LENNY (Bob Fosse, 1974, US) – Told largely through flashbacks triggered by the wife of stand up comedian Lenny Bruce, this beautifully shot anomaly from the 70s features a magnificent performance by Dustin Hoffman.
DEPARTURES / OKURIBITO (Yojiro Takita, 2008, Japan) – No one quite knows how this one got the Oscar for Best Foreign Film (2009) but it is a slow moving mood piece that offers a rare glimpse at the art of enconffinment. Terrific score by Joe Hisaishi.
THE BIG GUNDOWN / LA RESA DEI CONTI (Sergio Sollima, 1966, Spain/Italy) – This is one of the great Zapata westerns – ugly, brutal and politically conscious.
EL CID (Anthony Mann, 1961, Italy/US) – One of the last great Hollywood epics. Along with The Fall of the Roman Empire, Mann’s career finished on a creative high. Everything works about El Cid including Heston and Loren’s on screen pairing (though they loathed one another during the shoot). Looks incredible on Blu-Ray.
BOMBAY SUMMER (Joseph Matthew, 2009, US) – With a sizable debt to the cinema of Taiwanese film maker Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Bombay Summer makes for a quirky love story between three friends. The ending is unexpected and very moving.
THE YELLOW SEA / HWANGHAE (Hong-Jin Na, 2010, South Korea) – The follow up to Na’s breakthrough hit The Chaser, The Yellow Sea makes for a highly ambitious action thriller. Unfortunately, the narrative strands are excessive and fail to hold together as a coherent whole. Impressively staged chase sequences though.
MOUNTAIN PATROL / KEKEXILI (Lu Chuan, 2004, China) – A landscape film that unveils a hidden world in which a contest between poachers and rangers is played out against the harshness of Tibetan culture.
THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (Robert Bresson, 1951, France) – Bresson’s study of a young country priest who questions his own faith and criticises those around him is an influential film. It was also somewhat underwhelming for a film by Bresson.
A LETTER TO ELIA (Martin Scorsese/Kent Jones, 2010, US) – Gushing with praise and celebratory remarks, Elia Kazan emerges ambiguously as both a hero and villain. It is a documentary of real love and friendship.
STANLEY KA DABBA (Amol Gupte, 2011, India) – Slipping under the radar undetected and receiving positive reviews, Amol Gupte’s directorial debut on the issue of child labour is a beautifully simple tale told with real integrity and compassion.
INSIDIOUS (James Wan, 2011, US) – Scary? Not quite. This is a fairly conventional ghost story lacking in substance.
PUSHER (Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996, Denmark) – The first part in the Pusher trilogy, Refn’s calling card as a talented film maker might be littered with generic situations but it is the nauseous camerawork and gripping narrative that really gets under the skin.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI (Milan Luthria, 2010, India) – A surprisingly effective mainstream crime thriller with a likable turn by Ajay Devgan as the notorious Mumbai smuggler Haji Mastan; acres of style.
COPYCAT (Jon Amiel, 1995, US) – A film in need of serious critical reappraisal. Whilst Amiel has had an uneventful career as a film director, Copycat is his best film and is imbued with a psychological complexity missing from most Hollywood thrillers. It also features brilliant performances by Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (James Ivory, 1993, UK/US) – It would be wrong to simply label this one as another heritage film. It isn’t. It’s a masterpiece in many ways and one of Ismail Merchant’s and James Ivory’s greatest achievements. Hopkins and Thompson are astounding throughout.
SUGAR (Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck, 2008, US/Dominican Republican) – Boden & Fleck’s follow up to the brilliant Half Nelson is a powerful study of the immigrant experience. An American neo realist work comparable to Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo and Reichardt’s Wendy & Lucy.
THE GUNFIGHTER (Henry King, 1950, US) – Starkly shot with an expressionist visual style, Gregory Peck is on top form as the despicable outlaw Jimmy Ringo. A great western with noirish accents.
RIVER’S EDGE (Tim Hunter, 1986, US) – A disturbing study of teen apathy, alienation and conformity that still retains its original power. A wonderful cast made up of Dennis Hopper, Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves.