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 films such as “The Battleship Potemkin”, “Man with a movie camera” and “Metropolis”, but these films are still frontiers in the time frame and only a few ranks above the other films made before them.
- 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 1956. 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. the films in blue color have been great, but not the greatest to be in our list, and the film in red color have been the greatest films of all time in our list:
1915:The Birth of a Nation
1920:The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
1922:Nanook of the North
1925:The Battleship Potemkin /The Gold Rush
1927:Metropolis /Wings/Sunrise: A song of two humans /The Jazz singer /Berlin: Symphony of a great city
1928:The Crowd/The passion of Joan of arc /The last command/The circus
1929:Man with a movie camera /Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)/Pandora’s box /Broadway melody
1930:All quiet on the western front /Earth/L’age d’or/The blue angel/A’ propos de Nice
1931:Dracula/City lights/Grand Hotel/M/Cimarron/Frankenstein
1932:Cavalcade/A farewell to arms/Trouble in paradise/Freaks/Boudu saved from drowning/Scarface/Grand Hotel
1933:Baby face/King Kong /Duck soup/42ndstreet/Zero for conduct/Don Quixote/Land without bread/The Invisible Man
1934:/L’Atlante/It’s a gift/Three songs about Lenin/It happened one night
1935:/The 39 steps/Triumph of the will/The informer/The Bride of Frankenstein/A night at the opera/Top hat
1936:Modern times /The great Ziegfeld /Camille/The crime of Monsieur Lange/Swing time/Night mail
1937:La Grand illusion /Pepe le Moko? /Snow white and the seven dwarfs /Humanity and paper balloons/The awful truth
1938:Alexander Nevsky/The lady vanishes/Pygmalion/You can’t take it with you/Olympia/Jezebel/The Adventures of Robin Hood
1939:Le jour se leve /The rules of the game/The wizard of Oz /Gone with the wind /Stagecoach/Ninotchka/Wuthering heights
1940:Fantasia/The great dictator /The grapes of wrath /Rebecca/Pinocchio/The Philadelphia Story
1941:Citizen Kane /The Maltese Falcon/How green was my valley /Sullivan’s Travels /The Lady Eve
1942:Casablanca /The magnificent Ambersons/Mrs. Miniver/Listen to Britain
1943:The life and death of colonel Blimp /Titanic /Shadow of a Doubt
1944:Going my way/Double indemnity /Gaslight/Meet Me in St. Louis/Laura/Arsenic and old lace
1945:Brief encounter/The lost weekend/Spellbound/Children of paradise/Detour/Rome, Open City
1946:The best years of our lives /It’s a wonderful life/The turning point/Notorious/My darling Celmantine/Beauty and the beast? /Gilda/A diary for Thimothy/The Killers
1947:Gentleman’s agreement/Out of the past
1948:The Fallen idol /Bicycle thieves /The treasure of Sierra Madre /Hamlet/Monsieur Vincent/Letter from an unknown woman/Red River/The red shoes/Macbeth/Germany year zero/La Terra Trema/Le sang des betes
1949:Kind hearts and coronets/The Third Man /All the king’s men/Late spring
1950:Rashomon/All about Eve/Sunset Blvd./The walls of Malapaga/The asphalt jungle/In a lonely place/Orphee/Los Olvidados
1951:Miss Julie/A streetcar named Desire /An American in Paris/The African Queen /Diary of a country priest/The River
1952:Forbidden games/Ikiru/The importance of being earnest/Umberto D. /The white sheik/High noon/The quiet man/The moor of Venice/Don Camillo/Limelight/Singin’ in the rain
1953:M.Hulot’s holiday/ Ugetsu/The wages of fear/Tokyo story/The war of the worlds/Julius Caesar/Shane/From here to eternity/The robe/ Roman holiday/The earrings of Madame De../The wild on/I Vitteloni/ Gate of Hell
1954:Seven Samurai/La Strada/On the waterfront/Journey to Italy/Rear window/Godzilla/ Twenty-four eyes/Johnny guitar/Sansho the Bailiff/A Star is born/Sabrina/Seven brides for seven brothers
1955:Richard III/Summertime/Pather Panchali/Oklahoma/Rebel without a cause /Samurai, the legend of Musashi/Smiles of a summer night/The night of the hunter/Les diaboliques/Marty/East of Eden/To catch a thief
1956:The Searchers / The ten commandments/ Giant / The king and I /The silent world /The Burmese Harp/ A man escaped / Written on the wind / And God created woman / Night and fog/ Apu trilogy (Aparajito) / Moby Dick/ Invasion of the body snatchers
“Wild Strawberries” of Ingmar Bergman is another metaphorical and philosophical film masterpiece, like “The Seventh Seal” surprisingly both created in the same year of 1957. This was only possible at the hands of Bergman whose prolific and excessively productive life career could achieve such, unheard before in the history of cinema. “The Seventh Seal” dealt with a nation or continent at the medieval period of European history, lost faith through the deception of the papacy, casting the doom of death on their people by war added to epidemic death befell on them by plague. At a parallel philosophical and metaphorical with a hue of surrealism, “Wild Strawberries” addresses the life of an achieved human, who despite all his knowledge, fame and accomplishments, at the end looking back at his life in the search of true meaning of his existence. While “The Seventh Seal” is more metaphysical and philosophical depicting the search of human lost in faith for the ultimate truth of God, life and death, “Wild Strawberries” is more psychological and philosophical in the search of the meaning of an individual in a lifetime, while it could be generalized to all.
In search of the meaning of one’s life and seeking Redemption:
Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom), a retired medical scientist after telling his life story briefly as a narrator in the opening scene, dreams in his sleep, getting lost in the streets when out for his daily walk. He notices the street clock has lost its hands, so was his pocket watch, as time has lost its momentum. Wandering around, he runs into a faceless man, who by his light touch falls down and breaks to bleed. Then a carriage carrying a coffin passes by him, but its wheel breaks off and the coffin rolls off to the street. He approaches to the coffin, where a hand of a dead man is out and suddenly grabs him, when he notices it is him, dead. This Freudian dream that its interpretation is inherent in the opening image of the film, is a prologue to the rest of the film about the search for the true meaning of one’s life, or what has been really important in an individual’s life, with an introspection and looking back at the end.
Waking up from his alarming dream, professor Isak suddenly decided to drive his car to the ceremony of an honorary award to him at the university instead of the pre-arranged flight to the destination, that disturbs his housekeeper, the old Ms. Agda (Jullan Kindahl) who has been in his service over 40 years. His daughter-in-law, Marianne (Ingrid Tulin) who has been staying with him for a brief period, wakes up while him having breakfast and asks to accompany him in the car as she had decided to go back home. We find out later, when the professor stops by his parents’ old summer cottage to refresh his past memories why he suddenly decided to drive to the ceremony than to fly.
Before their stop at the cottage, through the conversation between Isak and Marianne, and her critic of him, his old traditional, masculine, selfish and self-centered views on women throughout his life despite all his achievements as a scientist. Isak is totally shocked when he learns through Marianne that even his son who has taken much after him, hates him and that he is also of the opinion that despite his benevolent exterior, he is a ruthless man, listening to no one but himself. While about to reach the cottage, Isak who has already shaken by his dream and now critics of Marrianne and his son, softens up to disclose his dream to her, but she is not interested in dreams.
When they reach the cottage and while Marianne goes for a swim, Isak sitting by the wild strawberries bush, looking at the cottage and all his youth pastime in their summer cottage flashback live before his eyes. He sees his cousin Sara (Bibi Anderson) whom he was in love with in real flesh at the young age, calling her but no response as she is still living in the young past, while he is in the present old age. Then his brother, Sigbritt (Gio Petre) who is also in love with Sara arrives and starting temptation of her and forcefully kisses her that makes her to drop her strawberries basket that she was picking, and bursts her to tears. Isak walks into the house after Sara running in tears inside, where he sees the whole family of ten children, mother and the uncle are at the dinner table eating and conversing.
The young twin sisters who were always spying and gossiping around, break to the rest of the family, about Sigbritt kissing Sara by the strawberries patch, that upsets Sara who runs out of the room again in tears. Old Isak is witnessing all before his eyes, but unnoticed in his flashbacks by Sara and others. His daydreams are interrupted by a young girl who suddenly finds him by the bush in the present time. She is asking to ride with them with two other accompanied young men. On the road they get into an accident, passing by a careless driven car, causing the other car tips upside down in a ditch. They end up taking the couple driving the other car with them, as their car is not drivable. Finally after a short drive, Sara asks the couple who are in fight all the time, and the man insulting to the woman constantly to get off their car as he is intolerable.
Stopping for gas at a station in the village where Isak is planning to visit his old mother, he is welcome by the gas station worker and his wife who appreciate him as the best doctor whom still people talk about and refuse the payment for the gas as a gesture of gratitude. This is a paradox between the personal life of the professor, not being loved and perceived as selfish compared to his opposite positive public prestige. After visiting his mother, dozing off in the car, Isak enters his dream of facing Sara back in time, but this time she sees him and tells him heartlessly that he has turned old, while she has not changed and has a life still ahead of her. She confronts him that while he may know a lot of things, he does not know anything. She breaks the news that she is going to marry his brother and has to leave him.
His dream follows him being led to a university classroom for evaluation of his medical skill and knowledge by an examiner. He is asked to identify a microbe under the microscope that he cannot, then asked to read a text on the blackboard that to him is meaningless and in a strange language. He is reminded by the examiner that the text is the first duty of a doctor that he responds that he has forgotten and when the examiner reminds him that is “asking for forgiveness”, he replies with smile that of course, now he remembers! He is accused by the examiner with “Guilt” but he does not understand the charge. Then he is asked to diagnose a patient in the room, that he diagnoses her as being dead, but the patient lifts up her head looking at him in laughter. The examiner makes some note in his book declaring him as incompetent and charged also with serious offenses of “selfishness, callousness and ruthlessness” by his wife who has been long deceased.
The judge takes him out to a spot where he had witnessed his wife in crazy laughter being raped by a man, while he was watching and dis not take any action. Then after the act, his wife tells the other man that when she tells Isak what had happened and ask for forgiveness, he would say “there is nothing to forgive” as “he is cold as ice, then suddenly be very tender”. The wife would get upset at him over his hypocrisy that drives her sick, but he would respond that he understands everything and all have been his fault! When his wife leaves the scene, he is asking the examiner where she has gone, that he answers that all have gone, removed by a painless masterpiece operation. Isak asks now what would be the verdict and the punishment, that the judge responds the usual, that is “Loneliness”!
The film ends after the ceremony at the university, when resting at his son’s and Marianne coming to him tenderly, seeming she has forgiven him and kisses him good night. Then his son comes in when Isak asks him to be nicer to his wife and considering having a child as he has been resistant to Marianne’s such wish. It seems that he’s forgive by at least his son and daughter-in-law so he can fall asleep in peace. In his dream again he goes back to his youth, meeting Sara again and this time he asks her about his mom and dad, that she takes him by a lake where his parents when young and before having children were fishing. The film concludes with the peaceful sleep and dreaming of Isak like a little boy, seemingly having reached his redemption.
Once again Ingmar Bergman in the same year of making his other masterpiece of “The Seventh Seal” with his “Wild Strawberries” brings philosophical topics onto the screen and becomes the highly praised intellectual of cinema. Again the film is not a dry dialogue of intellectualism, but a visual masterwork with its smart flashbacks to the past through dreams. In this psychological analysis of someone’s life is revealed on a couch but through introspection and past exploration in a beautiful and skilled cinematic style. Despite the slow tempo of the film that required to be such, it is not boring but gripping and enlightening. More than 60 years, still no one could have reached to such depth of human’s psyche as Bergman did in this film and his “The Seventh Seal”. Bergman who was also understood and helped by his selected actors to convey his thought on the screen, was also assisted by music score (Erik Nordgren), cinematography (Gunnar Fischer) and editing (Oscar Rosander) in this masterpiece.
In closing remarks “Wild Strawberries” one more time will be redefined based on the following criteria:
1. Originality:“Wild Strawberries” is original in analyzing human’s inner psyche and introspection over the meaning of one’s life at the end through flashbacks. Bergman’s originality in two levels of analyzing a nation’s or continent psyche in “The Seventh Seal” and individual’s one in this film is not original but innovative and a rarity in cinema, not equaled even in the later years.
2. Technicality:The technicality of “Wild Strawberries” is its use of dream analysis and flashback not on a couch and through intellectual conversations, but through visual art of film.
3. Impact Factor:The influence of “Wild Strawberries” has been on so many intellectual filmmakers mainly in Europe such as Michealngelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and Jean Luc Goddard and more.
4. Survival:“Wild Strawberries” has survived well to this day for being still enlightening and surprising to be made more than sixty years ago. It is still considered a masterpiece and has not lost its freshness in the subject or technique.
“The Seventh Seal” of Ingmar Bergman that won the Jury special prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1957 is a start of the Swedish filmmaker’s metaphorical, allegorical and poetic film style for the first time into the world of cinema. Although Surrealism in cinema starting in the silent era with “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” of Robert Wiene, then “Un Chien Andalou” of Luis Bunuel had brought an intellectual format and content to the art of film, it was not until Bergman when cinema started to become a medium of intellectual experiments and expressions. This started with “The Seventh Seal” and followed in the same year of 1957 with “Wild Strawberries” by Bergman himself again, until other filmmakers worldwide, such as Michealngelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and Jean Luc Goddard among others followed the suit in their own fashions.
But Ingmar Bergman’s prolific career, spanning from 1938 with a theatrical production at age 20 until 2003 with his last feature, Saraband and his last radio theatre show in 2004 at age 86, just three years before his death at age 89 is unmatched. With 45 feature films directing, with 50 screenplays, 24 documentaries, 11 television films, and more than 150 theatrical and radio shows, Bergman is the most active directors of all time. Not just for his extreme activities, producing more than one work every single year in different media, he is perhaps the only filmmakers who has had hands on any genres, from drama, to comedy, thriller, fantasy, action, and on different subject matters of philosophy, psychology, metaphorical, poetic, and more. He has created his own original styles and work such as in “The Seventh Seal”, but also has directed many adaptations of great classics on stage and radio from Shakespeare to Albert Camus, Verdi, Tennessee Williams, Cervantes, Edward Albee, Eugene O’Neil, and many more.
Bergman is also one of the very few filmmakers with more than a few masterpieces such as “The Seventh Seal”, “Wild Strawberries”, “The Virgin Spring”, “The Pleasure Garden”, “Persona”, “The Passion of Anna”, “Cries and Whispers”, “Scenes from a Marriage”, “The Magic Flute”, “Autumn Sonata”, “Fanny and Alexander”, and his last feature “Saraband” at age 84. He is also one of the few who deservedly won three times the best foreign films at the Academy Awards, one Golden Bear from Berlin Film Festival, one Cesar award, seven awards from Cannes Film Festival, six best foreign film awards from Golden Globe, and seven Guldbagge awards from the Swedish Film Festival. Bergman has also made several of great Swedish actors known to the world, such as Bibi Anderson, Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Tulin, Harriett Anderson, Jorgen Lindstrom, Victor Sjostrom, and more.
Fear of Death or longing for the Truth:
It has been suggested by some critics that “The Seventh Seal” is an existential nihilistic perspective on life. But Bergman’s films such as this and “Wild Strawberries” that somewhat related, are not nihilistic in the philosophical sense of this school of thought to believe life void of any objective meaning, so to be skeptical and pessimistic like Kierkegaard. In fact as we read further into the story of the film, there have been feelings of deception and betrayal through the crusades by the papal rules, sending the knights to fight in the name or for the glory of God, while hiding the truth and the real intention of the religious wars in the medieval time.
The knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) and his squire (Gunnar Bjornstrand) return home after long years of crusades in the 14thcentury to witness their homeland Sweden like many other parts of Europe has been ravaged by the Black Plague. With this opening text introduction, the film opens with a big black bird, symbol of doom, flying over in a cloudy sky in the black and white color, with another following text prologue:
“And when the lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in the heaven, about the space of half an hour. Then the seven angels prepared their seven trumpets to sound”. This passage from the book of “Revelation”, the last chapter of the New Testament, anticipating the end of the world or “Apocalypse”.
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It took almost 30 years until someone applied some of the multitude of the camera and cinematographic techniques of Dziga Vertov in “Man with a movie camera” into a film with storyline. That one surprisingly came once again from Russia and was Mikhail Kalatozov who masterfully from the start to end used camera, cinematography, hence the powerful visual effects of cinema into a gripping melodrama. “The Cranes Are Flying”, a sweet love story in blooming, withers by the start of invasion of the Nazis to Russia, along with the loss of many other dreams, hopes and lives. The only Soviet film to win the Palme d’Or, the grand prize of the Cannes Film Festival, was written by Victor Rozov, cinematography by Sergey Urusevsky and Mikhail Kalatozov and the music score of Moisey Vaynberg. Unfortunately film itself not as much as the film’s main protagonist, Tatyana Samojlova who played the role of Veronika, the young beautiful broken hearted lover attracted the attention of the western critics and millions of Europeans at the time.
An Ultimate Cinematic Experience:
The Georgian Mikhail Kalatozov changed many professions before starting his film career as an actor and later on a cinematographer, before directing films. He first experimented his talent in several documentaries before creating his first major feature, “The Cranes Are Flying”. Then he made a few others, “The unsent letter” (1959), “I Am Cuba” (1964), and “The Red Tent” (1969). Surprisingly and despite its great win at the Cannes’, the film was mostly an accolade even by the critics for its sensitive and heart breaking story, the captivating beauty, gentleness and superb acting of Tatyana Samojlova, and not much for its great filmmaking. The simple free hand-held camera and cinematographic work of Sergey Urusevsky is an exemplary piece of filmmaking.
The film opens with un-feared well-fed extreme camera shots from different angles, long and close up like “Man with a movie camera”, but not for a cinematic experiment, but conveying emotions and the love relationship of a young couple, Veronika (Tatyana Samojlova) and Boris (Aleksey Batalov). Right from the start we see how the camera and cinematography used to portray feelings, first joy and happiness, then loss, failure, guilt, disappointment, disgust, confusion, hatred, humanity, belonging, dedication and more. The camera work and cinematography like the tempo and the emotions in the film is uninterrupted all the way from the start to finish, with the acting and music score all complement each other.
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“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a prototype of all the science fiction, horror and thriller films singularly or in combination that came afterwards years later, such as “The Blob”, “Alien”, “Aliens”, “The Fly”, “The Thing”, “Predators” and more. While “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” of 1920 has been the prototype of all horror films, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a nice blend of science fiction, horror and even thriller of the modern time style, made 62 years ago. Directed by Don Siegel who created the Dirty Harry series and made Clint Eastwood popular in cop action films other than the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, the film has no super stars, though well enough acted. Shot in a perfect black and white of film noir style, to convey more horror and thrills, while the color of all brands were in fashion already in 1950’s, the cinematography of Ellsworth Fredericks and most of all the music score of Carmen Dragon makes the film a classic so much that still horrifies and thrills today’s audience.
The story that was adapted from Jack Finney’s science fiction novel of 1954, “The Body Snatchers”, by Daniel Mainwaring into the script, is about an extraterrestrial invasion of the fictional town of Santa Mira in California. The film has its own twist and does not start with an obvious invasion, and takes the audience alike the protagonists, particularly the main one, Dr. Miles Bennel, the town GP, through a mysterious puzzle to solve and explain the sudden strange change of the locals’ behaviours. A woman visited by the doctor, claims his uncle with whom she lives is not real, but an impostor and a boy in fright runs away from his mother on the street, almost hit by the doctor’s car. Later on more than half way through the film, we learn that the change of people becoming impostor and emotionless is an extraterrestrial invasion plan and attack. The real humans are duplicated by the spores that had been dropped down earlier onto the nearby farms, and un-earthy impostor copies would burst out of the huge seed pods.
Another example of popular cinematic art:
Like “Roman Holiday”, a popular box office delight that could reach artistic level and please lay audience and critics alike, and rank among the greatest films of all time in our list, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as well is a popular and box office hit that did the same as a prototype of science fiction horror and thriller film. Achieving this is not done with the content of the story or by much of special effects or huge spending, but by the power of story telling and showing on the screen. The film in fact is more of a thriller and mystery discovery than a horror and even science fiction. The thrill of the mystery solving of the locals, who one after another changing in behavior, creates a mass hysteria in the whole town, to be solved in the lead by Miles and his girlfriend, Becky (Dana Wynter).
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Another masterpiece from Japanese cinema, but this time not of subject of samurai or its subdued culture after the war, but a sentimental anti-war film that is not happening in Japan, but in Burma. One of the most unrecognized films of all time, “The Burmese Harp” based on a children’s novel of the same name, was directed by Kon Ichikawa with the screenplay by his wife, Natto Wada. The film that in Japan was released initially in two parts on different dates, and later on as a double feature with B movies totaled 143 minutes, but its international release was cut into 116 minutes. Perhaps due to its initial split release in Japan, the film was not received well, but its remake in 1985 again by Ichikawa, became the second largest Japanese box office hit up to that time. It was praised internationally, nominated for the best foreign language film at the academy awards, and won ovation of the audience at the Venice Film Festival and its San Giorgio Prize.
Happening in the Burmese jungle during the second world war, a clash between the two invading Japanese and British armies, the film unlike many other anti-war features portrays the futility of any war in the best sentimental and humane way. While showing the casualties of the war on the Japanese, with a long history of her east Asian invasions, now facing another foreign occupier with oppression, the film reaches the human souls for interconnectedness and not interruptions. Although showing scenes of mass killings and casualties of the war, the main theme of the film is music that connects the souls more than words and show humans have no reasons to kill each other.
In the search of Peace:
The film revolves around Mizushima, a Japanese soldier who plays harp and sings to raise the morale of the soldiers. Like the government of Japan holding back on the surrender in the war until the disastrous atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a group of Japanese soldiers in a cave refuse to surrender to the British and decide to continue fighting. Mizushima trying to convince them of the ending of the war and the futility of continuing to fight, out of national pride and stubbornness, is attacked and knocked down by his comrades. The finale is the massacre of everyone in the battalion by the British bombardment, except Mizushima who’s already passed out on the ground.
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“On the Waterfront” is the second major film of Elia Kazan with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, since their first endeavor, “A Streetcar named Desire”, but this time with a fuller cast including Rod Steiger, Lee J. Cobb, and introducing Eva Marie Saint. Elia Kazan starting on Broadway introduced Marlon Brando with their first cooperation on the screen, and again this time with a full power house of cast, stamped his influence for long years to come on American and the world cinema. As a theatrical director, he brought the art of theatrical acting or method acting to the cinema, emphasized on the role and power of acting on screen and established the actors studio as a theoretical back up. This while took away the important visual component of the art of filmmaking, enriched cinema with the art and significance of script and acting that were ignored or were not known to this extend before.
Elia Kazan style or the acting cinema, put the scenario and the acting at the centerpiece of the films, popularized it and conceived a new era of Hollywood as the world of actors. This style was very dominant for decades until it lost some power to the influence of special effects and digitalism in cinema in later years. In these types of cinematic works, such as “On the Waterfront” there is less influence of camera work and art directing, but acting and acting directing. In Kazan’s work, the actors have lots of freedom in acting their own ways and improvise as there quite a few of such scenes in this film, like his others. Many actors liked to work with Kazan and called him the best actors director and Marlon Brando expressed about him “He was an arch-manipulator of actors’ feelings, and he was extraordinarily talented; perhaps we will never see his like again.”
“On the Waterfront” as a powerful socialist workers movement film and a big surprise for Hollywood at the time of McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, is also a mark of ambivalence on and off the screen. On the screen, Terry (Marlon Brando) an ex-prizefighter had been robbed off his career by his older educated brother, Charley (Rod Steiger) who’s the brain of the mobs, headed by the trade unionist, Johnny (Lee J. Cobb) to betting at the interest of the mobs. Terry, a victim of his surrounding and his own laziness and lack of intellect, associates in the murder of a friend, Joey by the mobs, the brother of Edie (Eva Marie Saint) whom he falls in love with and walks on the path of redemption. Off the screen, Elia Kazan, a socialist in the theatre before joining Hollywood and even in this film, through inquisition and force of the anti-communist committee before making the film, betrays his comrades by revealing some names including his own famous writer friend, Arthur Miller, who even started writing the first draft of the script.
On the Waterfront: A Revolutionary Tale of Redemption
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Japan with a history in filmmaking since the inception of cinema, never rose at a world race level and was not much recognized at an international level, until the 1950’s that is considered the golden age of Japanese cinema. With Rashomon of Kurosawa in 1950, this rich cinema became known to the world, so that any non-commercial film from Japan was the subject of accolade of western critics. Although none of these films could match or even parallel with the Kurosawa’s masterpiece, the Japanese films in the 50’s such as Ikiru, Ugetsu, seven Samurai, Godzilla, and specially Tokyo Story harvested many awards worldwide, and even the latter dethroned Citizen Kane in the Sight and Sound’s 2012 director’s poll. But only “Gate of Hell” by the Japanese veteran actor and director, Teinosuke Kinugasa came out of this land of rising sun, as another shocking masterpiece hard to resist not to praise.
The film, the first Japanese film in color out of the country, was also the first to win the palm d’Or or the grand prize award of the 1954 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the best foreign language film in 1955 Academy honorary award, best costume design and best color awards of that year of the Oscar. “Gate of Hell” also won the 1954 New York Film Critics Circle Award for best foreign language film and the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival. “Gate of Hell” stands out as another Japanese cinema masterpiece since Rashomon, not for all the above awards and recognitions, as often these could be meaningless, but as another wakeup call for what cinema as an art medium could achieve, that had already been lost in the west to commercialism and popularism of the time.
The film, a celebration of colors by Eastman for the first time in Japan, opens up with a modern time recitation of the Heiji rebellion of 12thcentury Japan, invading the emperor palace. A lady-in-waiting, Kesa, the wife of a samurai, Wataru, escapes the raid and lands at the house of another samurai, Morito, who remains loyal to the emperor unlike his brother and kills a traitor. Morito first not knowing Kesa being married, falls in love with her and when he is offered any prize for his loyalty and bravery, he wishes Kesa as his wife. Following the theme of Rashomon mixed with a tint of the American “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” of 1927, “Gate of Hell” is a shocking storyline for any culture, even the western.
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