All posts by cinemarevisited

The Greatest films of all time: 69. Network (1976) (USA)


Another great film from Sydney Lumet after his masterpieces of “12 Angry Men” of 1957, and “Dog Day Afternoon “ of 1975, comes a year later “Network “ in 1976. Like his other two great works that are explosive in content, discussion and arguments, this film is the ultimate of any outrageous film in exposing the capitalist system and its spokes agent, the television. As Lumet has believed himself that a movie should be beyond just entertainment, to enlighten and move audience, “Network” did more than any of his films and any others’ films to the point of shock and surprise. The film is a harsh critic of the capitalist system, lack of freedom of thoughts and speech, all brain washed in the American people’s mind by the media and on the top by television networks to this very day.

Lumet, a director actor who started off the Broadway, directed almost any great American and international actors from Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Strasberg, Christopher Plummer, Sophia Loran, Marlon Brando, Joanne Woodward, Anna Magnani, Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, James mason, Walter Matthau, Simone Signoret, Maximilian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, Omar Sharif, Anouk Aimee, Al Pacino, Anthony Perkins, Susan Sarandon, Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Michael Caine, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Melanie Griffith, Jack Warden, Andy Garcia, Lena Olin, Richard Dreyfuss, George C. Scott, Glenn Close, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, to name some. He pulled out of Peter Finch, a not very popular actor who acted on the screen since 1930’s, the best of his life career that unfortunately did not last due to his premature death just a year later in 1977.


Network: A Film that will never happen on screen again

Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a news reporter of the TV network UBS is fired after 25 years of hard work due to his lower rating. He has become an alcoholic and after getting the news of his career ending in two weeks, he tells his old friend and the head of the news department, Max Schumacher (William Holden) one evening when drinking together that he is going to kill himself right on his TV show. His friend doesn’t take him seriously, but when he announces his intention the next evening during his live show, that he is going to blow his head off right in front everyone in his show a week later, it shocks all in the studio. Beale is fired on the spot by the network, but Schumacher intervenes so him to have a dignified farewell, if he apologizes on live television. The next evening, Beale goes on live again and this time while he explains that the night before he was in a state of madness, in another rant, he describes his life and life in general being bullshit. This unexpected use of foul language and open criticism of the American life and television that has always been accommodating the system again enrages the network heads, including Frank Hackett (Robert Duval) who fires both Beale and Schumacher as well, for letting Howard go back on live TV.

Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), an eager but impersonal UBS producer from another department who is after making any show at any cost and already planning filming a communist guerrilla group in action of their bank robbery and terrorist attacks, notices Beale’s photos on the front page of any newspapers and that the network’s rating that had been declining recently, has spiked overnight due to his outspoken show.  She offers Schumacher to help him with the Beale’s show and make it number one, and the network one of the top ones in the country. To achieve her ambitious plan, after Schumacher rejects her offer, she tempts him into a personal extramarital affair. At the same time she also convinces Hackett to give her Howard’s show to run as he has become the spokesperson of all frustrated and despair people of America, disclosing the hypocrisy of the system.


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The Greatest films of all time:68. Network (1976) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 68. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) (USA)


Sydney Lumet with a great portfolio as a filmmaker, starting his debut with his masterpiece “12 Angry Men” in 1957, created one or two films every year afterwards, until his great film of “Serpico” in 1973. Shortly after he made another masterpiece “Dog Day Afternoon” in 1975 again with Al Pacino and just a year after another great work “Network” in 1976. Though he touches on different topics, he is the best in examination of social issues and psychological struggles of modern humans as in his above three great films. Lumet as an “actor director” was a master of pulling the best performances out of different actors whom he directed. He brought out one of the best performances from Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb in “12 Angry Men” and the best of Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon” and from Peter Finch in “Network”.

Not an ordinary bank robbery:

Not only one of the first hostage taking film in cinema, “Dog Day Afternoon” is a unique one that has rarely equaled. Based on a true bank robbery in 1972 in Brooklyn by Sonny Wortzik (played by Al Pacino) and Salvatore “Sal” Naturale (played by John Cazale) the film is felt all the way very real, even the acts the bank employees taken as hostages. A more mature cooperation between Sydney Lumet and Pacino than their first work together in “Serpico”, the film depicts the reality of the lives of American people in a city like Brooklyn, where two of their residents struggling with living, attempt to steal some money for their needs. After an opening scene of the real poor neighborhood of Brooklyn in a summer heat, three robbers arrive at the bank in their car.


Sal approaches the bank manager who is sitting at his desk and on the phone pointing his rifle at, and Sonny taking his gun out of a wrapped gift box nervously. A young chap, Stevie as the third robber or their driver, who walks in with Sonny and Sal, soon gives up and leaves as he is scared. Sal is mentally disturbed looking and Sonny the mastermind is a nerve rack. The police soon is informed by the insurance salesman who works across the street, when he notices smoke coming out of the vents of the bank, from a document Sonny was burning inside.

The robbery though was planned somewhat by Sonny, it seems very spontaneous as one of the female bank teller telling him. This spontaneity is shown well by improvising act of Al Pacino as Sonny. The crowd outside who probably live a struggling life like the robbers, are supportive and cheer them, while Sonny who keeps getting in and out of the bank in negotiating talk with the police detective excites them more. Sal is the scarecrow who’s introduced to the police sergeant as a Vietnam veteran killer with killing meaning nothing to him. The whole film is charged with anxiety and anticipation and the nervous act of Sonny generalizes to the others including the police detective.

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The Greatest films of all time: 67. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 66.The Godfather (Part II) (1974) (USA)


The Godfather Part II that was released two years after the first part in 1974 is placed above the first part in contrast to many other lists of the greatest films for the reasons that will follow. For example The Godfather (or part I) had been ranked the third on the first AFI list of the greatest American films in 1997 and the second on its second edition list in 2007, while The Godfather Part II has been ranked number 32 on both editions of the list. It is unusual to rank a second part of a film, or a trilogy in this case above the first or the original one, but The Godfather Part II has so much more and deserves to be at least one rank higher than the first part. In fact the major reason that the first part that will be presented here right after the second part at the same time, has been ranked on this list of the greatest films of all time, is its impact on others, and not per se for its own merit. To understand better the ranking differential between these two films, some comparisons will be attempted here.

The part two starts where the part one finished, with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) ascends to the position of the Godfather, passed on to from Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando who plays only in the first part) ruling the family’s organized crime. Soon after, the next scene flashbacks to the past and origin of Vito Corleone, the Godfather, back to Sicily Italy. Vito Andolini at the time is a nine years old boy, the only son left for his mother whose husband has been stained by the local mob chieftain, Don Cicco for not giving in. Her older son who had disappeared to the hills to take revenge of his father’s murder, soon at the time of the father’s funeral is shot to death by the mobs as well.

The mother goes to Don Cicco with Vito asking for his forgiveness to spare his only son’s life as “he’s too young and would not seek revenge”. But the mother is killed on the spot and the young Vito runs away. While the local mobs looking for Vito everywhere in the village of Corleone, he’s arranged to flee the village and get aboard of a ship to America. The scene of immigrants aboard reaching the land of free with their hopeful eyes falling on the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island of New York is one of the most beautiful such scenes of immigrating to America at the turn of 20th century, even better than “America America “ of Elia Kazan. The next scene while Vito has passed the immigration screening and placed in a room, looking through the window at the Statue of Liberty, fades off to the present time where Michael hosts a party.

Right away the difference between the two parts is that the first part is a cross sectional depiction of a mafia family, while the second part is a longitudinal examination of the origin of such family, starting off good, but ending devil. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to the past in early 20th century when all started with Vito, first an honest and hard working man who grew to become a monster and a killing machine. Even when back to the present in the second part, Michael is seen clearly in conflict within himself for taking on such responsibility leading a criminal family at the cost of ruining his own life. This is not yet seen in the first part, where Vito Corleone like a king with no remorse orders killings at ease and comfort of his place.

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The Greatest films of all time: 65.The Godfather (Part II) (1974) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 67.The Godfather (Part I) (1972) (USA)


Although “The Godfather” is not much original and technical in a general sense on a cinematic world scale, there is no doubt of its impact on others, from critics to filmmakers and is on top of many lists of the greatest films of all time, including ranking second on AFI’s list of the American greatest films. The film at least boasts to be an original new gangster style in American cinema, introducing Italian Mafia to the screen. That also invigorated American Italian cinema in Hollywood to dominate part of the American cinema with the second and third parts of The Godfather trilogy and Martin Scorsese’s future films, starting with “Mean Street”.

Adapted for the screen from the Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name who collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on the script. First major feature of Coppola who until then had mainly worked on screen writing, the film and its sequels were major box office hits and pleased both the critics who were mostly appalled a few years before by the violence and praising gangsterism with “Bonnie and Clyde” and just a year before with “Straw Dogs”. Perhaps by the pressure of the audience who received both previous films and also adjusting to the new American wave cinema of sheer violence, the critics not only received this film greatly, but worshiped it to this very day. Winning the best picture, best actor for Marlon Brando (who declined the award) and the best adapted screenplay for a mafia film depicting the organized crime in US was historically a surprise.

The film that is the part one of a trilogy, starting from the middle of the life story of Vito Corleone or the Godfather of an Italian Mafia family when he as an older man having a stronghold organized crime business with four grown up children. The part two that was released two years after in 1974, starting the life story of Vito Corleone who as a victim of mafia, back in Sicily of Italy, escapes the prosecution after his father, brothers and even mother were all murdered by the head of the local gangster, Don Chicho and seeks refuge in America. The beginning of the story is more empathizing to Vito who starts an honest simple life in America as a new immigrant, getting married and having children, before the victim or prey becoming a perpetrator and leading an organized crime establishment.

Already deep in an all illegal crime business in the part I, while the film stresses on the family values, that’s all about an organized criminal family. Like any non-righteous man in power to protect his kingdom and his large family, being not only a father to his own children, but a Godfather to many, Vito Corleone has to keep doing whatever it takes to keep his position strong and stable. Therefore the film is original in introducing to the screen, the life story of organized crime in America, though they were not in majority family oriented as in this story. Other than great unusual acting style of Al Pacino without his common theatrical exaggeration, in fact and despite winning Oscar, Marlon Brando in the same year performed better in “Last tango in Paris”.

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The Greatest films of all time: 66.The Godfather (Part I) (1972) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 65. State of Siege (1972) (France)


Being a graduate of law, Costa-Gavras in his political films, disclosing different dictatorships and unjust governmental systems around the globe, by using the best form of a fast paced judicial inquiry in the search for the truth. From his major film “Z” in 1969 that he disclosed the dictatorship in his homeland Greece to his last film “Amen” in 2003, blowing the lid of the Catholic Church’s knowledge of the Jews genocide by Nazis in the World War II, Costa-Gavras like an expert lawyer in the court, through powerful inquiry get the disclosure of the dictatorships well. In this process he either contradicts the political criminals or corner them to confession. This cinematic technique is only unique to Costa-Gavras that accompanying with the music score of his great country composer, Mikis Theodorakis create such powerful films that get the attention of even non-political crowds.


Other than the inquiry method with the fast tempo of events, shot after shot that is Costa-Gavras expertise, the depiction of political tortures and murders around the world by different dictators is only seen in his films. While others specially in Hollywood then and now depict non-political, mostly gangsters violence and tortures in their films that hailed and awarded by their pals, Costa-Gavras’ films carry on a humanitarian agenda. His films as if documentaries made by an organization such as the “Amnesty International” the principal agency disclosing the political tortures and imprisonments around the world by different dictatorships. Though his films that mostly were well recognized in Europe, in fact humanitarian organizations owe him recognition for a life time achievement in this cause.


State of Siege: State of Dictatorships

The story of the film that runs in Uruguay is the story of all Latin America under different dictatorships at least in the second half of the past century. The Uruguay Liberation Movement, Tupamaro mostly consisted of university students and intellectuals fighting for democracy against the dictatorship dominating their country, kidnap three diplomats on the demand of freedom of their prisoners. One of these diplomats is the American Philip Michael Santore (Yves Montand) who under the cover up of USAID (United States Agency for International Development) is an agent aiding the local police in their struggle to knock down the revolutionary and democratic movements such as Tupamaro.

The story of the film that is based on the true story of an actual incident of kidnapping the US embassy official, Dan Mitrione in 1970 who was killed at the end. Through the skilled, court-like interrogation of Santore by the guerrillas, the film discloses numerous incidents of governmental violence, arrests, tortures, and mass murders and executions of the democracy fighters without any judicial process. The film also discloses the extensive training of all Latin American police and counterinsurgency agents under USAID in their country and in US in different torture and murdering methods. The two sides of dictatorship of the government and the revolutionists, is intercepted all along by the press in the search for the truth and disclosure of what happening behind the curtain to the public.    


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The Greatest films of all time: 64. State of Siege (1972) (France)


The Greatest films of all time: 64. Straw Dogs (1971) (England/USA)


A film that broke so many standards of Hollywood at the time and still to this day remaining controversial and degraded by some critics, who called its director Sam Peckinpah, “Bloody Sam” is a major breakthrough in the cinematic history. While the more accredited Stanley Kubrick in the same year of 1971, made “A Clockwork Orange” depicting uncalled and unusual violence and abuse towards ordinary people by psychopaths, “Straw Dogs” portrays the real and usual violence that could be seen all around us even to this very day. The subject of racism, hatred, defensive animosity to un-likes, invasion of privacy, bullying, abuse and rape, that all depicted well in the film was not in the imagination of Peckinpah to like or dislike, but it was and it is a simple reflection of a bitter reality in the western society.

With a brief career and life (died at age 59), Peckinpah created such novel cinematic great works such as “Ride the High Country”, “Noon Wine”, “The Wild Bunch”, “Junior Bonner”, “The Gateway”, “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia”, “Cross of Iron”, and his masterpiece “Straw Dogs”. The sheer and ruthless violence that Peckinpah introduced to the screen, shocked many and led to dislike and controversy of his films for shaking the moralistic standards of the time, that nowadays already a reality of the screen too and seen all over even on television and children’s films. It took the American society decades to adapt to such depiction of the reality of violence in their land of freedom and brave! The present portray of violence on the screen is empty without any background ideology, interpretation or enlightening, but sheer violence for the sake of entertainment, that in fact desensitize the viewers to such behaviours. Similar violence in the defense of invasion to our privacy in the family films such as “Home Alone” that now makes us laugh without any moral or judgmental surprise, all started with Peckinpah and his films such as “Straw Dogs”, but with an underlying meaning and enlightenment that many unfortunately did not grasp at the time.

Exposing A Violent Society:

Peckinpah serving in the second world war as a marine in the occupied China by Japan and witnessing the war violence, while traumatized and drawn to alcohol and drug use, used his gifted talent of creating great films to depict such societal violence. But instead of making war films where the violence could be justified, he portrayed the violence of the everyday life in the western society. He stepped deeper and analyzed the roots of violence that’s hatred, discrimination, racism, masculinity and in the land of freedom, anarchism. These all were shown at once beautifully in “Straw Dogs”, where he also showed bravery even out of superficial cowardice, through protection of the honor and righteousness in one’s hands when the society and its law are incapable of such. With his unique talent in visual and cinematic techniques and bringing out the best performances of the actors, Peckinpah and “Straw Dogs” have become a landmark not only in the American but the world cinema.

The film starts its title credits in black and white with a blurry background that will reveal to be a color film, as there will be bloodshed and better in color. An American mathematician David (Dustin Hoffman) with his British gorgeous wife Amy (Susan George) move to a small English town where Amy was raised to write his new research book. From the outset, the couple are welcome as strangers with contempt. Charlie, the head of a group of local men who has dated Amy in the past is all over her from the start while the husband David is a subject of ridicule and mockery for being an educated American coward and a quiet geek. Charlie offers fixing the roof of a building in their house where they will be staying with his local gang, as a plan to be close to Amy and cause the couple trouble from the first day of their arrival.

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The Greatest films of all time: 63. Straw Dogs (1971) (England/USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 63. Love Story (1970) (USA)


The most popular and memorable love story on the screen with the most simple and common title of “Love Story” is the film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Erich Segal who wrote the script as well. Directed by Arthur Hill, starring Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw, this film one of the highest grossing films of all time, took the three up to fame, so that Ali MacGraw was voted in 1972 the top female box office star in the world. This actress who could not go higher than what she had achieved in “Love Story” with her somewhat unusual and novel role in love approaching conquered the hearts of the viewers across the globe and when her character died in the film, burst their tears and broke their hearts.

Despite the world-wide reception of the film by the public, as if some critics at the time could not handle it out of jealousy critiqued the film negatively and compared it with “Camille with bullshit” (Los Angeles Times), and with playboy love affairs in “Love Affair” and its remake “An Affair to remember” (The New York Times). Perhaps these negative critics of the film related to its script and dialogues, specially delivered by Jennifer Caville (Ali MacGraw) that were frank, funny, critical with some obscenity at the time, such as using the words “Stupid” and “Bullshit” to her lover. In fact the script of the film and such dialogues, other than being out of place for the time and reactionary, made the film and Jennifer more appealing and with her mischievous smile while saying those words. Her unusual or modern for the time approach to a love affair was a novelty and step up in Hollywood films and altogether made the film an iconic landmark of romance and tragedy in cinema.


A Love Story to Remember:

This film was a touchable love story and not like the love affair of Leo McCarey to remember forever. While a love story and the greatest of its kind, the film was a story of rebellion of rich father’s son, Oliver Barrett (Ryan O’Neil) like “Rebel with a cause” who hated his father for his dictatorship control and aloofness, not valuing his son’s independence mind and way of life. The film opens from the end, with its famous soundtrack by Francis Lai, and with Oliver sitting outside in a snowy winter back to the camera and talks about the tragic death of his love, Jennifer Caville: “What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach? The Beatles? And me?”

Then the film flashes back to the start of the love story of Oliver as a Harvard student and Jennifer a student of music and also working as a librarian. In their first encounter, Oliver asking Jennifer at the library desk for a book that she refuses to lend it, telling him to go to his own library and calls him “preppy”. Then she puts him down as a rich and stupid boy, and describes herself as poor and smart. He asks what makes her smart that she says because I won’t go out for a coffee with you, that he says he has not even asked her out, that she responds that’s why it makes him stupid! This kind of conversation goes on between the two for a while during the formation and consolidation of their relationship. Jennifer with a mischievous smile while obviously attracted to Oliver, keeps mocking and putting him down all the time. But her style of conversation is not a bit throwing the viewers off, or to dislike her, but she is likeable on the screen despite her harsh tongue.

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The Greatest films of all time: 62. Love Story (1970) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 62. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) (USA)


This film adaptation of the true story of the famous couple bank robbers, Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) and Clyde Barrow (1909-1934) during the American Great Depression of the 1930’s by Arthur Penn, has become such a classic of its genre, affected so many later films and filmmakers, and more importantly popularized positively this couple gangsters that could hardly be ignored on any great films of all time list. Fay Dunaway as Bonnie and Warren Beatty as Clyde played their best film roles ever and Gene Hackman as Buck Barrow was introduced the arena of cinema as a serious actor, while the acting of Michael J. Pollard as C.W. Moss and Estelle Parsons as Blanche Barrow (Buck’s wife) were memorable.

The great and artistic direction of Arthur Penn created such a prototypic romantic gangster film with thrills, horror and violence that had hardly been equaled though adapted and copied part by part many times. Bringing some of the French new wave or Avant Garde cinematic techniques to Hollywood, such as its fast pace and choppy editing, Arthur Penn assisted by Charles Strouse with his fast beat music score and Burnett Guffey with his great cinematography, they teache Americans at the time and in the future how to make influential gangster films.

The writers of the film, David Newman and Robert Benton influenced by the French new wave writers and cinema, first approached the popular French filmmaker Francois Truffaut who made some suggestions to the story, then Jean-Luc Godard who agreed to make the film, but oddly wanted to shoot it in New Jersey that was refused by the writers as the real story happened in Texas. Then while Warren Beatty was visiting Paris at the time and learnt about the project from Truffaut, he bought the right to the story and convinced the writers that an American director is needed for an American film though the story is of French new wave style. Beatty offered the script to quite a few directors such as George Stevens, William Wyler, Karel Reisz, John Schlesinger and Sydney Pollack who luckily all refused. Arthur Penn initially refused to direct the film as well, but Beatty’s insistence convinced him to get on the project that finally brought him fame as a capable filmmaker. It must have been a great regret for Beatty himself who goes on to become a great filmmaker himself with great classics such as “Reds” that he did not make the film himself.

While Beatty wanted to play the Clyde’s part himself, choosing the actress for the Bonnie’s part was not easy and that was refused by Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda among others, and Faye Dunaway begged for the part and all were lucky for her playing the part. Bonnie and Clyde brought so many accolades and awards for all participants in the film, with 10 nominations at the Academy Awards, and ranking 27 in AFI’s first edition in 1998 and 42 in its edition of 2008 and ranking 5th in its top gangster film list among many other lists and awards.  

A Classic in its own Genre:

The film opens with a brief text bio-introduction of the real characters of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow before getting together, and starting a life-long love and adventure relationship. In the first visual scene, Bonnie is seen in her bedroom half naked and bored. Then she looks down outside through the window and sees a young man, Clyde trying to steal her mother’s car. She gets dressed fast and goes down to confront him and scorns him to be ashamed stealing an old woman‘s car. He claims that he has been browsing it to buy the car. All these happening in a mellow, friendly and somewhat comic way, with both the couple from their looks and ways of conversation seem to have already been drawn to each other.

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The Greatest films of all time:61. Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penne) (USA)


The Greatest films of all time: 61.A Man and a Woman (1966) (France)


“Like our voices that sing ba da ba da…our hearts a chance, like a hope..everything starts again, the life starts much joy..many’s a long history..a man and a woman have forged the frame of chance like more time we fill our hearts with joy and we make the choice in our romance and chance for you and me.” This is the lyrics of the popular song of the film, “A Man and a Woman” by the French filmmaker, Claude Lelouch that since its release has been as great and memorable as the film by the French composer, Francis Lai that adds to the melodramatic flavor of the story.

“You and I, we live in the city, Our hearts for so long, so long, know the rhythm of the streets, amid all these glances, that cross and slip away ours, by chance, stop being unknown. Today it’s you, Today it’s me Today love has taken us in hand. And too bad if it’s going too fast because love is inviting us to live with abandon whatever awaits.” is another song of the film, “Aujourd’hui c’est toi” (Today It’s You). The film has a few other romantic songs that adds to its heartwarming feelings, such as “Plus fort que nous” (Stronger Than Us); “A l’ombre de nous” (In Our Shadow); and “A 200 a l’heure” (200 Km Miles An Hour) that all are the part of the acoustic beauty of the film adding to its great visual and sensational magic.

As a Jew hiding in movie theatres by his mother to escape the prosecution by Gestapo, Claude Lelouch became interested in cinema, so when his father bought him a camera, he started filming around like “a man with a movie camera”. His first film in 1960, “Le Propre de l’homme” threw off the “Cahiers du cinema” who wrote “Claude Lelouch, remember this name well, because you will not hear it again”! His next film, “La femme spectacle” followed prostitutes, women shopping, fixing their noses, etc. was censored for its content. It was not until “A Man and a Woman” that Claude Lelouch wrote and directed that changed his fate in filmmaking.

A Classic Love Story:

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The Greatest films of all time: 60.A Man and a Woman (Jean-Claude Lelouch) (France)


The Greatest films of all time: 10. Persona (1966) (Sweden)


In the history of cinema and in the love for this medium and creativity nobody stands above Ingmar Bergman, except perhaps Charles Chaplin, though Bergman has even superseded this legend of cinema in productivity and variety. While many great filmmakers before him followed one line of work or stuck in the same style, subject or ideology, e.g. John Ford in westerns, Kurosawa in samurai, and Chaplin in his tramp, Bergman followed variety not just in films, but in the theatre and radio. His early fixation with religious/existential topics and the question of God in relation to humans, affected by his religious upbringing under his father as a Lutheran minister, soon changed to addressing earthy and daily life humans’ issues. This matured and flourished in content and techniques to an optimum level beyond his previous works, even his earlier masterpieces in “Persona”.

Bergman: A Cinematic Icon

Bergman started career in film, at age 24 in 1944 writing the script for and assisted in directing the film “Torment” with Alf Sjoberg that brought him a success, so to begin his own filmmaking. For the next 10 years, Bergman experimented on several films until in 1955, the “Smiles of a Summer Night” that was recognized worldwide and nominated for Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Since then this iconic filmmaker had been so productive, creating some years more than one film, such as in 1957 when he made two masterpieces, “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries”, both won numerous awards across the globe and are in the list of the greatest films of all time here and elsewhere. Bergman’s fixation with the religious and God subjects continued into 1960’s with other great films such as the trilogy of “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Lights”, and “Silence”, though the last one started taking off to the more earthy human’s issues and was hailed and critiqued for its sexual content. It was not until “Persona” that Bergman really flourished and showed his talent in filmmaking not limited to existential matters, but he is a master of analyzing the human’s psyche as he did somewhat before in the “Wild Strawberries”.

Persona: A Personal Exploration of the Psyche and Mind  

In an interview and explanation about the film, Bergman has mentioned the prompt to make the film was an experience of split or space out in his mind, cognition, or feeling of non-existence that he had briefly while in hospital due to a sickness before the film. It is futile often to ask explanation of a masterpiece from any creators in any art formats and Bergman is not an exception as the film explores more the psyche of two women, a nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) and an actress patient Elisabet Volger (Liv Ullmann) who could be and in fact the duality of one person.

The film’s Opening scene is one of the most unusual though chilling, beautiful and thoughtful visual short cut shots that have ever been imposed on the silver screen. A series of film reel shots are followed by a black spider (in Bergman’s vocabulary meaning God or the monster side of God) then a hand crucifixion, and killing a lamb (silencing) before the shot of a young boy wakes up in a hospital bed or morgue. The boy sees a large screen with blurry images of two women, Alma and Elisabet that he tries to feel them by touch of his hands. The title credits after is intercepted with flashing images of these two women. In the next scene, the sister nurse Alma enters the master nurse office where she is offered a new task of nursing a famous stage actress, Elisabet who has gone silent or mute recently.

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The Greatest films of all time: 59.The Knack…and how to get it (1965) (England)