The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 960-941


960. The Blue Angel (1930) Dir. Josef von Sternberg, 124 mins.

Directed in Berlin by the Austrian-American von Sternberg, the film was a co-production of Germany’s Ufa and Hollywood’s Paramount. Emil Jannings, back in Germany after his brief but highly successful stint in Hollywood silents, stars as the respectable straitlaced professor who transforms into a cabaret clown and descends into madness. Jannings is good but it’s Marlene Dietrich who steals the show as the magnetic temptress who ensnares him. The film made Dietrich an international superstar and remains, over 85 years later, an enthralling tale of love and obsession.

959. Uncut Gems (2019) Dir. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, 135 mins.

The film stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a Jewish-American jeweler and gambling addict in New York City’s Diamond District, who must retrieve an expensive gem he purchased to pay off his debts.

958. Alexander Nevsky (1938) Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, Dmitri Vasilyev, 112 mins.

While his ideas for his previous project Bezhin Meadows ran into opposition from a Russian industry and government looking towards social realism rather than experiments with montage, Eisenstein had far more success with Alexander Nevsky, which coincided with Stalin’s need for nationalist propaganda against the threat of German invasion. The director’s first realised sound film and his first completed production for ten years, the historical epic depicts the attempted invasion of Novgorod in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire and their defeat by Prince Alexander, known popularly as Alexander Nevsky (1220–1263). With only sparse dialogue and sound effects, the film’s emotional intensity comes from expressive camera movement, the brilliant use of montage and one of sound film’s great scores from Prokofiev (Eisenstein even re-edited sequences to fit in with the music). More…

957. La Promesse (1996) Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, 90 mins.

The plot involves a father, Roger, who mercilessly trafficks and exploits undocumented immigrants. His son, Igor, is fifteen and an apprentice mechanic, who also works for his father in his labor contracting operation. When one of their illegal workers is seriously injured at the worksite, left to die, and the death concealed by Roger and Igor, a guilt-ridden Igor must choose between his father’s chosen way of life and his promise to the dying man.

956. Melancholia (2011) Dir. Lars von Trier, 135 mins.

The film’s story revolves around two sisters, one of whom is preparing to marry just before a rogue planet is about to collide with Earth.

955. In the Heat of the Sun (1994) Dir. Jiang Wen, 134 mins.

Jiang Wen and writer Wang Shuo collaborated on this 1994 feature about coming-of-age in 1970s Beijing, when the Cultural Revolution was in its early stages.

954. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) Dir. Frank Pavich, 90 mins.

The film explores cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to adapt and film Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel Dune in the mid-1970s.

953. Mad Max (1979) Dir. George Miller, 93 mins.

Financed privately rather than by the failing Australian Film Commission this violent dystopian action movie was a big international hit and changed the way Australian films were funded in favour of a more commercial ethos rather than a cultural one. The film also launched the career of future Hollywood star and director Mel Gibson, who plays a vengeful policeman embroiled in a feud with a vicious motorcycle gang. Now lauded for its visceral power and strong direction the film initially polarised critics.

952. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 114 mins.

The winner of the much coveted Grand Jury prize at Cannes, the film follows Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who, afflicted by acute kidney failure and convinced he will soon die, chooses to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears and brings him guidance, and his estranged son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave. Writer, producer and director Weerasethakul delivers an oddly unique dose of often profound magical realism that removes the boundaries between life and death and which has been recognised as one of the best films of the 2000s in several polls. More…



951. The Bandit (1996) Dir. Yavuz Turgul, 121 mins.

The film is about a bandit who comes to Istanbul after serving a 35-year jail sentence.

950. Ad Astra (2019) Dir. James Gray, 124 mins.

it follows an astronaut (Brad Pitt) who ventures into space in search of his lost father, whose experiment threatens the solar system.

949. Eternity and a Day (1998) Dir. Theo Angelopoulos, 132 mins.

The film follows a celebrated writer, Alexandre, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Just before going to hospital to receive treatment, and knowing he is unlikely to recover, he spends one last day wandering about town and reminiscing about his past, trying to capture one perfect moment of happiness from his memories.

948. Breaking Away (1979) Dir. Peter Yates, 101 mins.

It follows a group of four male teenagers in Bloomington, Indiana, who have recently graduated from high school.

947. Nanook of the North (1922) Dir. Robert J. Flaherty, 79 mins.

Operating on the border between fiction and documentary, the film captures the struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook and his family in the Canadian Arctic. Seen at the time as a masterful depiction of a vanishing way of life, the director Flaherty was actually guilty of romanticisation and adapting the tale for the western audience. He had the Inuits dressed in traditional costumes they no longer used to reenact events they no longer practised. These people were certainly not the naive primitives he depicted as mystified by a simple record player as they actually fixed his camera, developed his film and actively participated in the film making process. Ultimately, Flaherty was more interested in the spirit of the Inuits rather than just recording what he witnessed and the film remains a landmark production for its part in the development of documentary cinema. Watch

946. Ghost in the Shell (1995) Dir. Mamoru Oshii, 85 mins.

The plot follows Motoko Kusanagi, a public-security agent, who hunts the mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master.

945. First Man (2018) Dir. Damien Chazelle, 141 mins.

Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the film stars Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, alongside Claire Foy as his wife and follows the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. The film’s emotional core comes just as much from Armstrong dealing with the loss of a child (7 years before the lunar landing), as it does his remarkable achievement as an astronaut. The film features some brilliant direction, outstanding performances from Gosling and Foy, a haunting musical score and an extraordinarily powerful Moon landing sequence. However, the film was not without detractors and its choice to not depict the planting of the American flag on the lunar surface led critics and politicians from both political parties to debate the film’s stance on patriotism.

944. Videodrome (1983) Dir. David Cronenberg, 89 mins.

Cronenberg’s sci-fi horror follows the CEO of a small UHF television station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. An audacious piece of film making that starts cleverly before veering off into grotesque imagery and narrative confusion.

943.  Russian Ark (2002) Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov, 99 mins.

An experimental historical drama that uses a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take to follow an unnamed narrator, who having died in a horrible accident, is now a ghost who wanders through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various periods in the city’s 300-year history. A hugely ambitious and astounding technical achievement that’s like drifting through a dream.

942. The Tenant (1976) Dir. Roman Polanski, 126 mins.

The final film of Polanski’s loose trilogy on the horrors of living in apartments (the other two being Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby), follows a Polish file clerk who moves into a bizarre apartment building in Paris, taking over the residence of a comatose woman who fell from her apartment window.

941. Late Chrysanthemums (1954) Dir. Mikio Naruse, 101 mins.

Based on three short stories by female author Fumiko Hayashi, the film follows four retired geisha and their struggles to make ends meet in post World War II Japan.


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