Moving across the English Channel to Britain, we have 4 films (I misconceived one of the films I purchased as being American instead of British, so ignore what I said in the previous post) from some exceptional directors. Jean Renoir (son of the famous painter), Nicolas Roag–a more radical director, Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, and Terence Davies–one of England’s most famous independent directors.
#33. The River
By 1951, color was slowly becoming the norm. Renoir, who had already established himself as one of the greatest directors of the era with 2 films (Le Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game that are considered the greatest of all time depending on the list you are looking at,) directed his first color film in The River. Seldom do films have a tranquil feeling to them, but The River is one that feels so peaceful that it flows just like the Bengal River. Shot entirely on location, something that had never quite been done before in India, it is absolutely beautiful especially when you add in the vibrant colors of the country (Wes Anderson owes a lot to this movie for his work The Darjeeling Limited.)
The story follows the lives up an affluent English family living on the Bengal River. When their neighbor invites the attractive Captain John, the daughters in the family all fall for him despite all of them being at different ages. It is a film of first love, maturity, and the dangers of the world. Yet, for some reason, it never escalates to melodrama. It is as tranquil as can be, and while it may not excite or surprise, it simply flows majestically like a great river. It is truly a serene film.
#34. The Long Day Closes
Shifting gears dramatically comes a film from a little-known director (Terence Davies) who has hardly made a mark in America, but in Britain he is considered one of the greatest. The Long Day Closes is a surreal look into an autobiographical story from the director himself. Filled with enough subtleties to prompt multiple viewings, the film is actually full of melancholy as opposed to optimism. Taking place in the 1950s, it takes on a whole different meaning once you learn of the treatment of homosexuals, which is slyly referenced to as we learn of the main character, Bud, a young student who is finding his feelings and emotions things of terror due to the church.
If there is ever a more bittersweet autobiographical film, let me know. Davies shows us the struggles he endured as a child through the eyes of a boy who simply escapes into the realm of movies as opposed to dealing with the cards life dealt him. It is a somber reminder that movies are less of an entertainment to some and more of an escapism from the daily confines of the school and family who try to tell us we are wrong in what we are when it is nothing we can actually control.
#35. Time Bandits
Continuing on with the trend of weird movies, Time Bandits is essentially a time-warping, satirical look into history and everything in between. With a cast that includes Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Holm, and Shelley Duvall, it manages to appear as your average fantasy film, but it also has the tendency to have a darker underside, especially in its bizarre and tragic ending.
Following a young boy who gets mixed up with time-traveling dwarves, we see Robin Hood, Napoleon, Agamemnon, and even stranger sights. At times it feels grounded in its time-travel, but out of nowhere it goes into total fantasy with giants, the incarnation of evil, and the “Supreme Being,” but it’s Terry Gilliam, so this is pretty normal for him.
#36. Don’t Look Now
Finally, from one of Britain’s most famous directors, Nicolas Roag, comes Don’t Look Now. After the tragic death of their daughter, a married couple played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie find themselves in Venice when Sutherland’s character takes a job restoring mosaics. Things get eerie once they encounter a psychic who claims their daughter is still with them, which then prompts the husband to start seeing images of a girl in the same red coat that his daughter was wearing when she died.
Shot on location in a gray and dreary Venice, Don’t Look Now achieves the same paranoia inducing tones that made Rosemary’s Baby so famous. Just like Sutherland’s character, you are constantly looking around as the camera whips from side to side, further enhancing the terror. While it does not rely on a bunch of jump-scares, it still manages to get under your skin.
Up next will finally be the French films, of which I have 5. One from the New Wave, one from the director of Eyes Without a Face, and a monumental trilogy from Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski.