Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 13: 45-41

Rank: 45
Title: Barry Lyndon
Release Year: 1975
Genre: Period Drama
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Plot Summary: Barry Lyndon is an Irish rogue, who leads a grand life after winning the heart of a rich widow, assuming the position of her dead husband in 18th Century aristocracy.
What Makes It Special: Barry Lyndon is beautifully staged and shot by Stanley Kubrick and his cinematographer John Alcott. The use of candle light (and other sources of natural light) is phenomenal, creating such an elegant stylistic aesthetic look (like a series of Baroque paintings) while also giving this almost tall tale a feel of realism. It is a film known for its beauty, but sometimes belittled as being cold and slow. It does require dedication in its viewer, but the depth of its narrative and genuine charm of its aesthetic are well worth its viewing.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 44
Title: L’Atalante
Release Year: 1934
Genre: Romance/Drama
Director: Jean Vigo
Plot Summary: Juliette marries a river barge captain Jean and joins him on his ship; however, life on the barge is not all it has cracked up to be. The couple stops in Paris where Juliette, overcome with boredom, leaves to enjoy the city. Jean is enraged and leaves the city without her. Apart, the two realize how much they love each other, but is it too late?
What Makes It Special: Jean Vigo’s only theatrically released film (he died shortly after its completion), L’Atalante, is a tale about relationships that seems to find a depth of intimacy not often found in cinema. It speaks to us viewers on an incredibly relatable level, as Jean and Juliette’s relationship resembles the same experiences of our relationships and their feelings, hopes, dreams, doubts, and fears are ours as well. The film has poetic realism to it. L’Atalante is a simple film, a simple narrative, but Vigo finds the beauty in the simplicity of basic love, passion, frustration, and everything else that comes in a meaningful relationship between two people.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray (part of a collection) and Video On-Demand

Rank: 43
Release Year: 1943
Genre: War/Romance Drama
Plot Summary: Clive Candy has just returned to England from the Boer War when he is alerted to a former associate from his time in Africa spreading what he perceives as lies about the English, galvanizing the German people against the English. Even though he is told to stand down, Candy’s pride gets the best of him and he heads off to Germany to put this man in his place. Of course, the bullheaded Candy causes an incident which can only be remedied by engaging in a duel with a German officer (Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff). Both men are injured in the struggle and are sent to the same hospital to recover. At the hospital, they become close friends and fall in love with the same woman. The film tracks their friendship over the course of their lives, as well as Candy always searching for the woman of his dreams.
What Makes It Special: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a cinematic marvel – one that is usually forgotten when canonized lists of the best films are put together. It is an immense work of emotional depth, aesthetic beauty, and philosophical understanding. It is a war film that is about good versus evil –the decay of humanity in the hands of fanatics in power, who must be stopped and defeated at any cost. The film was released in 1943 by the Archers as England was in the grip of war with Nazi Germany (having suffered years of bombing raids), the severity of the evils perpetrated by the Nazi party only just beginning to become fully clear. The film is also about the world changing – the old world dying and the new world born in its place. Clive Candy is a relic of a age that has now passed, and yet he is holding onto the past as hard as he can.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 42
Title: The Leopard
Release Year: 1963
Genre: Period/War Drama
Director: Luchino Visconti
Plot Summary: The 1860s was a time of revolutionary social upheaval in Sicily. The Prince of Salina, a well-respected noble aristocrat of unquestionable integrity, strives to overcome the changing times, keeping his family and class intact.
What Makes It Special: The Leopard is yet another beautifully shot and designed period drama. It is also another film about a man struggling as the world he knows changes around him, leaving him and everything he hold dear behind. The production design is marvelous, with stunning costumes and sets. But on top of its beauty, the film also has an extraordinary dramatic depth and insight. The Prince of Salina fights for his place in the world but slowly must accept his own mortality. It is quite profound. The Leopard is also a film quoted by Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Cimino, and Martin Scorsese as being vital and influential to their own filmmaking.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 41
Release Year: 1946
Genre: War/Romance Drama
Plot Summary: Peter Carter is a pilot returning from a bombing mission over Germany. The rest of his crew is either dead or has bailed out. His plane is on fire and is going down, but he does not have a parachute. In his last moments, he contacts an RAF communication tower and speaks to a young American woman named June. They have a connection. Peter bails out, only to awaken the next morning still alive. He has a rendezvous with June and the two fall in love; however, he was meant to die and an angel comes to Earth to retrieve him. Peter appeals his death and must now return to Heaven and plead his case to remain on Earth.
What Makes It Special: A Matter of Life and Death is a fantastically engrossing drama. The opening scene is among the greatest scenes in cinema history. The use of both black & white and Technicolor photography creates a splendid dichotomy between Heaven and Earth. Like all of the Archers’ films of the 1940s, it is aesthetically magnificent as well as dramatically, philosophically, and emotionally compelling. Sadly, it is a film that mostly forgotten and unseen.
Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD

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