I watched more old movies last year than any year since I've been tallying up the movies I watch. Here are a few of the highlights that were discoveries for me.
An Enemy of the People [Satyajit Ray, 1989] - An adaptation of a Henrik Ibsen play about a doctor who believes the holy water at the nearby temple is contaminated. He faces a lot of opposition including from his brother who is determined not to let the news out.
The Earthling [Peter Collinson, 1980] - The dying journey of a dreamer who meets a young boy lost in the wilderness after the death of his parents. A movie that is both tough and touching but without being sappy. [I wrote it about it here].
Hard Times [Walter Hill, 1975] - Charles Bronson plays
Cheney a drifter who travels around the south during The Great Depression
earning money by prize fighting and beating just about everyone in
sight. A streamlined tale directed by Walter Hill [his first]
with no frills just solid action.
Heidiko The Bus Conductor [Mikio Naruse, 1941] - My discovery of Naruse
continued last year and this fun short film about a young woman who
comes up with the idea of a starting a bus travel guide business on in her small town. A delightful comedy romance.
Justin De Marseille [Maurice Tourneur, 1935] - A French
gangster film set in Marseille about a suave but likable gangster who
attempts to set the black market business right. A film that captures a
particular locale with color and mood and characters in ways that are
purely French - but not Parisian.
The Last Valley [James Clavell, 1971] - Novelist James Clavell directed
this historical drama set in the 17th century that pits a captain who
leads his group of rough shod soldiers into a quiet valley where they
consider their next move. Surprisingly good considering it's B-movie trapping.
Millions Like Us [Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launde, 1943] This is
one of best British propaganda films made during the war. Tightly
scripted, well acted and directed it combines humor, drama, tragedy and
the characteristic positive British attitude.
A New Leaf [Elaine May, 1971] - Elaine May's first and possibly best
film about a rich man who is soon to lose his fortune and decides to
marry a very naive woman whom he plans to kill for the insurance money. A
comedy and while not always politically correct or comfortable full of many laughs.
Quatorze Juillet [Rene Clair, 1933] - Clair is best known for Le Million and À nous la liberté but, in fact, this movie is more in the classic tradition of French films of the 1930's. And in my view certainly as good.
A Pig Across Paris [aka Four Bags Full] [Claude
Autant-Lara, 1956] - A terrific French comedy set during the Occupation
in which Jean Gabin - an erstwhile artist - decides to help [or maybe
it's hinder?] his new found friend get pork delivered around Paris. A
true classic that deserves to be discovered.
Rome Ore 11 [Giuseppe De Santi, 1952] - Italian drama about a group of women searching for a job in a tough market who experience an accident while waiting in line for an interview. A film right on the heels of Italian neorealism but with a romantic twist.
Here were a few I knew about and finally caught up with.
Applause [Rouben Mamoulian, 1929] - Classic early talkie that used sound in novel ways.
The Blue Lamp [Basil Dearden, 1950] - Awesome British crime drama.
Breakfast at Tiffanies - [Blake Edwards, 1961] Yeah, I know, I hadn't seen this until last year.
The Breaking Point - [Michael Curtz, 1950] John Garfield in a noir classic version of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not.
Contraband - [Michael Powell, 1940] World War II drama with Conrad Veidt as a Danish sea captain who uncovers a Nazi spy ring.
The Lady and the Beard [Yasujiro Ozu, 1931] I had a chance to see this twenty years ago at an Ozu retrospective but passed up the chance. Glad I finally saw it.
Witchfinder General [Michael Reeves,1968] - Terrific British horror drama featuring one of Vincent Price's best roles.
Zoo in Budapest [Rowland Young, 1933] - Always loved the title. And Loretta Young just shines.