Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 100 Films of the 20th Century – Part 16: 30-26

Rank: 30
Title: Rashomon
Release Year: 1950
Genre: Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Plot Summary: A terrible crime and its direct aftermath are recalled from differing points of view.
What Makes It Special: Rashomon works beautifully thanks to Akira Kurosawa’s innovation narrative structure. The rape and murder of a couple in the woods is presented by multiple witnesses, each giving a slightly altered version of the event (the truth existing somewhere amongst all their stories of what happened). The film reveals something interesting about humanity – that truth is often relative, depending on the interpretation of the beholder. One’s own humanity and experiences shape how they perceive the world; and thus, truth is not a universal concept. The film also features a brilliant performance from Japan’s biggest star Toshiro Mifune.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 29
Title: Raging Bull
Release Year: 1980
Genre: Sports Drama/Biography
Director: Martin Scorsese
Plot Summary: The life and career of boxer Jake LaMotta: a self-destructive, bad-tempered and violent man – he became a champion boxer, but his personal life was left in shambles.
What Makes It Special: Martin Scorsese revolutionized the way sports dramas are made with Raging Bull. Each fight shot and styled in a different manner to elicit unique reactions and feelings from the audience. Scorsese also directs two astounding performances in the film: one from Joe Pesci (making his career) and one from Robert De Niro (adding to his growing legend, following sensational work in Taxi Driver). The film is emotional dense and at times difficult to watch, but Scorsese and his actors create something that is ultimately highly compelling. Raging Bull remains one of cinema’s marquee character dramas.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 28
Title: Breathless
Release Year: 1960
Genre: Romance
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Plot Summary:  A young Frenchman and known car thief, Michel Poiccard, kills a policeman and must go into hiding; but before he leaves for Italy, he tries to convince a beautiful young girl, Patricia Franchini, to come with him.
What Makes It Special: Breathless is maybe the most famous film of the French New Wave movement, director Jean-Luc Godard teaming with the other creative champion of the style Francois Truffaut (whose The 400 Blows is also a staple of French New Wave Cinema). The film is incredibly fresh, vital and seductive. It exudes the feeling of youth (something extremely hard to capture). It is also very stylish, cool and cinematically revolutionary. Really with one film, Godard has influenced generations of filmmakers (he does have many other films, but Breathless is the one people continually come back to time and time again).
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 27
Title: Rear Window
Release Year: 1954
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Plot Summary: L.B. Jefferies is a renowned action photographer, but he has been injured on his latest job. With two broken legs, he is stuck in a wheelchair in his apartment, growing very bored and turning to spying on his neighbors for entertainment. It is all in good fun until Jefferies becomes convinced that one of his neighbors has murdered his wife. Pulling his girlfriend Lisa into his obsession, he is determined to investigate further.
What Makes It Special: Rear Window is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest thrillers, but it is much more. It is a film about voyeurism – something that is very powerful and seductive. We as a society love films because they entertain us and take us places we have maybe never been, but there is something much more intimate about them. They allow us to peer into the lives of others (fictional or not) and watch them without being seen (the illusion of voyeurism) – we see into their secret lives. Hitchcock taps into this dark human truth and fetish. Rear Window is also directed and acted to perfection. It is the film that first piqued my interest in cinema as something more than a casual entertaining pastime.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

Rank: 26
Release Year: 1925
Genre: Montage
Director: S.M. Eisenstein
Cast: Various Russian actors
Plot Summary: When the sailors of the battleship Potemkin are given rotten meat, they turn mutinous starting a riot to protest their treatment. Their actions ignite the beginnings of a revolution in Odessa, one that the police quickly try to put out by massacring many of the demonstrators that join the protest. The film is based on the historical event.
What Makes It Special: Montage filmmaking strived to take two images and create meaning by juxtaposing them against each other. Battleship Potemkin (and Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera) epitomizes this style, creating a work that is astonishingly compelling. It continues to influence filmmaking today (creating many of the rules of dramatic film editing – like how to properly edit to maximize suspense). It is not as accessible as many silent films that adhere more to the narrative language we are more accustomed to (shot reverse shot; long, medium, close), but that does not diminish its emotional power.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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