LA STRADA (Federico Fellini)
Fellini’s first international success, it enabled him to just keep going…..to create, to fantasize, to become……Fellini!
ON THE WATERFRONT (Elia Kazan)
Of course everyone quotes Brando with his Oscar-winning performance. But what about Budd Shulberg’s screenplay, Leonard Bernstein’s score, and both Rod Steiger’s and Lee J. Cobb’s performances? This thing has “timeless” written all over it. Elia Kazan pulls it all together. Need I go on?
REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
One could argue that this is Hitchcock’s first indisputably great film. Sure, he was already among the best filmmakers alive. But REAR WINDOW represents a quantum leap. A stylistic and technical experiment, it was shot almost entirely on a set showing the confines of an apartment with a window overlooking a courtyard and other people’s apartment windows. We never go inside those windows. We can only peer in. Oh, but there are plenty of stories there. Does one of them include murder?
Nothing in REAR WINDOW is as simple as it appears, including the relationship of our protagonists, James Stewart and Grace Kelly. In fact, the entire film can be seen as a reflection on the status of that relationship, as reflected by all the activities of the denizens across the courtyard. There are long passages without dialogue, (quite revolutionary for a film of its time) and none is needed. Quite simply a cinematic masterpiece.
THE SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
Is there a better film to represent the glory of Japanese cinema? I think not. Goddamned near perfect. Kurosawa absorbed the structures and the dynamics of the cinema of the West (John Ford in particular) and imbued them with a sensibility of his own. All the while framing the story solidly within a rich tableau of Japanese history. The results could “play” all over the world. And it did. All subsequent versions (THE MAGNIFICENT 7, etc.) pale next to this monumental achievement.
GODZILLA (Ishiro Honda)
Born the same year as I was, and almost bearing my same last name, this one becomes almost essential by nature. Who is the king of the monsters??! And as the recent installment suggests, we just might both live forever.
TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (Jacques Becker)
The French loved American gangster movies, but they knew how to make their own. They had the home-grown variety, so why not tell stories with a local flavor. Becker’s style owes a lot to his love of American film as well, particularly the pacing and staging of William Wyler. GRISBI is a beautiful example of cross-pollination. Maybe Jean Gabin’s career didn’t need resurrecting, but this gem certainly didn’t hurt.