580. The Butcher (1970) Dir. Claude Chabrol, 93 mins.
Chabrol’s thriller follows a confident, slightly naive young teacher who meets a butcher at a wedding ceremony, and they strike up a close but platonic relationship. The young woman then grows suspicious of the butcher when a series of women in their small town fall victim to an unknown murderer. With something of a nod to a Hitchcockian thriller, The Butcher builds into a gripping and compelling film.
579. Five Easy Pieces (1970) Dir. Bob Rafelson, 98 mins.
The film tells the story of surly oil-rig worker Bobby Dupea, whose seemingly rootless blue-collar existence belies his privileged youth as a piano prodigy. When Bobby learns that his father is dying, he goes home to see him, taking along his waitress girlfriend.
578. Skyfall (2012) Dir. Sam Mendes, 120 mins.
Full of terrific action sequences and memorable performances, Skyfall centres on Bond (Daniel Craig) investigating an attack on MI6, which turns out to be part of a plot by former MI6 agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) to humiliate, discredit and kill M as revenge for her betraying him. Thanks to smart direction from Mendes and more brilliant cinematography from Roger Deakins the film has been lauded as one of the best Bond movies to date.
577. 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.
576. Spring in a Small Town (1948) Dir. Mu Fei, 93 mins.
The heroine Wei Wei (Zhou Yuwen) is married to a prominent landowner who seems to be suffering from severe depression, which, with World War II having just ended, no one would fault him for. When a charming doctor comes to visit the family, Wei Wei is thrown into turmoil. She was in love with this doctor before marrying her husband and now he clearly wants her back.
575. Jesus of Nazareth (1977) Dir. Franco Zeffirelli, 371 mins.
Jesus of Nazareth is a British-Italian television miniseries directed and co-written by Franco Zeffirelli, which dramatises the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (Robert Powell).
574. The Wild Child (1970) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 83 mins.
Truffaut stars in and directs a rewarding story of a child who spends the first eleven or twelve years of his life with little or no human contact. The film explores the relationship between director and film, reality and fiction.
573. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) Dir. Terence Davies, 85 mins.
The first section, ‘Distant Voices’, chronicles the early life of a working-class Catholic family living under a domineering father. The second section, ‘Still Lives’, sees the children grown up and emerging into a brighter 1950s Britain, only a few years from rock and roll and The Beatles, yet somehow still a lifetime away.
572. Nostalghia (1983) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 125 mins.
Nostalghia is Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s enigmatic work about a writer (Oleg Yankovsky) who, trapped by his fame and an unhappy marriage, seeks out his cultural past in Italy. Here he meets Erland Josephson, a local pariah who declares that the world is coming to an end. The writer finds this prophecy curiously more alluring than the possibility of a dead-end future.
571. Rocky (1976) Dir. John G. Avildsen, 119 mins.
A slightly dimwitted working class Italian American amateur boxer from Philadelphia’s tough neighbourhood is working as a debt collector for a loan shark. Out of the blue he gets a surprise shot at fighting for the heavyweight championship, while at the same time he finds love in the arms of a shy, reclusive girl who works in the local pet store. Perhaps the plot is a bit gimmicky and predictable but writer/lead actor Sylvester Stallone delivers a star making performance in what is an entertaining and engaging rags to riches tale.
570. 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).
569. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 89 mins.
The film tells the story of a young woman with schizophrenia spending time with her family on a remote island, and having delusions about meeting God, who appears to her in the form of a monstrous spider.
568. The Artist (2011) Dir. Michel Hazanavicius, 100 mins.
The story takes place in Hollywood, between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship of an older silent film star and a rising young actress as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by the “talkies”.
567. Masculin Feminin (1966) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 105 mins.
The film focuses on a love affair between a young Parisian radical and a ye-ye singer.
566. Pyaasa (1957) Dir. Guru Dutt, 146 mins.
Set in Calcutta, West Bengal, the film tells the story of Vijay, a struggling poet trying to make his works known in post-independence India, and Gulabo, a prostitute with a heart of gold, who helps him to try and get his poems published.
565. Shadows (1959) Dir. John Cassavetes, 87 mins.
Based on improvisations which originated in his actor’s workshop, Cassavetes’s low budget ($40,000), independently produced film is notable for its intense realism and sensitive handling of racial issues. It depicts two weeks in the lives of three African-American siblings on the margins of society, two brothers who are struggling jazz musicians and their sister who dates several men.
564. The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Dir. John Huston, 112 mins.
Based on the 1949 novel of the same name by W. R. Burnett, it tells the story of a jewel robbery in a Midwestern city.
563. Fury (1936) Dir. Fritz Lang, 90 mins.
Having escaped Nazi Germany after Hitler’s request that he become head of the fascist regime’s film industry, Lang signed a contract with MGM and convinced the studio to let him make a film about an ordinary man (Spencer Tracey) mistakenly arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and possibly murdering a child. When a frenzied mob of town residents set fire to the jail the man is presumed wrongly to be dead. He then sacrifices his relationships with his family and sweetheart, becoming obsessed with taking revenge on his accusers. Lang’s powerful film shows how the quest for revenge dehumanises the man in much the same way as it did the lynch mob.
562. 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.
561. Tootsie (1982) Dir. Sydney Pollack, 119 mins.
Pollack’s comedy drama tells the story of a talented but volatile actor (Dustin Hoffman) whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman in order to land a job. With a pertinent look at the role of women in the industry, and society in general, and an amusing parody of US soaps, the film is much more than just Hoffman’s clever performance.