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1. West Side Story
2. The Apartment
3. Midnight Cowboy
4. La dolce vita
5. Asphalt Jungle, The
6. Eclisse, L'
7. Mulholland Dr.
8. The Last Picture Show
9. Born to Kill
10. Kiss Me Deadly
14. The thin Red Line
15. Nightmare Alley
16. Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The
17. L' Avventura
18. Servant, The
19. Billy Liar
20. Winchester '73
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Lurid, unconvincing and ultimately pointless
Diane Keaton is a charming and attractive performer, but she is not up to this role. She is visibly uncomfortable in the sleaze/sex scenes and often resorts to mannerisms familiar from her Annie Hall character (watch this film and think of Annie Hall. It's obvious she is not immersed in the Theresa character). On the other hand, Keaton does well in the scenes where she is a teacher, and is quite convincing. Despite the all-around histrionics, she is not bad in the family scenes with sister and father. But this film fails for a few reasons. It has a dark, depressive atmosphere that is not justified by its outcome: poor Theresa is damaged emotionally by her physical 'defects' and by a too-strict Catholic upbringing, this is believable. And it's believable that a person lacking self-confidence would seek out acceptance and affirmation from promiscuous sex (a fairly common scenario, actually). But the film really does seem to say that Theresa deserves her fate in the end. She blows off the one man (Atherton) who would have made sense as a partner and feels compelled to continue a descent into debauchery. Doesn't this film seem to say, keep up with this kind of lifestyle and you'll end up miserable and bitter (like Theresa's sister ) or brutally murdered? This film seems to indulge us in its sleazy world, yet it seems to judge Theresa for immersing herself in it in a vain attempt to ease her pain. Note the way director Richard Brooks chooses to end the film, on Theresa's face as the life blinks out of her--there is no requiem, no final coda expressing pity or remorse. We have been shown the brutal murder of a sympathetic character as if it were a scene from a cheap horror movie. Diane Keaton is not solely to blame for the ultimate failure of the film, the writers and director are more responsible. Still, it's hard not to imagine Keaton and Tuesday Weld exchanging roles: Weld has a much wider range as an actress and certainly would have handled the 'secret life' with more conviction.
L'inconnu du lac (2013)
Sex & Death in a beautiful setting
"L'Inconnu du Lac" is a beautifully shot film. That's part of the seductive nature of the experience for the characters and for the viewer. We don't see a lot of gay-themed films like this, minus most of the stereotypes, in a minimalist setting, with threadbare narrative. The protagonist, Franck, is a cute, 20-30-something guy who swims at a lake frequented by other gay men in search of sun and sex. Franck has no trouble attracting attention, with and without his swimsuit on. He quickly befriends an older, unattractive man who always sits alone and seems aloof. Franck's need for connection to others is emphasized by this friendship. When Michel, a handsome, mustachioed hunk, is spotted, Franck goes into hot pursuit mode. The two connect after a while, in one of several graphic sexual encounters, and, much too soon, Franck thinks he's in love. The film takes a sinister turn when Franck witnesses Michel drown a previous companion in the lake. Consumed by desire for Michel, he tells no one about this and, though he admits to a detective that he was there on the evening of the murder, denies he saw anything. Why? Franck is so sexually addicted to Michel that he cannot bear to let him go by exposing him. The relationship between the two men continues, without real development, since Michel will have none of Franck's insistence on anything more than sex. In the end, Franck is consumed, literally by desire: the "petite mort" of sexual pleasure becomes the annihilation of the self. The film's beautiful setting plays against the disturbing narrative, making it a unique, provocative, and often erotic experience.
Keep the Lights On (2012)
An excellent main actor saves this one
Thure Lindhardt is at the center of this film and he's really its only saving grace. His Erik is the kind of character many of us know, or have been, in life. He's in his late 30s, but hasn't really done much with his life, and he's somewhat addicted to casual sex. When a phone hook-up leads to emotional involvement, Erik's life suddenly has a focus and it gives him more impetus to complete his documentary film project. Handsome, charismatic Lindhardt is well-cast, as a non-native trying to make it in New York. He knows how to express the conflicts within Erik: wanting love, but pursuing an impossible object. He's decisive, tender, petulant and confusing, all at once. Lindhardt is the kind of actor who can do much with small nuances of voice and facial expression.
Unfortunately, Lindhardt is playing opposite a much less compelling character and actor, in Paul (Zachary Booth). This actor gives a professional performance, but Paul is so nearly a non-entity, it's doubtful anyone else could do more with him. He's narcissistic, drug-addled and self-destructive from the start, and he never changes. Erik is narcissistic too, but his character and storyline have more substance. For some viewers, it may be hard to understand why Erik puts up with Paul and returns to him again and again. Lindhardt makes us believe in Erik's obsession, at least most of the time: we don't always want the most appropriate person. One one level, this is a story about the power of sexual attraction, but it's also about the attraction of a 'wounded deer'. Erik thinks that Paul needs him, and that notion is as strong as any to make him continue the relationship.
Also good in the cast is Julianne Nicholson, as Erik's close friend and collaborator. She brings a natural, lived-in quality to their scenes together.
The film opens well, and builds the narrative nicely, until the final third, when it feels slightly disjointed and suffers a bit from a loss of energy. It's nicely shot and has a mostly pleasing music score, highlighted by the song under the opening credits.
Le monte-charge (1962)
Finely Crafted Noir Thriller
Lea Massari makes a memorable femme-fatale in this Hitchcockian venture into nocturnal suspense. "Le Monte-Charge" (Literally, Service Elevator) is a dark, little-known gem of late-period Film Noir. Irony plays a major role right from the start, as Robert (excellent Robert Hossein) returns from prison on Christmas Eve. All he finds is a lonely Paris neighborhood, with people rushing around the streets, shopping and chattering. His mother had died while he was in prison, and her dark apartment is a depressing place to be. Solitary Robert dines alone, but by chance he meets an attractive woman, Marthe (Massari) and her little girl. Eventually, Robert ends up in the woman's apartment, but things don't go quite as he expected. This elevator makes some mysterious and extremely intriguing stops along the way, and it would be unacceptable to spoil any of them. Director Bluwal shows influence of Hitchcock and of some masters of French crime drama, with atmospheric camera work and in particular the use of sound effects. The actors are fully inside their roles. Besides the fine leads, there is Maurice Biraud, very good as Mr. Ferry. Georges Delerue provided a score that is a classic of his particular kind: sparingly used and melancholy. Much of the story is set in a large factory building that contains a private apartment, but Bluwal makes great use of Paris exteriors as well (not the typical, romantic ones, but the quartiers inhabited by ordinary working people). Not just another disposable thriller, this is a meticulously crafted film of startling surprises, revelations and numerous cinematic pleasures.
Le franciscain de Bourges (1968)
Pain and Suffering in Bourges
After his triumph in "Les Dimanches de Ville-D'Avray", Hardy Krüger gives another unforgettable and unique performance. In "The Franciscan of Bourges", Krüger plays Alfred, a German in occupied France, near the end of the war. In the film's second scene, the actor is introduced with a sympathetic look on his face, as he watches a young man taken in by the Gestapo for questioning. Alfred knows what the interrogation will entail--the young man was caught spying on a German operation. It will be relentless and brutal. Director Autant-Lara spares the viewer none of the violence and cruelty of the new prisoner's treatment, and it's a mark of the film's power. Very early on, we are shown what the French citizens are up against on a daily basis. Alfred knows of the inhumane treatment of prisoners, but he is unable to steel himself against it, or see it as "necessary". When he pays a visit to the victim and his brother, who was later brought in, Alfred reveals himself to be a Franciscan Friar. This means all men are his brothers and he is obliged to offer comfort and aid to anyone in need. Krüger plays Alfred with a kind of innocence, even though the cruelty he witnesses cannot be new to him at the time of the story. The film suggests that the youth of the most recent prisoners has awakened him to take a more active role. He is moved by the treatment of the two brothers, and is further touched by two even younger boys who are captured and held at the prison. In a beautifully played sequence, Alfred arranges for a middle-aged, wounded, resistance worker to see his wife for the last time, on his way to a hospital where he will surely perish. The Friar's superiors suspect his actions and issue a severe warning. But Alfred's determination to help the suffering prisoners only increases. When the two youngest captives are awaiting what may be a death sentence, the film reaches one of its strongest moments. Alfred discusses belief in God with one of the boys, who insists there is nothing to believe in, or to pray to. Alfred says the boy should pray to God as though he did believe. "Why", asks the boy, "should I pray to someone I don't believe exists?" The utter despair and nihilism of his situation gradually becomes too much for Alfred to bear and he turns to drink at one point. Eventually, he even plots to sabotage the Germans. The film has several scenes of stark emotional power. This is an unflinching look at the individual, human face of the Resistance and of at least one member of the enemy whose own humanity is brutalized by the experience. A masterpiece that deserves a wider distribution than it apparently received at the time of its release.
An Essential Film of Great Ideas
This is a brilliant film. I have not seen a another film that successfully shows how someone creates a work of art, especially a literary work. This film does it brilliantly, largely by quotations from the poem read very effectively by James Franco, who plays Ginsberg. Acted out interviews illuminate many things and the trial itself is extremely involving to watch. Even the animated portions we see while we hear parts of the poem work well. It's a remarkable film about artistic creation and how the artist must be allowed to use his own words and to use language that expresses his meaning fully, not language that is inoffensive to some imaginary reader.
Franco, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban, Jeff Daniels are all at their best, and seem truly committed to the project.
You don't even have to be a fan of Ginsberg, or know much about who he was to enjoy this. I was really impressed, one of the best films of this year, but it will likely be ignored by many.
In agreement with the other comment, this is a superior episode of AHP. Simply and perfectly titled, "The Motive" has so much in it that it seems longer than it is, but in a good way because it's so interesting.
The plot setup, while preposterous, is well handled and convincing. And the actors are well cast, giving energetic performances. Skip Homeier (Tommy) never achieved real stardom, but he made an impression every time he appeared on screen, in films such as "The Gunfighter" (where he plays a young gunslinger lacking common sense) and especially in "Tomorrow the World!" (in which he plays a former Hitler Youth, with chilling realism). TV stalwarts William Redfield and Carl Betz (soon to play Donna Reed's husband on her sitcom) bring plenty of life to their characters, and we even get Gary Clarke as a bellboy for one scene.
What makes this episode so memorable is the well-played, cold calculation of the characters, and the brilliant twist ending, which wraps things up, yet leaves the viewer thinking. "The Motive" is a like a good short story come to life. Is Rose Simon Kohn's original story comparable? It may be worth seeking out.
Leave It to Beaver: Kite Day (1961)
One of the best of the entire series. This beautifully written episode balances humor and serious drama in the characteristic style of the show, but it has special qualities beyond that. The main theme of father and son bonding is played without a hint of pathos, by using a clever device of having Beaver's enthusiasm about building a kite transferring over to Ward, so that they really share the excitement. The episode doesn't need Eddie Haskell to generate laughs, there are plenty of them in the opening scene with Beaver and his friends as they discuss their fathers, while Ward and June have some of their funnier teasing exchanges. Besides all this, the episode has a fine cameo appearance by Jason Robards Sr, as Mr Henderson, a man Beaver thinks is the kind of Indian who can perform a rain dance. Robards brings palpable warmth and realism to his three-minute scene. It all adds up to a memorable episode from one of the all-time great shows.
Twenty Plus Two (1961)
Actors Make it Worth a Look
David Janssen was an actor who never seemed to be acting. He had a natural, guy-next-door style that works to make a viewer at ease with his characters. Thanks to Janssen's style, TWENTY PLUS TWO works pretty well. The plot of this near-noir is very convoluted, but the director keeps a steady pace and there is enough incidental interest to avoid confusion or boredom. When a Hollywood secretary is found murdered, Tom Alder (Janssen), a "finder of missing persons", is hired to investigate the murder, but quickly sees a link between the secretary and a the long-missing daughter of a wealthy family. Complications involve some colorful characters: Leroy Dane (Brad Dexter), a big movie star, Mrs Delaney (Agnes Moorehead) the missing girl's mother, Jacques Pleschette (Jacques Aubuchon) a shady figure who tries to hire Tom to find his missing brother. All these actors give top drawer performances, with Moorehead a standout for the way she takes complete control of her single scene with Janssen. Excellent too is Dina Merrill as Nikki (her Tokyo-set flashback with Janssen is quite impressive). Also fine in the cast are Jeanne Crain, Robert Strauss, and William Demarest, doing a convincing turn as a down-and-out drunken newspaper man.
The only real problem with this engaging film is Gerald Fried's score. It's basically good, and suited to the material, but the main theme, scored for big band, is too brassy and intrusive at too many points. Too much spoiler here must be avoided, but suffice it to say this film could almost be called a lesser VERTIGO, minus Hitchcock's touches of genius. It's unclear what the title refers to, but the story is engrossing enough. Watch this one for the main cast members.
Un mauvais fils (1980)
Sautet the Master
Another masterful film from Claude Sautet. There is sense of real life being lived, through so many small and telling observations about characters. Sautet uses locations, surrounding and dialog to create this realistic world, and his credible characters populate it. Of course, without top flight actors, it might not work as well. Patrick Dewaere gives what seems a definitive performance as the son whose life had gone off track, but who now honestly intends to make a go of things. As his father, Yves Robert is brilliant as well: the look of surprised recognition when we first see him, and the scene that follows it, are perfect examples of character and plot revelation achieved with seemingly minimal effort. The film does not take the expected turns, so we can anticipate and be surprised along the way. Brigitte Fossey, Claire Maurier and the unforgettable Jacques Dufilho (who won an award for this film) as the opera-loving friend who understands something about life) form an ensemble that could hardly be improved upon. This is a film that's much more than just a movie. It's a deep entry into disorderly and sometimes painful real lives.