Duck Soup (US, 1933)

This has one of the funniest sequences in cinema and so has to be seen. Much of the Marx bros. appears dated but it was a piss-take then so probably isn’t. Zizek apparently labels them id/ego/super ego in his Pervert’s Guide to Cinema; he’s probably right. (DVD, 3).

Last Year in Marienbad (France, 1961)

I remembered being mesmerised by this (25 years ago), on a 16mm print, and then not enjoying it so much on TV a few years later. With widescreen TV and DVD this film gets near enough to cinema’s visual experience to enrapture again. I also remember it being enigmatic but now it seems less so (I’m older or more used to unconventional narrative?) which is not to say that most won’t find it heavy going.

Cinema is primarily a visual form and Marienbad excels in this. Its photography and mise en scene are stunning. And as a portrayal of the vacuity of the bourgeoisie it’s not to be beaten. (DVD, 3)

The Hitch-Hiker (US, 1953)

A rare example of a female director (Ida Lupino) in classical Hollywood. A B movie that uses it locations well. Dated. (OAR)

The Beat That Skipped My Heart (France, 2005)

Very interesting and beautifully played by Romain Duris. Unlikely scenario, hard man takes up classical piano, but done with total conviction. An antidote the French cinema’s (from a UK perspective at least) reliance on frothy middle class middle aged angst. (OAR)

Meet Me in St Louis (US, 1944)

One of the great musicals with the great Garland and Minnelli directing. Nuff said. Gorgeous technicolour and a chilling destruction of the bourgeois family by the precocious Margaret O’Brien. (DVD, 7)

That Obscure Object of Desire (France-Spain 1977)

Bunuel’s ‘last breath’ (as a film). Casting two actresses in the same role is a surrealist masterstroke (they are the obscure object of Fernando Rey’s bourgeois desire) and the ongoing terrorist attacks in the background were never more relevant. Funny and mischievous. (DVD, 2).

Santa Sangre (Mexico, 1989)

While we’re on tasteless stuff (see previous post)… Can’t think of another movie that encapsulates Bakhtinian carnivalesque than this bizarre movie, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Must be seen if only for the brides rising out of their graves scene. (DVD)

Bad Santa (US, 2003)

The Radio Times describes this as a ‘tasteless black comedy’ and gives it only two stars! Absolutely tasteless and absolutely hilarious. Nobody does seedy better than Billy Bob Thornton (an alcholic Santa) and he excels himself here. A must see if you like tasteless stuff. (OAR).

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (US, 2004)

It took me a while to understand how great Sean Penn it (The Thin Red Line was the breakthrough). Whilst his persona is aggressive-maverick-macho here he plays a ‘loser’ on the verge of a breakdown (in the same ballpark as his role in Sweet and Lowdown) with utter conviction. Great movie too on the capitalist-corruption of consumerist America. Set in the ’70s but has anything changed? (DVD)

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (US, 1974)

I remember this being a key film for feminists in the ’70s. It’s a bit of a period piece now, focusing on how a dependent woman struggles to become independent but is no less interesting for that. Peculiar ultra-melodramatic mise en scene for the opening which is followed by realist camera work throughout. Bursten is great, as usual. (OAR, 2).