on his mind. Despite all this our hero refuses to throw away his artistic ideals in the face of the industry’s commercialism. There’s plenty to enjoy here, from the beautifully designed sets, to the dark humour and superbly crafted narrative.

753. 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.

752. Lone Star (1996) Dir. John Sayles, 135 mins.

With a narrative that becomes more and more engrossing as it progresses, Lone Star deals with the sheriff of a Mexican border town (Chris Cooper) who can’t escape the burdens of the past when he discovers a skeleton in the desert and finds himself investigating the murder of one of his predecessors and the murky past of his long dead father who was also a cop. The film, often with the help of flashbacks, moves with a graceful ease through a mosaic of different story strands and is enhanced by a hard working ensemble cast, particularly Matthew McConauhey in one of his most noteworthy roles as the sheriff’s father.

751. The Heiress (1949) Dir. William Wyler, 115 mins.

Based on Henry James’s novel Washington Square, The film is a period drama about a naive spinster (Olivia de Havilland) who falls in love with a handsome young man (Montgomery Clift), despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father (Ralph Richardson) who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter. While de Havilland is clearly too beautiful for the role, she rightly bagged her second Oscar. In fact, the film’s a good example of what happens when everyone brings their A game. William Wyler directs brilliantly, Richardson is as good as he’s ever been and Clift looks every inch the Hollywood star.

750. 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.

749. 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 manages to find poignancy and humour, helped greatly by Goldblum’s sensitive performance.

748. The Princess Bride (1987) Dir. Rob Reiner, 98 mins.

Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, Reiner delivers a delightful comic fable that follows a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by befriended companions along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. There’s enough adventure to please young viewers as well as plenty of humour for older ones.

747. Dead Ringers (1988) Dir. David Cronenberg, 116 mins.

Based on the true story of identical twin gynaecologists (both played by Jeremy Irons), Cronenberg’s distressing urban horror follows the doctors as they frequently sub for each other professionally, capriciously share one another’s lovers and pride themselves on that fact that their subterfuge has never been detected. Enter Genevieve Bujold, playing a internationally famous infertile actress, who is courted by both twins, but selects the shyer of the two leading to the psychological disintegration of the brothers. Whilst Cronenberg begins to veer away from the horror genre proper, Dead Ringers retains the hallucinatory and horrifying atmosphere of his earlier films.

746. Claire’s Knee (1970) Dir. Eric Rohmer, 105 mins.

One of what Rohmer labelled his ‘six moral tales’, the film follows French diplomat Jerome (Jean-Claude Brialy), who is on a resort vacation and meets Claire (Laurence De Monaghan), the teen-aged daughter of a friend. Though engaged to be married, Jerome falls hopelessly in love, not with Claire, but with Claire’s knee. Realizing that to be revealed as a fetishist would be ruinous for him, Jerome does not act upon his obsession. Manages to be both serious and as well as lighthearted.

745. The Remains of the Day (1993) Dir. James Ivory, 134 mins.

Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the “perfect” butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity.

744. Ratatouille (2007) Dir. Brad Bird, 111 mins.

The plot follows a rat named Remy, who dreams of becoming a chef and tries to achieve his goal by forming an alliance with a Parisian restaurant’s garbage boy.

743. The War Game (1965) Dir. Peter Watkins, 48 mins.

One of the most controversial nonfiction films of the 60s, Peter Watkins’ The War Game, which was filmed in handheld documentary fashion, speculates on how Britain’s civil defense preparations might cope with a future nuclear war. With backing from the BBC, the polemical film argues that such a war could happen and that civil defense efforts would not protect people from its terrible consequences. It dramatizes potential post-war horrors such as police shooting severely wounded casualties, rioting because of a lack of food and executions of civilians by firing squads. Evoking the style of cinema verite and using emotive music and a menacing voice-over, Watkins creates a harrowing realism. In fact, so realistic were the gruesome injuries on the hundreds of non-professional actors, the BBC refused to air the film. However, it was exhibited in cinemas by the British Film Institute and received an Academy Award for feature documentary.

742. Early Summer (1951) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 124 mins.

Although lacking in international recognition when first released, Ozu’s domestic comedy was much lauded in his native Japan. The plot concerns Noriko, who lives contentedly in an extended family household that includes her parents and her brother’s family, but an uncle’s visit prompts the family to find her a husband. A lyrical evocation of suburban life.

741. Sideways (2004) Dir. Alexander Payne, 126 mins.

A film adaptation of Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name, Sideways follows two men in their forties, Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), a depressed teacher and unsuccessful writer, and Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church), a past-his-prime actor, who take a week-long road trip to Santa Barbara County wine country to celebrate Jack’s upcoming wedding.


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