Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski

Both an homage to and a re-working of classic film noir cinema, Roman Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown, a technically superb and multi-layered film about the corruption of politics and morals, stuns its protagonist to the core of his self when he opens a Pandora’s box of shamelessness.

chinatown-2Compare the smiling and radiant face of J. J. Gittes – like the 1930s sunny Los Angeles itself – at the beginning of the film, when he is talking to the allegedly Mrs Mulwray, with the horror at the end, after he has witnessed the reach of human depravity. Never has a private eye been taken for such a ride or taken so many things for granted. The magnitude of the transformation in the protagonist’s face mirrors the disparity between the world before the 1970s and the prevalent cynicism of nowadays. Continue reading

The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Denys Arcand

Witty, hilarious and very much relevant, Denys Arcand’s 1986 The Decline of the American Empire, a fast-paced intellectual tennis match, is the ultimate critique of modern capitalism and its consequences and an important philosophical assessment of human flaw.

the-decline-of-the-american-empire-2One dismiss this masterpiece of philosophical cinema at their own peril… Argh! A bunch of upper middle class types, inside their narcissistic bubble, discussing sex and analysing senses and sentiments, which should be felt instead. Why should we listen to these somewhat provincial people, so self-centred in their perverted self-inflicted painful existence? Well, because what they have to say is what we do not want to hear. Simply because these Canadians, with their 80s haircuts and dubious fashion sense, speak of inescapable truths. Continue reading

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Orson Welles

Depicting the outset and transformation of our world, Orson Welles’ 1942 The Magnificent Ambersons, which deals with the all too relevant theme of progress and its effects on society, interweaves the personal with the political to tell a love story devoid of happy ending.

the-magnificent-ambersons-2With all the jealousy, guilt trips, betrayal, scheming and a big and round Oedipus complex, Orson Welles’ second film is pure Greek tragedy: timeless and profound. And yet The Magnificent Ambersons is such a modern piece of storytelling. It deals with an issue that, although 200 years old, is still unsolved. How do we reconcile technological innovation and progress with the natural human need for slow and guided adaptation? The world changes and if we are to survive, we must change too, but peace of mind is essential for our sanity. Continue reading