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Description [Mini-review...]
Michenangelo Antonioni
Classic statement of alienation in modern depersonalized society (with Monica Vitti). The other two films in the trilogy are also excellent (L'Eclipse, La Notte), and also a later film, in color: "Red Desert".
Betty Blue
Jean-Jacques Beineix
French film. Touching and tragic documentation of fragile goodness and the so-called mental health establishment.
Paths of Glory
Stanley Kubrick
How the ego/megalomania of persons in power destroys good people over whom they have power -- in this case, in war, but, this as a symbol for a ubiquitous problem.
Mon Oncle d'Amerique
Alain Resnais
Another story of the destruction of a good person, this time by corporate management that has lost its sense of human responsibility. A powerful indictment of the "positive social unconscious", which causes persons to identify with goals they believe are in their self-interest, but which, in reality, further the aims of the society without any concern for the individual other than to use him/her up.
Le Dernier Combat
Luc Besson
French film without words about the end of the world. The details of the cinematography are exquisite.
Joan of Arc
Carl Dreyer
Along with Dreyer's "Day of Wrath", powerful documentary of the destructiveness of self-righteousness. In-your-face closeups of Joan's and her Inquisitors' faces are especially powerful -- to the accompaniment of Bach's Chorale Prelude: "Beware, Oh Man, Thy Grievous Fall".
The Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein
"Full speed ahead!" cinematography, which never breaks stride from stem to stern. A beautiful statement of worker solidarity and humane aspirations.
Federico Fellini
(The first real film I ever saw. 1963?, when I was a junior? (senior?) in high school. I saw it at the Charles theater in Baltimore, MD USA.)
La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini
Another study in alienation in upper-class modern Italy. Where the word "paparazzi" comes from. (The character Steiner is especially interesting as symbol of ethical high culture.)
Abel Gance
Beautiful and powerful film. I also recall Gance's statement that the only thing which can somewhat compensate for the deterioration of aging is to create.
Lessons of Darkness
Werner Herzog
Documentary of aftermath of the 1991 Kuwait War. "In that time people will seek to escape into death, but death will flee from them."
The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser
Werner Herzog
Powerful statement of the highest ideals of Universal Culture, via one abused child's struggle to attain them (Kaspar's dreams of "cities on the plain" deeply moved me...). The German title translates as: "Each man for himself, and God against everyone."
Kenji Mizoguchi
Touching story of the simple virtues of intimate life, in struggle with temptatation by "quick profits". One scene of a soldier watching after having raped and stabbed a woman with her small child, in particular, stands out like a Brueghel painting, or perhaps a "negative" of Gorgioni's "The Storm".
Das Boot
Wolfgang Petersen
I found this film unbearably claustrophobic. It also has an admonitory lesson: Even when you have survived against incredible adversity and reached a safe haven, one must not cease to be vigilant.
Two Daughters
Satyajit Ray
Exquisitely beautiful, and emotionally subtle (may also be found under the title: "Three Daughters").
The Grand Illusion
Jean Renoir
Beautiful statment of ideals of Universal Culture, even in war. The ending is especially touching, where two escaped POWs could easily be shot by a border patrol: But the officer tells his men to hold their fire because the escapees are over the border into neutral territory, and (quoting from imperfect memory): "The was is over for them, and so much the better."
Tokyo Story
Yasujiro Ozu
I eschewed watching this film because its title reminded me of that of an American movie ("The Philadelphia Story" -- I have not seen it) and so I could not imagine this story would be worth seeing. But Tokyo Story is well worth seeing. A reviewer describes Ozu as "the poet of the quotidian." In this film, time passes as a present that does not pass away. ~ "We are really homeless now."
The Seventh Seal
Ingmar Bergman
Another portrayal of the highest values of Western civilization. The ending is perhaps the best statement I have found of the redemptive potential of the life of the mind (in this case, a Medieval woman is able to face death calmly and with grace, because she is literate).
Franklin J. Schaffner
A modern tragedy (in the Greek dramatic sense).
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Vittorio de Sica
Admonitory story of those who had the means to save themselves but failed to take seriously enough the signs of the times. Contrasts with Silvano Arieti's book, "The Parnas", which tells the story of a good man who could not leave because of agoraphobia.
The Return of Martin Guerre
Daniel Vigne
A tragedy of persons' attempts to make a decent life for themselves in an unjust world, in the face of the ill-willed meddling of "society". "For the spirit alone lives; all else dies."
Birth of a Nation
D.W. Griffith
A tragedy of good persons being led into evil by the evil bad persons do in the name of the good.
Man of Iron
Andrzej Wajda
Strong and poignant film of the Gdansk strike. The Communist negotiator's aside to a reporter at the end of the film, is a classic formulation of one of the limits of human existence: "Agreements made under duress are void."
The Shape of Things to Come
H.G. Wells (William Cameron Menzies, 1936)
The humane values and constructive aspirations underlying the life of science and scientists at their best.
Dirty Dishes
Comedy of a French housewife's lifeworld.
The Apostle
Robert Duvall
Study in the phenomenology / sociology of "fundamentalism" as both deep religious conviction and also simplistic religiosity. In this case, the advertising hype is also true: The film is a labor of love, the acting is superb, and (my opinion:) the ending does not "blow it". Among other things, a modern commentary on The Book of Job.
Buster Keaton
"In the end, each person comes to strengthless age, shunned by all, without companionship, unfriended in that uttermost twilight where he must live with every bitter thing." (Sophocles, "Oedipus at Colonus")
My Neighbor Totoro
Hayao Miyazaki (1988)
Animated movie for children also engaging for adults. Simple plot; emphasis on activities and emotions of daily life. None of the violence one finds in some Walt Disney films.
The Tuskegee Airmen
Robert Markowitz (1996)
Docudrama of the first African-American fighter pilots in WWII. "Straighten up and fly right!" Racist white bomber pilot, whose plane was previously saved from German fighters by Tuskegee airmen, on being told his next target is Berlin, and that some white fighter group is to accompany them, specifically requests "the 332nd" instead. The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber to German fighters.
Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)
Zacharias Kunuk
The human spirit in the arctic emptiness -- points of light flickering on and disappearing again in the enveloping darkness. "O clear intelligence, force beyond all measure! O fate of man, working both good and evil!" (Sophocles, "Ode to Man", "Antigone")
Winged Migration
Ultracloseups of birds migrating. Makes clear that the only reason one cannot say that birds work exhaustingly hard is that only humans enter into employment contracts.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? and Spring
Kim Ki-Duk
Buddhist perspective on our life. Much of the film is visually exquisite.
Super Size Me
Morgan Spurlock (2004)
If you still eat "fast food" (Big Macs, etc.), this movie may well convince you to: "Just say 'No!'" It's also a fine example of the honorable tradition of a scientist using himself as his guinea pig. Go for it!
 This page in memory of Louis Forsdale, film lover.
 List last updated: 2005.04.04 01:53:56 UTC.
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