Keeping my appointment with ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.” ‘The Wicker Man’, directed by Robin Hardy in 1973, is strange, subversive, creepy and just a little bit perverted. The plot is simple: a policeman, Sergeant Howie, is lured to a Scottish island called Summerisle to solve the case of a…

Tristana (1970)

“It’s good to have dreams, even if they’re frightening… The dead don’t dream.” ‘Tristana’, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1970, is a Spanish movie based on a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós, but with Buñuel’s characteristic alterations and flourishes. The plot focuses on a triangular relationship between Tristana, played by Catherine Deneuve, Don Lope, her…

The Pied Piper (1972)

“Gentled by the lilting musical contribution of Donovan (who plays the Piper), Demy’s film isn’t quite so harsh as the Grimms’ version but, if it pulls some of its punches, they are felt nonetheless.” ‘The Pied Piper’, directed in 1972 by Jacques Demy, is a colourful, stylised retelling of the fairy-tale that features a host…

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

“I felt nothing for him anymore. Far from it, it got worse. When we ate together his chewing… it was like an explosion. When he swallowed my gorge rose. The way he cut meat, held his cigarette, his whiskey glass… it all seemed so absurd, so affected. I was ashamed for him because I imagined…

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

“Paris is small for great passion like us.” ‘Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’, directed by Jacques Demy in 1967, is a romantic musical set in a French southwestern seaside town. Two sisters are looking for love and, through a series of musical interludes, they encounter a host of suitors including an American played by Gene Kelly….

The Saragossa Manuscript parts 1 and 2 (1965)

“We are like blind men lost in the streets of a big city. The streets lead to a goal, but we often return to the same places to get to where we want to be. I can see a few little streets here which, as it is now, are going nowhere. New combinations have to…

Léon (1994)

“You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Mathilda. Please, go now, baby, go. Calm down, I’ll meet you at Tony’s in an hour, I love you, now go, go now.” ‘Léon’, directed by…

Hamlet (1996)

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” ‘Hamlet’, directed by Kenneth Branagh in 1996, is a sumptuous and complete adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece. It’s not the most interesting version, in many ways Olivier’s 1948 movie is more inventive with dark, labyrinthine sets and roaming cameras mirroring the…

L’Argent (1983)

“Wait. Everyone will be happy soon. I won’t wait around for that. Believe me, it will bore us stupid. I want happiness now, on my terms.” ‘L’Argent’, the last film directed by Robert Bresson in 1983, is as elegant and deceptively simple as his 1960s movies. Thematically its closest relation is ‘Pickpocket’: in ‘L’Argent’ we…

Profondo Rosso (1975)

“I can feel death in this room! I feel a presence, a twisted mind sending me thoughts! Perverted, murderous thoughts… Go away! You have killed! And you will kill again!” ‘Profondo Rosso’, directed by Dario Argento in 1975, is an Italian serial killer thriller, part of the giallo genre, with inventive shocks, a surprisingly tight…

Hugo (2011)

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means…

All the President’s Men (1976)

“It was a Haldeman operation. The whole business was run by Haldeman, the money, everything. It won’t be easy getting at him, he was insulated, you’ll have to find out how. Mitchell started doing covert stuff before anyone else, the list is longer than anyone can imagine… it involves the entire U.S. Intelligence Community. FBI……

Spirited Away (2001)

“I’m sorry my sister turned you parents into pigs, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s just the way things are. You’ll have to help your parents and Haku by yourself. Use what you remember about them.” ‘Spirited Away’, an animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 2001, is a magical, witty and, at times,…

Ivan the Terrible Parts One and Two (1942 and 1944)

“It is one of those works that has proceeded directly to the status of Great Movie without going through the intermediate stage of being a good movie. I hope earnest students of cinema will forgive me when I say every serious movie lover should see it – once.” ‘Ivan the Terrible’, a two part film…

Belle de Jour (1967)

“I will pump you once for good! I will pump you once for good! I will pump you once for good!” ‘Belle de Jour’, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1967, includes the same basic preoccupations as the director’s later movie ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ from 1972, but the earlier film has less of…

Mon Oncle (1958)

“I am not at all against modern architecture but I believe it should come with not only a building but also a living permit.” ‘Mon Oncle’, my second Jacques Tati movie from 1958, like ‘Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot’ follows the adventures of Tati’s bumbling man-child as he fails to engage with modern life. In…

Stray Dog (1949)

“Bad luck can make a man or destroy a man.” ‘Stray Dog’, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1949, is a noirish police-procedural set in a sweltering heatwave in 1940s Tokyo. Murakami, played by Toshiro Mifune, is a cop who has his gun stolen and used in a murder. Together with his partner, played…

Amadeus (1984)

“Astounding! It was actually… it was beyond belief. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there…

Stalker (1979)

“The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish.” Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’, directed in 1979, is a post-apocalyptic, mystical quest movie that follows three men: a scientist, an author and a guide as they journey into an abandoned wasteland (the ‘Zone’) looking for a mythical ‘room’ that will grant them wishes. It’s essential Tarkovsky’s…

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

“He’s one hundred years overdue for death” ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’, directed by Jaromil Jireš in 1970, is a dark, fairy-tale horror, adapted from a 1932 novel, that follows the adventures of the title character as she negotiates a series of dreamlike encounters with vampires, her strange family and the eccentric local villagers….

I Am Cuba (1964)

“I am Cuba. Once, Christopher Columbus landed here. He wrote in his diary: “This is the most beautiful land ever seen by human eyes.” Thank you, Señor Columbus. When you saw me for the first time, I was singing and laughing. I waved the fronds of my palms to greet your sails. I thought your…

Suspiria (1977)

“Suzy Banyon decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time.” ‘Suspiria’, directed by Dario Argento in 1977, is an…

Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

“At the end of ‘Ugetsu,’ aware we have seen a fable, we also feel curiously as if we have witnessed true lives and fates.” ‘Ugetsu Monogatari’ is a 1953 Japanese movie directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. It’s an historical ghost story set in the 16th century about two couples in a small village, the two men,…

Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (1982)

“If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster. Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky. A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky which could burn the land and boil the oceans.” ‘Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance’, directed…

Daisies (1966)

“Dedicated to Those Whose Sole Source of Indignation is a Messed-Up-Trifle.” ‘Daisies’, a 1966 Czechoslovakian movie directed by Věra Chytilová, is an avant-garde comedy following the adventures of two teenage girls as they seduce and let down a string of men. They party, eat food, break things and generally cause havoc. It’s an experimental film,…

The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

“Véronique: What else do you want to know about me? Alexandre: Everything.” ‘The Double Life of Véronique’, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski in 1991, is an allegorical love story and tragedy. Two identical women, one in Poland, one in France, sense one another across the distance. We follow the former as she trains to be a…

The Seventh Seal (1957)

 “This is my hand. I can turn it. The blood is still running in it. The sun is still in the sky and the wind is blowing. And I, Antonius Block, play chess with Death.” ‘The Seventh Seal’, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1957, feels timeless. It’s the story of a medieval knight who journeys…

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

 “All definitions of cinema have been erased.” ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’, directed by Toshio Matsumoto in 1969, is a New Wave Japanese movie that charts the lives of homosexuals and transvestites in Tokyo as they re-enact the story of Oedipus. It’s a difficult film to like, not because of the subject matter, but because of…

The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)

“Hieronymus B. Mistelzweig: ‘B’ stands for ‘belly’” ‘The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse’ from 1960, the last film directed by Fritz Lang, is an action packed, Hollywood style thriller with, as expected from Lang, touches of German expressionism and a distinct look. It’s a film along the lines of the Fu Manchu series: an international…

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

“The old ones called it “the hour of the wolf”. It is the hour when the most people die, and the most are born. At this time, nightmares come to us. And when we awake, we are afraid.” ‘Hour of the Wolf’, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1968, is a horror movie that is surprisingly…