Paris, Texas (1984), Wim Wenders

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders’ 1984 Paris, Texas might be set in the American Southwest but, if the past is indeed a foreign country, then the movie reaches out to all of us through the memories of one man who does things differently.

paris-texas-2Both the landscapes at the start of the film and the lines on the face of the protagonist seem carved by time – this great destroyer of things. However, one must acknowledge that although the gradual elapsing of life itself brings us closer to death, it also fills us with rich experience and relevant wisdom. Like Jesus Christ, our hero comes out of the desert a little wiser than he has supposedly been before that experience. His prudent refusal to speak seems an astute move: look and learn before letting anyone use your words against yourself. Lost and a little confused he may be, but he is not stupid. Continue reading

The Thin Red Line (1998), Terrence Malick

A lyrical war movie to end all war movies, Terrence Malick’s 1998 The Thin Red Line, this epic and metaphysical film, asks the most essential of questions: Is war – such a primordial conflict resolution tool – as natural as the magnificent landscape shown on the picture?

the-thin-red-line-2Why does mankind need to reach the depths of despair in order to notice the precious nature of life and to contemplate what’s beyond the mundane? Perhaps, it is this paradox that makes war stories especially poignant, with such a rich array of feelings and emotions that seems to encompass humanity’s whole range of meanings. Thus the actuality of war poses a great conundrum to our species as it encapsulates primeval aspects of mankind’s psyche, and as such serves us with the tools to search for and reach the sublime. 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

The Shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick

As its director’s own remarkable oeuvre touches the worst excesses of mankind through youth callousness, apes and their killing instincts and cynical warfare games, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 The Shining suggests the worst horrors actually inhabits man’s own deep and hidden recesses.

the-shining-2From the outset The Shining was surrounded by controversy as its director not only rejected the script written by the author of the source material, but also changed the tale’s central thesis. As the film diverges quite a lot from Stephen King’s novel, one feels for him for the butchering of his story. The celebrated writer – whose several tales have been adapted to the cinema – let everyone know he disliked the movie. However, the fact remains that Kubrick’s film is a classic masterwork of horror cinema – even, of cinema, full stop – whereas King’s novel, although a great book, is nonetheless flawed as literature. Continue reading

Birdman (2014), Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu

Deliriously funny and poignant, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s 2014 Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), gradually treats us with small doses of wisdom drugs as it reaches a crescendo of lucid madness, before administering a treatment for life’s meaninglessness.

birdman-2How does a man, on the threshold of madness, between his long gone, careless youth and his dreaded autumn years, solve a grave existential crisis caused by his own poor choices? Obviously, he turns against himself, as Birdman‘s Riggan Thomson does. But as he knows to be the only one capable of extracting himself from the black hole of self-contempt, our (literally!) hero also understands that redemption as the cure for his malaise can only work with the involvement of the people who hurt, and have been hurt by, Riggan. Thus, he embarks on an involuntarily last hurrah journey… Continue reading

Battleship Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisenstein

Communist propaganda disguised as art, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin – a truly iconic film in the entire history of cinema – must be seen and understood as a piece of film-making in itself, and not only as the product of a specific era, aimed to awe and persuade. 

battleship-potemkin-2Looking back to the past with the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing… Being far removed from the actions and the emotions of a certain period in time – especially if it is a controversial one – allows great insight into what once might have been taken for granted. With communism long gone, and the cold war consigned to the history books, the narrative within Battleship Potemkin [Bronenosets Potyomkin] can be finally understood allegorically – seen past through its propaganda veneer. Continue reading

Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), Werner Herzog

A film-antidote to the idealized idea of the conquistador, Werner Herzog’s 1972 Aguirre, Wrath of God, as brutal and visceral as it is, the movie nonetheless presents us with an insightful vision of both positive and negative sides of paradise and European madness over it.

aguirre-the-wrath-of-god-2Intellectuals from the Northern Hemisphere have always been fascinated by how the other half bear their existences. Classic fictional works like Joseph Conrad’s 1899 Heart of Darkness, Werner Herzog’s 1972 Aguirre, Wrath of God [Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes] and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Apocalypse Now share key conceptual points that shed some light on how the rich see the rest of the world. The search for paradise lost – by itself a worrying and naïve quest! – usually follows mad men on boats facing up to mighty rivers… Continue reading

A City of Sadness (1989), Hsiao-hsien Hou

The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Hsiao-hsien Hou’s 1989 A City of Sadness – a movie with such a far-reaching scope – deals with the violent history of post-World War II Taiwan and its Martial Law through the sufferings and idealist activities of a family.

a-city-of-sadness-2For a film that deals with political brutality, A City of Sadness [Bēiqíng Chéngshì] presents very few episodes of actual violence. As such events are universally understood, and political repression utterly commonplace throughout the 20th Century – from fascism in Europe and McCarthyism in America through the military juntas in South America to the dictatorships of the Middle East and South East Asia – the tension can be felt and estimated by most members of the audience. It is this poignant stifling of liberty and desire that makes the movie a superb document on the human condition. 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