Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring

“Didn’t you know beforehand how the world of men is? Sometimes we have to let go of the things we like. What you like, others will also like.” Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring, directed by Kim Ki-duk in 2003, is a South Korean drama set on a floating Buddhist monastery in the middle of…

Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)

“Haze around the moon, snow is coming soon ” Written and directed by Ermanno Olmi, Tree of Wooden Clogs is an understated and meditative drama set in a small Lombard community in 1898. The film follows the fortunes of four peasant families as they work through the year, raising animals, growing crops and looking after…

Gilda (1946)

“She still didn’t believe I wasn’t coming back. Every night she got all dressed up… and waited. But a girl like Gilda couldn’t stand not knowing the why of things, so she decided to swallow her pride and came to see me. It was wonderful. “ ‘Gilda’, directed by Charles Vidor in 1946, is an…

Lucía (1968)

‘Lucía’, directed by Humberto Solás, is a Cuban drama from 1968. The film contains three stories: the first set in the 1860s, the second set in the 1930s and the third set in the then present day of the 1960s. Each focuses on a woman called Lucía, played by a different woman each time, and follows…

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

“You see, Mr. Milton, in the Army I’ve had to be with men when they were stripped of everything in the way of property except what they carried around with them and inside them. I saw them being tested. Now some of them stood up to it and some didn’t. But you got so you…

Wavelength (1967)

‘Wavelength’, directed by Michael Snow in 1967, is an experimental film, 45 minutes long and minimal. The film is one shot: the camera focuses on a room with windows and pictures on the wall opposite – too far away to see clearly. Over the course of the 45 minutes, the camera imperceptibly zooms in on…

The Travelling Players (1975)

‘The Travelling Players’, directed by Theodoros Angelopoulos in 1975, is an epic Greek historical drama following a troupe of actors as they perform a play through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The film moves from the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, through the Second World War and the occupation by the Nazis, to the post-war occupation…

Amour (2012)

“Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over. ” ‘Amour’, directed by Michael Haneke in 2012, is a French drama following the story of an elderly couple whose lives are turned upside down when one of them suffers from a debilitating stroke. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play Georges and…

The Captive (2000)

“I prefer the truth even if it hurts. Yet all you give me are half-truths when you know I’ll find out anyway. ” ‘The Captive’, directed by Chantal Akerman in 2000, is a French psychodrama starring Stanislas Merhar and Sylvie Testud as a pair of lovers with an abusive and toxic relationship. Testud plays Ariane,…

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid in 1943, is a short American experimental film following the strange adventures of a woman who dreams. Deren plays a woman who returns home and falls asleep. In her dream she chases a hooded figure with a mirror for a face but is unable…

Stranger than Paradise (1984)

“Here, let me tell you a joke, all right? There’s three guys, and they’re walking down the street. One guy says to the other one, “Hey, your shoe’s untied.” He says, “I know that.” And they walk… No… There’s two guys, they’re walking down the street, and one of them says to the other one,…

The Puppetmaster (1993)

‘The Puppetmaster’, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien in 1993, is a Taiwanese biopic focusing on the life of Li Tian-lu, a celebrated puppeteer, from his birth in 1909 to the end of the Japanese occupation of the island in 1945. The film combines interviews with the real Tian-lu, in his eighties, whilst flashing back to events…

Wadjda (2012)

“If you set your mind to something, no one can stop you.” ‘Wadjda’, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour in 2012, is a Saudi Arabian drama depicting the life of an eleven year old year in Riyadh. The girl, Wadjda, played by Waad Mohammed, is headstrong and rebellious. She decides she want a bike so she can…

All That Heaven Allows (1955)

“Cary, let’s face it: you were ready for a love affair, but not for love.” ‘All That Heaven Allows’, directed by Douglas Sirk in 1955, is an American melodrama set in a small town in New England. Jane Wyman plays Cary Scott, an affluent widow who falls in love with her free-spirited gardener, Ron Kirby,…

The Sound of Music (1965)

“You brought music back into the house. I had forgotten.” ‘The Sound of Music’, directed by Robert Wise in 1965, is an American musical drama starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Andrews plays Maria, a novice nun in Austria. Maria is a free-spirited and, at times, disobedient, so her superiors decide she should spend time…

The Red Turtle (2016)

‘The Red Turtle’, directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit in 2016, is a French animated fantasy. A man is shipwrecked on an island. He finds wood and makes a raft to escape, but his raft is destroyed by a creature in the sea. After this happens a number of times, the man discovers the creature…

The Handmaiden (2016)

“You’re asking me about how I think? You think that all I’m interested in is your body? Is that so? You definitely have been reading too many of those erotic writings! If there’s anything I do want from you it’s not your eyes, hands, or ass, but your money. You having the first is money….

Closely Observed Trains (1966)

“I’m Milos Hrma. I’ve tried to kill myself because I’m suffering from premature ejaculation. But that’s really not so. Even though I flop every time, I’m a real man.” ‘Closely Observed Trains’, directed by Jiří Menzel in 1966, is a Czechoslovak drama set in a small town during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in the…

The Last Metro (1980)

“It takes two to love, as it takes two to hate. And I will keep loving you, in spite of yourself. My heart beats faster when I think of you. Nothing else matters. ‘The Last Metro’, directed by François Truffaut in 1980, is a French historical drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu. Deneuve plays…

Close-Up (1990)

“This is a film that made itself” ‘Close-Up’, directed by  Abbas Kiarostami in 1990, is an Iranian drama based on the real life story of a man who posed as the notable Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (the man who made ‘Gabbeh’) and was arrested and charged with fraud. Kiarostami follows the story by using the…

Man of Marble (1976)

‘Man of Marble’, directed by Andrzej Wajda in 1976, is a Polish drama. Jerzy Radziwiłowicz plays  Mateusz Birkut, a bricklayer working on Nowa Huta, a socialist realist settlement near Kraków. When he breaks a record laying 30,000 bricks in one shift, Birkut becomes a socialist legend but rapidly loses faith in the system when he…

Elektra, My Love (1975)

‘Elektra, My Love’, directed by Miklós Jancsó in 1975, is a not a film on the list, but as Jancsó is rapidly turning into one of my favourite directors I had to watch it. The film follows the style of ‘Red Psalm’ from 1971, the action taking place entirely on the Puszta grasslands near Kunszentmiklós…

Tampopo (1985)

“The old man bit some shinachiku root and chewed it awhile. Then he took some noodles. Still chewing noodles, he took some more shinachiku. Then he sipped some soup. Three times. He sat up, sighed, picked up one slice of pork-as if making a major decision in life-and lightly tapped it on the side of…

A Passage to India (1984)

“You shouldn’t walk alone, Mrs. Moore. There are bad characters about, and leopards may come down from the Marabar Hills – snakes also!” ‘A Passage to India’, directed by David Lean in 1984, is a British period drama set during the 1920s in colonial India. Victor Banerjee plays Aziz Ahmed, a doctor who is keen…

Live Flesh (1997)

“Sancho: You’re aiming at your superior! David: No, I’m aiming at a lunatic and a drunk!” ‘Live Flesh’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 1997, is a Spanish adaptation of Ruth Rendell’s 1986 psychological thriller. In Madrid in 1970, a prostitute gives birth to a boy whilst on a bus. In 1990, the boy is now…

My Man Godfrey (1936)

“Tommy, there’s a very peculiar mental process called thinking – you wouldn’t know much about that – but when I was living here I did a lot of it.” ‘My Man Godfrey’, directed by Gregory La Cava in 1936, is an American screwball comedy starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Powell plays a down-an-out called…

Best Films – 2017

2017 has been (another) year of political upheaval and personal wobbles. Life and work have meant that, towards the end of the year, I have stopped blogging once a day, but shifted to two or three times a week. Despite this, I continue to discover films that chime with me personally, emotionally and academically. Some…

Great Expectations (1946)

“Now, Pip: put the case that this legal advisor has often seen children tried at the criminal bar. Put the case that he has known them to be habitually imprisoned, whipped, neglected, cast out, neglected, cast out, qualified in all ways for the hangman, and growing up to be hanged. Put the case that here…

Brighton Rock (1947)

“You asked me to make a record of me voice. Well, here it is. What you want me to say is ‘I love you.’ Here’s the truth. I hate you, you little slut. You make me sick.” ‘Brighton Rock’, directed by John Boulting in 1947, is a British adaptation of Graham Greene’s crime thriller. Richard…

Giant (1956)

“Everybody thought I had a duster. Y’all thought ol’ Spindletop Burke and Burnett was all the oil there was, didn’t ya? Well, I’m here to tell you that it ain’t, boy! It’s here, and there ain’t a dang thing you gonna do about it! My well came in big, so big, Bick and there’s more…