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…

Laura (1944)

“She was quick to seize upon anything that would improve her mind or her appearance. Laura had innate breeding, but she deferred to my judgment and taste. I selected a more attractive hairdress for her. I taught her what clothes were more becoming to her. Through me, she met everyone: The famous and the infamous….

Red River (1948)

“Cherry was right. You’re soft, you should have let ’em kill me, ’cause I’m gonna kill you. I’ll catch up with ya. I don’t know when, but I’ll catch up. Every time you turn around, expect to see me, ’cause one time you’ll turn around and I’ll be there. I’m gonna kill ya, Matt. “…

Fires Were Started (1943)

“I see a thousand strange sights in the streets of London I see the clock on Bow Church burning in daytime I see a one-legged man crossing the fire on crutches I see three negroes and a woman with white face-powder reading music at half-past three in the morning I see an ambulance girl with…

The Battle of San Pietro (1945)

‘The Battle of San Pietro’, directed by John Huston in 1945, is an American war documentary following the Allied campaign to liberate Italy. The film follows infantrymen as they fight up the steep hills of the Naples countryside to capture the town of San Pietro. The film was controversial on release because of its explicit…

Jour de fête (1949)

‘Jour de fête’, directed by Jacques Tati in 1949, is a French comedy written, directed and starring the creator of Monsieur Hulot. In this, his directorial debut, Tati plays François, a postman in a small rural village in France. François is bumbling and easily distracted by drink and socialising with his fellow villagers. Inspired by…

Shoeshine (1946)

“In here they feed us, they shelter us, they give us clothes, and they even entertain us. What else could we want? This is paradise!” ‘Shoeshine’, directed by Vittorio De Sica in 1946, is an Italian neorealist movie from the director of ‘Umberto D.’, ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and ‘Two Women’. Rinaldo Smordoni and Franco Interlenghi play…

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

“Well, there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road, and as you walk, think of them and of the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you. They sweated and paused for breath just as you did today. And when you see the bluebells in the…

The Red Shoes (1948)

“Don’t forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit.” ‘The Red Shoes’, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948, is a British romantic drama starring  Moira Shearer, Marius Goring and Anton Walbrook. Shearer plays Vicky Page, an aspiring ballerina who bewitches two men: Boris…

Notorious (1946)

“When he told me a few years ago what he was, everything went to pot. I didn’t care what happened to me. Now I remember how nice he once was, how nice we both were. It’s a very curious feeling, a feeling as if something had happened to me, not to him. You see I…

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

“You know that, after the war, we had very bad years in Germany. We got poorer and poorer. Every day retired officers or schoolteachers were caught shoplifting. Money lost its value, the price of everything rose except of human beings. We read in the newspapers that the after-war years were bad everywhere, that crime was…

Sergeant York (1941)

“Well I’m as much agin’ killin’ as ever, sir. But it was this way, Colonel. When I started out, I felt just like you said, but when I hear them machine guns a-goin’, and all them fellas are droppin’ around me… I figured them guns was killin’ hundreds, maybe thousands, and there weren’t nothin’ anybody…

Cat People (1942)

“You see, the Mameluks came to Serbia long ago and they made the people slaves. Well, at first, the people were good and worshipped God in a true Christian way. But, eh, little by little, the people changed. When King John drove out the Mameluks and came to our village, he found dreadful things. The…

Mildred Pierce (1945)

“With this money I can get away from you. From you and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture. And this town and its dollar days, and its women that wear uniforms and its men that wear…

Gaslight (1944)

“If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I’m mad, I’m rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of…

La Belle et la Bête (1947)

“God of the forest. Let me go back to him. It is my only wish. My only desire.” ‘La Belle et la Bête’, directed by Jean Cocteau in 1947, is a French fantasy movie. An adaptation of an C18 fairy tale telling the story of a young woman, Belle, who rejects a suitor but, owing…

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

“Members of the jury, as Sir Walter Scott is always saying… In peace, Love tunes the shepherd’s reed; In war, he mounts the warrior’s steed; In halls, in gay attire is seen; In hamlets, dances on the green. Love rules the court, the camp, the grove, and men below, and saints above; For Love is…

Paisà (1946)

“Beautiful Shots! That is the one thing that makes me sick!” ‘Paisà’, directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1946, is the second of his trilogy of neorealist war movies that started with ‘Rome, Open City’ and concluded with ‘Germany, Year Zero’. Unlike those films, which told single, small scale stories on the enormous canvas of cities…

Odd Man Out (1947)

“I remember. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put way childish things. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become a sounding brass or…

Adam’s Rib (1949)

“Lawyers should never marry other lawyers. This is called in-breeding; from this comes idiot children… and other lawyers.” ‘Adam’s Rib’, directed by George Cukor in 1949, is an American courtroom comedy starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The two actors play a husband and wife who are both lawyers. When a woman almost kills her…

Out of the Past (1947)

“You can never help anything, can you? You’re like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another.” ‘Out of the Past’, directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1947, is a film noir starring Robert Mitchum as a private investigator in hiding whose past catches up with him when a businessman tracks him down…

Halloween Triple Bill

“Do you have to open graves to find ghosts to fall in love with?” In dark and eldritch celebration of Halloween I’ve made the sign of the Devil, summoned up the spirits of the dead, called on the services of Mephistopheles, raised the dread demon Pazuzu, supped with the Great God Pan and abandoned my…

Black Narcissus (1947)

“We all need discipline. You said yourself they’re like children. Without discipline we should all behave like children.” ‘Black Narcissus’, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1947, is a British melodrama set in a convent of nuns in the Himalayas. Sister Superior Clodagh, played by Deborah Kerr, is placed in charge of a…

His Girl Friday (1940)

“You’ve got the brain of a pancake. This isn’t just a story you’re covering – it’s a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley.” ‘His Girl Friday’, directed by Howard Hawks in 1940, is an American screwball comedy based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Rosalind Russell…

The Seventh Victim (1943)

“No, that room made her happy in some strange way I couldn’t understand. She lived in a world of her own fancy. She didn’t always tell the truth. In fact, I’m afraid she didn’t know what the truth was.” ‘The Seventh Victim’, directed by Mark Robson in 1943, is a psychological horror set in contemporary…

‘Le Sang des Bêtes’ (1948) and ‘Judex’ (1963)

‘Le Sang des Bêtes’ and ‘Judex’, are two French movies directed by Georges Franju in 1948 and 1963 respectively. The former is a short documentary depicting the men working in abattoirs in post-war France, whilst the latter is an adventure movie based on a silent film from 1916. ‘Le Sang des Bêtes’ is a brutal,…

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…

Detour (1945)

“Ever done any hitchhiking? It’s not much fun, believe me. Oh yeah, I know all about how it’s an education, and how you get to meet a lot of people, and all that. But me, from now on I’ll take my education in college, or in PS-62, or I’ll send $1.98 in stamps for ten…