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,…

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…

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…

12 Angry Men (1957)

“It’s always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth. I don’t really know what the truth is. I don’t suppose anybody will ever really know. Nine of us now seem to feel that the defendant is innocent, but we’re just…

Gigi (1958)

“Oh yes, Auntie, I understand. We don’t marry, is that it?” ‘Gigi’, directed by Vincente Minnelli in 1958, is an American musical comedy adapted from the novel ‘Collete’, starring Maurice Chevalier, Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan. Jourdan plays Gaston, a Parisian playboy who is bored and spends his days socialising with women, but in particular…

The Flowers of St Francis (1950)

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” ‘The Flowers of St Francis’, directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1950, is an Italian historical drama charting incidents in the career of Francis of Assisi. The structure of the film is nine ‘chapters’, each telling a parable from the ministry of…

Shadows (1959)

“The trouble with you is, you have a case of self-induced hysteria every time you hear the word ‘existentialism’.” ‘Shadows’, directed by John Cassavetes in 1959, is an American movie set amongst the ‘beat generation’ in New York. Three siblings of African-American descent move through the jazz clubs and nightlife of the city. Two are…

Limelight (1952)

“Think of the power that’s in the universe! Turning the Earth. Making the trees grow. Well that’s the same power within you! If you’d only have courage and the will to use it!” ‘Limelight’, written and directed by Charles Chaplin in 1952, is an American comedy drama. Chaplin plays Calvero, an aging stage comedian in…

The African Queen (1951)

“I don’t know why the Germans would want this God-forsaken place.” ‘The African Queen’, directed by John Huston in 1951, is an American adventure movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, a Methodist missionary in German East Africa in the 1910s. When war breaks out, Sayer escapes her village after it…

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

“Take a look at yourself here in a worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for 50 cents from some rag-picker. And with a crazy crown on. Now what kind of a queen do you think you are? Do you know that I’ve been on to you from the start, and not once did you pull the…

La Strada (1954)

First published on ‘We Are Cult’ on the 15th of July 2017 In many respects, La Strada, directed by Federico Fellini in 1954, is a drama that sowed the seeds for the director’s later, extravagantly fantastical films, but one that equally has its own, very particular identity. The movie focuses on a circus strongman called…

The Wrong Man (1956)

“This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking. In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one. The difference lies in the fact that this is a true story, every word of it. And yet it contains elements that are stranger than all…

On the Waterfront (1954)

“It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the…

The Big Heat (1953)

“I guess a scar isn’t so bad. Not if it’s only on one side… I can always go through life sideways.” ‘The Big Heat’, directed by Fritz Lang in 1953, is an American crime drama starring Glenn Ford as Sergeant Dave Bannion, a police officer who becomes determined to bring down a network of organised…

Summer with Monika (1953)

“Monika, we have to make something real out of our lives. We’ll care for each other. I’ll study and get a decent job, so we can get married and have a nice house, you and me and the little one on its way.” ‘Summer with Monika’, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1953, is a Swedish…

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

“There’s nothing so different about them. After all, crime in only a left-handed form of human endeavor.”” ‘The Asphalt Jungle’, directed by John Huston in 1950, is an American film noir starring Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe and Jean Hagen. Jaffe plays Erwin “Doc” Riedenschneider, a newly released prisoner who builds a gang to steal jewellery….

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

“I was continuing to shrink, to become… what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close – the infinitesimal and…

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

“Twelve people go off into a room: twelve different minds, twelve different hearts, from twelve different walks of life; twelve sets of eyes, ears, shapes, and sizes. And these twelve people are asked to judge another human being as different from them as they are from each other. And in their judgment, they must become…

Early Kubrick

“There is war in this forest. Not a war that has been fought, or one that will be, but any war. And the enemies who struggle here do not exist, unless we call them into being. This forest, then, and all that happens now is outside history. Only the unchanging shapes of fear – and…

Gun Crazy (1950)

“Bart, I’ve been kicked around all my life, and from now on, I’m gonna start kicking back.” ‘Gun Crazy’, directed by Joseph H. Lewis (and partly written by Dalton Trumbo) in 1950, is an American film noir that draws on the same source material as the later ‘Bonnie and Clyde’. John Dall plays Bart Tare,…

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

“You mean just stop? Cold turkey? You don’t understand! The pain…” ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’, directed by Otto Preminger in 1955, is an American drama focusing on the descent into drug addiction and crime of a professional drummer and gambler Frankie Machine, played by Frank Sinatra. Machine has been released from prison where…

Strangers on a Train (1951)

“Everyone has somebody that they want to put out of the way. Oh now surely, Madam, you’re not going to tell me that there hasn’t been a time that you didn’t want to dispose of someone. Your husband, for instance?” ‘Strangers on a Train’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951, is an American thriller based…

Une Femme Coquette (1955)

Available online here, ‘Une Femme Coquette’, directed by  Jean-Luc Godard in 1955, is a short French movie, once of the director’s earliest works. It follows a woman as she tries to mimic the flirtatious actions of an escort she meets but smiling at a random man. The man then pursues her to her flat where…

Johnny Guitar (1954)

“There’s only two things in this world that a ‘real man’ needs: a cup of coffee and a good smoke.” ‘Johnny Guitar’, directed by Nicholas Ray in 1954, is an American western starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge. Crawford plays Vienna, the owner of a small casino that is on the verge of…

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“Moses supposes his toeses are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously. Moses he knowses his toeses aren’t roses as Moses supposes his toeses to be.” ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen in 1952, is an American musical starring Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Kelly plays Don Lockwood, a…

Lift to the Scaffold (1958)

“Is there any movie that’s more perfectly French, more perfectly Parisian, and more perfectly 1950s than Louis Malle’s debut ‘Lift to the Scaffold’? Melville’s ‘Bob Le Flambeur’, perhaps, or Cocteau’s ‘Orphée’, but there is also in Malle’s movie a strong indication of the new directions French cinema would soon take.” ‘Lift to the Scaffold’, directed…

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

“Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?” ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, directed by Howard Hawks in 1953, is an American adaptation of the comedy musical from 1949. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell play a…

Bob le flambeur (1956)

“Locks are like pretty ladies. You need to practise to know them.” ‘Bob le flambeur’, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville in 1956, is a French crime drama starring Roger Duchesne as Bob, an aging ex-con and professional gambler, down on his luck, who plans one final heist. Bob lives in Montmartre and spends his nights attending…

Journey to Italy (1954)

“They say all Neapolitans are indolent. But you tell me, can you call a castaway indolent? In a way, we’re all castaways. We have to fight so hard just to stay afloat.” ‘Journey to Italy’, directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1954, is an Italian drama starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. Bergman and Sanders play…

Paris is a Playground

In 1955, Guy Debord coined the term ‘psychogeography’, a way of seeing urban spaces as cultural playgrounds that, through wandering, can collapse time and space together, connecting the rich histories of locations with the contemporary experience of exploring them. Paris was an ur-text for this new way of seeing space and time, the history, mythology…