The Apartment (1960), Billy Wilder

A poignant and profound study of loneliness and conformism, Billy Wilder’s 1960 The Apartment showcases two actors – who would eventually become stars – at the top of their games, with Lemmon as naïve and vulnerable as much as MacLaine is smart and luminous.

the-apartment-2The two leading actors in this Billy Wilder’s masterpiece – these two great performers and iconic stars – transform two common lives into case studies of uniqueness. C. C. Baxter and Fran Kubelik might be suckers for authority, deeply conformist and self-interested people, but they aren’t your regular guys. Lemmon and MacLaine manage to bring to the fore their characters’ idiosyncratic traits while maintaining the overall feeling that these people are like those office colleagues who annoy us for their unashamedly deference and blind submission. Continue reading

Fanny and Alexander (1982), Ingmar Bergman

A 5-hour-plus drama of epic proportions intended as its director’s swan song, Ingmar Bergman’s 1982 Fanny and Alexander focus on sadness, frustration and bitterness, but above all, the dichotomy between art and religion, all understood through the perspective of two children.

fanny-and-alexander-2Never since The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Flemming) has a film changed its tonality so drastically, so dramatically as Fanny and Alexander. A canvas painted with colourful strokes of reds and oranges and greens and blues suddenly loses its joie de vivre and become almost monochrome with melancholy greys and discoloured pastels. What is initially noise and joy and dreams transforms itself into discipline and austerity and severity. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Frank Capra

As the film negative of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life is a fantastical parable that goes straight to the core of the individualistic ethos and challenges everything that is dear to western societies and their ideas about self-realisation.

its-a-wonderful-life-2How does one reconcile the two contradictory aspects attached to this classic film, i.e. the long tradition of playing the movie as a Christmas staple with the fact that the story can be taken as a communist yarn? The whole tale of George Bailey and the obstacles he encounters in his pursuit of happiness could be summarised as the story of someone’s frustrated dreams. By the end, with a little help from an aural friend, he is convinced that his altruistic attitude has all been for the best. If such posture does not show America’s approval of the common good and the collective well-being, then I don’t know what does. Continue reading