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Bondathon!

During December I watched all of the 007 films in order after buying the Blu-ray collection for a cheap price on Black Friday. That’s twenty-four films, stretching from 1962 to 2015, featuring six actors as James Bond. Most people have their favourite Bond movie, and indeed their favourite Bond actor, but opinions differ widely on which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. Some, I think, we can all agree on… But I was surprised to find my own internal ranking of the films changing considerably as I watched the movies.

So, in reverse order, from worst to best, that’s worst to best, here are the movies…

24 Moonraker, Lewis Gilbert (1979). Bafflingly, some people actually think this is a good Bond film. They’re wrong. It’s fucking awful. It’s fan service all the way through, married to a plot that sticks like glue to the Bond formula, with a central premise as dumb as the Fake Moon Landings. Hugo Drax has stolen his own Space Shuttles so he can send crew to his stealth space station, from which he plans to re-populate the Earth after he has wiped out everyone with a deadly toxin. There are more holes in the script than in a block of Gruyere. There’s a resurrected Jaws, who eventually joins forces with Bond. And Moore’s Bond is at his most sexist – Lois Chiles is supposed to a scientist and astronaut, but is treated as if such a thing were impossible for a beautiful woman to be. Truly, Bond’s worst outing.

23 Die Another Day, Lee Tamahori (2002). The Brosnan films surprisingly proved to be quite bad, which I had not expected, although Brosnan certainly looked the part. Of the four Brosnan movies, this one is easily the worst – a North Korean general who has “gene therapy” to make himself look like Toby Stephens, discovers a lucrative diamond field in Iceland, and in under a year manages to become a darling of the UK’s political set. And then there’s the invisible car, FFS. I’m not sure what killed it for me: the invisible car, Will Yun Lee “becoming” Toby Stephens, the villain with the diamonds embedded in his face, or Bond walking into a Hong Kong luxury hotel after escaping from a North Korean prison and looking like an escapee from a, well, North Korean prison, and being treated like a frequent and much-valued guest. FFS.

22 A View to a Kill, John Glen (1985). The most eighties of the 007 films, from Christopher Walken as the villain, eighties icon Grace Jones as his sidekick, and a plot that focuses on Silicon Valley. To be honest, I was  cheering for the villains. Silicon Valley is full of a lot of very horrible people and the world would be a better place without them. But back in 1985, Silicon Valley was still viewed positively. Walken wants to destroy Silicon Valley so that he can corner the market in manufacturing microchips, which Intel have pretty much done entirely legally in the decades since, and most integrated circuit foundries aren’t in Silicon Valley anyway, it’s mostly software, but never mind. It sounded plausible back in 1985. If you didn’t think too hard. What didn’t sound plausible was corporate executives falling out of the sky when Walken dumps them from the blimp in which he holds his business meetings. Tanya Roberts was a very eighties Bond girl, part TV detective, part damsel forever in distress; and the chase scene with the ladder truck was quite good if over-long. No discussion of A View to a Kill would be complete without mention of the theme tune, which was by Duran Duran… and not the worst the theme tune by a long way.

21 Skyfall, Sam Mendes (2012). There was a general atmosphere of back-to-basics with the Craig Bond films. No more silly gadgets, no more jet-setting playboy (well, okay, maybe they’d keep that), but it would be a darker, more callous, more brutal Bond, like the one in Fleming’s novels… Instead, what we got was a superhuman Bond, able to snap restraints just by pulling his hands apart, and villains who could run giant server farms without the use of airconditioners. The giant server farm is important, because it allowed the villain access to all sorts of stuff, including MI6’s highly-secure computer network. Which is, er, not how computer networking works. When you remember that Tomorrow Never Dies actually mentions secure sockets, but by Skyfall it’s back to Star Trek levels of magical abilities with computers in order to drive the plot. The title refers to a house in the middle of the Highlands, the Bond family home, long since abandoned, where 007 takes a final stand against villain Javier Bardem, who is especially villainous because he is a little bit gay. Having said all that, Skyfall accidentally served quite well as the lead-in to the total retcon job that was…

20 Spectre, Sam Mendes (2015). So the secret organisation alluded to in Casino Royale, and which drove the plot of Quantum of Solace, was called Quantum. And Skyfall was totes unrelated to that story arc. But then Eon finally resolved the rights issues over Thunderball with Kevin McConroy, and that included the use of SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), so they retconned all three Craig films into one story arc such that Spectre (they ditched the naff acronym) could be the Big Baddies. And that’s what this film is all about. It’s about writing Blofeld back into the Bond franchise. And, to be honest, I’m not convinced it’s better than Skyfall – in fact, the two films should probably be considered 20= except…I like the way they introduce Moneypenny, and the chase sequence in Istanbul is pretty cool. On the other hand… in From Russia With Love, Sean Connery and Robert Shaw fight aboard a train and do a bit of damage to Bond’s compartment; in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond fights Jaws and they trash 007’s compartment; but in Spectre, Craig Daniels and Dave Batista manage to destroy the interior of an entire fucking train during their fight scene. Craig’s Bond is some kind of superpowered superhero, which ruins the character; and Spectre does not help by having a wimp of a vaillain like Oberhausen.

19 Tomorrow Never Dies, Roger Spottiswoode (1997). Michelle Yeoh was probably the best Bond girl of them all, and there’s something frighteningly plausible about a media mogul kicking off a war just so he can break into the Chinese market… but Tomorrow Never Dies committed the common Bond sin of having an extended very violent action sequence in a real place which seems to go completely unnoticed by the authorities. In this one, a convoy of black SUVs and a black helicopter shoot up Bangkok (standing in for Ho Chi Minh City) and there’s not a single police officer or soldier to be seen. Compare that with the tank scene in St Petersburg in GoldenEye. The plot of Tomorrow Never Dies also depended far too much on a single piece of gadgetry – the stealth ship. These exist, of course – the USS Zumwalt, for example – but the problem with centring the plot on a single piece of gadgetry is that the writers have to stretch denial of its existence far longer than is plausible.

18 Live and Let Die, Guy Hamilton (1973). Two things about this film stand out: the Wings theme tune, and Jane Seymour in the role of Solitaire.This should be one of the good ones. It’s moore’s first outing in the role, and Yaphet Kotto makes an excellent villain. But, for all my preference for Bond films which dial down the gadgets and supervillains, Live and Let Die leaves me feeling meh. The speedboat chase had its moments, but goes on for far too long. The redneck sheriff should have been left on the cutting-room floor (and certainly should never have made it into a second Bond film), and the voodoo stuff seems to be used chiefly for colour without much actual explanation.

17 Diamonds Are Forever, Guy Hamilton (1971). In some respects, I think of this movie as the iconic Sean Connery Bond movie. It has it all: the silly gadgetry in that Moon Buggy, Blofeld (played by Charles Gray this time), and even a maguffin as ridiculous as a music cassette to drive the story – because of course the guidance program for a satellite launch would easily fit onto a C60… On the other hand, it all feels a bit tired, since Connery was only back after Lazenby walked away. Jill St John makes an excellent Bond girl, but villains Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are characterised as evil because they’re a little bit gay… It has that sort of emblematic, but not especially great, 007 feel to it all. It seems entirely fitting it is mostly set in Las Vegas…

16 GoldenEye, Martin Campbell (1995). This was Brosnan’s first outing as Bond, and the indications were he’d make a good fist of it. Okay, so the central premise of this film is pure bollocks – the Russians built a giant orbiting EMP gun which the US knew about, but they didn’t know about the second one they built and put into orbit? Er, right. And the control centre for this EMP gun, it has big tanks of liquid nitrogen and fuel alongside the computers. Who does that? Who puts fuel tanks in their server room? Isn’t that a recipe for disaster? Oh look, it all blows up very nicely. Sean Bean makes for a good villain, and the tank chase scene in St Petersburg at least had the advantage of being acknowledged by the authorities – even if, wierdly, no one seems to die after being crushed by a tank; shot to death, yes, but no one is killed in the chase scene from automobile accidents. There’s an optimism to GoldenEye the other Brosnan films lack, not just because there’s a new Bond but because glasnost means they can now film in Russia even if they have to look elsewhere for villains – but hey there are plenty of leftover bits of the USSR they can use… GoldenEye promised much, but Brosnan’s later outings as Bond failed to deliver. Mostly.

15 Dr No, Terence Young (1962). This was a difficult one to rank. Dr No is not an interesting villain – it’s a white actor in yellowface, FFS – but it’s the first Bond film, and that sort of gives the movie a certain cachet. It’s also a pretty stripped back story. Since it’s the first film, some of the elements of the formula had yet to become cliché, which works in its favour  – even so, there’s still a Bond girl, and Bond still has sex with an ally and a henchwoman. Ursula Andress is mostly a blank and she’s effectively written out of the story in around 30 minutes. The central premise – Dr No seizing control of US rockets after launch – is one the Bond films used several times – as indeed did Bond-spoof Matt Helm – and it has never really stood up to scrutiny. Plus, all that machinery at Crab Key… what was it for?

14 The Living Daylights, John Glen (1987). This was Timothy Dalton’s first appearance as Bond, and I vaguely remember people being unsure about his casting…. which is probably why Eon Productions went all out for this one. It even has a Harrier jump jet taking off from inside some sort of cooling tower! Dalton plays a no-nonsense Bond, who from the moment he first appears on screen takes no shit. The story has some interesting locations, but the two villains – Soviet general Jeroen Krabbé and toy soldier arms dealer Joe Don Baker – are a bit pathetic. Their tame assassin, played by Andreas Wisniewski, manages to make a completely monkey of the British secret services, which didn’t come across as all that plausible. And then, of course, there’s the theme tune, performed by A-Ha, which was a lot worse than I remembered it.

13 You Only Live Twice, Lewis Gilbert (1967). This was the first Bond film where the producers pretty much only took the title from Fleming’s novel. Not that the novel had much of a plot, it reads more like fleming showing off his research about Japan. Roald Dahl wrote the script, and kept the action in Japan, but instead threw in some SPECTRE silliness about rockets launching from a secret base inside a defunct volcano caldera in order to hijack US space capsules in orbit. Seriously? Their first rocket launch would have burnt out their entire secret hideout, and probably triggered an eruption. Also, to lift a spacecraft into orbit that could swallow the US Gemini capsule, they’d have needed a much bigger rocket. This was Connery’s fifth film as Bond, and he pretty much sleepwalks through it. In fact, he called it a day after this one, but ended up coming back for one more film after Lazenby walked away from the role. There’s some good aerial photography in the air combat scene with Little Nellie, but the formula had already pretty much taken over the franchise by this point.

12 For Your Eyes Only, John Glen (1981). This is the Bond film everyone forgets. It’s the one where, you know, Roger Moore, and, er, the Bond girl is Caroline Bouquet, and it’s set in Greece, I think?, and oh yeah, the chase scene with the 2CV… I watched the film around a month ago, and I’m having trouble remembering the plot. There was some secret device that could track nuclear missile submarines, and something about Olympic ice-skating, and then the scenes set in that Greek monastery on the top of a rock pillar… Despite all that, I remember enjoying it. Bouquet actually made a good Bond girl, with way more agency than pretty much all the Bond girls before her. The theme tune, sadly, is insipid.

11 Casino Royale, Martin Campbell (2006). I suspect I may have placed this much higher than it actually deserves. But Casino Royale was never covered by previous Bonds, despite being the first 007 novel by Fleming. The only previous feature film version was a spoof that had had half a dozen directors and only a passing acquaintance with the story. This version, the first appearance by Daniel Craig as Bond, hews much closer to the novel. And it’s sort of impressive, in how physical Craig has made the character, right from the start with the extended parkour sequence. Of course, ten minutes in and plausibility goes out of the window, when Bond shoots up a foreign embassy – I mean, he’s a trained agent of the government, and I’m pretty sure it says somewhere in the civil service handbook that you shouldn’t shoot the shit out of foreign embassies. The fact it all comes down to a very dull game of cards is a bit unfortunate – and all the jet set playboy stuff doesn’t quite gel with Craig’s hard man government agent 007 – but at least there’s the torture scene where Bond gets repeatedly thwacked in the scrotal sac. Eva Green is excellent, possibly the best of all the female characters to appear in Bond films, although leaving in Fleming’s completely misogynistic last line was a mistake.

10 The Spy Who Loved Me, Lewis Gilbert (1977). Okay, so the underwater Lotus was cool. Totally fake. But cool. But this is Moore’s Bond on top form – charming, urbane, witty, some actually quite neat gadgets, and a villain with the coolest hideout yet. And we also got Jaws, who proved so popular they resurrected him for a second outing. Barbara Bach played an ally and henchman Bond girl, and while she may not have made a convincing Russian, her character held its own against Bond. The model work, unfortunately, was a bit crap, and shipping magnate villain Curd Jürgens was no more plausible a megalomaniac than Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax. The supertanker was a neat idea, although the battle for it stretched credulity and felt pretty much like a restaging of the final battle in You Only Live Twice. The novel, incidentally, is the best in series – and its plot couldn’t be further from the film: a young woman working at a motel out in the sticks is saved by Bond passing through when gangsters turn up to torch the motel for an insurance scam. No supertankers, no underwater bases, no KGB.

9 Quantum of Solace, Marc Forster (2008). Popular wisdom has it that this is the worst of the four, to date, Daniel Craig Bond films, except… It’s clearly the best-looking of the four. Some of the staging is quite astonishingly pretty. And the plot doesn’t ask too much of the viewer. But, crucially, Bond doesn’t go superhuman in this one. He plays it like a hard man, but they dialled back the violence and it pays off in credibility. The story is not brilliant, but it’s Craig’s most human outing as Bond. And for that reason, it beats the other Craig 007s hands down.

8 Octopussy, John Glen (1983). I remembered this as bad, from when Bond became pretty much a parody of himself, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that time has been kind to Octopussy. The section set in India comes across as a homage to Bollywood, and the later sections are not so far-fetched they ruin suspension of disbeilef. True, it’s all a bit pantomime in places, and the Cold War is presented something more like Star Wars than an actual real piece of geopolitics. Moore looks over the hill as Bond, although it doesn’t affect his performance; and Maud Adams is appealing in the title role. It’s lightweight Bond, but it’s lightweight Bond that manages to put very few feet wrong. An under-appreciated film.

7 The Man with the Golden Gun, Guy Hamilton (1974). I would have been eight when this was released, but for some reason I remember it as fondly as if it were the first ever Bond film I saw. It’s from the height of 007’s silly gadget phase – a car that turns into a plane! the Solex solar-power doohickey! the giant solar-powered laser gun! – but Moore is on fine form. And I do like Scaramanga’s secret island. The redneck sheriff should have been left on the cutting-room floor, and making Bond girl Brit Ekland a comic turn was a good move. The film is one of the best-plotted in the franchise – and it’s a franchise which has alway been strong on plot, if not on incidental details – and runs like clockwork. I suspect one of the reasons I like this film more than I should is because I probably saw it first shortly after visiting Thailand on holiday. So I had the country fresh in my memory. This is Moore’s Bond at his best.

6 Thunderball, Terence Young (1965). Okay, so this one scores higher than it really should because central to the plot is an Avro Vulcan and I love me some V-bomber. The script was a collaboration between Fleming and two scriptwriters, and when the film looked to be delayed, Fleming went ahead and turned it into a novel, infringing the copyright of the other two so much that Connery was allowed to remake the film as Never Say Never Again in 1983. It wasn’t sorted out until after Skyfall was made. It takes Bond an inordinately long time to long to find the missing nuclear bomb, and he’s out on a limb with Whitehall all the time he’s looking. Unfortunately, there’s little drama because we know Bond is in the right place. That’s probably what spoils this film – that everyone else is looking in the completely wrong place, and only Bond is on the right track. Connery always played Bond smug, but here it’s much worse because he has the perfect right to be smug.

5 The World Is Not Enough, Michael Apted (1999). I wrote above that the Brosnan films are bad but, like all of the Bond films, they worked quite well when they didn’t bother with the stupid gadgets. The World is Not Enough keeps it simple: an oil pipeline, a nuclear warhead. Okay, so the USSR didn’t have missile silos, preferring mobile launchers they could parade past the Kremlin on May Day, but never mind. But the paraglider/ski chase is a neat nod to earlier Bond films. Robert Carlyle’s villain isn’t entirely convincing – he hams it up something terrible, although his accent is quite good – and Denise Richards made a poor Bond girl. But Sophie Marceau more than makes up for both. The final scenes set in the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul are among the best in a Bond film.

4 From Russia with Love, Terence Young (1963). After the rocket-launch-interfering Dr No, From Russia With Love went straight back to basics and the Cold War. It was Fleming’s fifth novel, and Connery’s second film, and in the book its story takes place before Dr No. Bond is sent to Turkey after a cipher clerk in the Soviet embassy there professes to have fallen in love with him. It’s all a plot, of course, to get rid of Bond, by setting Robert Shaw on him. I seem to remember it was a KGB plot in the novel, but it’s SPECTRE in the film. Istanbul makes a much more interesting setting than Dr No’s Caribbean island, and From Russia With Love makes full use of it. I visited Instabul as a kid, but remember very little of it. I do remember seeing Sean Connery while we there, however. Myself and my father were in an antique gun shop in the Grand Bazaar when Connery, dressed as Bond, entered and posed for some publicity photos. He was actually in Istanbul filming Murder on the Orient Express, which would make it 1973 or 1974, so he was still playing 007 at the time.

3 Goldfinger, Guy Hamilton (1964). Of all the Bond films adapted from novels, this is probably the most faithful (Thunderball, of course, was a novelisation of the film, so it doesn’t count). It’s mostly remembered for Shirley Eaton being murdered by Goldfinger by having her body covered in gold paint. I’m still not sure if that’s for real, the skin “needing to breathe” thing – look on Youtube and you’ll see loads of videos of people body-painted all sorts of colours. Gert Fröbe is excellent in the title role, Bond’s best villains without a doubt. I know Honor Blackman gets a lot of love for her part, but I wasn’t especially impressed. The film also introduced Bond’s most iconic car, the DB5, with its ejector seat (which, to be honest, I never understood the logic behind). And the film includes the best line ever uttered by a Bond villain: “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.” To be honest, Bond gets out of that one a bit too easily. Goldfinger is definitely Connery’s most, well, Bond film.

2 Licence to Kill, John Glen (1989). After The Living Daylights, which felt slightly cheap despite clearly having a substantial budget, I was surprised to discover that Licence to Kill, the second Dalton 007 movie, felt even cheaper but also managed to tell a good story. Perhaps it’s that the desire for revenge humanises Bond, but whatever the reason, the story works really well. It also has one of the best Bond girls in Carey Lowell (although Talisa Soto is a bit of a wet blanket). Bond is on the hunt for a Central American drug lord whol killed Felix Leiter’s new bride and threw Leiter to a shark, resulting in him losing a leg and an arm. The film plays like an extended episode of a US maverick PI or cop show, but that sort of works in its favour. Bond does Bond things, without really being Bond – but then even if the Dalton films had not cut back on the gadgets, Bond would not have had access to them because he’s been cut off by MI6. I hadn’t expected much of Licence to Kill, and in fact remembered very little of the film from previous viewings (probably only one viewing, to be honest), but I enjoyed it and thought Dalton made an excelllent Bond.

1 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Peter R Hunt (1969). I had not expected to like this. Everyone says it’s bad, and Lazenby is generally considered the worst Bond… except… really? It’s not like Connery was especially good in the first two in which he appeared. But Lazenby does actually make Bond a more sympathetic character, and his relationship with Tracy is completely believable. Best of all, however, is that Lazenby can fight. The fight scenes in OHMSS are hugely superior to any in the Connery or Moore films. When Lazenby throws a punch, he fucking punches. During a screentest, he apparently knocked out a stuntman by accident. It shows. The fourth-wall-breaking quips to camera are just gravy. This is a Bond that fits the books and the films. It’s a shame Lazenby never took it further.

So there you have it. Twenty-four films, ranked. As they should be. Anyone who disagrees is, of course, wrong-headed.

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Films do furnish a room

In these days of streaming, and obsessive de-cluttering, DVDs probably no longer furnish a room – which I guess means the days of judging a person from their collection of VHS cassettes, DVDs or Blu-rays has passed. Judging someone by their book collection, on the other hand, was never especially useful – if they had more than a dozen books, then they were a reader and that was good. But even then, back in the 1970s and 1980s, people used to have several coffee table books on their wall-units (remember those?) – but they’d probably been given as gifts and never read. Most of the people I knew who collected VHS cassettes collected episodes of television sf series – Dr Who, Stargate, Star Trek, etc. Films never really felt like they were worth keeping. So why do I have nearly 1000 of them? Oh well. Here are a few more that have recently joined the collection…

I still consider Alien one of the greatest sf films ever made, and if the franchise has been on a downward slide ever since I can always hope it might one day match the brilliance of that first film. Sadly, Alien: Covenant doesn’t. It’s even worse than Prometheus. And yet it was given mostly approving reviews. John Carter, on the other hand, was a genuinely good film, one of the best sf films of the past five years, and yet reviewers slagged it off. It has its faults – name a sf film that doesn’t – but it’s both a gorgeous piece of cinema and a really clever script. I decided it was time to upgrade my DVD copy to a Blu-ray. Othello is possibly Welles’s nearly best film – it has some of his most striking cinematography, but it was filmed in bits and pieces over three years and that tells against it. Personal Shopper (see here) is another idiosyncratic movie from Assayas, a director worth following, and a charity shop find.

After watching The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes are not Brothers (see here), which I had rented, I went and bought everything available by the director, Ben Rivers. Which is A Spell to Ward off the Darkness (co-directed with Ben Russell; see here) and Two Years at Sea. Totally worth it. A director whose career I will be following from now on.

An international bunch here. Splendid Float is Tawianese (see here), Kurotoage is Japanese (see here) and Se Eu Fosse Você 1 and Se Eu Fosse Você 2 are so-so Brazilian comedies (see here).

The Mizoguchi Collection was a gift from David Tallerman. I am not as enamoured of early Japanese cinema as he is – except perhaps for Ozu – but I certainly recognise the quality of the films. Possession was the first of the Mondo Vision re-releases of Żułwaski’s films, and proved quite difficult to find. I now have five of the Mondo Vision limited edition DVDs. A sixth, La Note Bleue, was released earlier this year – it’s on order. Żułwaski is an aquired taste, but Mondo Vision have done a sterling job on their releases of his films. Finally, Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project is an excellent film,er, project, and its first volume included a beautifully-restored version of one of my favourite films, A River Called Titas. So no matter what Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2 included, I was going to buy it because it was likely to include important films – and so it does, by: Lino Brocka, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Yermek Shinarbayev, Mário Peixoto, Edward Yang and Ömer Lütfi Akad.

 


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From silver screen to silver disc

I’ll continue to post these DVD hauls posts, I think, since I seem to be spending as much time on this blog writing about movies as I do books. Er, actually probably more about movies, this past twelve months or so. And so here are the latest batch to join the collection…

I decided it was about time I completed my collection of Bergman DVDs, so I went hunting on eBay… and found myself cheap copies of The Virgin Spring, Port of Call, Three Strange Loves, To Joy and Music in Darkness. Some of them are currently deleted. And I’m still missing about a dozen or so titles. I’ve only watched To Joy so far. It was not very joyful.

A pair of sf Blu-rays picked up in the recent Amazon Prime Day. Colossus: The Forbin Project, a classic giant-computer-starts-WWIII movie, was on my rental list. Mars, a National Geographic docudrama about the first mission to Mars, clearly designed to cash in on the success of The Martian, was already on my wishlist.

After watching Arabian Nights (see here), I wanted to see more Pasolini, although I’d been tempted back in January when I’d watched Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom… But I’d managed to resist temptation then. Except, well, you know how it goes… relaxing of an evening in front of the telly, laptop on your knees, bottle of wine… and oops I’ve gone and bought Six Films 1968 – 1975 by Pasolini on Blu-ray. But I don’t begrudge buying films on a whim that I know I’ll watch several times. Having saidthat, I’m not sure why I bought Orson Welles’s Macbeth – well, I put a bid on it, and actually won it – but I do like Welles’s films.

A pair of out-of-copyright Fritz Lang movies, bought on eBay for a couple of quid. Neither are especially good. I wrote about Clash by Night here and Moonfleet will be in the next Moving pictures post.

This set was a lucky find on eBay. Second Run have released several films by Miklós Jancsó, but these six Pepe and Kapa movies are from the end of his career and are unlikely to ever be released in the UK (these are Hungarian editions, with subtitles in a variety of languages, including English). The titles translate, approximately, as The Lord’s Lantern in Budapest, Mother! The Mosquitos, Last Supper at the Arabian Grey Horse, Wake Up, Mate, Don’t You Sleep, The Modhács Evil and Eddie Has Eaten My Lunch.0


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Films, glorious films

I threatened in my last book haul post I might start posting my DVD and Blu-ray hauls. And, well, I got a bit bored on Saturday morning, and before I knew it I’d taken photos of the films I’d purchased over the past month or so and was banging out a post on them…

Three Blu-rays from Curzon Artificial Eye, one of the best sell-through publishers out there. They even have their own chain of cinemas now. But they still didn’t show Francofonia in the Sheffield Curzon Cinema. Grump. The Dance of Reality and Endless Poetry are Alejandro Jodorowsky’s return to film-making after many, many years and are apparently based on his childhood in Chile. The François Truffaut Collection – so, yes, more than three Blu-rays, more like ten – was one of those “accidental” purchases you have after a glass too many of wine. All three were bought from a large online retailer.

Two more Blu-rays. To Catch A Thief was only £5, so I thought it worth upgrading my old DVD copy. It’s a pretty good transfer, although the improved colours do mean Cary Grant looks like he’s been creosoted. Daughter of the Nile is a new release, the first time in the UK, I think, of a Hou Hsiao Hsien film from 1987. Both were purchased from a large online retailer.

The Bad and the Beautiful is on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, but having now seen it (see here), I’ve no idea why. It’s a typical Hollywood melodrama, although apparently not typical enough to be available on DVD in the UK or US – so I had to buy a Korean release on eBay. Goodbye Gemini is a 1970 British thriller, found for a third of the price on eBay. Mississippi Mermaid I actually watched on rental (see here), but I found this Blu-ray edition copy going for a great deal less than the Amazon price on eBay.

Three non-Anglophone/European films – well, four, actually, since the Great African Films Vol 2 package contains two films on two discs. They are Tasuma, the Fighter and Sia, the Dream of the Python. Both are from Burkina Faso. Cyclo, on the other the hand, is from Vietnam, and also on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. In the Room is from Singapore. I stumbled across it on eBay, and thought it looked intriguing. All three were bought on eBay, in fact. I wrote about In the Room here.


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1001 movies…

Having worked my way through a substantial portion of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, it’s only natural I might want to create a similar list myself. After all, not every film I’ve seen from the list to my mind belongs on it; and there are a number of movies I think should have been on it but weren’t. So…

Unfortunately, picking 1001 films for such a list is easier said than done. I’ve watched a lot of films over the years, and a number of them were, I thought, excellent. But a thousand of them? And, of course, I’d want my list to have a good spread – across the decades, and across countries (and not have over half from the US, like the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list).

I’ve so far managed to put together around a third of my list:

1 Nosferatu, FW Murnau (1922, Germany)
2 La roue, Abel Gance (1923, France)
3 Our Hospitality, Buster Keaton (1923, USA)
4 Aelita, Yakov Protazanov (1924, Russia)
5 Strike, Sergei Eisenstein (1924, Russia)
6 The Great White Silence, Herbert G Ponting (1924, UK)
7 Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein (1925, Russia)
8 Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1927, Germany)
9 The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928, Denmark)
10 A Throw of the Dice, Franz Osten (1929, India)
11 Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang (1929, Germany)
12 Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (1929, Russia)
13 Pandora’s Box, GW Pabst (1929, Germany)
14 Zemyla, Aleksandr Dovzhenko (1930, Russia)
15 City Lights, Charlie Chaplin (1931, USA)
16 Tabu, FW Murnau (1931, USA)
17 42nd Street, Lloyd Bacon (1933, USA)
18 Footlight Parade, Lloyd Bacon (1933, USA)
19 Gold Diggers of 1933, Mervyn LeRoy (1933, USA)
20 L’atalante, Jean Vigo (1934, France)
21 Tag der Freiheit, Leni Riefenstahl (1935, Germany)
22 Swing Time, George Stevens (1936, USA)
23 Things to Come, William Cameron Menzies (1936, UK)
24 La grande illusion, Jean Renoir (1937, France)
25 The Adventures of Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz (1938, USA)
26 La règle de jeu, Jean Renoir (1939, France)
27 Citizen Kane, Orson Welles (1941, USA)
28 Sullivan’s Travels, Preston Sturges (1941, USA)
29 The Maltese Falcon, John Huston (1941, USA)
30 Went the Day Well?, Cavalcanti (1942, UK)
31 Day of Wrath, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1943, Denmark)
32 Henry V, Laurence Olivier (1944, UK)
33 Ivan the Terrible Part 1, Sergei Eisenstein (1944, Russia)
34 Leave Her to Heaven, John M Stahl (1945, USA)
35 Mildred Pierce, Michael Curtiz (1945, USA)
36 Black Narcissus, Powell & Pressburger (1946, UK)
37 It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra (1946, USA)
38 The Best Years of Our Lives, William Wyler (1946, USA)
39 Gentleman’s Agreement, Elia Kazan (1947, USA)
40 Spring in a Small Town, Mu Fei (1948, China)
41 The Third Man, Carol Reed (1949, UK)
42 Whirlpool, Otto Preminger (1949, USA)
43 Cinderella, Clyde Geronimi (1950, USA)
44 Orphée, Jean Cocteau (1950, France)
45 The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robert Wise (1951, USA)
46 Monkey Business, Howard Hawks (1952, USA)
47 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Howard Hawks (1953, USA)
48 Gion Bayashi, Kenji Mizoguchi (1953, Japan)
49 Madame de…, Max Ophüls (1953, France)
50 Shane, George Stevens (1953, USA)
51 The Cruel Sea, Charles Frend (1953, UK)
52 Les Diaboliques, Henri-George Clouzot (1954, France)
53 Magnificent Obsession, Douglas Sirk (1954, USA)
54 Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock (1954, USA)
55 All That Heaven Allows, Douglas Sirk (1955, USA)
56 Violent Saturday, Richard Flesicher (1955, USA)
57 Forbidden Planet, Fred M Wilcox (1956, USA)
58 High Society, Charles Walters (1956, USA)
59 The Burmese Harp, Kon Ichikawa (1956, Japan)
60 The Searchers, John Ford (1956, USA)
61 Les Girls, George Cukor (1957, USA)
62 Ivan the Terrible Part 2, Sergei Eisenstein (1958, Russia)
63 Mon oncle, Jacques Tati (1958, France)
64 Some Came Running, Vincent Minelli (1958, USA)
65 Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock (1958, USA)
66 Der Tiger von Eschnapur, Fritz Lang (1959, Germany)
67 Floating Weeds, Yasujiro Ozo (1959, Japan)
68 Imitation of Life, Douglas Sirk (1959, USA)
69 Nebo Zovyot, Valery Fokin (1959, Russia)
70 Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks (1959, USA)
71 Sleeping Beauty, Clyde Geronimi (1959, USA)
72 Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder (1959, USA)
73 The Best of Everything, Jean Negulesco (1959, USA)
74 The World of Apu, Satyajit Ray (1959, India)
75 A Cloud-Capped Star, Ritwik Ghatak (1960, India)
76 Knights of the Teutonic Order, Aleksandr Ford (1960, Poland)
77 L’avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni (1960, Italy)
78 Le testament d’Orphée, Jean Cocteau (1960, France)
79 Peeping Tom, Michael Powell (1960, UK)
80 Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock (1960, USA)
81 Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais (1961, France)
82 Lola, Jacques Demy (1961, France)
83 The Exiles, Kent Mackenzie (1961, USA)
84 8½, Frederico Fellini (1962, Italy)
85 Cleo from 5 to 7, Agnès Varda (1962, France)
86 Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean (1962, UK)
87 The Exterminating Angel, Luis Buñuel (1962, Mexico)
88 Ikarie XB-1, Jindřich Polák (1963, Czech Republic)
89 Le mépris, Jean-Luc Godard (1963, France)
90 Passenger, Andrzej Munk (1963, Poland)
91 Shock Corridor, Samuel Fuller (1963, USA)
92 The Haunting, Robert Wise (1963, USA)
93 The Leopard, Luchino Visconti (1963, Italy)
94 Culloden, Peter Watkins (1964, GB)
95 Gertrud, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1964, Denmark)
96 Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni (1964, Italy)
97 Woman of the Dunes, Hiroshi Teshigahara (1964, Japan)
98 Doctor Zhivago, David Lean (1965, UK)
99 Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Sergei Parajanov (1965, Russia)
100 The Ipcress File, Sidney J Furie (1965, UK)
101 The War Game, Peter Watkins (1965, UK)
102 Blow-up, Michelangelo Antonioni (1966, UK)
103 Fahrenheit 451, François Truffaut (1966, USA)
104 Falstaff – Chimes at Midnight, Orson Welles (1966, Spain)
105 Queen of Blood, Curtis Harrington (1966, USA)
106 The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo (1966, Italy)
107 Wings, Larisa Shepitko (1966, Russia)
108 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard (1967, France)
109 Les demoiselles de Rochefort, Jacques Demy (1967, France)
110 Playtime, Jacques Tati (1967, France)
111 The Firemen’s Ball, Miloš Forman (1967, Czech Republic)
112 Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard (1967, France)
113 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick (1968, USA)
114 Shame, Ingmar Bergman (1968, Sweden)
115 The Colour of Pomegranates, Sergei Parajanov (1968, Russia)
116 The Valley of the Bees, Frantisek Vlácil (1968, Czech Republic)
117 Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper (1969, USA)
118 Fellini Satyricon, Frederico Fellini (1969, Italy)
119 The Confrontation, Miklós Jancso (1969, Hungary)
120 The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah (1969, USA)
121 El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky (1970, Mexico)
122 Moonwalk One, Theo Kamecke (1970, USA)
123 Secrets of Sex, Antony Balch (1970, UK)
124 The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci (1970, Italy)
125 Zabriskie Point, Michelangelo Antonioni (1970, USA)
126 Get Carter, Mike Hodges (1971, UK)
127 Out 1, Jacques Rivette (1971, France)
128 Punishment Park, Peter Watkins (1971, USA)
129 Szindbád, Zoltán Huszárik (1971, Hungary)
130 The Third Part of the Night, Andrzej Żuławski (1971, Poland)
131 Wake in Fright, Ted Kotcheff (1971, Australia)
132 Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Werner Herzog (1972, Germany)
133 Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman (1972, Sweden)
134 Eolomea, Hermann Zschoche (1972, Germany)
135 Love in the Afternoon, Éric Rohmer (1972, France)
136 Red Psalm, Miklós Jancso (1972, Hungary)
137 F for Fake, Orson Welles (1973, USA)
138 La Planète Sauvage, René Laloux (1973, France)
139 The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973, Chile)
140 The Scarlet Letter, Wim Wenders (1973, Germany)
141 Effi Briest, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974, Germany)
142 Dersu Uzala, Akira Kurosawa (1975, Russia)
143 Jeanne Dielmann, 23 Quaie de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Chantal Akerman (1975, France)
144 Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky (1975, Russia)
145 Man of Marble, Andrzej Wajda (1976, Poland)
146 The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicolas Roeg (1976, UK)
147 Star Wars: A New Hope, George Lucas (1977, USA)
148 Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman (1978, Sweden)
149 Alien, Ridley Scott (1979, UK)
150 All That Jazz, Bob Fosse (1979, USA)
151 Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola (1979, USA)
152 Christ Stopped at Eboli, Francesco Rosi (1979, Italy)
153 Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky (1979, Russia)
154 Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Robert Wise (1979, USA)
155 The Black Hole, Gary Nelson (1979, USA)
156 The Marriage of Maria Braun, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1979, Germany)
157 La naissance du jour, Jacques Demy (1980, France)
158 Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, Vladimir Menshov (1980, Russia)
159 The Big Red One, Samuel Fuller (1980, USA)
160 Man of Iron, Andrzej Wajda (1981, Poland)
161 The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Karel Resiz (1981, UK)
162 Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam (1981, UK)
163 Blade Runner, Ridley Scott (1982, USA)
164 Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog (1982, Germany)
165 Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio (1982, USA)
166 Crime and Punishment, Aki Kaurismäki (1983, Finland)
167 Krull, Peter Yates (1983, UK)
168 The Fourth Man, Paul Verhoeven (1983, Netherlands)
169 American Dreams (lost + found), James Benning (1984, USA)
170 Nineteen Eighty-four, Michael Radford (1984, UK)
171 No End, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1984, Poland)
172 A Simple Death, Aleksandr Kajdanovsky (1985, Russia)
173 Brazil, Terry Gilliam (1985, UK)
174 Calamari Union, Aki Kaurismäki (1985, Finland)
175 Come and See, Elem Klimov (1985, Russia)
176 Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen (1985, Germany)
177 O-Bi, O-Ba. Koniec Cywilizacji, Piotr Szulkin (1985, Poland)
178 Ran, Akira Kurosawa (1985, Japan)
179 Blue Velvet, David Lynch (1986, USA)
180 The Fly, David Cronenberg (1986, USA)
181 Babette’s Feast, Gabriel Axel (1987, Denmark)
182 Royal Space Force: Wings of Honnemâise, Hiroyuki Yamaga (1987, Japan)
183 Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders (1987, Germany)
184 Yeelen, Souleymane Cissé (1987, Mali)
185 Distant Voices, Still Lives, Terence Davies (1988, UK)
186 On the Silver Globe, Andrzej Żuławski (1988, Poland)
187 Story of Women, Claude Chabrol (1988, France)
188 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Pedro Almodóvar (1988, Spain)
189 For All Mankind, Al Reinert (1989, USA)
190 Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Aki Kaurismäki (1989, Finland)
191 The Abyss, James Cameron (1989, USA)
192 The Seventh Continent, Michael Haneke (1989, Austria)
193 Close-up, Abbas Kiarostami (1990, Iran)
194 The Second Circle, Aleksandr Sokurov (1990, Russia)
195 The Sheltering Sky, Bernardo Bertolucci (1990, UK)
196 Delicatessen, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro (1991, France)
197 Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper (1991, USA)
198 La belle noiseuse, Jacques Rivette (1991, France)
199 Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata (1991, Japan)
200 The Double Life of Veronique, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1991, France)
201 Man Bites Dog, Belvoir, Bonzel & Poelvoorde (1992, Belgium)
202 Mięso (Ironica), Piotr Szulkin (1993, Poland)
203 Ocean Waves, Tomomi Mochizuki (1993, Japan)
204 Caro diario, Nanni Moretti (1994, Italy)
205 London, Patrick Keiller (1994, UK)
206 The KIngdom, Lars von Trier (1994, Denmark)
207 Apollo 13, Ron Howard (1995, USA)
208 Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch (1995, USA)
209 Deseret, James Benning (1995, USA)
210 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Adtiya Chopra (1995, India)
211 Safe, Todd Haynes (1995, USA)
212 Underground, Emir Kusturica (1995, Serbia)
213 Lone Star, John Sayles (1996, USA)
214 Insomnia, Erik Skjoldbærg (1997, Norway)
215 Mother and Son, Aleksandr Sokurov (1997, Russia)
216 Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven (1997, USA)
217 The Fifth Element, Luc Besson (1997, France)
218 Festen, Tomas Vinterberg (1998, Denmark)
219 Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Karan Johar (1998, India)
220 Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer (1998, Germany)
221 Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg (1998, USA)
222 Sliding Doors, Peter Howitt (1998, UK)
223 The  Thin Red Line, Terence Malick (1998, USA)
224 X-Files: Fight the Future, Rob Bowman (1998, USA)
225 Beau travail, Claire Denis (1999, France)
226 In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai (1999, China)
227 The Matrix, Wachowskis (1999, USA)
228 The Wind Will Carry Us, Abbas Kiarostami (1999, Iran)
229 Amores Perros, Alejandro González Iñárritu (2000, Mexico)
230 Kippur, Amos Gitai (2000, Israel)
231 Le goût des autre, Agnès Jaoui (2000, France)
232 Memento, Christopher Nolan (2000, USA)
233 Nine Queens, Fábian Bielinsky (2000, Argentina)
234 The Circle, Jafar Panahi (2000, Iran)
235 Water Drops on Burning Rocks, François Ozon (2000, France)
236 Werckmeister Harmonies, Béla Tarr (2000, Hungary)
237 X-Men, Bryan Singer (2000, USA)
238 A Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, Chris Marker (2001, France)
239 Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, Zacharias Kunuk (2001, Canada)
240 Avalon, Mamoru Oshii (2001, Japan)
241 Mulholland Drive, David Lynch (2001, USA)
242 No Man’s Land, Danis Tanović (2001, Bosnia)
243 Secret Ballot, Babak Payami (2001, Iran)
244 Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki (2001, Japan)
245 The Discovery of Heaven, Jeroen Krabbé (2001, Netherlands)
246 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson (2001, USA)
247 8 femmes, François Ozon (2002, France)
248 City of God, Fernando Meireilles & Kátia Lund (2002, Brazil)
249 Divine Intervention, Elia Suleiman (2002, Palestine)
250 Hero, Zhang Yimou (2002, China)
251 Lilya 4-ever, Lukas Moodysson (2002, Sweden)
252 Russian Ark, Aleksandr Sokurov (2002, Russia)
253 Osama, Siddiq Barmak (2003, Afghanistan)
254 Zatoichi, Beat Takeshi (2003, Japan)
255 Atash, Tawfik Abu Wael (2004, Palestine)
256 Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004, Germany)
257 Head-on, Fatih Akin (2004, Germany)
258 Moolaadé, Ousmane Sembène (2004, Senegal)
259 Primer, Shane Carruther (2004, USA)
260 Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, Kerry Conran (2004, USA)
261 The Consequences of Love, Paolo Sorrentino (2004, Italy)
262 The Incredibles, Brad Bird (2004, USA)
263 Free Zone, Amos Gitai (2005, Israel)
264 Frozen Land, Aku Louhimies (2005, Finland)
265 Tsotsi, Gavin Hood (2005, South Africa)
266 Atomised, Oskar Roehler (2006, Germany)
267 Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón (2006, UK)
268 Daratt, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (2006, Chad)
269 Jar City, Baltasar Kormákur (2006, Iceland)
270 Lady Chatterley, Pascale Ferran (2006, France)
271 Ostrov, Pavel Lungin (2006, Russia)
272 Red Road, Andrea Arnold (2006, UK)
273 The Bothersome Man, Jens Lien (2006, Norway)
274 The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2006, Germany)
275 The Yacoubian Building, Hamed Marwan (2006, Egypt)
276 In the Shadow of the Moon, David Sington (2007, UK)
277 La Antena, Esteban Sapir (2007, Argentina)
278 Paranormal Activity, Oran Peli (2007, USA)
279 The Band’s Visit, Eran Kolirin (2007, Israel)
280 Timecrimes, Nacho Vigalondo (2007, Spain)
281 XXY, Lucia Penzo (2007, Argentina)
282 Gomorra, Matteo Garrone (2008, Italy)
283 Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson (2008, Sweden)
284 She Should Have Gone to the Moon, Ulrike Kubatta (2008, UK)
285 Tears for Sale, Uros Stajonavic (2008, Serbia)
286 The Wedding Song, Karin Albou (2008, Tunisia)
287 About Elly, Asghar Farhadi (2009, Iran)
288 Ajami, Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani (2009, Israel)
289 Antichrist, Lars von Trier (2009, Denmark)
290 Cargo, Ivan Engler & Ralph Etter (2009, Switzerland)
291 Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold (2009, UK)
292 Hierro, Gabe Ibáñez (2009, Spain)
293 No One Knows About Persian Cats, Bahman Ghobadi (2009, Iran)
294 The Secret in their Eyes, Juan José Campanella (2009, Argentina)
295 The Time that Remains, Elia Suleiman (2009, Palestine)
296 The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke (2009, Germany)
297 Villa Amalia, Benoît Jacquot (2009, France)
298 Watchmen, Zack Snyder (2009, USA)
299 Women without Men, Shirin Neshat & Shoja Azari (2009, Iran)
300 Four Lions, Chris Morris (2010, UK)
301 Norwegian Ninja, Thomas Capellan Malling (2010, Norway)
302 Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois (2010, France)
303 Troll Hunter, André Øvredal (2010, Norway)
304 Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik (2010, USA)
305 Apollo 18, Gonzalo Lopéz-Gallego (2011, USA)
306 Hanna, Joe Wright (2011, USA)
307 Sound of My Voice, Zal Batmanglij (2011, USA)
308 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher (2011, USA)
309 The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar (2011, Spain)
310 Call Girl, Mikael Marcimain (2012, Sweden)
311 Dredd, Pete Travis (2012, UK)
312 John Carter, Andrew Stanton (2012, USA)
313 The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer (2012, UK)
314 Wadjda, Haifaa al-Mansour (2012, Saudi Arabia)
315 Europa Report, Sebastián Cordero (2013, USA)
316 Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón (2013, USA)
317 Nympho()maniac, Lars von Trier (2013, Denmark)
318 The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino (2013, Italy)
319 Upstream Colour, Shane Carruther (2013, USA)
320 Predestination, Michael & Peter Spierig (2014, Australia)
321 Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer (2014, UK)

At present, it breaks down as follows by country and decade.

1001FILMSBYCOUNTRY

1001filmsbydecade

There are still too many US films (29%) and too many from the first decade of this century (22%). There are some directors I’d like to include at least one work by, such as Otto Preminger, but I have yet to pick one. One or two of my choices may not make the final list, especially some of the science fiction films. But most choices I’m prepared to defend (although one or two – Queen Of Blood, for example – is just me being a bit perverse for the sake of it, although I do love the film…). One or two films I chose because of their influence on cinema, rather than because they are good films per se; but there are still a number of cinematic movements without representatives. Many of the films listed are personal favourites – that undoubtedly swayed my vote, but hey I have good taste in movies anyway…

There are also one or two directors who certainly belong on the list but I may not have chosen their best, or most obvious, films. Sometimes it’s because I much prefer the film I picked, sometimes it’s because I wasn’t sure which one to choose. I also need to watch more Bollywood films to see if more of those should make my list…. And more cinema from assorted African and South American countries… Not to mention exploring more of the oeuvres of world-class directors like Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray…

Of course, if there other movies which belong on this list that I’ve not listed, then feel free to name them in a comment. But please, don’t go suggesting loads of shitty Hollywood films. Yes, I’m going to need help to reach 1001 films, but I’m looking for good films…

Oh, and the first person to suggest The Force Awakens will be roundly chastised…


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The year in moving pictures

In 2015, I decided to try and watch as many films as I could on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, started subscribing to a second DVD rental library, and bought myself an Amazon Fire TV Stick. As a result, I watched 571 films during the year, of which 115 were rewatches (some more than once). In among those were 170 from the aforementioned list.

The bulk of the movies I watched were DVDs or Blu-rays I’d purchased myself. (I bought a multi-region Blu-ray player so I could watch Region A Blu-rays.) But I also watched quite a number from Amazon’s Lovefilm by Post. See below.

2015_films_by_source

Kinopalæst is the cinema in Denmark where I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Light is the cinema in Leeds where I saw SPECTRE. Yes, they were the only two films I saw at the cinema. I did quite well on my Amazon Fire TV Stick – 48 movies, all of which were included free with Amazon Prime.

In terms of genre, drama seems to have done especially well, although admittedly it’s a broad term and perhaps some of the films I’ve categorised as drama might better be labelled something else. Anyway, see below.

2015_films_by_genre

The two Bollywood films were from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list – or rather, one of them was: the other, Deewaar, proved to be a 2004 film of that title and not the 1975 one on the list (although both starred Amitabh Bachchan). Although last year I rented several of the plays from the BBC’s Shakespeare Collection from the late 1970s/early 1980s, the one Shakespeare movie this year was Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, which I thought very good.

By decade, the films I watched pretty much follows the same graph for books read: the current decade is the most popular (surprisingly), and there’s a steady increase through the decades which peaks at the 1960s. See below.

2015_films_by_decade

The late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century were a result of watching some early Dreyer silent movies and a DVD collection, Early Cinema – Primitives and Pioneers, because one of the films on it was on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list.

By nation makes for an interesting graph. Although I’ve been working my way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, which includes movies from many different nations (but over half are from the US, sadly), I’ve been a fan of world cinema for years and many of my favourite directors work in non-Anglophone cinema. See below.

films_by_country

The high number from Russia is no doubt due mostly to Aleksandr Sokurov, a favourite director; for Denmark because of Carl Theodor Dreyer, and for Germany it’s probably Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Only two from Sweden – I obviously need to watch more Bergman…

Speaking of favourite directors, Sokurov comes out top for 2015 with 33 (most, it has to be said, were rewatches). Second is Jacques Tati, a 2015 “discovery”, at 15, then James Benning, another 2015 “discovery”, at 13. The remaining top ten goes as follows: Rainer Werner Fassbinder (12), Alfred Hitchcock (11), Carl Theodor Dreyer (10), Lars von Trier (8), Sergei Eisenstein (6), and lastly George Stevens, Michael Curtiz, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean-Luc Goddard and Jean Cocteau (5).

I finished the year having seen 703 movies on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, and a quite large pile of DVDs and Blu-rays on my To Be Watched list. I plan to keep on with the list in 2015, although I think I’ll take it a bit slower, perhaps spend some evenings each week reading rather than film-watching. Plus, it’s getting to the stage now where I have to purchase titles in order to watch them as they’re not available for rental. We’ll see how it goes.


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Moving pictures, #36

Of the 1001 Movies You Must see Before You Die, 533 are from the US. That’s not an exact figure, of course – these days, with film production companies from different nations often doing deals to back a movie, it makes it difficult to say a movie is categorically from one nation or another. Even so, for over half of the list – which, admittedly, is clearly aimed at Anglophone film-goers – to be from a single country is a bit much. And, as I’ve discovered, a lot of the US movies just aren’t really that good.

For the record, France scores next highest, with 102 movies; then it’s the UK at 82; then Italy at 42; Germany at 33; Japan 26; USSR/Russia 19; Australia and Sweden 13 each; Hong Kong 12; and Spain and India with 10 apiece. The countries of the rest of the world have less than ten films each on the list.

Think about that: India, which Wikipedia describes as “the largest producer of films in the world”, provides only 1% of the list – and of those ten movies, four are by Satyajit Ray and two by Ritwik Ghatak (both of whom have been critically lauded in the West), one is a silent (and actually by German director Franz Osten), and only three are Bollywood. There is also a single film from Egypt – the largest film producer of the Arabic-speaking world (three-quarters of all Arabic-language films were made in Egypt). While I will admit the only Bollywood films I have seen are two of the three on the list – and I really liked Dilwale Dulhania le Jayenge – but I have seen a number of Arabic films – I’m a big fan of Palestinian director Elia Sulieman – though not very many from Egypt.

But then the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list seems to be a weird mix of populist movies and popular auteur films. Some directors appear far too often, some not often enough. There are some films which are historically important, and some which display innovative cinematic techniques. But a good many of the movies on the list really don’t deserve to be on it, and there are far better, and more important, choices the list-makers could have chosen…

And as if in illustration, this post features four US movies from the list, none of which rightly belongs on it.

phantom_carriageThe Phantom Carriage*, Victor Sjöström (1921, Sweden). I can appreciate films that are clearly important in the development of cinema, and while they may prove difficult viewing to present-day audiences, it does not usually take too much of a leap of imagination to realise how the film might have played to a contemporary audience. And so to The Phantom Carriage. I suspect “Pepper’s ghost” was an illusion not unfamiliar to audiences in the 1920s, but to see the cinematic equivalent – double exposure – no doubt impressed because of the newness of the medium. And it’s certainly used to good effect in this film. The story itself is a typical piece of Gothic hokum, although it makes extensive use of flashbacks – which is certainly daring in a silent film. I suspect this is a movie which will need a couple of watches to fully appreciate. Worth seeing.

orphicTestament of Orpheus, Jean Cocteau (1960, France). I really like Cocteau’s Orpheus, the middle film of his Orphic Trilogy, although I wonder how coherent a trilogy the three films make. Testament of Orpheus, for example, is actually Cocteau revisiting the themes and motifs of Orpheus, but without actually bothering with plot, characters or anything else so bourgeois. None of which is especially a bad thing. But Orpheus has the advantage of subtext – one that the film actually makes text at certain points – which is the German Occupation of France. And Testament of Orpheus often turns to the surrealist imagery of The Blood of a Poet, and fails to make good use of it in the context of its story. Cocteau has been travelling through time, but materialises in 1959 and persuades a scientist to kill him with a special gun so that he can remain permanently in that time. But it doesn’t go as planned, and Cocteau finds himself halfway between the real world and a fantasy world in which elements of Orpheus appear – including its characters. There’s plenty of dream-logic at work, which is heightened by the use of camera tricks such as filming in reverse. The use of a sound-stage and assorted ruins as sets only adds to the meta-fictional nature of the film. It’s a talky movie, more concerned with philosophy than drama, which makes for slow viewing. But it’s also a clever film, and makes some witty points about the medium of film and even poetry. I still prefer Orpheus, but this one comes a close second.

glenn_gouldThirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould*, François Girard (1993, Canada). I knew nothing about this film or its subject before watching it. I don’t listen to classical music, and wouldn’t know one eighteenth century composer’s works from another’s. But good documentaries make you care for their subject irrespective of any actual interest you might have had previously. And in that respect Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould succeeds admirably. It is helped by two factors: one, its subject is actually an interesting person, and two, it has chosen to document its topic in an unusual mannner. Glenn Gould was a renowned concert pianist from Canada, but also an insightful and prolific commentator on a number of topics. The film is structured, as its title suggests, as a series of short movies about Gould, ranging from fly-on-the-wall to talking heads to weird animation. And it totally works. Hunt down a copy and watch it.

ballad_narayamThe Ballad of Narayama*, Shohei Imamura (1983, Japan). There are some films that are clearly well-made, admirable even, but something about the story prevents you from liking them. Such is the case with The Ballad of Narayama. It is a nasty, horrible film. Albeit a well-made one. It’s set in a small village in nineteenth century Japan. It is the practice in the village for old people when they reach the age of seventy to walk to a nearby mountain and remain there until they starve to death. And if they won’t go voluntarily… One old woman is approaching her seventieth birthday, and much of the film is about her family as they scrabble to survive in poverty. She has decided she will go with dignity, and so spends her last year arranging her affairs. The various characters are mostly mean and despicable. One smells so bad, no one will have anything to do with him. A young woman with a burn scar on her face will happily sleep with any man, and is treated badly them by all as a result. One man has already tried starving his old father, in an effort to encourage him to head for the mountain. I really didn’t like this film, and I have no desire to ever watch it again.

short_cutsShort Cuts*, Robert Altman (1993, USA). Altman appears on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list six times – as well as Short Cuts, there’s The Player, Nashville, The Long Goodbye, McCabe And Mrs Miller and M*A*S*H. There’s perhaps one that actually belongs there – I’d vote for McCabe And Mrs Miller. Short Cuts, however, is one of those films were a number of intersecting stories sort of, er, intersect and er, prove, well, nothing really. The cast list is impressive, as is indeed the case for most Altman films. The plot, such as it is, involves a series of small stories which cross and intersect , which seems to be an Altman thing, but I can’t barely remember the details – and I suspect some of them I’ve confused with The Player. The problem is that all the stories seem little more than scenes in a larger story, when in fact there is no larger story. So you’ve no real idea what the point of the film is, or what happened to beginning, middle and end. I am all for non-traditional narrative structures, but a braided narrative is hardly non-traditional and for it  to be effective it really needs to be put to good use. Meh.

how_greenHow Green Was My Valley*, John Ford (1941, USA). Because of a little thing called World War II, this movie about a small mining village in Wales was actually filmed in California. And in black and white – so the difference wouldn’t be too obvious. Hollywood apparently also had a problem casting actors who could manage a Welsh accent, as most of the cast sound more Irish than Welsh. Except for male lead Walter Pidgeon. He didn’t even try, he just sounds American. Unbelievably, How Green Was My Valley swept the Oscars in its year of release, beating out Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon and Suspicion to Best Picture, Orson Welles and Howard Hawks to Best Director, and also taking home Best Supporting Actor, Best Black-and-White Cinematography and Best Black-and-White Art Direction. And yet it’s sentimental tosh. It reminded me in many ways of The Quiet Man – another John Ford film starring Maureen O’Hara – whose high regard I find mystifying. I’ve no idea what How Green Was My Valley‘s source novel is like – I imagine it has plenty of social commentary, which Hollywood has buried beneath layers of schmaltz. And yes, there’s lots of singing…

Artists___ModelsArtists and Models*, Frank Tashlin (1955, USA). I don’t believe this is actually available on DVD – I ended up buying a ripped version of it on eBay for a couple of quid (the seller sent me You’re Never Too Young, another Martin & Lewis film, by mistake, then told me to keep it and sent the right movie). There are many films – and this is becoming an all too common refrain – whose presence on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list is a complete mystery to me. It’s possible to make a case for Jerry Lewis’s The Ladies Man – it’s an awful comedy, but the way the camera pulls back and reveals the set as a giant doll’s house is innovative. But I can see nothing in Artists and Models which makes the film in any way interesting or important. Martin plays an out-of-work artist, and Lewis is his comicbook-fan friend. It turns out the artist responsible for Lewis’s favourite character, Bat Lady, lives in their apartment building (her friend, Shirley MacLaine, is the model for Bat Lady). When the artist resigns, Martin applies for the job, using a character invented by Lewis – who dreams the stories, and describes them aloud while sleeping. I find Lewis’s OTT gurning hard to take at the best of times, and he’s in full flow in this movie. Martin is much more watchable – but stick to the Matt Helm films if you want to see him in action. Not a good film.

cabaretCabaret*, Bob Fosse (1972, USA). Fosse’s All That Jazz had taken me by surprise – I had not expected to like it as much as I did. Cabaret, I thought I knew more about. I am fairly sure, for one thing, that I have seen the film before, although most likely only in snippets over the past few decades. Sadly, despite my familiarity with bits of it I didn’t take to Cabaret very much. Possibly because Liza Minelli’s character I found annoying, and because it’s impossible to take Michael York seriously as an actor. The musical scenes at the Kit Kat Club were well-staged, although Joel Grey’s emcee was creepily over-the-top. One of All That Jazz‘s strengths was its meta-fictionality, the fact it was a film about making a film, based quite heavily on Fosse’s own experiences – and the final extended dance sequence was the perfect capstone to the high-intensity story which had preceded it. Cabaret, on the other hand, is a straightforward drama enlivened by musical numbers, and not even Minelli, the movie’s setting or its score lifted it for me above other films of its ilk. All That Jazz rightly belongs on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, but I’m less convinced Cabaret does.

1001 Movies You Must see Before You Die count: 681