Amoeblog

What Sight & Sound (Mostly) Missed: My Personal Top 20 Films of All Time

Posted by Charles Reece, August 3, 2012 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Sight & Sound has released its "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" list for the decade. The good news is that Hitchcock took over the number 1 position from Welles and Eisenstein was kicked out of the top 10. About time. The top 20 from the list are: (1) Vertigo (2) Citizen Kane (3) Tokyo Story (4) The Rules of the Game (5) Sunrise (6) 2001 (7) The Searchers (8) Man with a Movie Camera (9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (10)  (11) Battleship Potemkin (12) L'Atalante (13) Breathless (14) Apocalypse Now (15) Late Spring (16) Au hasard Balthazar (17/18) Seven Samurai and Persona (tie) (19) Mirror (20) Singin' in the Rain. This got me to wondering: which films do I always feel like watching, regardless of what I'm reading, thinking about or feeling? After about an hour (which is more time spent than these kind of lists are probably worth), the following is what I came up with as the films that have and will likely continue to provide me with the most enjoyment, discarding any historical concern for the aesthetic enrichment of the cinematic commonweal. In no particular order, my 20 list:

bladerunner poster
Blade Runner - Ridley Scott

sweet smell of success criterion cover
Sweet Smell of Success - Alexander Mackendrick

high and low criterion cover
High and Low - Akira Kurosawa

Horror, The Universal Language 4: Freedom vs. Conformity in Blind Beast (1969) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Posted by Charles Reece, October 17, 2010 11:52pm | Post a Comment
 blind beast poster french   invasion of the body snatchers poster

Halloween's coming, so why not continue with my horror double-feature suggestions? Although based on an early 1930s story by Edogawa RampoBlind Beast can be seen as Yasuzo Masumura's inverted take on John Fowles' abduction classic The Collector (made into a 1965 movie by William Wyler, which might've been recommended here if it were a better adaptation). Fowles' book is about class and the empty exercise of capital, in which an alienated office clerk moves up the economic ladder by winning the lottery, but remains on the outside looking in. His only passions are in the form of commodity fetishism: collecting butterflies and fantasizing about a beautiful young female artist whom he obsessively watches from afar. He uses his newfound wealth to kidnap and imprison her with the hopes that she'll discover who he truly is, you know, on the inside. But what he is is nothing more than a guy who collects things, with no more connection to those things than that they fulfill some mental checklist. His is a life reduced to reification where an emotional bond is seen as two stamps being placed together in a book.

In Blind Beast, the kidnapper, Aki, is a blind sculptor who poses as a masseur in order to get tactile inspiration for his art, surrealistic walls of female body parts. Being a sadist, Aki finds his perfect model, Michio, a woman who begins as his victim, but with the transgressive sexualization of pain (or, perhaps, the Stockholm Syndrome) is transformed into a willing masochist. As Luis Buñuel explained his attraction to surrealism:

For the first time in my life, I'd come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, more coherent. -- quoted here

Whereas The Collector's Frederick never sees his captive as more than an object, thereby reinforcing his own alienation, Michio's abduction is cause for an aesthetic release from objectifying social restrictions. In a spiraling dialectic of slicing and dicing, she and Aki achieve an intersubjective bond through sensuousness (more painful than I'd prefer, but you get the picture).

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