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Days of Heaven (1978)
Terrance Malick's follow up to Badlands is truly a spectacle. This is a film where you could pause it at any stage, and the paused image would be suitable to frame as a picture. Thus is the aesthetic mastery of Malick and his resident cinematographer, Nestor Almendros.
It is set in 1916 and it concerns a young labourer from Chicago(Richard Gere), his lover (Brooke Adams) and her sister(Linda Manz) as they travel to the country in search of farm work. The lovers are posing as brother and sister, and Richard Gere's character encourages his lover to reciprocate the amorous feelings of wealthy farm owner Sam Shepard.
The plot is pretty oblique and it seems as if the script was thrown out in favour of improvisation and suggestion. The rambling, barely audible voice-over may infuriate some, but if you're happy to watch a film purely for visuals, then this is a film for you.
Bigger Than Life (1956)
genuinely crafty and subversive film-making
Bigger Than Life was supposed to be just another 20th Century Fox back-lot film, a 'problem' picture stemming from a magazine article. It is a credit to the ingenuity and vision of Nicholas Ray that he managed to deliver a devastating critique of suburban American life in the 50s, all-the-while working within the studio system and not ruffling any feathers.
As with all Ray's best films, it is hinged around an erratic and unstable protagonist whom the audience cares for. James Mason gives a fantastically frightening performance, his transatlantic accent only heightening the fact that his character doesn't fit in to this cosy picture of domesticity. The use of colour and decor is pitch perfect, and once again Ray's sense of space and geography shines through.
Overall, it's a thoroughly enthralling yet disconcerting experience which (intentionally or not) is about much more than first meets the eye.