I Live in Fear (1955)

“Human beings share the same common problems. A film can only be understood if it depicts these properly.” ‘I Live in Fear’, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1955, is a drama set in contemporary Japan. A factory owner, Nakajima played by Toshiro Mifune, is terrified of nuclear war and is pressuring his family…

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

“Well, ghosts are a lot harder to see. But when you suddenly move from a lighted room to a dark one, you can’t see for a second, and that’s when the dust bunnies come out.” ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 1988, is a Studio Ghibli animated childrens film. It tells the story…

The Magician (1958)

“It’s a fox without eyes, and with a rotten hole for a mouth” ‘The Magician’, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1958, is a thriller set in the nineteenth century. Max von Sydow plays a magician and mesmerist called Vogler who travels with his family. After a fateful encounter with an actor on the way they…

A Day at the Races (1937)

Gil: Are you a man or a mouse? Dr. Hackenbush: You put a piece of cheese down there and you’ll find out. ‘A Day at the Races’, directed by Sam Wood in 1937, is the seventh Marx Brothers comedy. Groucho Marx plays a horse veterinarian, Hugo Z. Hackenbush, who pretends to be a doctor in…

Tesis (1996)

“My name is Angela. They’re going to kill me.” ‘Tesis’, directed by Alejandro Amenábar in 1996, is a Spanish thriller set in modern day Madrid. Angela, played by Ana Torrent (the young girl from ‘Spirit of the Beehives’, is studying video nasties for a project at university. In the course of her studies she discovers…

The World of Apu (1959)

“In the final moments of the film, Kajal has rejected Apu. When Apu’s father-in-law is about to strike Kajal with a stick because he has refused to leave with Apu, Apu rescues Kajal instinctively. A hint of trust begins to develop. Apu starts to walk away as he has given up hope of earning Kajal’s…

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

“Bishop Cauchon: Do your saints hate the English? Jeanne d’Arc: They love what Our Lord loves and hate what he hates. Bishop Cauchon: Does God hate the English? Jeanne d’Arc: Whether he loves or hates them I don’t know. I only know they’ll be driven from France or die here.” ‘The Trial of Joan of…

Mirror (1975)

“It seems to make me return to the place, poignantly dear to my heart, where my grandfather’s house used to be in which I was born 40 years ago right on the dinner table. Each time I try to enter it, something prevents me from doing that. I see this dream again and again. And…

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Seita: Can you give her medicine or a shot? Please, doctor, help her. Doctor: Give her medicine? All this child needs is some food. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, written and directed by Isao Takahata in 1988, is an animated historical drama produced by Studio Ghibli. It tells the story of a teenage boy and his…

Tale of Tales (2015)

“I want to be with my sister.” ‘Tale of Tales’, directed by Matteo Garrone in 2015, is a European adaptation of three Giambattista Basile stories with adult horror overtones. The three stories are unlinked, but the characters meet at the beginning (a funeral) and the end (a wedding). One story focuses on a queen whose…

The Golden Coach (1952)

“At the end of the second act, when Colombine goes, driven away by her masters, there is a tradition you seem not to know. The comedians bow to her.” ‘The Golden Coach’, directed by Jean Renoir in 1952, is an opulent costume drama set in Peru in the 18ths century. A troupe of performers arrive…

Red Psalm (1972)

“Protect us from widowhood…protect us from immigration…Save us O Lord from starvation…Save us O Lord from the holes in our boots…” ‘Red Psalm’, directed by Miklós Jancsó in 1972, is a Hungarian movie set in a village in 1890. The villagers are rebelling against the feudal government and the film is made up of a…

A Short Film About Love (1988)

“Kieślowski’s deceptively simple film (with unfussy cinematography by Witold Adamek and a straightforward yet stirring piano-dominated score by Zbigniew Preisner) might have been inspired by the most straightjacket-like of God’s interactions with humankind, but it speaks with the tranquility of a parable.” ‘A Short Film About Love’, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski in 1988, is an…

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

“So they were turning after all, those cameras. Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her.” ‘Sunset Boulevard’, directed by Billy Wilder in 1950, is an American comedy with film noir touches. It is the story of a Hollywood scriptwriter,…

Five Months In…

It is now five months since I finished watching Mark Cousins’ ‘Story of Film’ and decided to increase my knowledge of and exposure to more interesting movies (I’m aware all this makes it sound like a prison sentence). I’ve watched, thought about and written about 133 movies watched which means around 30,000 words or a…

Dumplings (2004)

“What she does in assembling her ingredients is profoundly disturbing. In some cases it may not technically be illegal, on other occasions it is. Depends on the circumstances. I will not describe her secrets, but I will tell you that you may be profoundly disturbed, and that the movie’s last scene, sick and evil as…

The Skin I Live In (2011)

“Clothes make me feel claustrophobic. I wish I could stay naked all the time.” ‘The Skin I Live In’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 2011, is a dark, psychological horror movie. The story centres on an unhinged plastic surgeon, Robert who is keeping a woman, Vera hostage, apparently to experiment on her to test a…

Pather Panchali (1955)

“This is my home now too. But just look at it. It’s like living in the jungle. Jackals prowling around as soon as night falls. No neighbours to sit and talk to. When you’re not here, I’m terribly uneasy. But you wouldn’t understand. You eat and sleep and go about your work, unconcerned whether you’re…

Star Wars (1977)

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?” ‘Star Wars’, directed by George Lucas in 1977, is an American science fiction/fantasy that is now most famous for its special effects, the cultural franchise that followed it, and for the line of toys that shaped the imaginations of children (myself included) throughout…

The Round-Up (1965)

  “You have seen him often” ‘The Round-Up’, directed by Miklós Jancsó in 1965, is a Hungarian prison drama set in the 19th century. Following an attempted revolution in the country, the supporters of Lajos Kossuth are held in brutal prison camps. One, in the middle of the sun-blasted wastes of the Hungarian puszta becomes…

Babette’s Feast (1987)

“You must also know that I shall be with you every day that is granted to me from now on. Every evening I shall sit down to dine with you. Not with my body, which is of no importance, but with my soul. Because this evening I have learned, my dear, that in this beautiful…

Germany, Year Zero (1947)

“This movie, shot in Berlin in the summer of 1947 aims only to be an objective and true portrait of this large, almost totally destroyed city where 3.5 million people live a terrible, desperate life, almost without realizing it. They live as if tragedy were natural, not because of strength or faith, but because they…

Night and Fog (1955)

“Grass flourishes on the inspection ground around the blocks. An abandoned village, still heavy with peril. The crematoria are no longer used. The Nazi’s cunning is but child’s play today. Nine million dead haunt this countryside.” ‘Night and Fog’, directed by Alain Resnais in 1955, is a short documentary film about the Holocaust. Made only…

Sanshō Dayū (1954)

“I found that humans have little sympathy for things that don’t directly concern them. They’re ruthless. Unless those hearts can be changed, the world you dream of cannot come true. If you wish to live honestly with your conscience, keep close to the Buddha.” ‘Sanshō Dayū’, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1954, is an historical…

Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

“Mamma, there’s a cuckoo up there!” ‘Ivan’s Childhood’, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1962, is one of his more accessible movies. It tells the story of Ivan, a young orphan during World War II who, after losing his mother, is recruited by the military to undertake reconnaissance missions. The story is told through a mixture…

La Bête Humaine (1938)

“Pecqueux, I have to tell you something. Don’t say a word and don’t move. I killed her. That’s right, I killed her. It’s all over. I’ll never see her again. It’ll be the death of me, I know it. I couldn’t bear to hold her anymore. I loved her, you know? I loved her little…

Salt of the Earth (1954)

“Whose neck shall I stand on to make me feel superior, and what will I have out of it? I don’t want anything lower than I am. I am low enough already. I want to rise and to push everything up with me as I go.” ‘Salt of the Earth’, directed by Herbert J. Biberman…

The Milky Way (1969)

“Faith doesn’t come to us through reason but through the heart.” ‘The Milky Way’, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1969, is a strange movie that follows two pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela as they encounter episodes from the history of the Catholic Church, priests, prostitutes, nuns, philosophers and soldiers. The pair of…