You'll probably ask: what qualifies as underrated? Well,these movies are almost never mentioned in the director’s top-tier of films, usually mentioned as “lesser-...” Equally, a quick glance at wikipedia or even an obituary will not reveal these pictures until several paragraphs in, if at all, pointing out more popular or acclaimed pieces far earlier. You are unlikely to discover any of these ten on a “Best of...” list, even as other films by their directors will be strewn all through out them. Now,so much for guidelines, let's talk about excellence.
The Novel of Werther
Herr Werther, a new magistrate to the Grand Duchy of Walheim who is a violinist and poet, seems to have... (85 mins.)
“ The "Sorrows of Young Werther" (1774), a rather hapless and excessively emotional law clerk, is often thought of as the first great German novel. Whether it is or isn't is not important. What is important is that Goethe's epistolary work (no doubt influenced by Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne, though probably not Tobias Smollett) had a monumental impact on the development of German romanticism, and on the development of a poetry of feeling, of 'sturm und drang'. It impacted upon almost all forms of humanist endeavour: drama (especially during the 1770s through the work of Lessing), poetry, theology (still the queen of the sciences in late eighteenth century Germany), history, and other categories of belles-lettres. It exploded on the continental literary scene and vaulted its author to the status of a superstar. Thousands of young men committed imitative suicide, and Napoleon kept a copy in his knapsack.
Werther is supposed to have been, like Goethe himself, a junior clerk in the Reichskammersgericht (the imperial supreme court) based in the free upper Rheinish city of Wetzlar. Lotte is essentially Charlotte Buff, Goethe's lost love (in this instance a decent performance by the delightful Annie Vernay).
The story is very well known, and there is no need to repeat any of the details. Pierre Richard-Willm, often derided as rather stiff and wooden is exactly right for this eponymous role. He has a rather vague and abstracted appearance that subverts his looks (he was probably rather old for the part, but gets away with it). The audience can easily scent a loser. In Adam von Hochatten (Jean Galland) we can detect a winner, secure in his status and prospects.
Werther gets lost in drink and in an obsession with James Macpherson's forgery of Ossian. Max Ophuls carries us away in in a state of emotional and romantic resignation and despair to the music of (variously) J. S. Bach, W. F. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert (very apt, Beethoven and Schubert), and Haydn. The costumes are well done (if a little anachronistic), as is the art direction. Ophuls is able to convey an authentic feeling - if not for 1774, then perhaps 1804. We have for instance a scene with a slightly fustian grand duke (Phillippe Richard), and we are reminded that the old Germany was a mosaic of innumerable petty principalities. Some critics, notably Richard Roud, accused Ophuls of vulgarising this supreme novel. That is perhaps inevitable in any cinematic adaptation. ” - jgcorrea
The End of the Affair
On a rainy London night in 1946, novelist Maurice Bendrix has a chance meeting with Henry Miles, husband of his ex-mistress Sarah... (102 mins.)
“ As Peegee-3 (firstname.lastname@example.org) put it, Graham Greene's novel was translated to cinematic imagery with an almost religious devotion. Julianne Moore gives a splendid performance as Sarah Miles, a middle-class English woman, married to a good, but dull man who takes her for granted. Her encounter with Maurice Bendrix (played to a T by a consummate Ralph Fiennes) is electric and sets in motion an affair of deep consequence...for all three people involved. Stephan Rea as Henry Miles, Sarah's husband, trapped in his desire, but unable to fulfill the emotional and sexual needs of his much-loved wife, is another convincing and touching portrayal. The spiritual aspects expressed in the film reflect the life-long struggle of Grahame between his Catholicism and his doubts. The deep pulls of each character toward both personal and impersonal love give the film a dimension and an honesty that reward the "participant" with an indelible human experience. Neil Jordan, the director, was wholeheartedly sensitive and nuanced. ” - jgcorrea
A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring. (143 mins.)
“ As Kinnar from London put it, it's really an underrated Hitchcock - especially the 17 minutes of footage deleted for the first release. Cause it's Hitchcock's cynic look to the "007"-genre - whithout heros! Betrayal everywhere. Lovely Claude Jade (who was so brilliant in all her Truffaut-Movies and who here plays the agent's worried daughter) arrives at La Guardia at laughs when she says "O, the Cubans. I love the Cubans. They are so wild". "Yes, little Michèle, New York is marvellous" - minutes later Roscoe Lee Browne meets the "wild Cubans". Why was that phrase by Michèle cut by Universal?
It's as cynic as the end, when Piccoli laughs and goes to Moscow, Stafford smiles "Anyway, honey, that's the end of 'Topaz'." This is a good drama about the relations between individuals and the Cold War. The Dark Side of International Diplomacy.
Excellent Cast (Stafford is just right to play that role!, internationally acclaimed French stars Robin, Jade, Subor, Piccoli and Noiret, great: Karin Dor and John Vernon, charming: Roscoe Lee Browne, good) In my opinion one of the best Hitchcock's. ” - jgcorrea
On his deathbed Carmine Vespucci's father tells him to "get Proclo". With "the hit" on, Gaetano tells... (91 mins.)
“ as grantch (email@example.com) put it, this is one of the funniest films you'll ever see. It's based on a Broadway play but you'd never guess its source as, unlike many movies made from plays, it's not stagebound. The characters and the situation make for nonstop action and absolutely terrific one-liners. Treat Williams is indeed well named for he is a treat as the detective. You'll howl at the predicaments Jack Weston gets in. And you'll love Rita Moreno who proves to be a comedic gem. "The Ritz" is high on the list of best cinematic comedies. It's sort of like a Noel Coward play updated to a "modern" bathhouse ... jokes on the screen overflow to keep the viewers happy and having a terrific time. ” - jgcorrea
Cecile, decadent young girl who lives with her rich playboy father Raymond. When Anne, Raymond's old love interest... (94 mins.)
“ Aw-komon from Los Angeles, CA never forgot seeing a pristine print of this magnificently shot (entirely on location in the French Riviera) Preminger classic on the huge screen of the Egyptian theater in Hollywood: "There is no more poetic or romantic film in existence. Forget the silly, soap-opera pretext of a Francoise Sagan plot, just sit back and let the 'real' story, the visual poetry drift over you and take you away. Now, I'm not saying this because I'm in love with both Jean Seberg and Deborah Kerr (how can you not be, the way they look on the screen here), but because this is the quintessential Otto Preminger film, where he takes the trashiest of romance novels and proceeds to make a case study demonstration of how irrelevant 'standard' plot devices can be in the cinema by making a visual masterpiece out of it." ” - jgcorrea
De Mayerling à Sarajevo
In the late 1800's, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, falls for Sophie Chotek, a Czech countess... (95 mins.)
“ As pompierson from United States put it, while highly romanticized, Ophul's treatment of the subject is not mistaken. He does make Archduke Franz Ferdinand more attractive than in life, in which he was usually gruff rather than charming. Yet his hopes for the Austro-Hungarian Empire were promising, as they appear in the film, and he did enjoy the support and friendship of German Kaiser Wilhelm II. While Emperor Franz Josef had a certain presence, and in his old age and after the tragedies of Mayerling and the assassination in 1898 of his erratic but lovely wife, Empress Elisabeth, became endeared to his subjects, he was none the less trapped in court etiquette. He had no ideas about improving and making his empire more viable, but simply persisted in old ways and habits. The film makes him somewhat more sympathetic to Franz Ferdinand than he likely was. Franz Ferdinand adored the Countess Chotek and his family, and was understandably distressed at his treatment by the Emperor and Court. Sadly the last scene seems hasty and the car not the same as seen in the photos from Sarajevo in 1914. ” - jgcorrea
France, 1936-37. The Popular Front wins elections, the Spanish Civil War begins, and Hitler and Stalin are manipulating and spying... (115 mins.)
“ nicoge from United States wrote:
Eric Rohmer masterfully uses Paris as a canvas to brush the complex profiles of his characters, a quartet of retired White Russian Generals, a Greek painter married to a member of the quartet and their friends exiled in 1937 Paris.
Rohmer's mastery: His use of authentic buildings of the period with subtle deco stylization and other White Russian meeting points (the canteen of the Rachmaninov conservatory and a wooden Orthodox church near Butte-Chaumont), along with brilliant dialogues subtly lit with conversation on Picasso, Abstraction and realism in Art. Both the Communist couple and the White Russian couple in the movie will be steam-rolled by the events. Rohmer's use of newsreels is also extremely symbolic. The Paris World Fair of 1937 is shown with its stone colossus in the competing Soviet and Fascits pavilions seeming ready to crush the movie's characters as the end appears.Blum is seen making a speech among a forest of risen fists.
The relativity of life and that of free-will is the real subject. Is Fiodor pulling the strings or is he just just one of the puppets lost in the dubious cauldron of the Germano-Soviet pact of 1939 brewing in the shadows? Extraordinary work of a mature genius that makes one think that freedom is just appearance. Great actors with the beauty of french spoken rolling the Rs (Fiodor) or whispering them (his wife). Tragic unexpected ending. Rohmer revisits Hitchkok for a final "Coup de Theatre"! ” - jgcorrea
In Paris in the 1920s, a concert violinist meets and falls in love with a stylish young flapper who's the wife of an old friend... (112 mins.)
“ As alberto f. cañas (firstname.lastname@example.org) put it, if one of the merits in Last Year at Marienbad was to hypnotize the viewer with a story that may or may not have happened or be happening, director Alan Resnais achieved the same effect fifteen years later with Melo, a trite play from the boulevard theatre of Paris. The eternal triangle, wrapped in pretentious dialogue which was the trade mark of playwright Henry Bernstein. The film hypnotizes you and forbids you to part your eyes from the screen simply by moving the camera among the characters in close-up after close-up, while they deliver an extremely intelligent but not specially profound dialog. A six-minute close up of André Dussolier while he tells a story, is only one of the astounding achievements of the director in treating a film as if it were a play and at the same time treating a play as if it were a film. We have even a curtain between the acts. But the marvelous camera movements make all the difference. Sabine Azema's performance is something that anybody would like to tell about to his grandchildren. The film is slow, but you don't feel it as slow, because all the performers are taking their work seriously, and giving their best to their parts. Melo proves that Alain Resnais is a true artist. Many have tried to do something like Melo, but only Resnais has succeeded. ” - jgcorrea
Once a lowly chambermaid, Amelie Pochet now revels as the pampered mistress of a military man named Etienne. (92 mins.)
“ As dbdumonteil put it, from a screenplay based on Georges Feydeau's eponymous play, Claude Autant-Lara was a rebel making fun of the bourgeoisie, the army and the Church. Although "Amelie" is a farce, it's a fierce attack against marriage , bourgeois hypocrisy and even military madness (the barracks is put in quarantine cause they all developed mumps).
Amelie is a Cocotte (=a tart); trades on her charms, abetted by her father who plays a role generally delegated to mothers (e.g. Gremillon's "Gueule D'Amour"). She is wooed by every Tom,Dick and Harry passing by. She's currently supported by a military man, courted by a foreign prince -who gives the equivalent of the French Legion D'Honneur to dad- ,and ,besides,she is to marry a young lad who covets his wealthy uncle's heritage: the necessary and sufficient condition for getting the dough is getting married.
Autant-Lara's adaptation is brilliant: there's a poster of the show on the wall of a theater where some of the scenes are played , on stage or backstage (like Bunuel would do in "Le Charme Discret De La Bourgeoisie "); the "audience" intervenes during the sequence of events ; And , last but not least, there's a "advertisements interlude" , as they could see one in the Belle Epoque days .
Danielle Darrieux shines as Amelie and Jean Dessailly is oddly cast against type. Acting is continuous overacting,which may repel some but which inspires the vital madness of the movie,which knows only one one tempo: accelerated. ” - jgcorrea
Ready to catch a train to his hometown, a washed up boxer tells us about the strange and twisty events that happened to him the past couple of days. (67 mins.)
“ As silverkid from United States put it, Killer's Kiss is a 1955 movie produced, directed and written by a 27 year old Stanley Kubrick. Coming off the heels of a poorly received first effort, 1953's Fear and Desire, Kubrick stormed back with a little story set in the heart of New York City. The film's protagonist Davy Gordon, is a struggling local boxer who gets involved with a woman, Gloria Price whose ex, Vincent Rapallo hasn't let go of her yet. Kubrick slowly, and movingly, shows the two principals taking the downgrade: Davy fighting a losing bout in the ring while Gloria is trying to push off some heavy passes from Rapallo.
While the pair try to flee the city, Rapallo and his henchmen foil there escape. Price meanwhile, has changed her mind and decides she's better off with a real man, Rapallo. In the thrilling climax, Gordon and Rapallo battle it out in a run-down mannequin factory which foreshadows his technique shown in later masterpieces.
"Killer's Kiss" was a first-class suspense film that foreshadowed conscious and technique that Kubrick was to take to the limit in later years. ” - jgcorrea