I had some more-than-usual free time lately so I’ve been watching a lot of movies. Below are just the ones that got on the list of my favorite movies, the names of the others will be forgotten.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1975, Dersu Uzala is a portrait of the friendship between a Russian surveyor and an aging Nanai hunter.
By the way, if you were impressed (just like I was) by Maxim Munzuk, the actor that plays Dersu Uzala, you should really read this 4-part article by his daughter, Svetlana Munzuk, (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
Life can’t be stopped, that means that time can’t be stopped either. The saying - a time for everything - is not in vain. It really is like that: everybody is born in his own time and lives in his own times. Maxim Munzuk
A lesser known entry in the celebrated canon of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki – lesser known compared to his bigger, widely regarded titles anyway – Porco Rosso is closer to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises than his more fantastical works like Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro. It’s based on Miyazaki’s own watercolour manga Hikotei Jidai.
Unusually for Miyazaki the movie is set in a definite place and time: during the 1930s in the Adriatic seas (with a gorgeously French/Mediterranean score) sea plane pirates raid tourists and supply chains. It takes hired guns to stop them, and ex-Italian fighter pilot Porco is considered the best. But there’s only one thing, he suffers under a curse that has made him look like a pig!
A pig that doesn’t fly is just a pig. Porco
Directed by Michael Haneke in 1989, The Seventh Continent is about a normal middle-class family that methodically destroys all the trappings of the modern society in a very shocking manner.
To emphasize the alienation of people in this type of society, most of this is filmed close-up, in a cool, detached manner, the people operating these systems or subject to them anonymous and faceless – slaves to routines and mechanical processes.
Haneke’s inspiration for the The Seventh Continent came from a newspaper article he read, but Haneke typically makes no documentarian attempt to understand or explain the reasoning behind the family’s actions. A heavy, heavy movie.
We have to cancel the newspaper subscription.Georg Schober
Directed by Larisa Shepitko in 1977, The Ascent is a bleak but gorgeous study of survival. Two Soviet soldiers are captured by Nazis. The first, Sotkinov, refuses to cooperate and is tortured. The second, Rybak, is more forthcoming.
Anatoliy Solonitsyn portrays Portnov, the Nazi investigator. Solonitsyn is brilliant in his exchanges with the soldiers – he is emotionally numb and a bitter realist given his role. He cruelly rips apart Sotkinov’s morality, suggesting that nothing in the world holds such value.
Where? What is it? What’s it made of? That’s nonsense. We’re mortal. With death, everything ends for up, all of life. The entire world. It’s not worth it. For what? As an example for future generations? But you won’t have a heroic death, either. You won’t just die. You’ll croak like a traitor. And if you won’t tell, someone else will. And we’ll write it off to you. Understand? Portnov
Directed by Paul Greengrass in 2020, News of the World imagines a place where an open-minded former Confederate soldier in Texas enhances his life by using his education and empathy. Tom Hanks plays a man who travels from town to town, charging locals to listen to him reading from newspapers. Along the way, he picks up a young girl (Helena Zengel) who needs to be delivered home after spending years with Kiowa.
Although set in the 1870’s, the message here is still very, relevant today. Things like compassion, nobility and just trying to be a good person and do the right thing will never feel dated, and never should. Hanks has delivered some truly memorable roles playing characters with those traits and here is no exception. What makes News of the World stand-out is not only the leading man, but also the performance from his young co-star. The two are absolutely, great together and Helena Zengel holds her own with Hanks.
News of the World it is the perfect kind of story we could use right now, showing us humanity at it’s best, even when faced with humanity at its worst. Therefore, it’s a fantasy movie.
The News. I read the news for anyone with 10 cents in his time to hear it. Captain Kidd
Directed by Terrence Malick in 2011, The Tree of Life is just a painting of life, nothing less; although it seems disjointed at times and unfolds slowly, it is the most pure Terrence Malick if you will.
In all its passion, whispers, colors and surrealist imagery it tries to tell you the story of a family, and how they grapple with life and death. But it’s not a grim existential crisis, the movie talks about nature and about grace (personified by the father and mother, played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain).
The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it, too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things. They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes. Mrs. O’Brien
Released in 1998, The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick’s return after 20 years is often overlooked by Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’. However, the emotional brute force of ‘The Thin Red Line’, based on James Jones’ semi-autobiographical 1962 novel, must not go unseen by fans of the war genre. The film is about military and moral unrest; the infantrymen ahead of the Battle of Guadalcanal are terrified and both physically and mentally ill-equipped for the hilltop assault that devours the majority of the picture.
Terrence Malick chose John Toll (Braveheart, Iron Man 3, Tropic Thunder, The Last Samurai) as cinematographer to shoot The Thin Red Line. Good choice it was, because Toll’s job is nothing but superb.
This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might’ve known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? Pvt. Edward Train
There is nothing else I could say about Stalker, the movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1979, that hasn’t been said before. It’s a masterpiece and you should definitely watch it.
While I am digging for the truth, so much happens to it that instead of discovering the truth I dig up a heap of, pardon… I’d better not name it. Writer