Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 7: 75-71

Rank: 75
Release Year: 1970
Genre: Drama
Plot Summary: Marcello Cierici is a man without strong political feelings, but in 1938 he takes a job working for Mussollini. He is courting a young girl looking to marry as well. The couple goes to Paris for their honeymoon, but Marcello also has an assignment: to track down his old professor, who fled Italy when the fascists took power, and assassinate him.
What Makes It Special: On a pure aesthetic level, The Conformist is a stylistic and photographic wonder. Vittorio Storaro’s lighting is magnificent, helping Bernardo Bertolucci create a film that often feels surreal. At face value, the film is a disdainful look at fascism, but Bertolucci digs a lot deeper with his lead character. He explores many of the value systems and morals that we build society upon and their ramifications on the human spirit.
Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD

Rank: 74
Release Year: 1957
Genre: War Drama
Director: David Lean
Plot Summary: Two prisoners in a Japanese POW camp during WWII have very opposing ideas on how to treat their imprisonment. An American, Shears, is dead set on escaping, while a British Colonel, Nicholson, believes they should behave in a gentlemanly manner. Nicholson even goes as far as to cooperate with the Japanese to build a bridge across the River Kwai if it means keeping his men alive, aiding the Japanese effort, while completely unaware that the Allies plan to destroy it.
What Makes It Special: David Lean is the master of epic filmmaking, and The Bridge on the River Kwai is one of his brilliant sprawling dramas. And yet, for all its scope and scale, this is at its heart a very human story of competing wills. The Japanese POW camp commander must have his bridge, Nicholson must have his men treated in a humane manner by the Japanese, and Shears must make it through the war – each will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. The interplay between each character is riveting. Plus, it has one of the best climaxes in cinema history.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

Rank: 73
Release Year: 1949
Genre: Revenge Drama
Director: Robert Hamer
Plot Summary: Louis is a distant relative of the Duke of D’Ascoyne, but his mother was an outcast from the family and they lived poor all her life. Now with a little ambition, Louis plots to murder all eight of the remaining heirs ahead of him in the line of succession, claiming the title for himself.
What Makes It Special: This wonderful forgotten gem from British cinema features great performances (including Alec Guinness playing eight characters), sly witty dark humor, and a true sense of Britain in the 1940s. Kind Hearts and Coronets is full of irony and satire as Louis is a charming, dapper man completely set on preserving his manners as a gentleman, meanwhile remorselessly murdering his entire family. British cinema has a reputation for its clever, subtle humor and this may be it crowning achievement.
Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD

Rank: 72
Title: Star Wars
Release Year: 1977
Genre: Sci-Fi Action/Adventure
Director: George Lucas
Plot Summary: Farm boy Luke Skywalker, who dreamed of a different and more exciting life, is suddenly thrust into a galactic adventure, when he must deliver two droids to a former Jedi Knight, only to be pulled into a fight to save the Universe from the evil Empire and rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader. Luke joins forces with a reluctant hotshot pilot, Han Solo, to find the Princess and destroy the Empire’s ultimate weapon.
What Makes It Special: While the modern blockbuster may have been birthed with Jaws two years earlier, Star Wars changed everything (for better or worse). The film captured the imagination of filmgoers of its generation, and each generation subsequently, with its great characters, strong narrative and drama, and exciting action. As a kid, there was maybe no other film that thrilled me more – and it is one of the few films (beloved by me as a child) that holds up into my adult years as well. There may never be a greater fantasy saga (and we are currently living in a time of constant massive blockbusters releases).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

Rank: 71
Release Year: 1948
Genre: Romance Drama
Director: Max Ophuls
Plot Summary: Lisa Berndle lives next to a handsome pianist, Stefan Brand, as a young girl and develops a deep crush, devoting her life to being his alone. Yet, Stefan does not even notice her. As the years pass Lisa has an opportunity to be with Stefan, but will he truly love her or merely treat her as one of his many conquests?
What Makes It Special: French cinema auteur Max Ophuls is most notably remembered for his films La Ronde, Le Plaisir, and The Earrings of Madame de…, but it is Letter from an Unknown Woman that is his finest work – though mostly forgotten now. The film is incredibly sad, as it makes no illusions about its overall tragic narrative arc. However, the film is still very romantic and features many lovely, beautiful scenes. Yet, it is subversive in it approach to love. Yes love is glorious, but it transient as well. Lisa is obsessed with Stefan, giving him all her love – and for her it was worth all the pain and struggle even though it is unrequited. This is what makes the film so heartbreaking. It both champions love and distrusts it.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray

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