Some Movies You Need to See
by LF (updated 7/16/00)
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm a huge movie nut. I kept meaning to come up with a list of "greatest" movies or something like that, but most of you would probably at least have heard of the films I'd select. That'd be boring.
So here's a grouping of fun stuff from left field:
- Marat/Sade. If I remember correctly, the full title of the original play by Peter Weiss was The Persecution and Assasination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylym at Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. I first saw this twelve years ago, and liked it. Then I watched it again shortly after reading Victor Hugo's Ninety-Three and Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae, which REALLY filled in some gaps. By the third time I caught it, I'd read Simon Schama's Citizens, a history of the French Revolution, and absolutely everything fell into place. This is as good as it gets. Patrick Magee (best known for his roles in A Clockwork Orange, Zulu, and the horror anthologies Asylum and Tales from the Crypt) does a humane and intelligent de Sade, Ian Richardson bathes along as the obliviously evil Jean-Paul Marat, and a young Glenda Jackson gives a touching performance as the tormented Charlotte Corday.
- Shivers (American release title: They Came From Within). I can hardly believe that David Cronenberg is Jewish. His work is so incredibly Catholic that the Pope should grant him special dispensation. His best movie is Videodrome, but I just caught the "Director's Cut" of this, his first flick, and enjoyed it a lot. It's not very polished, but it is compelling if you are into Cronenberg's creepy vision of matters of the flesh.
- Un Couer En Hiver (English title: A Heart in Winter). French director Claude Sautet's decidedly anti-romantic romance flick. I can't think of how Daniel Auteuil's performance could've been any better. Emmanuelle Beart is more than lovely enough to deserve the attention she receives.
- Masseur Ichi and a Chest of Gold. To date, my favorite of the Zatoichi series (I haven't caught them all yet), thanks in part to a great but very short action sequence pitting the sightless swordsman -- yep, Ichi was the inspiration for that crappy Rutger Hauer flick Blind Fury -- against at least thirty guys carrying lanterns at night. Shintaro Katsu makes his character vulnerable . . . and believable as an unstoppable killing machine with a unique and extremely fast sword style.
- The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. Ms. Riefenstahl is a tough old broad and arguably the single most important female artist of the 20th century. This gets my vote as one of the best documentaries available. One major question: Why are filmmakers who produced propaganda for Stalin lionized in film schools?
- Green Snake. Perhaps director Tsui Hark's greatest work. I was lucky enough to view a pristine 35mm print on a big screen, and the art design and cinematography rival anything in Michael Powell's equally fake Black Narcissus. The first scene, in which a snake demon drops in amongst a batch of imported Indian dancing ladies, is one of the most erotically-charged pieces of film I've seen.
- Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Paul Schrader's spin on the life of the fascinating fascist faggot author Yukio Mishima. Arty and pretentious in the best possible way, with Mishima's childhood memories presented in monochrome, his "present day" in drab hues, and representations of his work in gloriously saturated color. Score by Philip Glass, whose stuff really works for me.
- Suspiria. Back in 1977, Italian horror director Dario Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tivoli leapt
at the chance to exploit a new photographic process which allowed each primary color to be printed on its own negative.
The results might be the deepest reds, blues,
yellows, and greens that you will ever
see. An astounding primer on cinematic technique, with plenty of jump-out-of-your-seat moments. There are multiple
versions of this around, but hunt for the Magnum Entertainment uncut
1988 VHS offering (or DVD equivalent).
- Black Cat. Boris Karloff plays Hjalmar Polveig, a traitorous dog from the Balkans. The fact that he's amazingly charming and witty for a murderous bastard makes his face-off against Bela Lugosi -- in one of his rare good-guy roles, although what he ends up doing to Boris can hardly be described as "good" -- even more intriguing. Excellent photography and austere set design help keep this old pup from looking too dated.
Up the spout