The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 940-921


940. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) Dir. Lotte Reiniger, Carl Koch

The oldest surviving animated feature film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed features a silhouette animation technique Reiniger had invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The story is based on elements from the One Thousand and One Nights written by Hanna Diyab, including “Aladdin” and “The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Perī-Bānū”.

939. Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy (2011) Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 127 mins.

Based on the classic 1974 novel of the same name, Alfredson’s visually stylish espionage thriller is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service. The outstanding Gary Oldman leads a high quality ensemble cast as John Le Carre’s British spy George Smiley, formerly disgraced, but brought back by MI-6 to lead the hunt. While some will dislike the slow pace and find the narrative structure difficult to follow, the film displays a brilliant sense of time and place that combined with the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia builds to a satisfying and compelling finale.

938. If… (1968) Dir. Lindsay Anderson, 111 mins.

Produced and directed by Lindsay Anderson, If… is a satire famous for its depiction of a savage insurrection at a fictitious boys’ boarding school. The film is a vitriolic attack on the British public schools and the deeply divided society which they continued to underpin.

937. On the Silver Globe (1989) Dir. Andrzej Zulawski, 166 mins.

Falling somewhere between Tarkovsky and Jodorowsky, Zulawski’s weird and visually extravagant sci-fi deals with a group of space researchers who leave the Earth to find freedom but their spaceship crash lands on an Earth like planet. Only one crew member survives into old age and becomes both hated and revered as a sort of demi-God by the new society he and his fellow travellers had created. The film had a hugely troubled production history and was shut down by Poland’s vice-minister of cultural affairs when only 80% complete. Fortunately the film studio and members of the cast and crew preserved the existing reels and the film was eventually released after the end of communist rule. It consists of the preserved footage plus a commentary to fill in the narrative gaps.

936. Good Morning (1959) Dir. Yasujirō Ozu, 94 mins.

A loose remake of Ozu’s own 1932 silent film I Was Born, But…, and his second film in colour, Good Morning follows two young boys in suburban Tokyo who take a vow of silence after their parents refuse to buy them a television set.

935. Pharaoh (1966) Dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 180 mins.

Released just 3 years after Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s famous Hollywood epic Cleopatra, this Polish adaptation of Bolesław Prus’s novel seems an age away in terms of style and authenticity. It helps that some of the tale of fictional pharaoh, Ramses XIII, and his power struggle with priest Herhor, was filmed at authentic Egyptian locations as well as other parts on meticulously created sets in a studio in Lodz. Revealing the mechanisms of power and the influence of religion the film features accomplished performances and some unforgettable sequences. It is among 21 digitally restored classic Polish films chosen for ‘Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.’

934. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) Dir. John Cassavetes, 135 mins.

Ben Gazzara stars as the small-time Gentleman’s club owner Cosmo Vittelli who seems desperate to come across as respectable despite the sleaziness of the strip club and his own unsavoury habits. When he ends up owing money to mobsters he is forced into taking drastic action to protect his business and his life.

933. The Only Son (1936) Dir. Yasujirō Ozu, 82 mins.

Ozu’s first “talkie”, set In 1923 in the province of Shinshu, follows Tsune Nonomiya, a widow and simple worker in a silk factory who decides to send her only son Ryosuke Nonomiya to Tokyo for a better education. Thirteen years later, she visits her son and finds that he is a poor and frustrated night-school teacher.

932. Black Rain (1989) Dir. Shohei Imamura, 123 mins.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ibuse Masuji and released as Kuroi ame, the film follows a trio of survivors during the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Japan. Using the documentary style seen in much of his work and shooting in stunning black and white, Imamura manages to put across the horrifying physical and psychological consequences of nuclear war. With great acting and a haunting soundtrack, it’s devastating stuff and although was criticised on release for its graphic detail, the film is never gratuitous or sensationalist.

931. Wings (1966) Dir. Larisa Shepitko, 81 mins.

Larisa Shepitko’s stunning first feature after graduating from the All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography was this fascinating character study about a once heroic female Russian fighter pilot now living a quiet, disappointingly ordinary life as a school principal.

930. Häxan (1922) Dir. Benjamin Christensen, 105 mins.

Based partly on Christensen’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th-century German guide for inquisitors, Häxan is a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. The film was made as a documentary but contains some visually stunning dramatised sequences that still have the power to unnerve modern audiences. Watch

929. Mother Joan of the Angels (1961) Dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 105 mins.

The story takes place in and around a seventeenth century Polish convent. A priest, Father Józef Suryn (Mieczyslaw Voit), is sent to investigate a case of demonic possession at the convent after the local priest, Father Garniec, was burnt at the stake for sexually tempting the nuns. Buy

928. The Irishman (2019) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 209 mins.

The film follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and his crime family, including his time working for the powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

927. Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) Steven Soderbergh, 100 mins.

Soderbergh’s feature debut tells the story of Ann (Andie MacDowell), the beautiful wife of an unpleasant lawyer, who has almost no interest in sex, while her husband is having an affair with her sister. The underlying problems of the couple’s relationship rise to the surface when the husband’s old college friend, Graham (James Spader), comes to stay. Graham, a troubled drifter, has decided that talking about sex is more fulfilling than actually having it and so videotapes Ann and her sister discussing their lives and sexuality. With a huge influence on independent cinema of the 1990s, Soderbergh, at just 26, delivers an intellectually mature and beautifully crafted film.

926. How Green Was My Valley (1941) Dir. John Ford, 118 mins.

The film tells the story of the Morgans, a hard-working Welsh mining family, from the point of view of the youngest child Huw, who lives with his affectionate and kind parents, and his five brothers, in the South Wales Valleys during the late Victorian era. The story chronicles life in the South Wales coalfields, the loss of that way of life and its effects on the family.

925. The Great Beauty (2013) Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 142 mins.

Journalist and ageing socialite Jep Gambardella (the marvellous Toni Servillo) has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city’s literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly reflecting on his life. Sorrentino’s art film plays homage to the likes of Fellini and Antonioni and is poignant, sad and beautiful to behold. Was listed among the BBC’s 100 greatest films since 2000Watch

924. Taipei Story (1985) Dir. Edward Yang, 110 mins.

One of the earliest films of the New Taiwanese Cinema, Taipei Story follows Lung, an operator of a fabric business and former member of the national Little League team, who lives with his old childhood sweetheart Ah-chin, a westernized professional woman from a traditional family, who is weary of Lung’s past liaison with another girl.

923. The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974) Dir. Werner Herzog, 45 mins.

The documentary follows Walter Steiner, a celebrated ski jumper of his era who worked as a carpenter for his full-time occupation. Showcased is Steiner’s quest for a world record in ski flying, as well as the dangers involved in the sport.

922. Manhunter (1986) Dir. Michael Mann, 124 mins.

The first film adaptation of Harris’ Hannibal Lecktor novels focuses on FBI profiler Will Graham who comes out of retirement to lend his talents to an investigation on a killer known as the “Tooth Fairy”. In doing so, he must confront the demons of his past and meet with Lecktor (Brian Cox), who had previously nearly killed him. Reappraised in more recent years Manhunter is now noted for its stylish direction and gripping intensity.

921. Apocalypto (2006) Dir. Mel Gibson, 139 mins.

Set in Yucatan during the declining period of the Mayan civilisation, Apocalypto depicts the journey of a tribesman who must escape human sacrifice and rescue his family after the destruction of his village. The film becomes a visceral chase movie.


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