Manual Post-Pop Cinema: The Search for Meaning in New American Film

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John Woo's later work might have tailed off somewhat see Mission Impossible II - or, if you prefer, don't , but his super-stylish Hong Kong period remains virtually untouchable, and Hard Boiled is the best of the lot. Even if it does sacrifice emotional development in Chow's kick-ass cop Tequila on the altar of gun porn, it remains a guns-a-blazing, walls-exploding, tea-room-destroying, hospital-devastating triumph, and a must-have for every action fan. It's so influential that it took Woo global and slung Chow into the big time, all whilst carrying a shotgun in one hand and a surprisingly large baby in the other.

No remake is on the cards, though a sequel of sorts was created in - for Xbox and PS3. Called 'Stranglehold', it continues the Uzi-filled adventures of Tequila in a playable balletic slo-mo shootout format. These awards-givers just don't appreciate a well shot-up tea room when they see one.


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John Woo really likes jazz. Classic film noir, classic. Raymond Chandler ain't got nothing on this one. Buy Hard Boiled now on Amazon. The best J-horror around is a first-class exercise in mood generation, a murky, doom-laden tale of a cursed videotape that visits death, in the form of a terrifying black-haired spirit named Sadako, upon anyone who watches it. Brilliantly directed, with little emphasis on jump scares and shock moments, by Hideo Nakata, it remains enormously influential, and has spawned a veritable army of sequels and copycats.

Even the death of VHS hasn't stopped it being scary. Oh yeah. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, with Gore Verbinski directing Naomi Watts in a movie that rivalled the mood of the original but then, as with so many blockbusters, failed to show restraint and showed the demon girl's face. And the less said about the sequel - directed by Nakata himself - the better. You won't look at your telly in the same way again. Buy Ringu now on Amazon.

The distant planet of Solaris, with its swirling oceans and hallucinatory qualities, is the setting for psychologist Kris Kelvin's Donatas Banionis interstellar mission. But is it malevolent or just misunderstood? The appearance of Kelvin's dead wife, a product of Solaris' mysterious powers, suggests the former, but Predators this ain't.

Tarkovsky is more interested in the impact of outer space - and internal grief - on the human psyche than in Death Stars and xenomorphs. Steven Soderbergh's much shorter but tonally very similar Solaris turned back to the source material, Stanislaw Lem's novel, as well as Tarkovsky for inspiration, casting George Clooney in the role Kris Kelvin role. Buy Solaris now on Amazon. Subverting the usual thriller structure, Sluizer apparently answers all the big questions early on - who the bad guy is, what he's doing - and then spends the rest of the running time turning the screws on our hero anyway as the latter attempts to unravel the disappearance of his girlfriend at a busy service station three years before.

It's deeply unsettling, at times all-too plausible and all the more horrifying for it - and if you're not discomfited by the ending, you may want to consider a career as the hardest person in the world. Why yes, with Sluizer himself directing a pre Kiefer Sutherland in the Donnadieu role, with Jeff Bridges as the killer and a pre-Speed Sandra Bullock as the abductee.

TSPDT - Richard Linklater

However, the critics weren't quite so taken with the remake - perhaps because no one should treat our Sandy like that. Buy The Vanishing now on Amazon. The plot, involving the recovery of a stolen sword and a couple of pairs of lovers, might seem a little far fetched at times, and the subtitled dialogue a touch too stately, but the sheer scale of Crouching Tiger's setting, cinematography and fight choreography will leave all but the most stone-hearted impressed.

Delicate, dialogue-heavy scenes are torn apart by Yun-Fat and Zhang as they blast up and over treetops, through the air, and into their enemies with such balletic grace you can scarcely believe your eyes. Unlike anything seen before, it's further proof that Ang Lee is a master of all trades and jack of none apart from superhero movies, arguably.

Try to imagine the craziest dream that David Lynch might have had after eating a plateful of cheese just before bed, and it still won't come close to the sheer bonkersosity of Un Chien Andalou. Collaborating with ol' buddy and surrealist artist Salvador Dali, first-time filmmaker Luis Bunuel throws together a series of random unconnected incidents - ants emerge from the wound in the palm of a hand, dead donkeys lie on two pianos and, in one of cinema's most shocking moments, an open eye is slashed in half with a razor in huge close up - for a shocking, blasphemous, blackly funny 17 minutes.

At the first showing, Bunuel carried stones in his pocket for fear of being lynched. Don't be daft. But a huge influence on pop promo and tons of bad student films since. Buy Un Chien Andalou now on Amazon. The contrast of a grim West Berlin setting and the magical images of overcoat-clad angels among us is what lingers longest in the mind after watching this Wim Wenders effort - that, and maybe Bruno Ganz' beatific smile. As the angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist and starts to long for mortality, Ganz is a literally otherworldly observer, but it's only when he abandons his wings that the film leaps into colour and life, like a reverse Wizard of Oz.

And any film that casts Peter Falk as a formerly divine being gets our vote. While some of the same arresting imagery manages to make the transition, the ending's all messed up and let's face it: Dennis Franz is no Peter Falk. There's also a sequel called Faraway, So Close, for which U2 provided the title song. That just makes sense. Buy Wings of Desire now on Amazon. Audiard's great achievement here is to bring a social truism - prison makes petty criminals into hardened ne'er-do-wells - to living, breathing life. Malik, played by the extraordinarily good Rahim, enters prison bewildered and acting tough to cover insecurity; from that point we see his evolution into veritable hard-case.

The basic structure, as a man evolves into a perfect criminal, may seem familiar from The Godfather to GoodFellas and everything in between, but the addition of prison walls compresses the action, amps up the tension and increases the importance of razor blades to uncomfortable levels. No sign of one yet, but somehow we wouldn't rule it out in this case.

Fyodor Dostoevsky. Buy A Prophet online now on Amazon. Some directors make autobiographical films. The first film where Fellini literally loses the plot in favour of the dream-like, this weaves in and out of the memories, fantasies and relationships of celebrated film director Guido Anselmi Fellini alter-ego Mastroianni , as he is struggles to find inspiration for his latest science fiction film. Complex, sexy, endlessly imaginative and boasting moments of magic, this is one of the best films about filmmaking, cinema's greatest evocation of a creative mental block and perhaps the fullest expression of the term Fellini-esque.

Also nominated for Best Film at the Baftas. Polanski's first film - his only Polish feature - has a concise, assured controlled quality remarkable in a debut, as a married couple pick up a hitchhiker who joins them on a boating excursion. Already a master at using confined spaces to reveal psychological states, Polanski spins the tale of three people holed up in a small boat into an absurdist black comedy-drama of sexual jealousy and the generation gap. Taut, tense, half tongue-in-cheek, half powerfully sinister, it is debatable whether Polanski has ever made a better film. And that includes Chinatown.

Ripley have purloined its foreboding at-sea atmosphere. I follow my instincts, but in a disciplined way.

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Roman Polanski. Buy Knife in the Water now on Amazon. A two-part adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's L'Eau des Collines series which the author translated into novels from his original screenplay, confusingly , this microcosmic epic of neighbourly jealousy, greed, lust and revenge somehow turns a thorough downer of a story into a compelling triumph for justice and good, thanks to an all-star Gallic cast and landscapes straight out of Van Gogh.

In the first part, Gerard Depardieu's tax collector moves his family to the country to create a pastoral idyll; only to have his every effort blocked by the machinations of his neighbours; in the second, his daughter uncovers the plot. Hollywood remake Nope. In Tinseltown, revenge is a dish best served smoking, not as cold as this. Manon took two Cesars, one each for Auteuil and Beart. Buy Manon des Sources now on Amazon. And by epic, we mean EPIC. This is and-a-half involving hours of human drama set in the village of Schabbach and orbiting around the Simon clan as they endure the Great War, the rise of the Nazis, post-war depression and some really stodgy cabbage dishes.

With the superb Marita Breuer's matriach, Maria, the redoubtable heart of this titular homeland, and admirable support by an inexperienced but universally terrific cast, Heimat is War And Peace and all the bits in between. Buy Heimat now on Amazon. This black-and-white autobiographical tale of growing up in Iran, through revolution and war, and coming of age in Europe, is charming, funny, angry, shocking, romantic and perpetually surprising. The stark visuals, lifted in most cases directly from the comic but also referencing traditional shadow puppetry techniques, somehow make the story ring more true.

Marjane may not be God's prophet, as she believed she was as a young child, but she's one of the most dynamic and feisty cinema heroines ever to threaten torture against one of her playmates. This is too personal and too unique a picture to lend itself to a remake per se, although there was a special English dub of the film for international audiences with Sean Penn, Iggy Pop and Gena Rowlands lending their vocal stylings to the soundtrack. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes and two Cesars, though, so Ratatouille couldn't stop it winning everything. Buy Persepolis online now on Amazon.

An odd couple movie, in essence, Central do Brasil sees a hoary old ex-schoolmarm taking a lost child whose mother has died off for an adventure - an adventure to find his father. Over the course of their journey they bicker and fight and deal with the increasingly awful setbacks that come their way, all with such heartfelt and genuine delivery that it's easy to see why the two were showered with prizes after its release.

Its simple premise belies the complexity in this beautiful pair of characters, prickly and authentic. It's touching, beautifully shot, wonderfully scored, and even has time to show the dark underside of Brazil while it's at it. Buy Central Do Brasil now on Amazon. Luis Bunuel wore these qualities like a medals and Belle du Jour is amongst his most highly decorated flicks. Catherine Deneuve whips up a tour de force as Severine, the bored, frigid housewife of a doctor who takes pleasure spending her afternoons working at a brothel entertaining ever more kinky clients.

There is no actual sex in Belle de Jour - the key "sex" scene involves the contents of a small lacquered box - but it is hard to think of a more erotically charged film. Unsurprisngly, this became Bunuel's biggest hit at the age of Remade in various soft porn guises, chiefly The Violation Of Claudia. Prizes Won the Golden Lion at Venice. I attribute more to the marvellous whores than to my direction.

Buy Belle de Jour now on Amazon. The first glimpse most Western audiences had had of Aamir Khan, this ripping yarn had the Bollywood titan taking on the Raj with nothing more than dash, bravado and a cracking off-drive. Khan is farmer Bhuvan, the leader of a drought and tax 'lagaan' -stricken village, who challenges the British authorities to a winner-takes-all game of cricket. Subtitled 'Once Upon A Time In India', there's more than a touch of Spaghetti in the showdown that grips and turns like a Shane Warne legbreak, and throws in some very hummable tunes for good measure.

Boasting more rules than Fight Club, the hullabaloo around the Dogme manifesto - camerawork must be handheld; sound must be diagetic; biscuits must be plain - can distract from what a terrific film Festen is. Funny yet disturbing, homemade yet highly polished, the twisted tale of a Danish patriach's 60th birthday celebrations is full of seeming contradictions that fit together perfectly. Yes, it's rare for a dinner party to feature revelations of sexual abuse, incest and rape, but then this is no ordinary dinner party.

No ordinary film, either. Considering the Dogme 95 ethos is about as welcome on a Burbank lot as a puppy with a tummy upset, it's perhaps no surprise that Hollywood has left well alone. Festen has been remade in Mexico, though, and repeatedly adapted for the stage - there's even an Afrikaans version. Prizes A critical darling, Festen was rapturously received on the festival circuit. Buy Festen now on Amazon. This offbeam, heartfilled Almodovar packs the narrative zip of a soap opera and the emotional wallop of a Douglas Sirk melodrama.

It also takes the Spanish auteur away from his Castilian stomping ground and on to Barcelona. There, Cecilia Roth's grieving mother connects with the father of her child, now a chick-with-a-dick prostitute, and a richly-drawn array of actresses, hookers and the odd pregnant nun. Sparkling, warm and witty, it's a fitting celebration of mums everywhere. It also collected a small box of Goyas and a massive sack of critics' awards. Because this comedic tale of a young motorbike riding herdsman Niang committing petty crimes in Dakar to help fund his escape to Paris with his girl Mareme Niang is shot through with French New Wave fizz that flies in the face of conventional African cinema.

Full of experimental touches, frenetic editing, inspired flights of fantasy the couple living the high life and a protean soundtrack, Mamberty's debut has enough energy to get to the moon - and back. Buy Touki Bouki now on Amazon. For most of its audience, Akira came as a howling wake-up call, shifting the boundaries and proving to people who had never considered such a thing that cartoons are not necessarily for kids.

A thinky science-fiction plot not just spaceships and rocket men combines with sex, violence and body horror to paint a disturbing picture of our collective sub-conscious, set in a densely populated and intricately detailed world. In a pre-internet age, this spread like a modern computer virus, powered by word of mouth: "You've never seen anything like this.

Unbelievably, one is in the works. Warners are in fact planning two films, each focusing on 3 books in the series, with the first one tentatively scheduled for It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves. Buy Akira now on Amazon. Menzel's coming of age drama is quiet, charming and wry in a way that Set during the German Occupation of Poland, Menzel delicately charts the attempts of trainee railway guard Milos Neckar , one of cinema's first slackers, to lose his virginity and join the Czech underground with a touching vulnerability and a slight sense of the absurd.

Gentle, politically aware and, yes, closely observed, this is a beautiful paen to timidity, innocence and plain old growing up. Richard Schickel. Buy Closely Observed Trains now on Amazon. An almost silent film made in the s, a pure slapstick farce with a blithely oblivious central buffoon, this film must have seemed anachronistic even before the prints were developed. Perhaps that's because it's a classic, with Tati's beautifully drawn M. Hulot innocently causing havoc and misery to all around him as he enjoys a welcome break at the seaside.

Often imitated cf. Jerry Lewis, Rowan Atkinson , this has never been bettered, a perfect comedy meandering along despite the lack of anything resembling a real plot. Hulot's hapless mute but Tati did play the role in five more films. Buy M. Hulot's Holiday now on Amazon. Because, quite simply, it's one of the best movies ever made about the Second World War - and there's barely any battle scenes in it.

Depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler and his cronies in their claustrophobic Berlin bunker, it's a gut-wrenchingly potent portrayal of a dictator in denial and the yes men and women too timid - or blinded - to stop perfuming the stench of decay and defeat for him. Hitler portrayals have tended to veer towards the camp, but Bruno Ganz renders him authentically chilling and terrifying.


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  4. The closest you'll get is Valkyrie, which isn't fit to lick Downfall's jackboots. Buy Downfall now on Amazon. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Kiarostami's Ten consists of ten sequences capturing ten conversations between twice married Tehrani woman Akbari and variously her son, her sister, an old dear, a prostitute and a young stranger as Akbari traverses the city. Examining the various roles inhabited by women in Iranian society, Kiarostami's MO, focusing on one face at one time, allows Akbari's story to gradually evolve and produces some extraordinary moments - her son's 15 minute tirade followed by her priceless reaction.

    It's a master working in a minimalist mode, but no less thrilling for that. None, but Kiarostami made a fascinating making of 10 on Ten revealing his processes. Buy 10 now on Amazon. It's a simple yarn - the titular friends Werner and Serre fall for the free-spirited Catherine a captivating Moreau - but Truffaut makes it sing through a freewheeling approach - newsreels, freeze frames, film stills, voiceover and tracking shots are all thrown in - that never soft peddles the emotional core. It's a film in the thrall of movies and in love with being in love, with all its ups and the downs.

    Unmissable: just ask Amelie Poulain who goes to see it in Amelie. Buy Jules et Jim now on Amazon. From Mario Bava to Lucio Fulci, Italy has done a nice line in horror films that are drenched in gore and covered in lashings of ominous atmosphere, all without making the blindest bit of sense. But it's Dario Argento's moody masterpiece, about a young girl stumbling upon a coven of witches, that stands head, shoulders and pointy nose above the rest.

    Truly terrifying, augmented by an unforgettable score by Argento's own band, Goblin, and filled with the sort of insane set-pieces for which Argento is famous, this is arguably the best horror film not made in the English language. David Gordon Green's been trying to get his own version of Suspiria off the ground for a while now. Yes, David Gordon Green. Should be interesting Horrors don't tend to act as magnets for the big gongs. God, his daughter's fit, isn't she? Buy Suspiria now on Amazon.

    The complete opposite of Kurosawa's samurai epics, Ikiru is an intimate chamber piece, as heartfelt and affecting as Seven Samurai is epic and thrilling. Discovering he is in the last stages of terminal cancer, an elderly civil servant Kurosawa fave Shimura emerges from his self absorbtion and devotes his last days to building a kids playground in the slums. A rare case of Kurosawa tackling and criticizing modern Japanese society, Ikiru is unbearably moving, reaching its zenith in the final image of a man on a swing in the rain. A Tom Hanks remake was mooted in the early noughties but failed to materialise.

    Buy Ikiru now on Amazon. Rappeneau's sweeping, epic adaptation of Rostand's comic melodrama is sumptuously designed, gorgeously played and wildly romantic. Gerard Depardieu, a man who flirts with joli-laid at the best of times, was never better cast than as the big-nosed poet, warrior and swordsman of the title, hopelessly in love with the beautiful Roxanne making us laugh even as he breaks our hearts.

    Often underrated, however, is Vincent Perez as the dashing but gauche Christian, on whose behalf Cyrano finally gets to express his romantic side. Rather cleverly, Hollywood got in on this one first, prespinning Rostand's source play as a modern comedy with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in 's Roxanne. Which proves that those big studios do have a time-machine after all! Buy Cyrano de Bergerac now on Amazon. Wong Kar-wai's achingly romantic account of star-cross'd lovers has a strong claim to be the best-looking film you'll ever see.

    The '60s costumes, neon cinematography from genius DoP Christopher Doyle and unspeakably gorgeous cast will catch the eyes while the tale of two neighbours, who discover that their spouses are cheating on them and fall in love with one another while trying to deal with the revelation, tugs the heartstrings. Melancholic, perhaps, but as inspirational as Yo-yo Ma's bittersweet performance of the score. Not quite, but the film has been riffed on in Lost in Translation, which lifted its famous whispered goodbye from a similar scene here.

    Sure, it has hardly anything in terms of plot and not what you'd call a lot of witty banter either, but Totoro's an out-and-out joy to watch, a subtle, atmospheric slice of childhood, perfectly capturing the naivety, the delight, and the mystery that is part of being young. Incidentally, it also brought us one of the most iconic cartoon characters ever created, a big grey furry fella who's now ten times as popular in Japan as Mickey Mouse could ever have dreamed of being in the US. With Miyazaki's usual flair for bringing us unforgettable characters and situations, this is refreshingly simple, a genuine crowd-pleaser, and nigh-on impossible to describe.

    In other words, it's classic Miyazaki.

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    Buy My Neighbour Totoro now on Amazon. Group spend the day on rocky outcrop. Woman disappears. Couple search for her. Er, that's it. To describe L'Avventura as languid is like calling the Himalayas a bit hilly: pulsing drama this is not. What it is, though, is a visually arresting art work that elevates mood and imagery above narrative. The couple in question, Sandro and Claudia, are not the kind of people you'd want looking for you - they're often feckless, amoral and wear their ennui like a fragrance - but in Antonioni's hands their journey is a poignant exploration of loneliness and despair.

    And they're Italian, so they look alright too. Buy L'Avventura now on Amazon. A man so cool he can't be bothered to finish spelling his own name, hit man Jef Costello is hunted by enemies and friends alike - and he doesn't have any friends. He lives by the strict code of the Bushido, thinks deeply, chain-smokes cigarettes and wears a hat indoors.

    He is, in short, le samourai, the ultimate antihero in Jean-Pierre Melville's existential crime thriller. Thanks to Alain Delon's career-best turn and Melville's noose-tight plotting, he's a true icon of cinema. Not per se, though John Woo wants to update it. Buy Le Samourai now on Amazon. While Ashes and Diamonds takes place amid the Warsaw rubble just after the end of World War Two, and while it concerns two former resistance fighters' quandary over a mission to assassinate a local communist leader, Andrzej Wajda's has the distinct feel of a '50s American youth revolt movie.

    This is largely down to a superb performance from Zbigniew Cybulski as shade-wearing would-be assassin Maciek, who throbs with charismatic cynicism. Probably just as well: with that title, people would probably go along expecting a rom-com? Buy Ashes And Diamonds now on Amazon. It may be a landmark in Italian neo-realist cinema but sod that: Roberto Rossellini's is a compelling drama about the ravages of war on everyday folk. Tracing the hunting down, capture and torture of a Communist resistance leader Pagliero by the Gestapo, Rossellini replaces studio-system gloss with a tangible, intense naturalism, throwing in details shots of toilets, babies on potties that mainstream films would not dare show.

    Much has been made of its non professional cast, but two of the standouts come from pros: Magnagni as a pregnant Communist sympathizer and Fabrizzi as a noble priest. Buy Rome Open City now on Amazon. Originally made for Polish television but gaining cinematic life at film festivals, Kieslowski's 10 films spin off wildly from The Ten Commandments.

    Whereas Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy is luxurious cinema, Dekalog is sparse, stripped down filmmaking echoing the colourless Warsaw high rises the characters inhabit. Stanley Kubrick said that the Dekalog was the only masterpiece made in his lifetime. Are you going to argue with Stanley?

    Buy Dekalog now on Amazon. Yes, a war film with no actual fighting might sound a bit, well, dull but Renoir's great work matches other, more explodey anti-war films like All Quiet On The Western Front and Paths Of Glory for tension and drama. It also teaches a powerful message, as Eric von Stroheim's chivalrous Prussian reaches out across class, rather than national, lines to downed French pilots, Pierre Fresnay and Jean Gabin - and never cross a German in a neck-brace, innit.

    Buy La Grande Illusion now on Amazon. Inspired by a real life manhunt for a serial killer in Dusseldorf, Fritz Lang is the best chase-the-serial killer movie ever made. At once a creepy character study of a psychopathic child murderer big-eyed, soft-voiced Peter Lorre became a Hollywood character off the back of it and a riveting portrait of a community doused in fear, Lang deploys an arsenal of filmmaking fireworks in league with a progressive attitude towards his subject that is complex and still relevant.

    We, too, should keep a closer watch on our children. Buy M now on Amazon.

    In Search of Black Cinema

    The film that made us shift our De Niro impressions into French, La Haine inhabits the grim, riot-scarred tenements of Paris' housing projects. Each is played with fired-eyed intensity, particularly Cassel who windmills through the city with a. Mathieu Kassovitz' black and white photography gives this gut-punching slice of social realism a power conspicuously missing from his later works like, say, Gothika.

    No, which is perhaps surprising considering how well its setting would translate to any number of US inner-cities. Buy La Haine now on Amazon. The sequels - and they are legion - are best known for pitting the iconic mutant-dino Tokyo-stomper against increasingly ludicrous foes a giant moth, a robot Godzilla, er, King Kong? But that's not the reason Ishiro Honda's original is on this list. Unlike its lovably daft, gargantuan offspring, Godzilla is a doomy post-Hiroshima fable, with US nuclear testing creating a literal monster which terrorizes a people still traumatised by war.

    Any rubber-costume silliness dissipates with the drama at the human level: one scene, for example, shows keening families in a hospital after one of the beast's attacks. Buy Godzilla now on Amazon. The simple elegance of the concept - police mole in the Triads and Triad mole among the cops race to uncover one another - is the hook for a complex network of crosses and double crosses that would be dizzying but for the rock-solid, and hugely sympathetic, central performances by Andy Lau and Tony Leung as the two moles caught in worlds not of their making and forced to maintain false identities throughout every aspect of their lives.

    It's the emotional torment that both men suffer that makes the film such compelling viewing; the endlessly cool action scenes are only a bonus. Prizes It did well at the Hong Kong film awards, but was popular with audiences rather than awards voters elsewhere around the world. Buy Infernal Affairs now on Amazon. For his debut feature, critic-turned-filmmaker Francois Truffaut tore a strip from the fabric of his own childhood.

    Like Truffaut, The Four Hundred Blows' hero, Antoine Doinel Leaud , was neglected at home, skipped school to go to the cinema and ended up breaking out of reform school. With the astonishing Leaud creating one of movies' greatest juvenile delinquents - watch him wipe his nose on the curtains - Truffaut fashioned a cinematic autobiography that is poignant, funny, lyrical, unsentimental and authentic right down to its famous freeze frame finale.

    Non but Truffaut continued Doinel's story in four more films over a twenty year period, all starring Jean-Pierre Leaud. It's one of cinema's greatest franchises - yes even better than Leprechaun. This is the haunting story, set in s China, of Songlian Gong, never better , a student who decides to become a rich man's concubine after the death of her father leaves her without means of support. Entering his household as the "Fourth Mistress", she swiftly becomes embroiled in the infighting between the women competing for their near-faceless Master's attentions, and finds herself a pawn in a deeply twisted game.

    Read it as a critique of Communist China, an impassioned plea for empathy or a feminist parable if you like, but it remains a haunting and unforgettable winter's tale. Forget the Aeolian islands of Il Postino, forget Life Is Beautiful's Arezzo: the perfect Italian-set love story takes place in a cramped projection booth in a Sicilian cinema, and there isn't a buxom brunette anywhere in sight well, downstairs maybe.

    Cinema Paradiso has charm, and wit, to melt the chilliest heart. The blossoming friendship of young tyke Salvatore and grumpy projectionist Alfredo will surely entrance anyone not won over cross-eyed priests and eccentric villagers, while the final kissing montage will devastate the hardest of hearts, and remind you why you love cinema in the first place. No, but a longer, and in truth, saggier, version was released in Buy Cinema Paradiso now on Amazon.

    Considering the nightmarish tone and creepy ghoulishness of this classic take on the classic fairytale, it's key to point out this is far from being a children's film, despite director Jean Cocteau asking at the beginning of the film for "a little childlike simplicity". Some adult complicatedness is definitely also required as the sexual chemistry between the Beauty Josette Day and Beast Jean Marais sizzles on screen, complimenting the spooky eyeball-rolling trickshots and gloomy atmospherics.

    Disney's Beauty And The Beast it ain't, but the inspiration is crystal clear: just don't settle down with the kiddlywinks with this one. Putting aside the Disney version of the same tale, there was also a Phillip Glass opera, written to perfectly synchronise with this film. Where's Mrs Potts? This is bullshit! Buy La Belle et la Bete now on Amazon. To experience the claustrophobia of U-boat warfare, lock yourself in a small metal cupboard with a few smelly mates and get another friend to lob high-explosives in your general direction for, ooh, say a tour of several months.

    If that seems a bit too much like hard work, settle down with a copy of Wolfgang Petersen's tense sub spectacular instead. Wait and watch as the crew of U fight boredom and grow beards scouring the horizon for the next Allied convoy. Then start biting your nails. Not unless you count U, which obviously you don't.

    The clammy claustrophobia of Israeli tank-film Lebanon owes an obvious debt too. Prizes Nicht. Petersen's watery war flick met with disappointment at the Oscars, collecting a tub-full of nominations but winning nothing. The night ended Gandhi 5, German Navy 0 - so that peaceful protest thing might have something going for it after all. Buy Das Boot now on Amazon. A teenage boy's bleak-as-pitch odyssey through wartorn Belarus is named after a verse from the book of Revelation which, while too long to quote in full, can be paraphrased in this context as, "Don't come expecting a Nora Ephron rom-com.

    It's a journey that carriers the viewer to hell and leaves us there. Nothing, before or since, has captured the psychological carnage of war like the final shot of the boy's face, now hollow-eyed, lined and aged. No, although we wouldn't mind seeing David Lynch's version. Buy Come and See now on Amazon. Erice's first film - one of the great debuts - perfectly paints the inner life of a small girl with unforgettable dream-like imagery, subtle social commentary and innate sensitivity.

    Six year-old Ana a stunning Ana Torent is spellbound by a screening of Frankenstein in her small Castillian village and convinced that a fugitive she befriends embodies the spirit of Boris Karloff's monster. Haunting, lyrical cinematographer Luis Cuadrado was going blind during the shoot with points to make about Franco's reign, few films have entered the worlds children create for themselves so beautifully.

    Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth owes Beehive a huge debt in its story of a small girl who parlays political realities into a fantasy world.

    POP CULTURE: What Is Cinema For?

    Buy Spirit of the Beehive now on Amazon. The movie that put Japanese cinema on the map, Kurosawa's first masterpiece takes a murder and possible rape in a forest in feudal Japan and examines it from four different perspectives the rape victim, a bandit, a priest, a woodcutter all uncovered at a trial. Unlike a traditional whodunit, events get murkier and more tangled with Kurosawa cranking up the intrigue and uncertainty as contrasting viewpoints clash.

    The stunning look of the movie - from the torrents of rain in the opening shots to the dappled sunlight in the forest - plays its part in making every little thing difficult to discern, backed up by forceful performances, especially from Toshiro Mifune. Robinson, is an actual remake with Kurosawa credited as a screenwriter. But numerous films have employed its subjective versions concept, such as Hero, Basic and Vantage Point. It also brought the term "the Rashomon effect" into the legal lexicon.

    Buy Rashomon now on Amazon. F riedrich W ilhelm Murnau's silent classic is the original vampire movie, before the cliches and the camp sunk their fangs into the genre. The astonishing looking Max Schreck excels as Count Orlov, the vampire who desires the wife of his clerk, Hutter Gustav Von Wagenheim , and sets sail to claim his prey. It might not be scary in the modern sense, but it manages to be eerie and magical at the same time, due to Murnau's filmmaking prowess shadows have never been creepier , great special effects and the gaunt figure of Schreck's proto-Dracula.

    Practically every vampire movie since dips liberally from Nosferatu's well. Werner Herzog managed an interesting remake with Klaus Kinski. In , E. Buy Nosferatu now on Amazon. Bernal and Luna are best friends in real life, and it shows over the course of this delightfully shot road movie. As two friends who convince the attractive wife of a relative to journey with them to a beach called 'Heaven's Mouth' - which, unfortunately, doesn't exist - the pair are all Heaven's mouth and no trousers.

    Their cocksure machismo is a joy to watch, knowing underneath that their complete lack of experience is about to appear through the cracks, bouncing off the gorgeous and more mature Verdu. Breaking Mexican box office records, it's a grown-up coming-of-age tale whose take on what it is to be a man will stay with you for a good long while. There's been talk of Eva Mendes taking Verdu's role in a potential American version, but nothing has come of it - which is probably just as well, considering the delicate chemistry between the original cast.

    Isn't that a Daphne and Celeste song? The film that put Werner Herzog on the map, Aguirre is the fable-like story of a Spanish Conquistador Kinski driven bonkers by his ambition to find the legendary city of Eldorado in 16th Century South America. This is the heady, natural world ambience of Bad Lieutenant played out to the max, with Kinski beating Cage hands down in the intensity Olympics.

    Lest we forget, this is the movie that kick-started the tempestuous Herzog-Kinski relationship and a raft of great on-set anecdotes - when Kinski threatened to abandoned the film mid-shoot, Herzog threatened to shoot the actor, then turn the gun on himself. Buy Aguirre, Wrath of God now on Amazon. Octopus rights activists and DIY die-hards may not agree, but Park Chan-wook's excruciatingly bleak and violent tale of vengeance is essential viewing. Loosely based on a Japanese manga about a man who's imprisoned in a cell for fifteen years and vows to hunt down his captor upon release, it's a movie that delivers hammer blow after hammer blow.

    Some of them, notably during the magnificent single-shot corridor-based fight scene, are literal, but most, as the film hurtles towards its dark, twisty climax, are metaphorical. Either way, it's classic stuff. For a while, Steven Spielberg and Will Smith were attached to an American version, and while we would have loved to see how the 'Berg tackled that hammer attack sequence, we would have hated to see its edge watered down for a PG, multiplex-friendly vibe.

    Oddly almost entirely ignores indie film but charts some similar territory in areas such as music and publishing. Jim Hillier ed. Holm, Independent Cinema , Harpenden: Kamera Books, rather thin, both in its brevity, general lack of much substance and somewhat arbitrary selection of case-study examples. Roberto Rodriguez, Rebel Without Crew , London: Faber, now-classic account of how he made his first film for next to nothing.

    Christine Vachon, Shooting to Kill: How an independent producer blasts through the barriers to make movies that matter , London: Bloomsbury, this and Vachon below offer useful insights on the nature of work within the indie sector, from a key figure in many of its more challenging productions. Houston A. Baker, Jr. Barton Palmer and Steven M. Nicholas Rombes ed. Your email address will not be published.

    Skip to content. Other Publications This is a list of various other published work on American indie cinema, some academic and some more general in orientation, organized roughly by category for my own publications, click here. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Wordpress Hashcash needs javascript to work, but your browser has javascript disabled. Your comment will be queued in Akismet! Proudly powered by WordPress.