The Phantom Carriage (Swedish: Körkarlen) | Victor Sjöström. 1921
On New Year’s Eve, the dying Salvation Army girl Edit has one last wish: to speak with David Holm. David, an alcoholic, is sitting in a graveyard with two drinking buddies, talking about his old friend Georges who told him about Death’s carriage—the legend that the last person to die each year has to work under the “strict master” Death and collect the souls of everybody who dies the following year. Georges himself died on New Year’s Eve last year.
A Swedish romantic horror film, generally considered to be one of the central works in the history of Swedish cinema. Released on New Year’s Day, it was directed by and starred Victor Sjöström, alongside Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg and Astrid Holm. It is based on a novel of Körkarlen (1912), by Nobel-prize winning Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. The film is notable for its special effects, its advanced (for the time) narrative structure with flashbacks within flashbacks, and for having been a major influence on Ingmar Bergman.
Mother India (Hindi: भारत माता, Urdu: بھارت ماتا) | Mehboob Kha | 1957.
A Bollywood film starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and Raj Kumar. The film is a remake of Mehboob Khan’s earlier film Aurat (1940). The film was fifth Indo-Russian co-production, and was preceded by Pardesi (1957), also starring Nargis Dutt. In 2005, Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. The film ranked #3 in the list of all-time box office hits.
The film was India’s first submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958, and was chosen as one of the five nominations for the category. The film came close to winning the award, but eventually lost to Frederico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria by a single vote.
Cabiria | Giovanni Pastrone | 1914 | 181 m
A silent movie from the early years of Italy’s movie industry, directed by Giovanni Pastrone.The movie is based on Emilio Salgari’s Cartagine in fiamme (Carthage in Flames) and Gustave Flaubert’s novel Salammbo. Set in ancient Carthage during the period of the Second Punic War, it treats the conflict between Rome and Carthage through the eyes of the title character, who is kidnapped by pirates, sold as a slave in Carthage, and rescued from being sacrificed to the god Moloch by a Roman nobleman and his muscular slave Maciste (who would later become the protagonist in a whole successful series of films on his own). Hannibal and his war elephants fit into the plot of this epic film.
Italian author Gabriele d’Annunzio contributed to the screenplay writing all of the intertitles and naming all characters and the movie itself. The film was noted as being the first popular film to use the tracking shot – the camera is mounted on a dolly allowing it to both follow action and move within a film set or location. For years afterward a tracking shot was referred to by both cameramen and directors as a ‘Cabiria’ shot. However in many cases Pastrone used these shots with no real purpose other than the novelty of camera movement within a location. In some instances the camera rolls toward and then right past what should be the focus of the shot. However, the movement was such an innovation at the time that other film makers quickly incorporated it. The film was a major influence on D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance. The famous crane shot moving down and into the festival in Babylon is in a sense a ‘Cabiria’ shot taken to the ultimate extent.
The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel)| Volker Schlöndorff, 1979
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Günter Grass, the film won the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and the 1979 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.David Bennent plays Oskar, the young son of a Kashubian family in a rural area of the Free City of Danzig, circa 1925. On his third birthday, Oskar receives a shiny new tin drum. At this point, rather than mature into one of the miserable specimens of grown-up humanity that he sees around him, he vows never to get any bigger. Whenever the world around him becomes too much to bear, the boy begins to hammer on his drum; should anyone try to take the toy away from him, he emits an ear-piercing scream that shatters glass. As Germany evolves towards Nazism and war in the 1930s and 1940s, the unaging Oskar continues savagely beating his drum. Only after the Soviet invasion at the end of the war, when his only surviving family member is killed, does he decide to grow up.
Black Narcissus |Michael Powell, 1947
Black Narcissus (1947) is a film by the British director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, based on the novel of the same name by Rumer Godden. It is a psychological drama about the emotional tensions within a convent of nuns in an isolated Himalayan valley, and stars Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar and Flora Robson, and features Esmond Knight, Jean Simmons and Kathleen Byron. A group of Anglican nuns travels to a remote location in the Himalayas (the Palace of Mopu, near Darjeeling) to set up a school and hospital and ‘tame’ the local people and environment, by conversion and gardening, only to find themselves increasingly seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings in a converted seraglio, and by the local British agent Dean (David Farrar). Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), the Sister in charge, is attempting to forget a failed romance at home in Ireland. Tensions mount as Dean’s laid-back charm makes an impression on Clodagh, but also attracts the mentally unstable Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who becomes pathologically jealous of Clodagh, resulting in a nervous breakdown and a violent climax. In a subplot, ‘the Young General’ (Sabu), heir to the throne of a princely Indian state who has come to the convent for his education, becomes infatuated with a lower caste dancing girl (Jean Simmons).
The Eel (Unagi) | Shohei Imamura, 1997
The Eel (Japanese: うなぎ, Unagi) is a 1997 film loosely based on the novel On Parole by celebrated author Akira Yoshimura. Directed by Shohei Imamura and starring Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho and Akira Emoto, Acting on the advice of an anonymous note, Takuro Yamashita (Yakusho) returns home early one night to find his wife in bed with another man. He kills her and then turns himself in to the police. After being released from prison, he opens a barber shop. He helps save Keiko (Shimizu) from a suicide attempt, after which she works at his shop. It becomes clear that Keiko has romantic affections for Takuro, but his reciprocation is redirected towards his pet eel.
Mulholland Drive | David Lynch, 2001
Mulholland Drive is a 2001 neo-noir psychological thriller written and directed by David Lynch, and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring and Justin Theroux. Originally conceived as a television pilot, a large portion of the film was shot with Lynch’s plan to keep it open-ended for a potential series. After viewing Lynch’s version, however, television executives decided to reject it; Lynch then provided an ending to the project, making it a feature film. The half-pilot, half-feature result, along with Lynch’s characteristic style, has left the general meaning of the movie’s events open to interpretation. Lynch has declined to offer an explanation of his intentions for the narrative, leaving audiences, critics, and cast members to speculate on what transpires. The film tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms, newly arrived in Los Angeles, California, who meets and befriends an amnesiac hiding in her aunt’s apartment. The story includes several other seemingly unrelated vignettes that eventually connect in various ways, as well as some surreal scenes and images that relate to the cryptic narrative.
TranSylvania | Tony Gatlif, 2006
Transylvania is a 2006 French drama film starring Asia Argento. In 2006, Director Tony Gatlif and composer Delphine Mantoulet won the “Georges Delerue Prize” at the Flanders International Film Festival for the score, and Gatlif was nominated for the “Grand Prix” award. Translyania premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in France on May 28, and premiered at in the United States on March 16, 2007 at the Cleveland International Film Festival and in the United Kingdom at the Cambridge Film Festival on July 6, 2007 (with a later theatrical release on August 10, 2007).