Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock

Tense, clever and with a murder at the centre of the story based on a morally repellent premise, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 Rope showcases two guys – who seem travesties of Nietzsche’s Übermensch – attempting a very misguided and ill-thought show of superior intellectual prowess.

rope-2In the end, what gets them caught is a stupid mistake, a sign of utter weakness: a hat forgotten inside a cloakroom. How ironic then that two supercilious individuals prove to be the perfect representation of their most derided weakness? Wanting to prove a point of a philosophy which is highly critical of the status quo and highlights the intelligence of those pointing the finger, they forget to check their own stupidity. They simply do not get that Nietzsche’s Superman is meant to represent a hypothetical counterpoint to our modern paradigm, and does not require any practical application. Continue reading

M (1931), Fritz Lang

As disturbing as it is thrilling, Fritz Lang’s 1931 M – with its tale of a child murderer causing panic in Germany – sets some groundbreaking rules for serial killer movies to come and asks difficult questions about society’s responsibility towards mentally unstable individuals.

m-2Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece M not only subverts every storytelling rule that there is, but most importantly, it documents a crucial era in German history. In its prescience, the film depicts a society at war with itself, few years before it engaged in real battle with its neighbouring, powerful nations. The police state seems already in full force, even before the Nazis took control of the country and made sure every citizen spied on each other. By antagonizing such a society with a truly despicable – albeit a pitiable one – individual, the film plays a magnificent and ambiguous game. Continue reading

Psycho (1960), Alfred Hitchcock

A quintessential horror movie and arguably the most iconic of all of his films, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho kills its protagonist half way through the story, replaces her with a mama’s boy and transforms itself from a mystery tale into a poignant psychological study.

psycho-2There is no shadow of a doubt as to Alfred Hitchcock being one of the greatest directors of all time. His films have by now transcended the realm of cinema and become part of a wider cultural milieu – icons on themselves. As the movies reach an ever-expanding demographic and their whodunnit aspect subsides, it gets harder to be shocked by their themes and storylines, slightly diminishing the experience of watching the films, but paradoxically also adding new undiscovered pleasures to it. Continue reading

Rashomon (1950), Akira Kurosawa

Philosophically profound as well as thematically challenging, Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 Rashomon touches not only on cinematic history and the confluence of Eastern and Western traditions, but also on the age-old and important matter of the nature of truth and its elusiveness.

rashomon-2Forget for a moment that this film revealed to the world one of the greatest masters of cinema, or that its title became a common term to describe contradictory interpretations of a single event. For now, just give a passing thought about truth, its nature and how elusive it really is. Kurosawa’s choice to tell lies reinforced by images that suggest the truth already elevates the movie to a different level of philosophical depth. Rashomon [Rashômon] is indeed a true masterpiece. Continue reading

The Deer Hunter (1978), Michael Cimino

Sandwiching the horrors of war between two dramatic opposites within a three-act story, Michael Cimino’s 1978 The Deer Hunter – a truly compelling tale of friendships gone awry – is the film which surely helped to propel the careers of its superstar actors to the stratosphere.

the-deer-hunter-2By the end of The Deer Hunter, when these close-knit friends sing ‘God Bless America’ around a bar table – longing for the safe haven of the past – they have been through a poignant arc in their lives. Though the three men who left for Vietnam somewhat return home, only one of them stays halfway sane; the other two are either dead or reduced to a traumatized child. During the movie’s three hours, these people mature so dramatically, almost becoming different men and women, as to infuse the picture’s last scene with so much ambiguity. Continue reading

Volver (2006), Pedro Almodóvar

A magical realist fable in the guise of a crime story, Pedro Almodóvar’s 2006 Volver packs three generations of resilient Spanish women – who happen to be vulnerable and delicate as well – in a poignant and mysterious tale of forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.

volver-2The melodramatic tone of Volver (which means to return) and the labyrinthine nature of the plot do not subtract from the impact the film leaves on the audience. This world populated almost exclusively by women, who while harming other women, also take comfort in the affection of other strong women, is rich in symbolism, metaphors and subtle meanings. Because the story is played out as a mystery tale, the full significance of things, hinted at the start, will be revealed only at its operatic end. Continue reading

The Godfather (1972) / The Godfather – Part II (1974), Francis Ford Coppola

Two superb masterpieces, comparable to the first sequence of films made by Orson Welles, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather & 1974 The Godfather – Part II are real landmarks in the history of American cinema and turning points in the country’s image of itself.

the-godfather-2In 1945, on his daughter’s wedding day, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), who is the boss of a New York criminal clan, hears requests from selected guests. Some want justice; some want a role in an upcoming movie; some just want to pay their respect. As the Don’s third son, Michael (Al Pacino) returns from serving his country in World War II and brings his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) to meet the family, we get acquainted with all the family members. These are: first and second sons, hot-headed Sonny (James Caan) and weak-minded Fredo (John Cazale), daughter Connie (Talia Shire) and adopted son, trusted lawyer and consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). ooooo ooo godfather-diane-keatongodfather-talia-shiregodfather-john-cazalegodfather-vito-childgodfather-marlon-brandogodfather-robert-de-nirogodfather-al-pacinogodfather-james-caangodfather-robert-duvallWhen a crime lord invites Don Corleone to join him in the emergent drug market and he refuses, an attempted murder fails to kill him. Michael, thus far an openly outsider and the only college-educated of the children, suggests the assassination of the two men responsible for their troubles. After killing the drug baron and the crooked, ‘on his pay roll’ police officer, Michael flees to Sicily, in Italy. When Sonny is killed in retaliation for the previous murders, the Godfather arranges a meeting with the other crime families of New York to establish a cease-fire. As Michael is allowed to return to the USA, he becomes the new Don. Soon after Vito Corleone dies, on the day of his sister Connie’s baby’s baptism, Michael Corleone orders the death of every single of his enemies, the bosses of the other criminal families. Continue reading

Serpico (1973), Sidney Lumet

A classic whistle-blowing and myth-bursting tale, Sidney Lumet’s 1973 Serpico, the agonizing story of an honest cop battling corruption within the New York City Police Department, showcases how greed trumps dignity every time at every level of human endeavours.

serpico-2This 40-year-old tale of one guy against the system is surely nothing new to modern audiences, right? Who really does not know that the police force is a corrupt and self-serving organization? Since the release of the movie, audiences have become cynical and don’t normally buy this idea that cops patrol our cities ‘to protect and to serve’. It would however be a mistake to see the film’s value in such simplistic terms. For the story of Serpico is less about revealing corruption in the police force and more about the struggle one man faces when he chooses dignity and the consequences it has on his self. Continue reading

City of God (2002), Fernando Meirelles

A visually and morally audacious picture, Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 City of God, this violent, frantic, sprawling and elliptical tale of crime and poverty in a suburban slum of Rio de Janeiro, poses tough, controversial questions about income inequality and social justice.

city-of-god-2How does one fight injustice in a just way? Try and escape a prison erected before you’ve even been born. What would you do to make ends meet? What moral limits you’re prepared to accept in order to feed, house and raise your family? Any at all? City of God [Cidade de Deus] depicts the lives of people who have been dealing with such tough questions all their existences. It is easy to moralise from afar. It is arrogant to criticise choices we don’t have to make. It is safe to point the finger when there are no crime lords around to slice it off. Continue reading

Sunset Blvd. (1950), Billy Wilder

Simultaneously dark, caustic and humorous, and yet all too real, Billy Wilder’s 1950 Sunset Boulevard, one the greatest of its director’s many masterpieces and arguably the finest film noir of all time, remains fresh as a portrait of desperation, delusion and dependence.

sunset-boulevard-2Sunset Boulevard is not only one of the finest film noirs of all time but also, arguably, the greatest and darkest movie about Hollywood to ever appear on the silver screen – a master class by a filmmaker who has made an incredible number of great films. But despite the movie’s focus on the film industry, the story of Sunset Blvd. deals with universal themes and the human condition. In every corner of every city in the world there’s always an aspiring (and yet needy) artist ready to sell his soul to the first devil who offers enough choices to change his life. Continue reading