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

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

High Plains Drifter (1973), Clint Eastwood

With an amoral, enigmatic and thought-provoking character at the centre of its mythical tale, Clint Eastwood’s 1973 High Plains Drifter treads ambiguously towards good and evil as it intertwines past feelings of guilt with a thirsty for revenge and pathetic cowardice. 

high-plains-drifter-2Although the supernatural aspect of High Plains Drifter manages to add a further layer of meaning to the already ambiguous story, it is as a morality play that the film excels. As it deals with universal themes such as honor, honesty and courage in a microcosm of humanity, the movie wisely illustrates how little difference there is between this isolated, frontier town, at the threshold of civilization’s moral certitudes, and our modern, ever-changing, media-centred existence. What a magnificent and unconventional masterwork! Continue reading

There Will Be Blood (2007), Paul Thomas Anderson

A cinematic masterwork of epic and far-reaching scope, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 There Will Be Blood is a film that feeds off legends, allegories and origin stories, to then go on and create its own mythology about the American Century and the end of the dream.

there-will-be-blood-2The analogy between the plot of There Will Be Blood and the socio-economic history of the United States isn’t a difficult one to establish. The development of the country – and the subsequent social, cultural and technological progress set in motion by this – is the result of some morally dubious choices and dishonest manoeuvres. Rather more complicated, however, is to reconcile the negative aspects of such a society with the notion that this is the land of freedoms and opportunities. 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

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

Sideways (2004), Alexander Payne

A road movie through the vineyards of California, Alexander Payne’s 2004 Sideways, focus on two disappointed middle-aged men, who find solace for their frustration and anxiety in alcohol and sex, before they exorcise their demons and finally find their inner peace.

sideways-2Who needs sympathetic characters when we have Miles, a flawed, insecure and egotistical man? Who needs heroic behaviour when we have the privilege of observing Miles stealing money from his own mother? If you, instead, insist on having a traditional leading man with noble intentions look no further than Jack, an actor who has peaked more than a decade ago. If you’re looking for idealism, Sideways will disappoint; for it can only offer the most caustic and painful, down to earth, real life. Continue reading

Double Indemnity (1944), Billy Wilder

A pivotal, quintessential and seminal work of film noir cinema, Billy Wilder’s 1944 Double Indemnity, with the preeminent femme fatale at the centre of its story, parades a collection of immoral behaviour and provides a realistic and yet bleak opinion on the human condition. 

double-indemnity-2Is the sexy and conniving Phyllis, with her beautiful legs and pretty anklet, simply the object of male desires and nothing else? Is she a cardboard-type  character, who flirts, seduces and schemes like the devil, but has no dimension beyond this stereotypical representation of the blonde woman? Is she empowered or disenfranchised by such a representation? Interesting questions raised by this masterpiece of a film. Continue reading

Five Easy Pieces (1970), Bob Rafelson

Essentially a road movie that goes well into the past, Bob Rafelson’s 1970 Five Easy Pieces examines class relations in America through the eyes of a spoilt rebel, who is unsure whether to gurgle down beer in bowling alleys or sip wine with sophisticated and yet cold intellectuals.

five-easy-pieces-2Who is Robert Eroica Dupea? Is he an egocentric cynic – the unwanted consequence of a counterculture focused on self-improvement? Or a principled idealist, who likes to fight the conformist status quo? Is Dupea’s arrogance a sign of despair or the trait of a truly Übermensch? What is at the core of his dissatisfaction? What is behind his resentment?

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