Tabu (2012), Miguel Gomes

Evasive, suggestive and yet visually stunning, Miguel Gomes’ 2012 Tabu, this haunting dream of a movie dealing with memory and loss, inserts itself deep into the human soul, forcing us to ask: When is a person really seen for who they are and not for who they are perceived to be?

tabuThe weird beauty of young Aurora’s pet crocodile on the movie’s poster sets a hypnotic and yet appropriate mood for Tabu, Miguel Gomes’ beautiful film. For the story points to our pasts – perhaps, even beyond ourselves – and reaches the essence of what it means to remember. Where is the core of Aurora to be found? In the slightly paranoid old woman or the young and adventurous beauty? Time – inexorable and ruthless – transforms certainties. Traits that once seemed charming in youth acquire a sinister nature later in life. What in the past seemed cowardice, now might seem reasonable prudence. Continue reading

Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

A timeless classic and a love letter to the cinema, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s 1952 Singin’ in the Rain manages to be simultaneously hilarious and profound; a thought-provoking film that entertains and educates through wonderfully choreographed set-pieces.

singin-in-the-rain-2A little piece of film magic was created when in Singin’ in the Rain a soaked Gene Kelly dances under torrential rain, splashes on puddles and is spotted by a police officer – no other episode in the history of cinema is as iconic as it is idiosyncratic. Although as unforgettable as any edgy, suspenseful scene – perhaps the Russian roulette from The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino) or the coin toss from No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen) – taken out of context, the singing is utterly odd. Watched in isolation, we are entitled to ask: What is this guy blabbing about under such a downpour? Well… no reason is necessary for a demonstration of pure joy. Continue reading

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

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

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman

A poignant tale wrapped inside a sublimely unconventional western, Robert Altman’s 1971 McCabe & Mrs. Miller casts the unlikely idealist hero against the powerful push of corporate America, under heavy snow and thunderstorm rain and flying bullets and hot fire.

mccabe-and-mrs-miller-2Leisurely paced and unafraid to let real life chaotic nuances interfere with the storytelling, Robert Altman’s masterpiece McCabe & Mrs. Miller will enthrall anyone ready and willing to run away from clichés and tired twists. The fact that the film is arguably its director’s masterwork says it all, since Altman made several great movies. Direction, photography, soundtrack and especially the performance of the two leads, makes this oddly superb film as perfect as it can get. Continue reading

Gone with the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming

Thematically controversial and visually arresting, Victor Fleming’s 1939 Gone with the Wind, isn’t exactly the most accurate of motion pictures, but the scope of its storytelling, and the psychological insights it displays about a flawed but compelling heroine, are admirable indeed.

gone-with-the-wind-2How does one defend a 75-year-old movie that sugarcoats aspects of a nasty legacy in American history? Obviously, one doesn’t – one can’t! In fact, the film does not need defending – unless one, not only has a chip on their shoulder, but lives and sleeps with one at all times. Well-educated people will know that slavery was actually brutal (12 Years a Slave, anyone?). Why does a work of art must agree to certain degrees of accuracy? What kinds of responsibility does a picture bear towards the truth? Is it really so insensitive to love the film for those dresses, those vistas and those characters dazzling in Technicolor? 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

Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang

An iconic silent sci-fi masterwork and a landmark in the history of cinema, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, this dystopian vision of man, his toys and his imagination, is paradoxically too prescient and visionary to be a real threat to the modern economic and political status quo.

metropolis-2Fritz Lang’s Metropolis outlines all that’s wrong with humanity. In its apparently naïve message and melodramatic plot structure, the film condemns technological advance as a means of exploiting age-old class divisions in society. Publicly, members of the elite, helped by useful idiots and not-so-useful cretins, scoff at the notion that so much power is concentrated in so few hands, but privately, they laugh unrestrained and yet not out loud as not to disturb the servants downstairs. 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

The Graduate (1967), Mike Nichols

Told from the perspective of its bored and aimless anti-hero, Mike Nichols’ 1967 The Graduate juxtaposes a bleak view of suburban conformism and youth alienation to a background of green grass, white picket-fences and orange Californian sunshine.

the-graduate-2Despite Ben’s middle class background, anyone should be able to relate to his predicament – he has just finished studying hard and expectations are really high. Though now he can breathe a little, Benjamin feels like a pressure pan, ready to explode. Who has never felt like that? Who, at the outset of adulthood, never felt that the world was expecting too much from them? Though many viewers might find Ben too much of a spoilt brat, surely they still can feel for him and the typical troubles of a rebellious and confused young man. Continue reading