Five Films for Film Fans

10 Mar

Here’s a list of five films favored by the folks down here at De Jungle. We don’t claim that these are the five best of all time, merely that they are all well worth watching.  We present them here in chronological order.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Director: John Huston

How ’bout a hard-boilied detective story?  Here’s one of the best, with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, the chain-smoking fast-talking hero of the piece.  We follow Sam as he tries to unravel the mystery of a jewel-encrusted statue.  The film is occasionally a bit talky, but it has strong supporting performances by Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. (This picture is not to be confused with “The Maltese Bippy” (1969). ) While we’re on the subject of Humphrey Bogart, check out Casablanca (1942) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).

Maltese Falcon

This film will give you the bird.

Day for Night (La nuit américaine) (1973)

Director: François Truffaut

A movie about the making of a movie, and all the headaches that go with it. we don’t want to say too much about this film other than Go out and rent it (or download it , or whatever way you satisfy your movie jones.)  Watch it with someone who likes movies.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Director: Terence Malick

The thing that draws us most about this film is its beautiful imagery — the film’s cinematographer was Nestor Almendros  and scenes from this film are reminiscent of Edward Hopper paintings. The story is set early 20th century America, and deals with themes of love and betrayal. Though this film is primarily a visual experience, the director makes effective use of sound as well.  In one scene, we see the a wealthy farmer’s face turn to rage while the sound of the turning blades of a fan build in counterpoint to the visuals.  Run, don’t walk to see this film.

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Director: Werner Herzog

Fitzcarraldo is a man obsessed with building an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. In order to finance his quixotic venture, the protaganist goes into the rubber business.  There’s only one problem — in order to reach the rubber trees, he must proceed down a jungle river, then haul his steamship over a steep hill to another river.  The film’s central image of the ship being dragged up a hill was accomplished without the use of special effects.

From the beginning, the production was beset by problems, some of the director’s own making.  Had he wanted to, Herzog could have shot the entire film outside Inquitos, Peru.  Instead, he opted to travel 1500 miles into the jungle to shoot the film, explaining that this was necessary to better performances from the actors, and even the crew.  Jason Robards, the first actor cast for the lead role, developed amoebic dysentery and was advised by his physician not to return to the jungle. Delays forced Mick Jagger, cast as a Shakespeare-quoting sidekick, to pull out as well.

Herzog brought in Kinski to replace Robards, and in our view, this was all to the good.  Jason Robards was an accomplished actor, but Kinski brought a crazed energy to the role that Robards just couldn’t match.  But don’t take our word for it — see the film along with Burden of Dreams, the documentary about its making, and decide for yourself.

The Godfather: Part III (1990)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Most people would choose The Godfather or The Godfather: Part 2 over this, the third film in the series, any day.  Not us. We like this one the best.  It’s the one that’s the most grandiose and operatic in its staging (indeed, the film’s climax is set during the performance of an opera.)  Al Pacino chews up scenery and does it well, at one point proclaiming Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!  Robert Duvall‘s character has been replaced with the too-tanned George Hamilton, who does surprisingly well in his role, as do Eli Wallach, Talia Shire, Joe Mantegna, and Andy Garcia.  The much-maligned Sofia Copplola, in our humble opinion, did not deserve the bad press she got for her portrayal of Michael Coreleone’s daughter. The whole thing plays out like an over-the-top, post-modern Greek tragedy.

And here are two more that we like but we were too lazy to write about in this post (besides, they would have ruined the illiteration in this post’s title):

La Strada (1941)

Director: Federico Fellini

The Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)

Director: Tony Richardson

 

 

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