Diner (1982), Barry Levinson

A wonderfully acted, thought-provoking movie, Barry Levinson’s 1982 Diner delves into the minds of young people and focus on the apparent dichotomy between the natural inclination towards rebellion and the necessity of conforming to a life of acceptance and responsibility.

diner-2The young characters in Levinson’s Diner are at the threshold of modern times. As the end of the 50s signals the twilight of innocence, the friends at the centre of this coming-of-age tale begin contemplating changes which will affect their lives in unparalleled ways. More remarkable still is the fact that not only those people and their world were at the cusp of a profoundly shift in contemporary mores, but the actors involved in the film were also at the dawn of their stardom. Continue reading

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 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

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

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

Babette’s Feast (1987), Gabriel Axel

A sublime tale of denial, sacrifice and regret in a remote corner of Denmark, Gabriel Axel’s 1987 Babette’s Feast confronts the austerity of two elderly Protestant sisters with Babette’s sumptuous and mouth-watering banquet to expose hard truths about faith and its limitations.

babettes-feast-2How do western audiences at the beginning of the 21st Century, spoilt, overfed and overstimulated as they are, react to a tale of slow austerity and constipated frugality, set in the 19th Century? Babette’s Feast [Babettes Gæstebud] is a masterpiece of sublime meditation on the gulf between the pleasures of the body and the stimulus of the spirit. As the film points at the pertinent ambiguity inherent in such dichotomy, asking intriguing questions in the process, we are served (forgive the pun) a feast of intellectual stimulation. 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 King of Comedy (1983), Martin Scorsese

An odd and uncharacteristic entry in his filmography, Martin Scorsese’s 1983 The King of Comedy, a cautionary tale of mediated reality and borderline psychosis, tells the scathing story of one man’s insecurity and his obsessive, unscrupulous and relentless pursuit of fame.

the-king-of-comedy3Rupert Pupkin is a deluded and malicious man, who resides at the edge of morality. But the line that separates him from other, more ‘normal’ individuals is thin indeed. In different circumstances, Pupkin could arguably be a highly successful man – streetwise, determined and flexibly adaptable. In a parallel universe he would not be loathed, but greatly admired. Continue reading