440. The Innocents (1961) Dir. Jack Clayton, 100 mins.
Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the plot follows a governess who watches over two children and comes to fear that their house is haunted by ghosts and that the two children are being possessed. A British psychological horror that is smart, creepy and features a notable performance by Deborah Kerr as the governess. Buy
439. Happy Together (1997) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 96 mins.
Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and take to the road for a holiday. Something is wrong and their relationship goes adrift. A disillusioned Yiu-Fai starts working at a tango bar to save up for his trip home. When a beaten and bruised Po-Wing reappears, Yiu-Fai is empathetic but is unable to enter a more intimate relationship. Sometimes grim but never doll.
438. Death by Hanging (1968) Dir. Nagisa Ōshima, 118 mins.
In Japan, a young Korean man (Do-yun Yu) rapes and kills two girls and is then sentenced to hang. But this punishment has no effect on the culprit other than amnesia, leaving the prison warden (Kei Satô) and chief of guards (Masao Adachi) stunned. The lawmen decide that they must show the convict why they’re taking his life, so, with the help of their underlings, they begin to act out the prisoner’s crimes. But they enjoy stepping into his shoes, which further complicates things.
437. The Silence (1963) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 96 mins.
The plot focuses on two sisters, the younger a sensuous woman with a young son, the elder more intellectually oriented and seriously ill, and their tense relationship as they travel toward home through a fictional Central European country on the brink of war.
436. ‘Til Madness Do Us Part (2013) Dir. Wang Bing, 228 mins.
It observes the daily activity on one floor of a Chinese mental institution in Yunnan, Southwest of China.
435. Fireworks (1997) Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 103 mins.
Writer/director Takeshi Kitano plays a beleaguered policeman, Nishi, whose life is falling apart around him. His daughter was murdered, his wife is dying of leukemia, and his partner was ambushed by gangsters and paralysed. Nishi further complicates his situation by borrowing money from the Yakusa so that he can quit his job and spend more time with his wife. Fascinating, unique and with brutal flashes of violence, Fireworks helped transform Kitano’s reputation into that of a serious filmmaker in his native Japan.
434. The Burmese Harp (1956) Dir. Kon Ichikawa, 116 mins.
Based on a children’s novel of the same name written by Michio Takeyama, the film tells the story of a group of Japanese soldiers trying to uncover whether one of their number survived after the Burma Campaign of World War II. Could he be the same person as a Buddhist monk they see playing a harp? Notable as one of the first films to portray the losses of World War II from the perspective of the Japanese army, The Burmese Harp remains a powerful and purposeful anti-war film. Buy
443. Orpheus (1950) Dir. Jean Cocteau, 95 mins.
The central film of Cocteau’s Orphic trilogy (the others being The Blood of a Poet and Testament of Orpheus) updates the classic Greek myth of Orpheus to contemporary Paris (albeit a strange fantastical Paris), and follows a sensitive young Left Bank poet (Jean Marais) who despite popular acclaim for his work, feels isolated and uninspired. He becomes obsessed with the princess of death, but after his lovely but unhappy wife Eurydice (Marie Dea) is stricken down by the Princess, he must descend into the underworld to reclaim her. While some may struggle with the slow pace and find the heavy use of symbolism pretentious, fans of art cinema and Cocteau’s eccentric genius should find that surreal visuals and a timeless narrative combine to create a magical and poetic masterpiece. More…
432. Wanda (1970) Dir. Barbara Loden, 103 mins.
Set in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania, the film focuses on an apathetic woman with limited options who inadvertently goes on the run with a bank robber.
431. Being John Malkovich (1999) Dir. Spike Jonze, 112 mins.
The film follows a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich’s mind.
430. Three Colors: Blue (1993) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 98 mins.
Set in Paris, the film is about a woman whose husband and child are killed in a car accident. Suddenly set free from her familial bonds, she attempts to cut herself off from everything and live in isolation from her former ties, but finds that she can’t free herself from human connections.
429. The Face of Another (1966) Dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, 121 mins.
The story follows an engineer, Okuyama, whose face is severely burnt in an unspecified work-related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask.
428. The Pianist (2002) Dir. Roman Polanski, 150 mins.
Władysław Szpilman, a famous Polish Jewish pianist, sees his whole world collapse with the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of Poland.
427. Demons (1971) Dir. Toshio Matsumoto, 135 mins.
Gengobe Satsuma, an exiled samurai cast out as an Asano clan retainer is given a second chance to join his brothers in arms to become the 48th Ronin against the Shogunate. His faithful servant gathers the 100 ryo required for his acceptance. Gengobe is also in love with a greedy geisha named Koman. About to be sold to another man, Gengobe learns that for him to keep her, her debt is exactly 100 ryo.
426. The Cranes Are Flying (1957) Dir. Mikhail Kalatozov, 94 mins.
It depicts the cruelty of war and the damage suffered to the Soviet psyche as a result of World War II.
425. A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1986) Dir. Hsiao-hsien Hou, 138 mins.
One of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s best-known films, this semi-autobiographical drama follows the childhood and teenage years of a young man named Ah-ha, as he comes of age in the Taiwan countryside. Watch
424. Yol (1982) Dir. Serif Goren, Yilmaz Guney, 114 mins.
With political views against the ruling Turkish military, filmmaker Yilmaz Guney was in prison when he wrote the script for Yol. Directed for him by longtime assistant Serif Goren (with explicit instructions from Guney), the film follows five prisoners given a week’s home leave during the aftermath of the military’s 1980 coup d’état. Probably the most internationally acclaimed and influential Turkish director, Guney was able to edit the film himself having begun exile in Switzerland. A powerful expose of oppression, it won the top prize at the Cannes film festival.
423. The Terminator (1984) Dir. James Cameron, 108 mins.
The Terminator is a cyborg assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), but Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a soldier from the future is sent back in time to protect her.
422. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Dir. Elia Kazan, 125 mins.
It tells the story of a southern belle, Blanche DuBois, who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves her aristocratic background seeking refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in a dilapidated New Orleans tenement.
421. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 117 mins.
Taking place in a future post-apocalyptic world, the film tells the story of Nausicaä (Sumi Shimamoto), the young princess of the Valley of the Wind. She becomes embroiled in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Stunningly animated dystopian drama with a positive message that will charm both adults and children. Buy