The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 200-181


200. Chronicle of a Summer (1961) Dir. Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin

Real-life individuals discuss topics on society, happiness in the working class among others and with those testimonies the filmmakers create fictional moments based on their interviews. Later on, the individuals discuss the images created.

199. The Thin Red Line (1998) Dir. Terrence Malick, 170 mins.

Based on the novel by James Jones, it tells a fictionalised version of the Battle of Mount Austen, which was part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. It portrays soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, played by Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas and Ben Chaplin. It features Malick’s standard dose of stunning cinematography as well as a haunting soundtrack from Hans Zimmer.

198. La Strada (1954) Dir. Federico Fellini, 108 mins.

The film that first brought Fellini international fame and began his break with neo-realism, follows a naive young woman, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), who is bought from her impoverished mother by a brutish circus strongman, Zampanò (Anthony Quinn) to be his wife and partner. She loyally endures his coldness and foul abusive behaviour while he takes her with him to perform across a bleak Italian countryside. Inspired by the writer/director’s own circus background, the production had many problems, including insecure finance, casting issues, delays and Fellini suffering a nervous breakdown. However, despite this and a harsh critical reaction on release, the film is now recognised for its simple, yet strikingly original narrative, the breakthrough performance of Fellini’s wife and muse, Masina and for its great influence on Italian cinema such as the filmmaker’s own future masterpieces, La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 1/2 (1963) and Amarcord (1974). More…

197. Umberto D. (1952) Dir. Vittorio De Sica, 89 mins.

The film follows Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti), a poor elderly man in Rome who is desperately trying to keep his rented room. His landlady (Lina Gennari) is evicting him, and his only true friends, the housemaid (Maria-Pia Casilio) and his dog Flike (called ‘Flag’ in some subtitled versions of the film) are of no help. Remarkably most of the actors, including Battisti, were non-professional. Watch

196. Cries and Whispers (1972) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 91 mins.

The film, set in a mansion at the end of the 19th century, is about three sisters and a servant who struggle with the terminal cancer of one of the sisters (Harriet Andersson). The servant (Kari Sylwan) is close to her, while the other two sisters (Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Thulin) confront their emotional distance from each other.

195. Breaking the Waves (1996) Dir. Lars von Trier, 153 mins.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, von Trier’s devastating drama is about an unusual young woman, Bess McNeill, and of the love she has for Jan, her husband, who asks her to have sex with other men when he becomes immobilised from a work accident. Watch

194. The Servant (1963) Dir. Joseph Losey, 112 mins.

Thanks to his leftist political leanings, American director Joseph Losey was forced to escape McCarthy’s black list and move to Britain in the early 50s. However, his critical reputation wasn’t established until a decade later when he made the first of a three film collaboration with British playwright Harold Pinter. The Servant is a tightly-constructed psychological drama that examines issues relating to class, servitude and the ennui of the upper classes predominantly through the relationship between Dirk Bogarde’s sinister man servant and his young aristocratic employer James Fox. The film is perhaps the directors best work as it successfully combines his stylized social criticism with Pinter’s subtlety.

193. American Beauty (1999) Dir. Sam Mendes, 122 mins.

Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a 42-year-old advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari).

192. Greed (1924) Dir. Erich von Stroheim, 239 mins.

The film tells the story of McTeague, a San Francisco dentist, who marries his best friend Schouler’s girlfriend Trina. Shortly after their engagement, Trina wins a lottery prize of $5,000, at that time a substantial sum. Schouler jealously informs the authorities that McTeague had been practising dentistry without a license, and McTeague and Trina become impoverished.

191. Welfare (1975) Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 167 mins.

A profile of the welfare system that focuses on workers and clients struggling to interpret the rules and laws that govern their lives.

190. The Last Laugh (1924) Dir. F.W. Murnau, 90 mins.

Regarded amongst the greatest silent films of Weimar cinema, Murnau’s drama was hugely influential for its combination of Karl Freund’s remarkable cinematography and Emil Jannings lead performance. The only international star working in Germany in the 1920s, Jannings brought his commanding presence to the role of a hotel doorman, who, fiercely proud of his job, comports himself like a general in his resplendent costume, and is treated like royalty by his friends and neighbours. The posh hotel’s insensitive new manager, noting that Jannings seems winded after carrying a heavy trunk for a patron, decides that the old man is no longer up to his job and demotes him to a restroom attendant. Although criticised for an upbeat commercial fantasy ending, that was insisted on by the UFA, The Last Laugh heralded a new presence for German films internationally. It remains notable thanks to the psychological realism of Jannings’s acting,  Freund’s exceptional camera work, with which he attained an unprecedented degree of camera movement and for Murnau’s creation of an artistic language of film based purely on the expressive qualities of the image.

189. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 86 mins.

The film tells the charming story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits, particularly Totoro, in postwar rural Japan.

188. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) Dir. Don Hertzfeldt, 62 mins.

The film is divided into three chapters and follows the story of a stick-figure man named Bill, who struggles with his failing memory and absurdist visions, among other symptoms of an unknown neurological illness, implied to be brain cancer.

187. Star Wars (1977) Dir. George Lucas, 121 mins.

Lucas’s space opera follows farmhand Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who’s isolated life is disrupted when he inadvertently acquires two droids that possess architectural plot focuses on the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and its attempt to destroy the Galactic Empire’s space station, the Death Star.

186. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 115 mins.

Spielberg’s marvelously crafted action adventure pits Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) against a group of Nazis who are searching for the Ark of the Covenant, which Adolf Hitler believes will make his army invincible. Watch

185. Do the Right Thing (1989) Dir. Spike Lee, 120 mins.

Mookie (Spike Lee) is living in a black and Puerto Rican neighbourhood in Brooklyn with his sister, Jade and works as a pizza delivery man for a local pizzeria. Sal (Danny Aiello), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has been in the neighbourhood for 25 years, but his older son Pino (John Turturro) intensely dislikes blacks, and does not get along with Mookie. Because of this, Pino is at odds with both his father, who refuses to leave the increasingly African-American neighbourhood, and his younger brother Vito (Richard Edson), who is friendly with Mookie. The simmering racial tension culminates in tragedy on a hot summer day.

184. The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov, 79 mins.

Parajanov’s Armenian masterpiece is based in part on the life of the 18th-century poet, Sayat Nova (‘The King of Song’). Renowned for his writings and his religious lifestyle, he became a martyr when he grew too influential for the authorities to control. Displaying a baroque aestheticism that has influenced several generations of directors throughout the USSR (Tarkovsky was an admirer), The Color of Pomegranates is revolutionary in its style and arguably the masterwork of one of world cinema’s most underappreciated filmmakers.

183. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Dir. Orson Welles, 88 mins.

Welles adapted Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1918 novel, about the declining fortunes of a proud Midwestern family and the social changes brought by the automobile age.

182. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) Dir. Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky, 145 mins.

Shot in black-and-white and composed of thirty-nine languidly paced shots, the film describes the aimlessness and anomie of a small town on the Hungarian plain that falls under the influence of a sinister travelling circus.

181. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2002) Dir. Wang Bing, 551 mins.

Tie Xi Qu was filmed over the course of two years between 1999 and 2001 and details the slow decline of Shenyang’s industrial Tiexi district, an area that was once a vibrant example of China’s socialist economy. With the rise of the free market and the move towards other industries, however, the factories of Tiexi have all begun to be closed down and with them much of the district’s worker-based infrastructure and social constructs.


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