Cinema that was invented in the last decade of 19th century, flourished in the 20th century and for the most part,it was the most popular and in a way the most creative art format, borrowing from other art forms. After the invention of television, and the production of TV films in the second half of the last century, and later on the internet media and the new age of digitalism and online streaming or stealing of the movies, at least over the past couple of decades, Cinema has lost its glory. At the same time, while in the first half or most of the 20th century, Cinema was heavily in the hands of story tellers, photographers, and actors, who were all led by the filmmaker or the creator, in the last few decades of the past century and more so in the present 21st century, it is dominated by digital special effects and out of reality. So cinema as an art format has greatly transformed to a technical/digital industry. Along the many efforts across the globe to save this modern art against the box office sales pressure and capital demand, this site hopes to contribute a small part in this endeavor!
Cinema initially sprang from photography, so that later on and to this day, it is called “motion picture” or “movies”, while the term “film” could be used for both cinema and photography. In the beginning, cinema was simply, pictures in motion with no other adding arts or technology, such as sound, music, or else, but acting. That is why for the first few decades since the birth of cinema, the movies were “silent” and this art form had to rely basically on the power of imagery with all its cinematographic components and the filmmakers like painters on canvas had to do whatever they could to create a powerful moving picture on the screen in addition to silent acting without talk. In this endeavor, some relied on set design, the use of light and shadows, like the German expressionists, and some relied on editing like Eisenstein, and some relied mostly on acting and sensible realism like Chaplin. At the time and even today, it is easier to rate and rank a silent film, as there were no white noise of sound or talk and all were imagery and picture in motion to measure. Due to simplicity, originality and the role of these pure ingredients, the silent films are still on the top of many best films of all time, such as the works of Serge Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, D.W.Griffith, and Charles Chaplin.
The sound brought theatrical acting to the cinema despite strong oppositions of silent films’ actors who were great action actors, specially in comedy. While 1920’s were still dominated by the silent movies, the 1930’s were the era of infiltration of theatrical acting to cinema that lasted for several decades until the recent domination of special effects and interception of digitalism into cinema. Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart, Catharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, James Dean and Marlon Brando were such actors who stemmed from theatre or acted as such. This continued to the modern era so that the newer actors such as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio continued with such legacy. The theatrical acting while added rich flavor to the story telling and content through dialogues to the cinema, in many instances became very close to theatrical plays and robbed the cinematic experience and presentation, and limited the filmmakers in showing their talents. This is somewhat parallel to the digital cinema nowadays, where digitalism and special effects have totally stolen the rich cinematic creation.
Evaluation, rating and ranking movies, is not a matter of personal taste, likeness, or even a collective voting of majority, as the majority could be wrong and do not consider all the components of a film, with a delicate consideration of the differential factors. In other words, the role of camera, acting and editing are not the same and do not carry the similar weights as special effect. Unfortunately this has not been done closely in most rating and ranking of the motion pictures and the best lists, or awards such as Oscar. Beyond the different components of a film, that somewhat and singularly are recognized as in awards for script, acting, editing, directing, etc., the following factors in ranking the best films are essential. (Of course based on the following criteria, the earlier a film, the higher the rank would be, except the films that in addition to these factors, they have the “best impression” that could go beyond the time boundary. This is certainly very rare and on our list could include only a few rare top films such as “The Battleship Potemkin”, “Man with a movie camera” and “Metropolis”. Finally any originality and technicality if not cinematic or visual and at the service of story telling, entertainment or enlightening , like experimental works of some such as Godard do not count in this site evaluation and ranking of the films.
- Originality: No matter how well a film has been made today, if it is a copy of an original work, or an adaptation in one form or another, it would put it out of any best rank. An original work, even if not well done to perfection, it is still original and a creation that needs to be considered. Of course the earlier films fairly take on a lot of credits from this factor, but this may encourage the true filmmakers not to be copiers or followers but original and creative!
- Technicality: This factor should cover all the technical aspects of filmmaking from the story and script to the all works of camera, acting, editing, special effects, etc. The originality and proper application of each technique or component need to be considered in ranking.
- Impact Factor/Significance: This is the factor influencing other films, urging them to copy and experience the original work in part or in whole. This factor is not only the influence that an original work has on the industry, but on people in general and other forms of art and aspects of life as well. In conjunction with the influence that a film could have on other films or else, the significance of the film on cinema as a whole and on the history of this art medium is important and will be counted on.
- Survival: This shows how long a work, no matter how great, it will be remembered and looks fresh for years to come, specially in the eyes of the true cinema patriots.
Throughout this site, in writing on films and ranking them, the above factors will be delicately considered, though no evaluation or ranking could be rightful. Such comprehensive evaluation and ranking will hopefully encourage others to take on such or similar process in ranking and awarding, and avoiding a single factor such as the content of the story for political or trend of the time reasons!
Almost all available films in English or with English subtitles from the early years of inception of cinema in this list have been diligently reviewed. Since the originality criteria is very important and could affect the other criteria of technicality, impact and survival, this review has been so far until the year 1986. The following films that have been on some greatest films lists or have been ranked high or awarded by different organizations, have been particularly more carefully watched and reviewed.
In evaluation and recognition of the great and specifically the greatest films, beyond the factors of originality, technicality, impact factor and survival, the overall and instant impression of a film has been greatly considered. This impression that instantly in the first few minutes of the film befalls on the viewer, is what could move a film up the ladder of time and originality to the top of this list here. This impression factor also could include a film that’s not original in singularity, but original and novel in the application of previous original techniques.
The story content of the film does not bear any importance on this site in recognition and ranking the great films as it is customary in other awards and ranking recognitions. Also any adaptation from other sources such as novels or plays to the film takes off the originality of the film, unless such adaptation has become an original of its own. This list of greatest films of all time, unlike many other such lists is not limited to a certain number, e.g. 100, so it could be less or more and it is also ongoing, though the newer films have less chance or such recognition due to the high chance of lack of originality.
The films in blue colour have been great, but not the greatest to be in our list, and the film in red colour have been the greatest films of all time in our list:
1906:The story of Kelly Craig (Charles Tait) (Australia)
1911:L’inferno (Francesco Bertolini) (France) / Defence of Sevastopol (A.Khanzonov/V.Goncharov) (Russia)
1912:Cleopatra (C.Gaskil) (USA) / Robin Hood (E.Arnaud/H.Blache) (USA)
1913:Ouo Vadis (Enrico Guazzoni) (Italy) /L’enfent de Paris (Leonce Perret) (France)
1914:Cinderella (J,Kirkwood Sr.)(USA)/The Mysterious X (B.Christensen) (Denmark)
1915:The Birth of a Nation (D.W.Griffith) (USA)/The Golem (P.Wegener/H.Galeen) (Germany) /Alice in the Wonderland (W.W.Young) (USA)/The Italian (R.Barker) (USA)
1916:Intolerance (D.W.Griffith) (USA)/20,000 Leagues under the sea (S.Paton) (USA) /Sherlock Holmes (A.Berthelet) (USA)/The end of the world (A.Blom) (Denmark)
1918:A trip to Mars (Holger-Madsen) (Denmark)
1919:Harariki (F.Lang) (Germany)
1920:The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (R. Wiene) (Germany)/Erotikon (M.Stiller) (Sweden)
1921:The Kid (Chaplin) (USA)
1922:Nanook of the North (R.J. Flahery) (USA)/Nosferatu (F.W.Murnau) (Germany)/Othello (D.Buchowetzki) (Germany)
1923:The Ten Commandments (C.B.DeMille) (USA)
1924:Greed (E.v. Stroheim) (USA) /America (W.D.Griffith) (USA)
1925:The Battleship Potemkin (Eisentein) (Russia)/The Gold Rush (Chaplin) (USA)/Strike (Eisenstein) (Russia) /Orochi (B.Futagawa) (Japan)
1926:The General (B.Keaton) (USA) /Nana (J.Renoir) (France)
1927:Metropolis (Fritz Lang) (Germany)/Wings (W. Wellman) (USA) Sunrise: A song of two humans (R.Longford) (USA)/The Jazz singer (A.Crosland) (USA)/Berlin: Symphony of a great city (W.Ruttmann) (Germany) /October (Ten days that shook the World) (Esienstein) (Russia)/The end of Petersburg (V.Pudovkin/M.Doller) (Russia)
1928:The Crowd (K.Vidor) (USA)/The passion of Joan of arc (C.T. Dreyer) (France)/The last command (J.v. Sternberg) (USA)/The circus (Chaplin) (USA)
1929:Man with a movie camera (D.Vertov) (Russia)/Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (L.Bunuel) (Spain)/Pandora’s box (G.W.Pabst) (Germany) /The Broadway melody (H.Beaumont) (USA) Tokyo March (Mizoguchi) (Japan)
1930:All quiet on the western front (L.Milestone) (USA)/Earth (A. Dovezhneko) (Russia) /L’age d’or (Luis Bunuel) (Spain)/The blue angel (E.Dmytryk) (Germany)/A’ propos de Nice (J.Vigo) (France)
1931:Dracula (T.Browning)(USA)/City lights (Chaplin) (USA) Grand Hotel (E.Goulding) (USA) /M (F.Lang) (Germany) Cimarron (W.Ruggles) (USA)/Frankenstein (J.Whale) (USA)
1932:Cavalcade (F.Lloyd) (USA)/A farewell to arms (F. Borzage) (USA)/Trouble in paradise (E.Lubitsch) (USA)/Freaks (T.Browning) (USA)/Boudu saved from drowning (J.Renoir) (France)/Scarface (H.Hawks) (USA)/L’Atlantide (G.W.Pabst) (Germany/France)
1933:Baby face (A.Green) (USA)/King Kong (M.Cooper/ E.Schoedsack) (USA) /Duck soup (L.McCarey) (USA)/42nd street (L.Bacon/B.Berkeley) (USA)/Zero for conduct (J.Vigo) (France)/Don Quixote (G.W.Pabst) (France/England))/Land without bread (L.Bunuel) (Spain)/The Invisible Man (J.Whale) (USA)
1934:It’s a gift (N.Mcleod) (USA)/Three songs about Lenin (D.Vertov) (Russia)
1935:The 39 steps (Hitchcock) (USA)/Triumph of the will (L.Rienfenstahl) (Germany)/The informer (J.Ford) (USA)/The Bride of Frankenstein (J.Whale) (USA)/A night at the opera (S.Wood) (USA)/Top hat (M.Sandrich) (USA)
1936:Modern times (Chaplin) (USA)/The great Ziegfeld (R.Z.Leonard) (USA)/Camille (G.Cukor) (USA)/The crime of Monsieur Lange (J.Renoir) (Franace)/Swing time (G.Stevens) (USA)/Night mail (H.Smith) (USA)
1937: La Grand illusion (J.Renoir) (France) /Pepe le Moko (J.Duvivier) (France) /Snow white and the seven dwarfs (USA)(W.Disney/D.Hand/W.Jackson/L.Morey/P.Pearce/B.Sharpsteen) Humanity and paper balloons (S.Yamanaka) (Japan)/The awful truth (L.McCarey) (USA)
1938:Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein) (Russia)/The lady vanishes (Hitchcock) (USA)/Pygmalion (A.Asquith/L.Howard) (USA)/You can’t take it with you (F.Capra) (USA)/Olympia (L.Reifenestahl) (Germany)/Jezebel (W.Wyler) (USA)/The Adventures of Robin Hood (M.Curtiz) (USA)
1939:Le jour se leve (M.Carne) (France)/The rules of the game (J.Renoir) (France) /The wizard of Oz (V.Fleming) (USA)/Gone with the wind (V.Fleming) (USA)/Stagecoach (J.Ford) (USA)/Ninotchka (E.Lubitsch) (USA)/Wuthering heights (W.Wyler) (USA)
1940:Fantasia (S.Armstrong/J.Algar…) (USA)/The great dictator (Chaplin) (USA)/The grapes of wrath (J.Ford) (USA)/Rebecca (Hitchcock) (USA)/Pinocchio (W.Disney/B.Sharpsteen…) (USA) The Philadelphia Story (G.Cukor) (USA)
1941:Citizen Kane (O.Welles) (USA)/The Maltese Falcon (J.Huston) (USA)/How green was my valley (J.Ford) (USA)/Sullivan’s Travels (P.Sturges) (USA)/The Lady Eve (P.Sturges) (USA)
1942:Casablanca (M.Curtiz) (USA)/The magnificent Ambersons (O.Welles) (USA)/Mrs. Miniver (W.Wyler) (USA)/Listen to Britain (H.Jennings) (England)
1943:The life and death of colonel Blimp (M.Powell) (England) Titanic (H.Selpin) (Germany)/Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock) (USA)
1944:Going my way (L.McCarey) (USA)/Double indemnity (B.Wilder) (USA)/Gaslight (G.Cukor) (USA)/Meet Me in St. Louis (V.Minnelli) (USA)/Laura (O.Preminger) (USA)
1945:Brief encounter (D.Lean) (USA)/The lost weekend (B.Wilder) (USA)/Spellbound (Hitchcock) (USA)/Children of paradise (M.Carne) (France)/Detour (E.Ulmer) (USA)/Rome, Open City (R.Rossellini) (Italy)/The turning point (Fridrikh Ermler) (Russia)/A diary for Timothy (H.Jennings) (England)
1946:The best years of our lives (W.Wyler) (USA)/It’s a wonderful life (F.Capra) (USA)/Notorious (Hichcock) (USA)/My darling Celmentine (J.Ford) (US)/Beauty and the beast (J.Cocteau) (France) The Killers (R.Siodmak) (USA)
1947:Gentleman’s agreement (E.Kazan) (USA)/Out of the past (J.Tourneur) (England)
1948:The Fallen idol (C.Reed) (England)/Bicycle thieves (De Sica) (Italy)/The treasure of Sierra Madre (J.Huston) (USA)/Hamlet (L.Olivier) (England)/Monsieur Vincent (M.Cloche) (France)/Letter from an unknown woman (M.Ophuls) (USA)/Red River (H.Hawks) (USA)/The red shoes (M.Powell) (England)/Macbeth (O.Welles) (USA)/Germany year zero (R.Rossellini) (Italy)/La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti) (Italy)/Le sang des bêtes (G.Franj) (France)/ Drunken Angel (Kurosawa) (Japan)
1949:Kind hearts and coronets (R.Hamer) (England)/The Third Man (C.Reed) (England)/All the king’s men (R.Rossen) (USA)/Late spring (Y.Ozu) (Japan)
1950:Rashomon (Kurosawa) (Japan)/All about Eve (J.Mankiewicz) (USA)/Sunset Blvd. (B.Wilder) (USA)/The walls of Malapaga (R.Clement) (France)/In a lonely place (N.Ray) (USA)/Orphee (J.Cocteau) (France)/Los Olvidados (L.Bunuel) (Spain)
1951:Miss Julie (Alf Sjoberg) (Sweden)/A streetcar named Desire (E. Kazan) (USA)/An American in Paris (V. Minnelli) (USA)/The African Queen (J. Huston) (USA)/Diary of a country priest (R.Bresson) (France)/The River (J.Renoir) (France)/Othello (O.Welles) (USA)/The day the Earth stood still (Robert Wise) (USA)
1952:Forbidden games (R. Clement) (France)/Ikiru (Kurosawa) (Japan)/The importance of being earnest (A. Asquith) (England) Umberto D. (De Sica) (Italy)/The white sheik (Fellini) (Italy)/High noon (Fred Zinnemann) (USA)/The quiet man (J.Ford) (USA)/Limelight (Chaplin) (USA)/Singin’ in the rain(G.Kelly/S.Donen) (USA)
1953:M.Hulot’s holiday (J.Tati) (France)/Ugetsu (K.Mizoguchi) (Japan)/The wages of fear (H.G. Clouzot) (France/Italy)/Tokyo story (Y.Ozu) (Japan)/The war of the worlds (B.Haskin) (USA)/Julius Caesar (J.Mankiewicz) (USA)/Shane (G.Stevens) (USA)/From here to eternity (F.Zinnemann) (USA)/Roman holiday (W.Wyler) (USA)/The robe (H.Coster) (USA)/The earrings of Madame De..(M.Ophuls) (France)
1954:Seven Samurai (Kurosawa) (Japan)/La Strada (Fellini) (Italy) On the waterfront (Kazan) (USA)/Gate of hell (T.Kinugasa) (Japan) Journey to Italy (Rossellini) (Italy)/Rear window (Hitchcock) (USA) Godzilla (I.Honda) (Japan)/Twenty-four eyes (K.Kinoshita) (Japan) Johnny guitar (N.Ray) (USA)/Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi) (Japan) A star is born (G.Cukor) (USA)/Sabrina (B.Wilder) (USA)/Seven brides for seven brothers (S.Donen) (USA)
1955:Richard III (L.Olivier) (England)/Summertime (D.Lean) (USA) Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali) (Satyajit Ray) (India)/Oklahoma (F.Zinnemann) (USA)/Rebel without a cause (Kazan) (USA)/Samurai, the legend of Musashi (H.Inagaki) (Japan)/Smiles of a summer night (I.Bergman) (Sweden)/The night of the hunter (C.Laughton) (USA)/Les diaboliques (H.G.Clouzot) (France)/Marty (D.Mann) (USA)/East of Eden (Kazan) (USA)/To catch a thief (Hitchcock) (USA)
1956:The Searchers (J.Ford) (USA)/The ten commandments (C.B.DeMille) (USA)/Giant (G.Stevens) (USA)/The king and I (W.Lang) (USA)/The silent world (J.Cousteau) (France)/Invasion of the body snatchers (D.Siegel) (USA)/A man escaped (Bresson) (France)/The Burmese Harp (K.Ichikawa) (Japan)/Written on the wind (D.Sirk) (USA)/And God created woman (R.Vadim) (France)/Night and fog (A.Resnais) (France)/Apu trilogy (Aparajito) (S.Ray) (India)/Moby Dick (J.Huston) (USA)
1957: The seventh seal (Bergman) (Sweden)/Wild strawberries (Bergman) (Sweden)/12 angry men (S.Lumet) (USA)/Nights of Cabiria (Fellini) (Italy)/Sweet smell of success (A.Mackendrick) (USA) Peyton place (M.Robson) (USA)/Paths of glory (Kubrick) (USA)/The cranes are flying (M.Kalatazov) (Russia)/Throne of blood (Kurosawa) (Japan)/The bridge on the river Kwai (D.Lean) (USA)
1958:Ashes and diamonds (A.Wajda) (Poland)/Ivan the terrible, part II (Eisenstein) (Russia)/Cat on a hot tin roof (R.Brooks) (USA) Mon Oncle (J.Tati) (France)/Vertigo (Hitchcock) (USA)/Touch of evil (O.Welles) (USA)/The hidden fortress (Kurosawa) (Japan)
1959:Ballad of a soldier (G.Chukhrai) (Russia)/Fires on the plain (K.Ichikawa) (Japan)/Floating weeds (Y.Ozu) (Japan)/The 400 blows (Trauffaut) (France)/Some like it hot (B.Wilder) (USA)/Ben Hur (W.Wyler) (USA)/Anatomy of a murder (O.Preminger) (USA) Black Orpheus (O.Negro) (France)/North by Northwest (Hitchcock) USA)/Hiroshima, mon amour (A.Resnais) (France)/Pickpocket (Bresson) (France)/Il generale Della Rovere (Rossellini) (Italy)/The human condition (M.Kobayashi) (Japan)/Moi, un noir (J. Rouch) (France)/Rio Bravo (H.Hawks) (USA)/The Great War (M.Monicelli) (Italy/France)/A summer place (D. Daves) (USA)/Apu Trilogy (The World of Apu) (S.Ray) (India)/The Unsent letter (M.Kalatazov) (Russia)
1960:L’Avventura (Antonioni) (Italy)/The virgin spring (Bergman) (Sweden)/Breathless (Godard) (France)/La Dolce Vita (Fellini) (Italy) Psycho (Hitchcock) (USA)/The apartment (B.Wilder) (USA)/Two women (De Sica) (Italy)/Eyes without a face (G.Franju) (France) Rocco and his brothers (L.Visconti) (Italy)/When a woman ascends the stairs (M.Naruse) (Japan)/Purple Noon (R.Clement) (France)/The magnificent seven (J.Sturges) (USA)/Peeping Tom (M.Powell) (England)/Spartacus (Kubrick) (USA)/Cimarron (A.Mann) (USA) Ocean’s Eleven (L.Milestone) (USA)/The World of Suzie Wong (R.Quine) (England/USA)/Elmer Gantry (R.Brooks) (USA)/Shoot the piano player (Truffaut) (France)
1961:Il Posto (E.Olmi) (Italy)/Viridiana (Bunuel) (Spain) West side story (R.Wise) (USA)/Through a glass darkly (Bergman) (Sweden)/The long absence (H.Colpi) (France)/Yojimbo (Kurosawa) (Japan)/Splendor in the grass (Kazan) (USA)/La Notte (Antonioni) (Italy)/Breakfast at Tiffany’s (B.Edwards) (USA)/One, two, three (B.Wilder) (USA)/The Hustler (R.Rossen) (USA)/Barabbas (Richard Fleischer) (Italy)
1962:Jules and Jim (Trauffaut) (France)/Knife in the water (Polanski) (Poland)/Lawrence of Arabia (D.Lean) (USA)/To kill a mockingbird (R.Mulligan) (USA)/Sundays and Cybele (S.Bourguignon) (France)/Keeper of promises (A.Duarte) (Brazil)/La Jetee (C.Marker) (France)/The Manchurian candidate (J.Frankenheimer) (USA)Birdman of Alcatraz (J.Frankenheimer) (USA)/Cape fear (J.L.Thompson) (USA)/Lolita (Kubrick) (USA)/Sweet bird of youth (R.Brooks) (USA)/Ivan’s childhood (A.Tarkovsky) (Russia)/L’Eclisse (Antonioni) (Italy)/Salvatore Giuliano (F.Rosi) (Italy)/Harakiri (Kobayashi) (Japan)/Cleo from 5 to 7 (A.Varda) (France/Italy)/The trial (O. Welles) (USA)/Sanjuro (Kurosawa) (Japan)/Two weeks in another town (V.Minnelli) (USA)/Phaedra (J.Dassin) (France)/My life to live (Godard) (France)
1963:81/2 (Fellini) (Italy)/Eat (A.Warhol) (USA)/America America (Kazan) (USA)/How the west was won (J.Ford/ H.Hathaway/ G.Marshall) (USA)/Lilies of the field (R.Nelson) (USA)/The Leopard (Visconti) (Italy)/Charade (S.Donen) (USA)/The Birds (Hitchcock) (USA)/Contempt (Le Mepris) (Godard) (France)/The house is black (F.Farokhzad) (Iran)/The Pink Panther (B.Edwards) (USA)/The Silence (Bergman) (Sweden)/Shock corridor (S.Fuller) (USA)/Winter Light (Bergman) (Sweden)/Jason and Argonauts (J.Chaffey) (USA)/The Great Escape (J.Sturges) (USA)/It’s a mad, mad, mad world (S.Kramer) (USA)/Cleopatra (J.Mankiewicz) (USA)/Lord of the flies (P.Brook) (USA)/The Servant (J.Losey) (Italy)/The fire within (L.Malle) (France)/Le petit soldat (Godard) (France)/The Big City (S.J.Ray) (India)
1964:Dr.Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb (Kubrick) (USA)/For a fistful of dollars (S.Leone) (Italy) Becket (P.Glenville) (England/USA)/Yesterday, today, tomorrow (De Sica) (Italy)/The umbrellas of Cherbourg (J.Demy) (France)/Band a part (Band or outsiders) (Godard) (France)/A Hard day’s night (R.Lester) (England)/The naked kiss (S.Fuller) (USA)/Hamlet (S.Kozintsev) (Russia)/Marriage Italian style (De Sica) (Italy) The Gospel according to St.Matthew (Pasolini) (Italy)/Scorpio rising (K.Anger) (USA)/Mary Poppins (R.Stevenson) (USA)/Goldfinger (G.Hamilton) (USA)/I am Cuba (Kalataov) Russia)/The fall of the Roman Empire (A.Mann) (USA)/Diamonds of the Night (Jan Němec) (Czechoslovakia)/Before the Revolution (Bertolucci) (Italy)/Black Peter (M.Forman) (Czechoslovakia)/My Fair Lady (G.Cukor) (USA)/Red Desert (Antonioni) (Italy)/The night of the Iguana (J.Huston) (USA)/Kwaidan (Kobayashi) (Japan)/Gate of flesh (S.Suzuki) (Japan)
1965:Fists in the pocket (M.Bellocchio) (Italy)/Loves of a blonde (M.Forman) (Czechoslovakia)/Dr.Zhivago (D.Lean) (USA)/The sound of music (R.Wise) (USA)/The shop on Main street (Jan Kadar/Elmar Klos) (Czechoslovakia)/The knack…and how to get it (Richard Lester) (England)/Pierrot le fou (Godard) (France)/Cat Ballou (Elliot Silverstein) (USA)/Repulsion (Polanski) (England)/Chimes at midnight (O. Welles) (USA)/Red beard (Kurosawa) (Japan) Sandra of a Thousand Delights (Visconti) (Italy)/Alphaville (Godard) (France)
1966:The battle of Algiers (Gilo Pontecorvo) (Italy/Algeria) The good, the bad and the ugly (S.Leone) (Italy)/A man for all seasons (Fred Zinnemann) (England)/The sand pebbles (R.Wise) (USA)/Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols) (USA)/A man and a woman (Claude Lelouch) (France)/Au hazard Balthazar (Bresson) (France/Sweden)/Persona (Bergman) (Sweden)/Andrei Rublev (A.Tarkovsky) (Russia)/Blow-up (Antonioni) (Italy)/Farenheit 451 (Trauffaut) (France)/Tokyo drifter (S.Suzuki) (Japan)/Black girl (O.Sembene) (France/Senegal)/War and Peace (King Vidor) (USA)/Alfie (Lewis Gilbert) (USA)/The Chase (Arthur Penn) (USA)/Torn Curtain (Hitchcock) (USA)/Is Paris burning? (Rene Clement) (France)
1967:Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn) (USA)/The Graduate (Mike Nichols) (USA)/In the heat of the night (Norman Jewison) (USA) Closely watched trains (Jiri Menzel) (Czechoslovakia)/Playtime (Jacques Tati) (France)/The producers (Mel Brooks) (USA)/Mouchette (Bresson) (France)/The dirty dozen (Robert Aldrich) (USA/England)/The taming of the shrew (Franco Zeffirelli) (USA)/Le Samurai (jean-Pierre Melville) (France)/Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel) (France/Italy)/Memories of underdevelopment (Tomas Gutieerz Alea) (Cuba)/Wavelength (Michael Snow) (Canada/USA) Don’t look back (D.A. Pennebaker) (USA)/Titicut follies (Fredrick Wiseman) (USA)/Portrait of Jason (Shirley Clarke) (USA)/Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg) (USA)/Guess who’s coming to dinner (Stanley Cramer) (USA)/War and peace (Segei Bondarchuk) (Russia)/Doctor Faustus (Richard Burton/Nevil Coghill) (England) Barefoot in the park (Gene Saks) (USA)/Wait until dark (Terence Young) (USA)/In cold blood (Richard Brooks) (USA)/Camelot (Joshua Logan) (USA)/A countess from Hong Kong (Chaplin) (USA)/Oedipus Rex (Pasolini) (Italy)/Reflection in a golden eye (John Huston) (USA)
1968:Planet of the Apes (Franklin Schaffner) (USA)/2001: A space odyssey (Kubrick) (USA)/Night of the living dead (George Romero) (USA)/Oliver (Carol Reed) (England)/Romeo and Juliet (Franco Zeffirelli) Italy/England)/The Lion in the winter (Anthony Harey) (England/USA)/Once upon a time in the west (S.Leone) (Italy) Faces (John Cassavetes) (USA)/Rosemary’s baby (R.Polanski) (USA) The swimmer (Frank Oerry/Sydney Polack) (USA)/Two comrades were serving (Yevgeny Karelov) (Russia)/Kuroneko (The Black Cat) (Kaneto Shindo) (Japan)/Walden (Diaries, notes and sketches) (Jonas Mekas) (USA)/Bullitt (Peter Yates) (USA)/Shame (Ingmar Bergman) (Sweden)/Hour of the Wolf (Bergman) (Sweden)/Funny Girl (William Wyler) (USA)/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Ken Hughes) (USA/England)/The Party (Blake Edwards) (USA)/Isadora (Karek Reisz) (England/France)/Charly (Ralph Nelson) (USA) Stolen Kisses (Truffaut) (France)/Rachel, Rachel (Paul Newman) (USA)/The Boston Strangler (Richard Fleischer)/The Shoes of the Fisherman (Michael Anderson) (USA)/If…. (Lindsay Anderson) (England)
1969:Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill) (USA) Midnight cowboy (John Schlesinger) (USA)/Z(Costa-Gavras) (Algeria/France)/Wild bunch (Sam Pekinpah) (USA)/They shoot horses, don’t they? (Sydney Pollack) (USA) /Army of shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville) (France) /The sorrow and the pity (Marcel Ophuls) (France)/My night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer) (France)/Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper) (USA)/The Red Tent (Mikhail Kaltozov) (Russia) Salesman (Albert & David Maysles/Charlotte Zwerin) (USA/Fellini’s Satyricon (Fellini) (Italy)/The passion of Anna (Bergman (Sweden)/Topaz (Hitchcock) (USA)
1970:Patton (Frankiln Schaffner) (USA)/Investigation of a citizen above suspicion (Elio Petri) (Italy)/Tristana (Luis Bunuel) (Spain/France/Italy)/The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci) (Italy/France)/Dodes’ka-den (Kurosawa) (Japan)/Love Story (Arthur Hiller) (USA)/MASH (Robert Altman) (USA)/The Wild Child (Truffaut) (France)/Little Big Man (Arthur Penn) (USA)/Le Boucher (Claude Chabrol) (France/Italy)/The Artistocats (Wolfgang Reitherman) (USA)/Ryan’s Daughter (David Lean) (England)/Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson) (USA)/Valerie and her week of wonders (Jaromil Jires) (Csechoslovakia) /Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville) (France)/Claire’s Knee (Eric Rohmer) (France)/The twelve chairs (Mel Brooks) (USA)/Airport (George Seaton) (USA) The Kremlin letter (John Huston) (USA)/The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (de Sica) (Italy)
1971:A Clockwork orange (Kubrick) (England/USA)/The French connection (William Friedkin) (USA)/Fiddler on the roof (Norman Jewison) (USA)/Straw dogs (Sam Peckinpah) (England/USA)/The go-between (Joseph Losey) (England/USA)/Death in Venice (Visconti) (Italy/France)/King Lear (Grigori Kozintsev) (Russia)/Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff) (Australia)/Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich) (USA)/Dirty Harry (Don Siegel) (USA)/Klute (Alan J. Pakula) (USA)/McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman) (USA)/Macbeth (Polanski) (USA/England)/A touch of Zen (King Hu) (China) Trafic (Jaque Tati) (France)/The Panic in the needle park (Jerry Schatzberg) (USA)/Johnny got his gun (Dalton Trumbo) (USA)/Nicholas and Alexandra (Franklin Schaftner) (England)/Bananas (Woody Allen) (USA)
1972:Fritz the cat (Ralph Bakshi) (USA)/The Godfather (F.Coppola) (USA)/The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie (Bunuel) (France /Spain/Italy)/Aguirre:The wrath of God (Werner Herzog) (West Germany)/Junior Bonner (Peckinpah) (USA)/Cabaret (Bobe Fosse) (USA)/Quiz Show (Robert Redford) (USA)/Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci) (Italy/France)/Man of La Mancha (Arthur Hiller) (USA/Italy)/Roma (Fellini) (Italy)/The bitter tear of Petra von Kant (Fassbinder) (W.Germany)/Cries and Whispers (Bergman) (Sweden) Jeremiah Johnson (Sydney Pollack) (USA)/Deliverance (John Boorman) (USA)/Slaughterhouse-Five (George Roy Hill) (USA)/Frenzy (Hitchcock) (USA)/Everything you always wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask (Woody Allen) (USA)/State of Siege (C.Gavras) (France)
1973:The spirit of the beehive (Victor Erice) (Spain)/The Sting (George Roy Hill) (USA)/Day for night (Francois Truffaut) (France) Badlands (Terrence Malick) (USA)/Don’t look now (Nicolas Roeg) (England/Italy)/The exorcist (William Friedkin) (USA)/Papillion (Frankiln Schaffner) ((USA/France)/We all loved each other so much (Etoore Scola) (Italy)/Amarcord (Fellini) (Italy)/American Graffiti (George Lucas) (USA)/Mean Streets (Scorsese) (USA)/Scenes from a Marriage (Bergman) (Sweden)/Paper Moon (Bogdanovich) (USA)/Save the Tiger (John Avlidsen) (USA)/Serpico (Sydney Lumet) (USA)/Immoral Tales (Walerian Borowczyk) (France)/Sleeper (Woody Allen) (USA)/The way we were (Sydney Pollack) (USA)
1974:Chinatown (Polanski) (USA)/The conversation (Francis Ford Coppola) (USA)/Scent of a woman (Dino Risi) (Italy)/Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks) (USA)/The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (Werner Herzog) (W.Germany)/Young Frankestein (Mel Brooks) (USA)/Ali: Fear eats the soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) (W.Germany)/The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton) (USA)/Celine and Julie go boating (Jacques Rivette) (France)/The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Joseph Sargent) (USA)/The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin) (USA)/The Godfather Part II (F.Coppola) (USA)/The Yakuza (S.Pollack) (USA/Japan)/The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper) (USA)/Murder on the Orient Express (S.Lumet) (USA/England)/Alice doesn’t live here anymore (Scorsese) (USA)/The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani) (Italy/USA)/The Phantom of Liberty (Bunuel) (France/Italy)/Arabian Nights (Pasolini) (Italy)/Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia (Peckinpah) (USA)
1975:Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam/Terry Jones) (England)/Jaws (Spielberg) (USA)/One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest (Milos Forman) (USA)/Barry Lyndon (Kubrick) (England/USA)/Dog day afternoon (Sidney Lumet) (USA)/Dersu Uzala (Kurosawa) (Japan/Russia)/The story of Adele H (Truffaut) (France)/Mirror (Andrei Tarkovski) (Russia)/The lost honour of Katharina Blum (Volker Schlondorff/Margarethe von Trotta) (W.Germany)/Jeanne Dileman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman) (Belgium/France)/Grey gardens (Albert Maysles/David Maysles) (USA)/The battle of Chile Part I (Patricio Guzman) (Chile) Nashville (R.Altman) (USA)/The Magic Flute (Bergman) (Sweden) The Messiah (Rossellini)(Italy/France)/Shampoo (W. Beatty) (USA) The Passenger (Antonioni) (Italy/Spain/France)/The man who would be King (J. Huston)(USA/England)
1976:Taxi driver (Scorsese) (USA)/Rocky (John Avildsen) (USA)/All the President’s Men (Alan J.Pakula) (USA)/Network (S.Lumet) (USA)/Black and white in color (Jean Jacques Annaud) (France)/ Seven beauties (Lina Wertmuller) (Italy)/Harlan county USA (Barbara Kopple) (USA)/In the realm of the senses (Nagisa Oshima) (Japan)/The Tenant (Polanski) (France)/The Omen (Richard Donner) (England/USA)/Marathon Man (John Schlesinger) (USA)/1900 (Bertolucci) (Italy)/Fellini’s Casanova (Italy)
1977:Star Wars: Episode IV- A new hope (George Lucas) (USA)/Padre Pardone (Paolo/Vittorio Taviani) (Italy)/Annie Hall (W.Allen) (USA)/The Wishing Tree (Tengiz Abuladze) (Georgia)/Julia (Fred Zinnemann) (USA)/Office romance (Eldar Ryazanov) (Russia)/Madame Rosa (Moshe Mirzahi) (France)/Stroszek (Werner Herzog) Germany)/The obscure object of desire (Bunuel) (France/Spain)/House (Nobuhiko Obayashi) (Japan)/Cross of iron (Peckinpah) (USA)/Saturday night fever (John Badham) (USA)/Close encounters of the third kind (Steven Spielberg) (USA)/High Anxiety (Mel Brooks) (USA)/New York, New York (Scorsese) (USA)
1978:The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino) (USA)/Get out your handkerchiefs (Bertrand Blier) (France)/Moliere (Ariane Mnouchkine) (France)/Grease (Randal Kleiser) (USA)/Autumn Sonata (Bergman) (Sweden/Germany)/The tree of wooden clogs (Ermanno Olmi) (Italy)/Superman (Richard Donner) (USA)/The Lord of the Rings (Raplh Bakhshi)(USA/England)/Heaven can wait (Warren Beatty) (USA)/Desiderium (Sooteh-Delan) (Iran)/The Inglorious Bastards (Enzo Castellari) (Italy)/Les Miserables (Glen Jordan) (England)/The Boys from Brazil (Franklin Schaffner) (USA)/Coming Home (Hal Ashby) (USA)
1979:Alien (Ridley Scott) (USA)/Apocalypse now (Coppola) (USA)/Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton) (USA)/The tin drum (Volker Schlondroff) (Germany/Yugoslavia/Poland/France)/Stalker (Tarkovsky) (Russia)/And justice for all (Norman Jewison) (USA)/The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) (Germany)/Laura (David Hamilton) (France)/Manhattan (W.Allen) (USA)/Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones)(England)/Caligula (Tinto Brass) (USA/Italy)/All that jazz (Bob Fosse) (USA)/Being there (Hal Ashby) (USA)/The Rose (Mark Rydell) (USA)/Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise) (USA)/Tess (Roman Polanski) (France/England)/La Luna (Bertolucci) (Italy)/The China Syndrome (James Bridges) (USA)/Wise Blood (John Huston)
1980:The Shinning (Kubrick) (USA/England)/Airplane (Jim Abrahams/ David & Jerry Zucker) (USA)/Raging Bull (Scorsese) (USA)/Ordinary people (R.Redford) (USA)/Coal’s miner daughter (Michael Apted) (USA)/Moscow does not believe in tears (Vladimir Menshov) (Russia)/Kagemusha (Kurosawa) (Japan)/The last metro (Truffaut) (France)/Mon oncle d’Amerique (Alain Resnais) (France)/Atlantic City (Louis Malle) (France/Canada)/The Blues Brothers (John Landis) (USA)/American gigolo (Paul Schrader) (USA)/Health (Robert Altman) (USA)/Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino) (USA)/Star Wars : The Empire strikes back (Lucas) (USA)/The Elephant Man (David Lynch) (USA/ England)/Stardust Memories (W.Allen) (USA)
1981:Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson) (Germany)/Chariots of fire (Hugh Hudson) (England)/Reds (W.Beatty) (USA)/Coup de Trochon (Bernard Tavernier) (France)/Indiana Jones: Raiders of the lost Ark (Spielberg) (USA)/Escape from New York (John Carpenter) (USA)/Mephisto (Istvan Szabo) (Hungry)/Body Heat (Lawrence Kasdan) (USA)/The postman always rings twice (Bob Rafelson) (USA)/History of the World Part I (M.Brooks) (USA)/Escape to Victory (J.Huston) (USA)/Man of iron (Andrzej Wajda) (Poland)/On Golden Pond (Mark Rydell) (USA)/The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Karel Reisz) (England)/The Bunker (George Schaefer) (USA)/Blow out (Brian De Palma) (USA)/Absence of Malice (Sydney Pollack) (USA)
1982:E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial (Spielberg) (USA)/Blade runner (Ridley Scott) (USA)/Pink Floyd: The Wall (Alan Parker/Gerald Scarfe) (England)/Gandhi (Richard Attenborough) (England/India)/Tootsie (Sydney Poolack) (USA)/Missing (Gavras) (France)/Volver a empezar: Begin the Beguine (Jose Luis Garci) (Spain)/Sophie’s choice (Alan J. Pakula) (USA)/Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog) (Germany)/First blood (Ted Kotcheff) (USA)/A Midsummer night sex comedy (W. Allen) (USA)/Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper) (USA)/The King of Comedy (Scorsese) (USA)/The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir) (Australia)/Diner (Barry Levinson) (USA)/The Verdict (Sidney Lumet) (USA)/The World according to Garp (George Roy Hill) (USA)/Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio) ((USA)
1983:Terms of endearment (James Brooks) (USA)/Fanny and Alexander (Bergman) (Sweden/France/Germany)/Tender mercies (Bruce Berestford) (USA)/The ballad of Narayama (Shoheil Imamura) (Japan)/Le Bal (Ettora Scola) (Algeria/Italy/France)/Scarface (Brian De Palma) (USA)/A Nos Amours (Maurice Pialat) (France)/Monty Python: the Meaning of Life (Terry Jones) (England)/Local Hero (Bill Forsyth) (England)/Nostalghia (Tarkovsky) (Russia)/Sans Soleil (Chris Marker) (France)/Flashdance (Adrian Lyne) (USA)/L’Argent (R. Bresson)
1984:Amadeus (Milos Forman) (USA)/The killing fields (Ronlad Joffe) (England)/Dangerous moves (Richard Dembo) (France/Switzerland)/ Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders) (Germany/France)/The Terminator (James Cameron) (USA)/Once upon a time in America (Sergio Leone) (Italy)/A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven) (USA)/Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman) (USA)/Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom (Lucas) (USA)/The Never Ending Story (Wolfgang Petersen) (Germany)/The Natural (Barry Levinson)(USA)/Nineteen-Eighty-Four (Michael Radford) (England)/Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch) (USA/Germany)/ Children of the Corn (Fritz Kiersch) (USA)/Birdy (Alan Parker) (USA)/The Cotton Club (Coppola) (USA)/Maria’s Lovers (Andrei Konchalovsky) (USA)/A Passage to India (David Lean) (England/USA)/Broadway Danny Rose (W.Allen) (USA)
1985:Brazil (Terry Gilliam) (England/USA)/Out of Africa (Sydney Pollack) (USA)/The official story (Luis Puenzo) (Argentina)/When father was away on business (Emir Kusturica) (Yugoslavia)/Shoah (Claude Lanzmann)(France)/Purple rose of Cairo (W.Allen) (USA)/Lost in America (Albert Brooks) (USA)/The Runner (Davandeh) (Amir Naderi) (Iran)/Ran (Kurosawa) (Japan/France)/Tampopo (Juzo Itami) (Japan)/My Life as a Dog (Lasse Hallstrom) (Sweden)/My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears) (England)/Back to the future (Robert Zemeckis) (USA)/Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader) (USA)/After Hours (Scorsese) (USA)/The Breakfast Club (John Hughes) (USA)/Steaming (J.Losey)(England)/Witness (Peter Weir) (USA)/Death of a Salesman (Volker Schlondorff) (USA)/Plenty (Fred Schpisi) (England/USA)
1986:Platoon (Oliver Stone) (USA)/Hannah and her sisters (W.Allen) (USA)/The assault (Fons Rademakers) (Netherland)/The Decline of the American Empire (Denys Arcand) (Canada)/The Mission (Roland Joffe) (England)/The singing detective (Keith Gordon) (USA)/Blue Velvet (David Lynch) (USA)/Bashu, the little stranger (Bahram Beizaei) (Iran)/ Dust in the Wind (Hou Hsiao-hsien)(Taiwan)/Hadsworth Songs (John Akomfrah) (England)/Top Gun (Tony Scott) (USA)/Nine ½ weeks (Adrian Lyne) (USA)/Stand by Me (Rob Reiner) (USA)/The Name of the Rose (Jean-Jacques Annaud) (Italy/Germany/France)/The Fly (David Cronenberg) (USA)/The Color of Money (Scorsese) (USA)/Children of a Lesser God (Randa Haines) (USA)/Heartburn (Mike Nichols) (USA)
The creator of Spaghetti Western and the dollar trilogy of “A fistful of Dollars”, “For a few Dollars more”, and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” who also brought Clint Eastwood to life as a popular actor, and made a masterpiece of western, “Once upon a time in the West”, created the master of all gangster films “Once upon a time in America”. The son of the cinema pioneer director Vincenzo Leone (known as Roberto Roberti or Leone Roberto Roberti) and the silent film actress Edvige Valcarenghi (Bice Valerian), and a classmate of his later musical collaborator Ennio Morricone, Sergio Leone grew into cinema. So absorbed into filmmaking, watching often his father work on the film sets that he dropped out of law school to start his film career at age 18. He started working in cinematography, and became an assistant to Vittorio de Sica in filming “The Bicycle Thief”.
Once upon a time Sergio Leone: The Last Great Filmmaker
Sergio Leone, a genius in filmmaking, even in his commercial spaghetti westerns, he was not void of cinematic techniques and innovations. Influenced from the early silent era of his parents’ works, his films are dominant with visual elements, slow camera moves, extreme close ups with emphasis on the looks mixed with long shots. These techniques within his action films either westerns or his gangster masterpiece, “Once upon a time in America”, leave the viewer sinking in the moment and absorb in the details, anticipating the creeping up actions and surprises. These camera techniques of frame freeze, slow movements, extreme close ups and moreover long sequences such as ringing the phone for ever in this film, emphasizes on the important of an event in the lives of the characters or the specific moment in the story of the film.
Starting well and early from age 18, Sergio was stalled when in 1959 was drawn into action films directing when the original director of the film “The Last days of Pompei” Mario Bonnard fell ill. Then came another sword action film of “The Colossus of Rhodes” in 1961 before his switch to making his popular and box office hits of the spaghetti westerns. To conclude his westerns in 1968, he created “Once upon a time in the West” that showed his talents beyond box office to the film critics as well. Then perhaps thinking of creating his masterpiece away from westerns, he ran into reading the autobiographical novel “The Hoods” by Harry Grey (Harry Goldberg or “Noodles”) a member of a Jewish gang that grew in the New York City ghetto, Sergio Leone decided to meet the author and make the film. Finally he met with Harry at a Manhattan bar in late 60’s, and thereafter a few times more in 1960’s and 1970’s to understand America through the author’s living experience. Turning down the offer to direct “The Godfather” by Paramount Pictures, he pursued his own project from then on until its completion in 1984, an endeavor of almost 20 years.
This time Sergio knew that a masterpiece takes a great deal of time and effort, so over about 20 years strenuously researching and preparing himself for making “Once upon a time in the America”. This long haul effort and determination alone is commendable. From 8 to 10 hours of film footage that Sergio shot, he concluded 6 hours with the plan to make it in two parts of three hours each. But by the force of the producers who wanted it only as one single film, he edited the film to a final single film of 269 minutes. This being about four and a half hours, was further cut to 229 minutes (3 hours and 49 minutes) that was released in Europe, but the US release was further cut into 139 minutes by the producers against the director’s wishes, that was a disaster.
“Once upon a time in America”: A Conclusion to Cinema
In “Once upon a time in America” Sergio Leone goes beyond his earlier works of westerns and his already well known technical trademarks noted above, and he shows his true genius of filmmaking and his seriousness about cinema as an art. His back and forth flashbacks between three points in time, the present, the middle and the past, is one of the best in cinema. The set, location designs and selections are perfect, never seen before, and look so unrealistically real. While before this film, dialogues were not much of his interest, in “Once upon a time in America” the dialogues are brief, artful and fit in with the visual works.
The film opens with the middle time that is central to the story of the film. “Noodles” (Robert De Niro) is in the state of stupor in a Chinese opium hideout situated behind a theatre. Three gangsters enter the theatre searching the place for him, but leave in despair not finding him who’s lying in his numbed state of mind in the back. Then the flashbacks in his mind shows moments ago when he had just witnessed his three pals’ murdered with their disfigured bodies lying down on the street surrounded by the police, ambulance and a crowed. He manages to kill one of the gangsters who had tortured and killed another of his friends and learns that his girlfriend has also been murdered by the gang as well. While still in his opium stupor state, a phone rings continuously for almost ever in his mind and takes the viewers back to another flashback, when “Noodles” decided to report his close pal, Max’s (James Woods) heist plan to save his life. That’s the central point of the film between the present, the middle and the past times in the film, when two close friends who established the Jewish crime part from each other.
The film then flashbacks to the past when Noodles and his friends, all youths meet Max and their petit criminal activities evolve into major and organized crimes from 1920’s and extending into the end of prohibition era of 1930’s. A unique true life story of evolution of a gang from their childhood into maturity and their demise needed a genius, dedicated and perfect direction to portray their friendships, lust, love, greed, betrayal and losses. The scenes of the childhood of the gang in the early 20th century of New York City with excellent choice of locations and shots, such as the picturesque view of Manhattan bridge is so classic not to missed. The involvement of children in gangster/crime films rare until then was performed well by all the young bunch including Jennifer Connelly as the young Deborah is amazing.
Bugsy (James Russo) who bossed and ran the youth gang before Max joining them in retaliation kills the youngest of them, Dominic that instigates Noodles to stab and kill Bugsy and injures a police officer fatally, so end up in jail for 12 years. When he was released, the group are already all adults and flourished well in their illegal activities under the leadership of Max. Already into prohibition era and a heaven for the illegal organized activities, the mature gang have grown wealthy. Max picks up Noodle from the prison after his term in a funeral vehicle carrying a seemingly dead naked body of a young female who when is shown to Noodles what a tragedy is such a heavenly body dies, she jumps on him and giving him a welcome time.
Now in the middle time of the story, Max takes his old time partner who sacrificed 12 years of his life spending behind bars, to his new establishments including an upscale bar where he meets once again all his old friends who are all now grown ups. He also meets his childhood love, Deborah, the sister of fat Moe who is now a mature young lady seriously pursuing her dance and acting career. Back again to the group, Noodles starts co-leading the gang in their mob activities, with a hint of more suspicions than Max to partnership with any other gangs or taking orders from any one else. This leads to the killing and taking over the operation of a more mature organized gang who send this still young group for a robbery. During the robbery, Noodles rapes the girlfriend of the boss of the establishment, Carol (Tuesday Weld) who later on will become Max’s girlfriend despite Noodle’s disagreement. From now to the end of the middle time there would be animosity and dislike between the two, mostly Noodles’ until when both agree to save Max’s life.
Noodles still in love with Deborah, now rich from the gang illegal businesses, takes her out to an extravagant dinner in a private setting in an upscale restaurant by the sea just for the two. The couple spend all night long together and talk after dinner by the beach and happy until Deborah breaks the news of her moving to Hollywood pursuing her theatre dream career. In a limousine taking Deborah back home, Noodles disappointed and angry with her departure, rapes her in the backseat of the car.
The end of prohibition era brings the idea of other profitable illegal businesses that creates conflict and disagreements between Max and Noodles, until Max comes up with the plan of robbing the Federal Reserve Bank. Noodles and this time Carol both agree of the danger of the task and since they cannot change Max’s stubborn intention, they decide to save him from being killed or put in jail for long, so Noodles report his heist plan to the police. This brings us to the opening of the film when the phone keeps ringing incessantly when Noodles calls the police and the ring as a flashback remains in his mind for reporting his old time friend and partner that finally led to the mass murder of all his partners except him as the lone survivor. After escaping from the chase by the rival gang who massacred his friends and he witnessed their disfigured bodies on the street, Noodles leaves the city for good on a one way bus ticket.
Back to the present time, Noodles coming back to the city after 30 years when receiving a letter informing him that the cemetery that his friends have been buried in, has been sold and he needs to arrange for their reburial. Noodles goes to fat Moe (Larry Rapp), the only one of them still alive and stays with him in the upstairs of his restaurant. Visiting the cemetery, he finds the key to the locker in the train station where the gang left their shared saved money, that Noodles before his departure from the city found it empty. This time he finds the suitcase full of money with a note offering him another job for the cash by Mr. Bailey who has also invited him to a party in his estate for detailing. Visiting Carol in a retirement home, Noodles is told that Max tricked them both to report his bank robbery to the police so he will be shot dead in the action and not like his father dying in an asylum.
Then Noodles goes visiting Deborah at her work in a theatre when he finds out by surprise that Max is alive and he is in fact the secretary Bailey and a young man who was waiting to take her home behind the door is their son. Meeting Max or Mr. Bailey in his private office at his estate, Max confesses that he was pulled into faking his death by the corrupt police and the Teamster’s union so him to steal all their money and start a new wealthy life with Noodle’s love, Deborah. Max or Mr. Bailey now asks Noodles to take his revenge and kill him as he is already a dead man since they are after him soon as his time is out. Noodles to the surprise of Max and the viewers have changed over years to a clam man who holds no revenge and is already living in peace with the past behind him.
Noodles leaves Max and his estate and as he walks out, he notices a garbage truck parking outside that as soon as starts to move, Max who comes out of his estate’s gate, jumps in the truck and commits suicide to be chopped off like a garbage that he thought of himself to have been for betrayal of his closest friend who just tried to save his life.
“Once upon a time in America” that Sergio Leone spent almost 20 years of his life on and perhaps caused him so much stress that led to his heart attack and sudden death five years later at still a young age of 60, is more than an ultimate gangster film that has been hailed as such by many. This great film, a classic on its own that has been unfortunately cut short for the box office reasons and had not been released in its original 269 minutes until in recent years is beyond an ultimate gangster film. The film is multilayered in content that was depicted very well beyond the original autobiographical novel, addressing several common life issues of friendship, lust, love and hate, sacrifice, greed, betrayal, corruption, loss. It also at the end concludes the meaningless of life from a nihilistic perspective in Max’s mind and an existential positive perspective of reaching peace at the end of one’s life in Noodle’s mind. These issues will be discussed briefly in the following:
1-Friendship: The film is about friendship from the beginning to the end. This is rare in a gangster film that starts from youth to the old age. The gang members hold their friendship and trust as the single most important cohesive element in their group and activities. Even Fat Moe who is only on the side and not an active member or a gangster, and Peggy (Amy Ryder) who satisfied the boys’ lust in their youth, and Carol who joined them later on, enter into this circle of friendship and trust. The betrayal of the friendship by Max is only revealed as a surprise to Noodles and the viewers at the end of the film, and even then filled with guilt he is asking for redemption and Noodles to take revenge on his life.
2-Lust: The lust of the gang in their youth either with the neighbor prostitute or with Peggy adds to the realism and honesty of the film for a group of delinquent youth growing together. The waiting of the child Dominic with a cupcake for bribing Peggy for a moment of lust and eating it up all as not able to resist his immediate gratification of the delicious cupcake is another manifestation of oral lust.
3-Love and Hate: This is shown beautifully through the attraction and love of Noodles to Deborah that endured even into his adulthood and after 12 years of absence in jail. The pure unfulfilled love of youth is messed up with the force of life’s realities, so ending in disappointment and hatred when Noodles in anger raping Deborah for leaving him.
4-Sacrifice: This is shown in Noodles when a teen to sacrifice 12 years of his life when in revenge for Dominic’s life kills Bugsy and wounds a police officer. Carol and Noodles also sacrifice themselves for reporting Max to the police of his great bank heist to save his life.
5-Greed and betrayal: The greed and rivalry between the gangs, workers union, and the corrupt police that is often seen in other similar films is shown here in betrayal of a life-long friend for greed beyond monetary also possession of one’s love as well.
6-Corruption: Here Sergio Leone makes his film to some degree political as he did in his masterpiece western “Once upon a time in the West”, when he shows the corruptions from an ordinary police officer to the police and unions at large and the promotion of a gangster to the secretary of commerce.
7-Loss: This element is the philosophical aspect of the film that all ends in loss. The good friends were lost, the friendship between the two survivors of the gang, Max and Noodles, the love between Noodles and Deborah was lost, and finally the whole life of the group were all lost at the end. This brings the film to a nihilistic conclusion of the meaningless of life, at least for such lives of gangsterism, or the lives of greed.
8-Resolution: Despite all the sufferings, losses and betrayal, Noodles reaches a peace and resolution in his life so not seeking revenge for seeing life from a different perspective.
Despite the film starts in the opium den with Noodles being numb and in an altered state of mind and stupor and ends in the same scene that was interpreted by some to have all been a dream, the story of the film has happened and happens all the time in one way or the other in real life. The subjects of friendship, lust, love and hatred, sacrifice, greed and betrayal, loss, nihilistic perspective on life and resolution at the end are all not dry philosophical matters, but happens in our sweet short lives.
The gripping chronological story of the film depicted in flashbacks in three cross sections of time became a cinematic masterpiece with hard strive of Sergio Leone over almost 20 years through his genius and hard work that could not flourish much before and did not last much after. Starting from the script that he had to meet the real Noodles in life, harry Grey to its completion and employing the best Italian screen writers, Leonard Benveuti (with 135 scripts), Piero De Bernardi (with 119 scripts), Enrico Medioli (who wrote the scripts for Rocco and his brothers, The Leopard, and the Damned among many others), Franco Arcalli (film editor and screen writer who worked with Antonioni and Bertolucci and died of cancer at age 48 in 1978 while in the writing process of this film), Franco Ferrini, and of course Sergio Leone himself who contributed to the script greatly.
The film could not have such great and visually stunning power without the artful cinematographic work of Tonino Delli Colli who started his career from age 16 at Rome’s Cinecitta studio in 1938. Other than working with Leone in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Once upon a time in the West”, he worked with Roman Polanski, Louis Malle, Pasolini, Federico Fellini, and in his last work with Roberto Benigni in “Life is Beautiful”. Cutting 8 to10 hours of the film into a final 229 minutes was only possible by the great Italian film editor, Nino Baragli who has more than 200 films in his credit. Lastly but not the least the music score by Ennio Morricone has no need of commentary. For over 400 scores for films and television and over 100 classical compositions, Morricone has influenced so many other score and music artists and composers from Hans Zimmer to Radiohead and Metallica. He holds over 70 award-winning film scores in all genres across the globe.
“Once upon a time in America” that received 15 minutes standing ovation after the screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 could be well considered a conclusion to the true cinematic art. The film at the years of growing digitalism and commercialism brought the true art of filmmaking back to the screen. Although not original piece by piece in technicality, the film has put together so many original and classic techniques at the service of a true story is depicted in the best way it could with multilayers facts of life. Starting with his wild spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone realized the wilderness of life that he saw it the most in America so he felt obliged to show in his final masterpiece, the same wild wild west in modern era.
In closing remarks “Once upon a time in America” one more time will be redefined based on the following criteria:
- Originality: “Once upon a time in America” though not original in piece by piece or innovation of new cinematic method, but comprehensively the film is original in putting so many original and classic techniques to depict a multi-layered life-long story of friendship, love, hatred, greed, betrayal, redemption and more.
- Technicality: “Once upon a time in America” is a summary of many cinematic techniques from its script taking a long time to write, to camera works, editing, music score, cinematography and performance at three cross sections of life. The film is easily a learning tool for the students of cinema and also a conclusion to the true cinematic art, that is rare nowadays.
- Impact Factor: The influence of “Once upon a time in America” has been on many future films and filmmakers in a variety of film genres not limited to gangster films.
- Survival: “Once upon a time in America” has survived well to this very day for its freshness in the subject of story and its cinematic techniques. The film has been already released in its extended director’s cut o 251 minutes in a screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 in Europe and in 2014 in US.
“Close encounters of the third kind” had only a brief encounter with aliens in person at the end of the film. With “E.T.”, Spielberg brought us a closer, more personal and ongoing encounter experience with the possible living creatures of other planets. E.T. is an alien child who’s left behind by a UFO’s landed on the earth. Like his first science fiction film there’s a family and children encounter with E.T. This creates a more honest and pure encounter experience of humans with a possible alien. In this encounter there is only curiosity and warm-hearted connection and understanding, and no fear, defensive or aggressive reactions of humans toward an out of space being. This is more or less like the reactions of children to an animal or pet. From the first encounter between a 10 year old boy Elliott and E.T., there’s an interconnection despite the language barrier.
While Elliott and his siblings who later on when find out about E.T., are protective of him, a group of adults and the governmental agencies who have witnessed the landing of the UFO are in the search to capture and lock up E.T. So beyond another science fiction and aliens’ encounter story , E.T. is an exploration of pure and honest humans’ encounter experience without any mean or defensive intention of an adult world. Due to the involvement of children with E.T., there’s element of magic and fantasy away from the strict world of adults. So with this film Spielberg was able to experience and capture the hearts of the children of the world, as the film belongs to the children more than adults. Elliott, his brother and sister trust each other but not even their mother in revealing E.T. They are protective of him and try to communicate with him and succeed.
A magical Peter Pan-like science fiction:
The film is the base of many other future films where the children in similar situations protect and save aliens or animals from the grown ups.
Like his first film there’s also an element of spirituality and special senses like the sixth sense in this film of Spielberg. There’s a remote connection and experiencing the same feelings between E.T. and Elliott while E.T. at the house nosing around, drinking beer and get drunk, and Elliott in the school feels the intoxication and gets dizzy. The same when E.T. watching the film “The Quiet Man” on TV and John Wayne kisses Maureen O’Hara, Elliott pulls a classmate girl towards him in the same manner and kisses her.
Elliott riding E.T. on his bike and flying is one of the most magical moments in the cinematic history. The flying bike passing in front of the blue moon is another memorable and beautiful cinematic moments on the screen. E.T. trying to contact his home by a makeshift communicator that he has invented and his famous quote of “E.T. phone home” is also one of the most memorable quotes in cinema. Touching Eliot’s tear drop falling off his face when he feels for E.T. who’s missing home is another pure emotional moments between the two different creatures. Losing E.T. in the forest and looking for him by the children brings on thrill and action to the film. When the government agents finally start searching Eliot’s house looking for E.T., the protective children plan to save and arrange his escape back to his home planet.
The home sick E.T. is already physically sick as well, totally pale and dying. While Elliott and his siblings were living with E.T. all this time with no masks and safety protective measures, the government agents come in all wearing masks and taking exaggerated measures of safety protection. When one of the government agent asks Eliott what they can do to help E.T., he simply responds to let him go back home. After a seemingly death of E.T and failing of the medical team to rescue him, Eliott is left for a few last minutes with him alone, that after feeling Elliott’s pure emotions, E.T. surprisingly comes back to life and repeats “E.T. phone home”!
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Adapted from a novel of the same name by William Styron in 1979, “Sophie’s Choice” written and directed for the screen by Alan J. Pakula is one of the rare films in the history of cinema that stays on mind after watching it even once. Styron who in 1985, three years after the release of the film, suffered from a serious episode of depression, leading him to write the memoir of his illness, “Darkness Visible” that became another of his masterpiece, perhaps had some masked such feelings when he wrote “Sophie’s Choice”, that is obviously a tale of suffering.
Pakula known for social and political type films such as “To kill a mocking bird” and “All the President men”, did not direct before or after this film any melodrama/tragic story. While thinking of the Swedish actress, Liv Ullman for the role of Sophie, it was Meryl Streep who threw herself at her feet to get the role. And she did well and performed the best role of her career life, where she had to lose weight to match Sophie specially at the concentration camp scenes. Another reflection of the casualties of war and political supremacy, and expansion at the cost of million lives, “Sophie’s Choice” is not just a tragic tale of humans, but a shameful one. The story is not only about the retelling of what Nazis did to the Jews in their exterminations, but how far the power hunger and hatred of humans could go to force a mother to make a choice of saving a child, but giving another away for extermination.
Sophie’s Choice: A Choice cannot live with
The story and the film opens in 1947, two years after the final end of the tragic and shameful second world war in Brooklyn, and is told by Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a young writer who rents an apartment in a house, where he will become the third party in the lives of Sophie (Meryl Streep) and Nathan (Kevin Kline) who live there as well. Sophie is a weak and fragile woman who mysteriously is attached to Nathan whose mental and emotional instability and insanity is evident even to the young and naïve looking Stingo. One moment in an intense love and affection to Sophie and the next moment suspicious of her infidelity, Nathan swings from a normal and high mood to total anger, and jealousy to the point of abusing his lover mentally, verbally and physically. Surprised by the pathological dependency of Sophie to Nathan, Stingo and the viewers are puzzled why Sophie still has remained in such abusive and roller coaster relationship. In fact the first part of the film is a depiction of such unhealthy pathological attachments or sick symbiotic relationship that exists in the real life around us and some viewers may relate to.
It is only from the second part of the story of the film that we learn through Sophie’s revealing the secret of her past life to Stingo, the reason for her staying in such pathological relationship. Sophie a malnourished anemic Polish immigrant is found and helped on the floor of a library after being harassed by a librarian that there is no such American poet as Emily Dickinson that she was asking for her poetry book. Mesmerized by her pale angle-like beauty, Nathan takes Sophie to his place, have her rest, cooks, feeds her and gives her the book of Emily Dickinson. He reads the a famous poem of the book that repeats again in the final scene, revealing the secret behind such symbiotic depressive relationship, that the two lost souls only could fill in.
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The Vietnam war that after the loss and destruction of so many lives on both American and Vietnamese sides finally with the resistance of Vietnamese and the country wide protest of American people ended in 1975 left a great impact on American cinema in 70’s. This impact opposite to the casualties of the war was in fact positive and improved this nation’s cinema and elevated to another level. Such Hollywood films in 70’s surpassed any foreign films and for the first time several such anti-war films entered almost any greatest films of all time.
Francis Ford Coppola after sometime getting stuck in his Godfather part 1&2 and before concluding his trilogy, as a payback of his due to the wave against the Vietnam war, creates his masterpiece “Apocalypse Now”. Not just being politically and morally correct this time in paying back his artistic commitment, he shows his mature cinematic talent by the end of 1970 in this film. The film starts with a gripping cinematographic scene of the war, in contrast with the beautiful tropical natural environment that were all destroyed with no hesitation. After this opening scene, the film zooms on its main protagonist, captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) of the US special operation force in his room, already drunk and suffering from the depression, post-traumatic stress and madness of the war.
Then two army officers come in to his place, wash and clean him up and take him to a general of the American army. He is questioned if he knows colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), an American military hero who has gone mad somewhere in the jungle of Cambodia and has taken things and the command of many fellow soldiers and the locals in his own hands, acting like a demi-God. Captain Willard who does not know anything about Kurtz, is ordered to find his hideout location and terminates him, keeping the mission as a secret and as it never existed. Willard in disbelief of how the US army and its general could send him on such a mission to kill one of his own high ranked, highly achieved and decorated hero officers.
On an army boat accompanied by a few soldiers as associates who do not know much about the mission, Willard arrives at a village where is still bombarding and wiping out the whole village and civilians by the air struck. In the mist of the killing field there’s a church service by a minister and at night the squadron under the command of their narcissistic lieutenant Colonel William (Bill) Kilgore (Robert Duval) having a beach party. The next day on their way to mission destination and while helicopters continue with their rampage bombardments and killing spree, two American private ex-surfers with the encouragement of Colonel Bill surf the tropical waves.
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“The Deer Hunter”, is a film that after being seen once, it will probably imprint on the mind, a nightmare forever with possible flashbacks to some. The film is the story of three Russian American steel workers from the small town of Clairton in Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh whose enrollment in the Vietnam war changed their lives and the lives of their whole small but close community forever. This anti-war film has had one of the highest impact on people’s and soldiers’ minds in detesting any war, particularly Vietnam’s that finally ended by the persuasion of American people as much as by the Vietnamese resistance.
The film’s greatness starts with a perfect script co-written and directed by Michael Cimino who was basically a new screen writer, started a few years before, but never achieved well before and after this film that was his major feature debut as a filmmaker. The film stars Robert De Niro as Michael (Mike), Christopher Walken as Nick, John Savage as Steven, John Cazale as Stan (Stosh), Meryl Streep as Linda, Nick’s girlfriend and others. The film is also significant for being the last role played by John Cazale who died shortly after this film from lung cancer. This great actor in six short years of his acting career in five great films received Academy Award nominations for all, The Godfather, The conversation, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter.
A Nightmarish Anti-War Film:
The film opens with a real perspective scene of the small industrial town of Clairton, that is an example of many of such towns all across the United State. In this small poor community, with houses looking very basic and shack like, the residents mostly the steel factory workers after work every day gather at the local pub owns by their friend, John (George Dzunda) that is a reminder of the film “How Green was my Valley”. In fact the town that is located in a valley, despite the smoke of the factory and the hardship of the residents’ lives is green in their hearts, before the casualties of the war wither them. The Russian American residents of this small community are very close to each other like the way they were back in their original Russian village or town where they immigrated from.
The film after the introduction, starts with the wedding preparation of Steven who’s pulled out of the local bar after work, by her traditional mother with slabs to get ready for his wedding that’s on the same day. Within a Russian Orthodox wedding ceremony and party, with a large banner on the wall reading “serving God and the country with pride”, everyone is trying to forget momentarily the departure of three of them, Mike, Nick and Steven for the war in Vietnam in the next couple of days. A soldier walks into the wedding and sits at the bar and when Mike tells him that he and two of his friends are departing for Vietnam, he raises his drink and says “fuck it”. When Mike asks him how’s out there, he again responds “fuck it” with another shot of drink. In the wedding, Nick asks Linda to marry him that she agrees.
At the end of the wedding party, drunk Mike gets naked and runs after the bride and groom’s car who are leaving, outside in the cold. Nick also drunk runs after him and asks him to promise if anything happens to him in Vietnam, not to leave him behind. All drunk until the dawn and still drinking, as another farewell leave for a final deer hunting, their usual pastime. Back from hunting at night to John’s bar when he plays Chopin’s Nocturne at the piano without any words passing on, the sign of farewell is well seen in all their faces.
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Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and George Lucas’ first saga of “Star Wars” series that both released in 1977 introduced a new line of cinema of digital and special effects, specially to American cinema that changed cinema for ever. Although these two films were science fictions, the digital and special effects work in later years went beyond and into different contents and storylines of films. Science fictions has a long history and in modern time goes back in the literature to H.G.Welles and in cinema as early as 1918 and the Danish film “A Trip to Mars” by Holger-Madsen. While those science fiction novels and films of the past that were produced in abundance did not change cinema, Spielberg and Lucas’ works did by introducing the digital special effects that was ready by late 70’s to be applied to the films, though still in its infancy.
This new line of cinema did not only bring the digital special effects at the computer desks and in the studios and less on location filming and easier work for the directors, but also a series of storylines about supernatural heroes, villains, sixth sense and visions. Films such as Superman in the following year, then batman, antman, ironman and else infused beliefs in superpowers, fantasy and fables unlike not time before, taking the realism out of cinema to this very day in abundance. With the staggering box office sales of $775.4 million for the first Star Wars from a minute budget of $11 million and a less sales of $306.1 million for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” from a higher budget of $20 million, the new line of cinema dominated not the film market, but the minds of ordinary and young moviegoers.
To the contrary of the box office success of the new line of digital and special effects cinema and the accolades of critics, ranking “Star Wars” 13 and Spielberg’s later film “E.T” at 24 in AFI 100 greatest American films, the original “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” has no ranking. Also none of these new line of films have ever won any Academy Awards until in 2003, the third and last episode of “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” that won all 11 nomination awards including the best picture and best direction.
A New Line of Cinema: Special Effects & Fictions
As discussed above the new line of cinema created by Spielberg and Lucas not only added digital special effects to the films, but changed the storylines from realistic life stories to fable and fictions with extra-terrestrial lives, supernatural powers, visions and senses, heroes and villains. All these started in a big leap from Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But unlike Lucas’ Star Wars, then the future films of superman, batman and alike that had no much base in reality, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” of Spielberg like his “Jaws”, and later on “E.T.” are exaggerated reality tales. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is an exaggerated depiction of UFOs that for long have been claimed to have been viewed by some.
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Martin Scorsese while starting filmmaking almost at the same time as Francis Ford Coppola, as an Italian American, he is more interested in social studies of the American society and metropolitan cities specially New York City. His first major feature, “Mean Streets” was a fair study of Italian American real street mobs, unlike the organized crime fable of the Godfather of Coppola. In his second major work, Taxi Driver, he takes us within the story of a taxi driver to the streets of the city that never sleeps, as he had lived in, observed and experienced it.
Taxi Driver: Robin Hood of the City Nights
Travis (Robert De Niro) is an ex-marine who takes the job of taxi driving in the city as he cannot sleep like the big city itself, and perhaps to avoid his flashback nightmares of the war of Vietnam. The film like a documentary, take the viewers through the streets of New York City and the lives and behaviors of creatures of the night, the prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. We see the filth, the mess and the crimes in the city through Travis’ eyes who’s disgusted with all and wishes to be totally cleaned up.
In all this jungle mess of filth, he spots only one pure beauty, Betsy (Cybil Shepherd) who works in the election office of senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris) who’s running for presidency. He falls in love with her right away, walks in her office with no hesitation and with persistence and charm takes her on a brief coffee break date. Naïve and depressed, a victim of the war and the big city, his only hobby to relax and kill time when not working is watching porn film in special theatres without being or acting as hypersexual. So on the second date, he takes Betsy to watch such porn films that throws her off right away, walks out and breaks up with him, who keeps saying “I don’t know better”. His persistent calling and delivering her flowers to mend their relationship all fail. Betsy’s rejection disappoints him and puts her in his mind like the rest of city people whom he detests.
Scorsese takes a brief part in the film as well when one night, he rides Travis’ taxi. When he tells Travis that he’s going to kill his wife and his lover with a 44 magnum to rip them apart, in his unspoken mind runs the idea of cleaning up the city off the filth that way. So soon he buys his guns and starts training himself back to shape to actualize what he has been wishing for long. When he meets a gun dealer, instead of one, he buys all his guns in two brief cases. Soon he finds his first target, when on night the teenage prostitute, Iris (Jodi Foster) tries to run away from his pimp and gets into his taxi, but the pimp, Charles “Sport” Rain (Harvey Keitel) pulls her out. He starts following Iris in the following nights to spot her pimp again. He finally find Sport and pays him to be with Iris. To the surprise of Iris, he has no intention of having sex with her, but wants to rescue the runaway teen from all that mess and send her back home to her parents. He takes her out on a breakfast date the next morning when he encourages her to quit all that as she deserves more than prostitution and let a druggy pimp run her life. He even offers her money to go back home, but later on Sport continues fooling her that he needs and loves her so to stay and go on with selling her body for him.
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