It’s time again for our annual Twenty Four Frames Top Ten List of Classic Films Watched… For The First Time. This is our fourth year presenting this list of the best films that I have finally managed to catch up with. As usual the films are in alphabetical order.
In 2013, the list was dominated by American films, unlike in 2012 when only three U.S. films made the list. There are two films from France and one film, a co-production, from the U.K. and India. The 1930’s and the 1950’s had the most films on the list with three each. Both the 1920’s and the 1980’s had tw0. There are 10 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen. For easy access, I have provided a link to all the films watched in 2013. https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/film-diary-2013/
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1931) Lewis Milestone
Classic anti-war film that still packs a punch on the horrors, the meaninglessness and evils of war along with the stupidity of those back home preaching the glories of dying for ones country with shallow patriotic slogans and rhetoric. The battle scenes are as graphic, and magnificently shot, as the war is shown to be senseless. A highlight is when Lew Ayres returns home and visits the classroom of a former teacher. The young teen students are all anxious and ready to go to war. Ayres tells them how it really is…”There’s no glory, we live in the trenches, we fight…we try not to be killed – that’s all!” This is Lewis Milestone’s masterpiece. While he made a few other good films, “The Racket,” “The Front Page,” and “Of Mice and Men” to name a few, he never came close again to making this fine and powerful a cinematic work.
CAMILLE CLAUDEL (1982) Bruno Nuytten
A heartbreaking, passionate, romantic tragedy about art and love. Isabelle Adjani is stunning in the role of the tragic artist Camille Claude who spent the last 15 years of her life in an psychiatric hospital thanks to her brother .
DODSWORTH (1936) William Wyler
Few American films are as honest about marriage as this excellent William Wyler production. Named Best Picture in 1936 with superbly fine tuned performances from Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor (I don’t think Astor ever looked more ravishing). For anyone studying acting this is required viewing. The characters are complex, full bodied and three dimensional. The rest of the cast include David Niven, Paul Lukas, Spring Byington and a young John Payne. “Dodsworth” skillfully captures the sadness, the melancholy of realizing one day that you’re not married to the person you thought you were.
GANHDI (1982) Richard Attenborough
Richard Attenborough’ superb biographical film on the life of Mahatma Ghanhdi, India’s famed leader who led a peaceful revolt against Bristish superamacy. Ben Kingsley is inspirational in the lead role winning a well deserved Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
PICKPOCKET (1959) Robert Bresson
A penniless writer who becomes a pickpocket feels intellectually superior to everyone and above the law. He sees no reason lesser individuals should not “provide” for his lifestyle. He could get a regular job like most people but that would be beneath him; he rather read a book. He has a woman in his life, a good woman, but he cannot bring himself to have a life with her fearing she will make him common…and honest. A work of subtlety and style from Robert Bresson.
THE PILGRIM (1923) Charles Chaplin
Charlie is an escaped convict who poses as a minster and finds himself the new pastor in a small town church. With a running length of about 40 minutes, this would be Chaplin’s final short. This was also his last film with his long time leading lady, Edna Purviance.
SABOTAGE (1936) Alfred Hitchcock
More than seventy years after its release “Sabotage” remains relevant, in fact, it is even more relevant today, considering the world we live in, than in 1936 when it was first released. Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka) is a member of a terrorist group set on crippling London. The films’ most shocking sequence is the terrorist blowing up a London bus filled with people and a young boy who is used to carry the bomb aboard the bus. In 1936, this was considered too shocking and probably far-fetched. In today’s environment we all know this idea is much too close to reality for comfort, just think back to the 2005 series of coordinated public transportation bombings in London including a double-decker bus. The fact we have come to like the boy in earlier scenes only makes it that much more uncomfortable and tragic. The film remains even stronger emotionally today and relevant because of these powerful scenes.
SAFETY LAST !(1923) Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
Country bumpkin Lloyd leaves home, saying goodbye to Mom and promising his girl they will soon marry. He heads to the big city where he plans to become a big success. His famous scene where Harold is hanging on a clock outside a tall building is just one of many stunts the comedian peformed. One of the great silent comedies of all time.
THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956) Douglas Sirk
An undeservedly lesser known film by Sirk exploring the darker side American family life in the 1950’s, a topic the director has explored in many of his works. The film, unlike most Sirk films, centers on the male character, portrayed by Fred MacMurray, and how his needs at home are neglected. Both his kids and wife who has little interest in her husband sexually, fulfilling her own needs by focusing on their ungrateful kids. Freddie finds himself involved with an old girlfriend, Barbara Stanwyck, who is town on business. The film is bleak and offers little in the way of solutions. While MacMurray hopes to start a life with Babs she realizes there is no future for them.
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (1937) Fritz Lang
One of the earliest versions of young lovers on the run, think Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Fritz Lang and like much of the director’s work there is a touch of social commentary, cynicism as well as a love story. Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sydney star.
Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater)
Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)
The Breaking Point (1950) Michael Curtiz
Convicts 4 (1962) Millard Kaufman
Crashout (1955) Lewis R. Foster
Monte Walsh (1970) William A. Fraker
Passion (2012) Brian DePalma
Scandal Sheet (1952) Phil Karlson
Sunnyside (1919) Charles Chaplin
Term of Trial (1962) Peter Glenville