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Saturday
Feb022013

The Battle of Algiers


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

I thought this would be a boring war movie. It's neither of those things.

Why is it on the list?

48th on the critics poll and 26th on the directors poll.

Where can I see it?

I saw it for free on YouTube. I'm not sure about the legality of this copy.

What's it about?

In a word terrorism. The native Algerians want their country back from the French. There are escalations on both sides, each driving the opposite side to more murder and mayhem. More than anything else it goes to show that politicians have learnt nothing in the past 50 years.

Is it just for film geeks?

Not at all. The film is shot in stark, gritty black and white mostly on handheld cameras giving the feeling of a news report from the front line. It's a punchy and direct film that never wastes a single minute of the viewers time.

Entertainment value out of ten?

8/10. This is a very watchable, gripping film.

Would I watch it again?

Probably not, only because I'm not sure I'd gain anything from repeat viewings.

Tuesday
Jan292013

City Lights


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Ah, Charlie Chaplin. I watched quite a lot of silent movies and shorts when I was a kid because they were always on telly back then. I loved Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd, but for some reason I had the idea that Chaplin was boring. As is often the case with memories, I remember how I felt but not why I felt it. I don't know why I thought that he was boring as I can't recall which of his films lead to this opinion. On the evidence of this film my younger self was a total idiot.

Why is it on the list?

50th on the critics list and 30th on the directors list.

Where can I see it?

I saw the HD version on iTunes. It's in fantastic condition.

What's it about?

Chaplin as his famous tramp character falls for a blind flower girl. She mistakenly thinks he's wealthy, an impression he's happy to encourage.

Is it just for film geeks?

Absolutely not. Modern audiences will not have to make any allowances here, it stands on it's own perfectly well. Chaplin is famous for his sentimentality, however I think he gets the balance right here and you'd have no soul if you weren't moved by it's conclusion.

Entertainment value out of ten?

Most importantly this is a comedy and it truly is laugh-out loud funny. There were many moments that make me chuckle now just thinking about them. No hesitation: 10/10

Would I watch it again?

Of course!

Monday
Jan282013

Apocalypse Now


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Well even a know-nothing like me knows something about this. Directed by Francis Ford-Coppola on a huge budget and amongst total chaos, it's considered the original 'Nam film.

Why is it on the list?

14th on the critics list and an impressive 6th on the directors list.

Where can I see it?

Widely available, I watched it in HD on my Apple TV. This is the "remastered" version which looks absolutely pristine.

What's it about?

A soldier called Willard is sent on a mission to terminate Colonel Kurtz who has become a law onto himself and is out of control. The question for Willard is, amongst all this madness, is Kurtz's behaviour really so insane (and Willard himself doesn't seem to be in entire possession of his own sanity). The film sees Willard like a kind of detective, with his story told in voiceover like Philip Marlowe, while all around him is black farce.

Is it just for film geeks?

This is one of the most popular films on the list so I think we can safely say no.

Entertainment value out of ten?

This truly is an epic film in every way. The Vietnam war is portrayed on a massive scale (Kubrick may have been happy to run around London Docklands for Full Metal Jacket, but you don't get any of those short cuts here!). The frame is constantly filled with memorable images, and the dialogue is often quotable. I might be controversial here but I do feel that, because the film starts at such a high level, it peters out in the third act as all the energy drains out. To make it worse, watching Brando the hack take some pretty juicy dialogue and let it dribble down his chin is a sad sight indeed. But this is a small complaint as the film is hugely impressive. 8/10

Would I watch it again?

Sure, but it seems memorable enough that I don't feel I need to rush back to it again.

Saturday
Jan262013

Mirror


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

This is the second Tarkovsky film I've seen on the list after Andrei Rublev. I really enjoyed that so I was looking forward to this one

Why is it on the list?

Number 19 on the list and number 9 on the directors list.

Where can I see it?

By this point I'd bought the Tarkovsky box set made by Artificial Eye so I watched the one on this set

What's it about?

Ah, good question. I've seen it and I'm not sure myself. Basically it appears to be a man (probably the director, if not by name) reflecting on his life in the present and the past. There isn't so much a plot line as a plot mobius strip as it bounces between the war, post war and the present (being 1974 in this case) and they all start to merge.

Is it just for film geeks?

This is the most pretentious film I've seen so far on this voyage of discovery. Poetry read out in grave Russian over beautifully shot footage of nothing much happening. Newsreel footage of WWII cut in seemingly at random. Changing from colour to black and white film stock seemingly without reason. People appear and disappear. Actors play more than one role (or do they?).

Entertainment value out of ten?

It's beautiful but by golly it's downright incomprehensible. It might well reward repeat viewings, and it's haunting enough that I might give it a go. But we're talking entertainment here so it's a brutal 5/10.

Would I watch it again?

I probably will but I doubt it'll make much more sense to me.

Tuesday
Jan152013

The Rules of the Game


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen.  So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you.  Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

A black and white film about rich people and their servants. Sounds very British but is in fact French. I knew nothing about this film or it's director.

Why is it on the list?

Made in 1939 it was released on French audiences at the start of WWII and promptly bombed. It's interesting how many films on this list bombed on initial release, as if critics what to make up for past wrongs or prove the audiences wrong.

Where can I see it?

I bought it on DVD - the BFI edition.

What's it about?

It's about some rich people going for a weekend of shooting. They have intertwining relationships and things get a little tricky as a consequence. Points are made about the nature of class, truth and etiquette.

Is it just for film geeks?

I wouldn't say so. In fact I am a little surprised this is on the list, not because it's a bad film but because it doesn't share a lot in common with anything else on this list. It's not an epic, it's not a visual feast, the script isn't drenched in philosophising, etc. It's a likeable and enjoyable film but I have no idea what pushes this into the top ten above many of the other films further down the list.

Entertainment value out of ten?

In short this is pretty much a farce, although less comedic than that makes it sound, it is fun. I guess it's a farce with some serious points to make. There's much to enjoy here but it gets the lowest score of the films I've watched on this excursion so far: 7/10. That's no disgrace.

Would I watch it again?

Sure. It's fun.