The Greatest films of all time: 73. Apocalypse Now (1979) (USA)

Introduction:

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 Greatest films of all time: 72. Apocalypse Now (1979) (USA)

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The Greatest films of all time: 72.The Deer Hunter (1978) (USA)

Introduction:

“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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The Greatest films of all time: 71.The Deer Hunter (1978) (USA)

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The Greatest films of all time:71.Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (USA)

Introduction:

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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The Greatest films of all time:70. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (USA)

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The Greatest films of all time:70.Taxi Driver (1976) (USA)

Introduction:

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

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

Introduction:

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)

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

Introduction:

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)

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

Introduction:

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)

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

Introduction:

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)

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

Introduction:

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)

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

Introduction:

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)

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