GREAT FILMS




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BICYCLE THIEVES (1948)

Ladri di Biciclette





This landmark Italian neorealist drama became one of the best-known and most widely acclaimed European movies, including a special Academy Award as "most outstanding foreign film" seven years before that Oscar category existed. Written primarily by neorealist pioneer Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio DeSica, also one of the movement's main forces, the movie featured all the hallmarks of the neorealist style: a simple story about the lives of ordinary people, outdoor shooting and lighting, non-actors mixed together with actors, and a focus on social problems in the aftermath of World War II. Lamberto Maggiorani plays Antonio, an unemployed man who finds a coveted job that requires a bicycle. When it is stolen on his first day of work, Antonio and his young son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) begin a frantic search, learning valuable lessons along the way. The movie focuses on both the relationship between the father and the son and the larger framework of poverty and unemployment in postwar Italy. As in such other classic films as Shoeshine (1946), Umberto D. (1952), and his late masterpiece The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971), DeSica focuses on the ordinary details of ordinary lives as a way to dramatize wider social issues. As a result, The Bicycle Thief works as a sentimental study of a father and son, a historical document, a social statement, and  a record of one of the century's most influential film movements. 
~ Leo Charney, Rovi


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Tokyo Story(1953)


Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari) follows an aging couple, Tomi and Sukichi, on their journey from their rural village to visit their two married children in bustling, postwar Tokyo. Their reception is disappointing: too busy to entertain them, their children send them off to a health spa. 
After Tomi falls ill she and Sukichi return home, while the children, grief-stricken, hasten to be with her. From a simple tale unfolds one of the greatest of all Japanese films. Starring Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, the film reprises one of the director’s favorite themes—that of generational conflict—in a way that is quintessentially Japanese and yet so universal in its appeal that it continues to resonate as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces.



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LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS (THE 400 BLOWS, 1959) FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT




I  demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.


The 400 Blows is the debut outing for  French director François Truffaut, who arrived in the filmmaking arena after taking a detour through film criticism. (During the years when he wrote for André Bazin's "Cahiers du Cinéma," Truffaut developed a reputation as being an acerbic, unforgiving critic.) Along with Godard, Rohmer, Malle, Vadim, and Chabrol (amongst others), Truffaut was one of the founding auteurs of the French "New Wave" cinema - a philosophy that sought to enliven the Gaelic motion picture industry by taking bold chances and telling personal stories. The 400 Blows became one of the first and most influential of the French New Wave films (it was released around the same time as Godard's Breathless), and, as such, was at the vanguard of a movement that had a worldwide impact on movie-making for more than a decade.


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THE HUSTLER (1961)


The Hustler begins with a great hustle. Eddie Felson, brilliantly played by a young Paul Newman, leans low over a barroom pool table, inspecting the cue ball and another ball pinned together on the side rail less than a foot from the end pockets. An impossible shot, and to add to the fun, Felson's drunk. Good thing no one told him; stumbling over to the facing side, he lines up and drains the ball. His partner in this con game is a pudgy fellow named Charlie (Myron McCormick), who has the perfect look of a man so well-acquainted with losing he can see it coming a mile down the pipe and who lays a bet against his boy repeating the magic shot. Eddie tries and misses. Within seconds he has the whole pool hall betting on his chances at his third go-round.

This is one of the few American movies in which the hero wins by surrendering, by accepting reality instead of his dreams.
ROGER EBERT


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MIDNIGHT COWBOY(1969)



Based on a James Leo Herlihy novel, British director John Schlesinger's first American film dramatized the small hopes, dashed dreams, and unlikely friendship of two late '60s lost souls.
Midnight Cowboy is a touching look at the friendship between a young man and a low-level street hustler in a modern world of almost total emotional disconnection.
Midnight Cowboy became the first and only X-rated
 film to win the Best Picture Academy Award. (Over time, the rating was softened to an R) Superb performances and a excellent script have made this  Cult Classic easily one of the 10 best films of all time 
Joe Buck is a cowboy in New York city trying to make ends meet by selling his body uptown. When he teams up with ailing hustler/manager Ratso Rizzo they hope to strike it rich... but the streets of New York city aren't kind or generous.



With his Stetson and cowboy boots, Texan Joe seems to belong to the strain of American ambition that drives west. But with almost his first words he tells us he's "heading up east". He's no real wrangler but a butch-flavoured dandy (any doubts on that front are surely put to rest by the sight of his pony-skin valise) and fancies he can profitably put himself out to stud with those rich city women. His excitement at reaching the city, however, soon dissipates in the face of its harsh apathy. Ratso, who seems to have been cultured from the detritus of some scuzzy sidewalk gutter or grotty short-order kitchen, is only one of the handful who exploit and demean him. Like the clattering subway, he appears in Joe's dreams as an emblem of alienation, but he turns out to be another lost soul.
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FIVE EASY PIECES (1970)


Feeling suffocated by responsibilities, Bobby seeks out his sister, Tita (Lois Smith), and, discovering that his father is gravely ill, he reluctantly heads back to the patrician family compound in Puget Sound with a pregnant Rayette in tow. After a road trip featuring a harangue from hitchhiker Palm (Helena Kallianiotes) about filth, and Bobby's ill-fated attempt to make a menu substitution in a diner, he tucks Rayette away in a motel before heading to the house. There Bobby seduces his uptight brother Carl's cultured fiancée, Catherine (Susan Anspach), but Rayette shows up unexpectedly. As Rayette's crassness collides with the snobbery of the Dupea circle, Bobby loses patience with both sides.


We'd had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take: Into idiosyncratic characters, into dialogue with an ear for the vulgar and the literate, into a plot free to surprise us about the characters, into an existential ending

SOPHIE'S CHOICE (1982)

The movie stars Meryl Streep as Sophie, a Polish-Catholic woman, who was caught by the Nazis with a contraband ham, was sentenced to a concentration camp, lost her two children there, and then was somehow spared to immigrate to Brooklyn, U.S.A., and to the arms of an eccentric charmer named Nathan. Sophie and Nathan move into an old boardinghouse, and the rooms just below them are taken by Stingo, a jug-eared kid from the South who wants to be a great novelist. As the two lovers play out their doomed, romantic destiny, Stingo falls in love with several things: with his image of himself as a writer, with his idealized vision of Sophie and Nathan's romance, and, inevitably, with Sophie herself.



“Sopie’s Choice” is a fine, absorbing, wonderfully acted, heartbreaking movie. It is about three people who are faced with a series of choices, some frivolous, some tragic. As they flounder in the bewilderment of being human in an age of madness, they become our friends, and we love them.
Roger Ebert

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COME AND SEE (1985) 


The most powerful war movie I have ever seen.




 This 1985 film from Russia is one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead.

Is it true that audiences demand some kind of release or catharsis? That we cannot accept a film that leaves us with no hope? That we struggle to find uplift in the mire of malevolence? There's a curious scene here in a wood, the sun falling down through the leaves, when the soundtrack, which has been grim and mournful, suddenly breaks free into Mozart. And what does this signify? A fantasy, I believe, and not Florya's, who has probably never heard such music. The Mozart descends into the film like a deus ex machina, to lift us from its despair. We can accept it if we want, but it changes nothing. It is like an ironic taunt.

Roger Ebert
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THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL (1990)



"The Match Factory Girl" is the third film in Kaurismaki's Proletariat Trilogy. It follows "Shadows in Paradise," about a aimless garbage collector and "Ariel" (1988), about a coal miner who escapes his subterranean work by turning to crime. The three films have been packaged together and released by Criterion

''The Match Factory Girl'' begins with a log in a factory and follows the stages by which wood emerges as a box of matches. At the end of this long mechanical chain is a pair of hands hovering over a conveyor belt, making certain the mailing labels are stuck securely on the boxes. The hands belong to Iris, a wan blonde with circles under her eyes whose life threatens to remain as mundane and sterile as her job.
She pays rent to sleep on the couch in the apartment of her mother and stepfather, who do little more than eat and smoke. She puts on blue eyeshadow, goes to a dance and at the end of the evening is the only woman left sitting against the wall. And in a small act of heroism, she defies her parents and takes part of her paycheck to buy a cheap-looking red-flowered dress in which she is finally asked to dance. 


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FARGO (1996)

It's another daring black comedy by one of the most consistently inventive moviemaking teams of the last few decade, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen.
Facing a mountain of debt, Minneapolis car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires thugs Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife Jean (Kristin Rudrüd) and ransom her for money from his wealthy father-in-law Wade (Harve Presnell). When Carl and Gaear leave three bodies in their wake on the car ride to their hideout in Brainerd, Minnesota, the pregnant local police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) gets involved in the case.



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OLD BOY:ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE LAST DECADE (2003)


An incredible thriller that relentlessly heaps taboos on top of images of extreme brutality, "Oldboy" is surely not for the squeamish. The film by Korean director Park Chanwook is a visually beguiling trip that keeps pulling you along and keeps you wondering what fresh hell could possibly come next. And that makes it considerably more compelling than a lot of the latest from Hollywood.




South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook directed this violent and offbeat story of punishment and vengeance. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is a husband and father whose reputation for womanizing is well known. One day, for reasons he doesn't understand, Oh Dae-su finds himself locked up in a prison cell, with no idea of what his crime was or whom his jailers may be. With a small television as his only link to the outside world and a daily ration of fried dumplings as his only sustenance, Oh Dae-su struggles to keep his mind and body intact, but when he learns through a news report that his wife has been killed, he begins a long and difficult project of digging an escape tunnel with a pair of chopsticks. Before he can finish -- and after 15 years behind bars -- Oh Dae-su is released, with as little explanation as when he was locked up, and he's soon given a wad of money and a cellular phone by a bum on the street. Emotionally stunted but physically strong after 15 years in jail, Oh Dae-su struggles to unravel the secret of who is responsible for locking him up, what happened to his wife and daughter, and how to best get revenge against his captors. Oldeuboi was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and won the coveted Grand Prix. 


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BREAKING THE RULES: BREAKING THE WAVES (1996)



It’s the first and best film in Lars von Trier´s Golden Heart Trilogy (1998´s “The Idiots” and 2000´s “Dancer in the Dark” complete the trilogy), and his first film since signing the Dogme 95 pact with director Thomas Vinterberg. 

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The '70s, North-West Scotland: despite opposition from the Calvinist community in which she lives, Bess (Watson) is sufficiently sure God looks kindly on her love for oil-rig worker Jan (Skarsgård) that she marries him. When he returns to the rig, however, she can barely tolerate his absence, and prays for his return - which he does, paralysed and perhaps brain-damaged by an accident. Distraught that his wife's brief sexual bliss is over, Jan suggests she take lovers and describe her liaisons afterwards, so they might still enjoy sex by proxy. Bess consents reluctantly - until, that is, she comes to believe that the sacrifices she's making will restore Jan's health, or at least save his life. 


BREAKING THE WAVES: BREAKING THE RULES

Breaking the Waves is a movie that broke the rules, exploding so many norms of mainstream cinema that its very existence—not to mention its vast popularity and critical acclaim—seems almost as astonishing as the miracle that gives the story its visionary ending. On one level, Lars von Trier’s masterpiece is a story of amour fou between a man and a woman whose blazing passion puts them instantly at odds with her puritanical community. It’s also a blistering critique of the repression and denial that faith-based moralizers confuse with principles and decency—and a penetrating exploration of the meaning of goodness in the modern world.

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LA HAINE (HATE) (1996)



During a riot in the outskirts of Paris, police beat an Arab teenager (Abdel Ahmed Ghili) into a coma, fuelling a fire of hatred inside Vinz (Vincent Cassel) - a Jew who swears to "whack" a cop if the boy dies. It's left to Vinz's cohorts, the jocular Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) - also Arab - and subdued African boxer Hubert (Hubert Koundé) to talk him out of his bloody plan as they embark on a loafing odyssey from the immigrant neighbourhoods to the big city. Still, the time bomb keeps ticking
Counting down 24 hours, Kassovitz never gives the illusion of a happy ending.

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THE ACT OF KILLING (2013)

A documentary about the aftermath of the 1960s mass killings in Indonesia by Suharto's coup-installed military regime and death squads, The Act of Killing spirals into horrifying surrealism from a seemingly simple starting point: in this case, interviewing some of the paramilitary leaders and self-described "gangsters" employed to eradicate anyone deemed a "communist"-- in practice almost anyone not loyal to the new regime. The surprise is that these men are eager to tell their tales, often indulging in graphic detail to describe, for example, the best means of murdering captives without spilling much blood (with a wire around the neck). They even enjoy reenacting their state-sanctioned murders on camera, at director Joshua Oppenheimer's invitation, adopting the lurid styles of the Hollywood crime films that influenced them back in the day. We see the rotund, disheveled Herman Koto and the slender, debonair Anwar Congo-- the latter responsible for more than 1,000 murders, many carried out with that wire-strangling technique-- searching neighbourhoods they once attacked for locals to play parts in a reenactment.

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"It's like wandering into Germany 40 years after World War II and finding the Nazis still in power," says Oppenheimer. The men brag and laugh about their savagery. "If they're pretty, I'd rape them all," one of the aged gangsters tells it. "Fuck 'em! Fuck the shit out of everyone I meet. Especially if you get one who's only 14-years-old. Delicious! I'd say, it's gonna be hell for you but heaven on earth for me." And they still practice their malice, such as when Oppenheimer captures them shaking down local merchants.



"It's powerful, surreal, frightening," says Herzog, an executive producer of the film along with Morris. "The most surreal moments you've ever seen in your life. It's something completely and utterly unprecedented. It's not gonna leave you until the end of your days.
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LEVIATHAN (2014)

One of the best films I have seen in recent years.
Political ,moral and spiritual corruption, story of men and women , scenes of the haunting landscapes , it got it all.



The main character in “Leviathan,” Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov), lives and works on a small but desirable piece of waterside property that the local mayor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov), covets and has claimed for the town. The story opens when an old army buddy of Kolya’s who’s now a slick Moscow lawyer, Dmitri  (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov), arrives to help him fight for his land. Though Kolya loses again in court, which seems under Vadim’s thumb, Dmitri then goes to the mayor and presents him with a sheaf of incriminating documents he’s gathered. It’s blackmail of a sort but at first it seems to work. Apoplectic, Vadim agrees to cut a deal.

All of this happens in a context where there’s lots of vodka drinking, argumentation and simmering discontent of various sorts. Kolya’s moody teenage son by a previous marriage (Sergey Pokhodaev) can’t get along with his current wife, Lilya (Elena Lyadova), a pensive beauty who works in a fishery. Introducing Dmitri into the home ups the chances for both bonhomie and trouble. Meanwhile we see the almost constantly drunken Vadim consorting with a well-groomed priest, who tries to allay his political fears with religious platitudes.
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