Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame VI

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10 Foreign Language movies to go
I really have a great fondness for Ida as well. Still haven't seen The Princess Bride.
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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Adaptation (2002)



Rome, Open City
(Roberto Rossellini, 1945)

Damn that was a powerful scene. When the woman went running after the Nazi police truck I wasn't expecting what happened next. Coming out of the cold and being unexpected made the brutality of the Nazi's coldly real. When the main suspect of the Italian resistances is taken to Nazi headquarters in Rome and tortured..the off camera screams made the interrogation more hideously cruel than if we had watched the man being beat on camera. The mind can image more visceral images than the camera can ever capture.

Good choice and good movie.




Rome, Open City
(Roberto Rossellini, 1945)

Damn that was a powerful scene. When the woman went running after the Nazi police truck I wasn't expecting what happened next. Coming out of the cold and being unexpected made the brutality of the Nazi's coldly real. When the main suspect of the Italian resistances is taken to Nazi headquarters in Rome and tortured..the off camera screams made the interrogation more hideously cruel than if we had watched the man being beat on camera. The mind can image more visceral images than the camera can ever capture.

Good choice and good movie.

This is another I watched but feel like I didn't see. Me need to fix that.



This is another I watched but feel like I didn't see. Me need to fix that.
I could agree with that. For the first part of the film I wasn't sure who all the players were, except of course the Nazis were the bad guys. But once I knew who was who, then it worked better for me, still I don't feel I got the full grip of the film.



Rome, Open City
(Roberto Rossellini, 1945)

Damn that was a powerful scene. When the woman went running after the Nazi police truck I wasn't expecting what happened next. Coming out of the cold and being unexpected made the brutality of the Nazi's coldly real. When the main suspect of the Italian resistances is taken to Nazi headquarters in Rome and tortured..the off camera screams made the interrogation more hideously cruel than if we had watched the man being beat on camera. The mind can image more visceral images than the camera can ever capture.

Good choice and good movie.

You should check out Paisan and Germany, Year Zero as well, the other two films in the trilogy. They're also very good.
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You should check out Paisan and Germany, Year Zero as well, the other two films in the trilogy. They're also very good.
@Citizen Rules I recommend Germany Year Zero. Great film!!



10 Foreign Language movies to go


Nashville - 1975

Directed by Robert Altman

Written by Joan Tewkesbury

Starring Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Timothy Brown
Geraldine Chaplin, Robert DoQui, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn
Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Allan F. Nicholls, Dave Peel
Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles & Keenan Wynn

Something I've become aware of lately is the fact that some films that seem to have been intricately constructed and those full of meaningful interpretative twists and turns are often constructed ad-hoc, which seems to point to the fact that a filmmaker's subconscious can be more powerful than any attempt to consciously create an artwork that means something in a deep sense. When Robert Altman's Nashville came to an end my mind was working overtime, for it's a film that seems to be saying a lot - and one that invites interpretation - so I was surprised to learn that Altman made it without having any of that on his mind. He set 24 characters up (unusual in itself for the sheer size of ensemble) - ones who would travail along this story in Nashville that involved music and politics - and let the actors play their characters freely, with specific events as a guideline. What comes out of it is as if a prism has been held up, and this story has delineated everything you could possibly say about American culture, celebrity, governance, people and history. Because of that, Nashville is considered in many circles as one of the greatest films ever made.

The film starts in a recording session, where country & western singer Haven Hamilton (played by Henry Gibson, who I've enjoyed watching in such films as The 'Burbs as the elder Klopek living next door to a skittish Tom Hanks) is recording a song. Watching on is Opal (played by Charlie Chaplin's daughter, Geraldine Chaplin) - a documentarian from England, Lady Pearl (played by Barbara Baxley) his companion, who has a John and Bobby Kennedy fixation, and his son Bud Hamilton (played by Dave Peel) who is softly spoken and reserved. Through the film we also meet Mr. Green (played by an ageing Keenan Wynn) who is preoccupied by his wife, who is in hospital and dying, his niece Martha (played by Robert Altman regular Shelley Duvall) who has changed her name to 'L.A. Jean', Delbert "Del" Reese (played by Ned Beatty), who is politically connected and has money, his wife Linnea Reese (played by Lily Tomlin) who is a gospel singer and raises two deaf children. Arriving at a Nashville airport is country and western star Barbara Jean (played by Ronee Blakley - most recognizable to me as Mrs. Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street) and among those waiting for her is a folk trio, Bill, Mary and Tom (played by Allan F. Nicholls, Cristina Raines and Keith Carradine) plus the man who is to be their driver, Norman (played by David Arkin).

Barbara Jean faints at the airport, and is taken to the same hospital as Mr. Green's wife by her husband and manager, Barnett (played by Allen Garfield) - those who follow along include Pfc. Glenn Kelly (played by Scott Glenn) who is a Vietnam war veteran. Replacing her at the Grand Old Oprey is country and western star, as well as Jean's rival, Connie White (Karen Black). Several characters often make their presence felt along the fringes of the goings on these people drive forward, and they include Sueleen Gay (played by Gwen Welles) - someone who has singing aspirations, but can't sing, Wade Cooley (played by Robert DoQui) - a cook who looks out for Sueleen and tries to protect her from being exploited, Winifred (played by Barbara Harris) a middle-aged woman who also has singing aspirations, despite her ragged appearance, and her husband, Star (played by Bert Remsen) who spends most of the film chasing after her. Not mentioned yet are Tommy Brown (played by Timothy Brown) - a rare African-American country singer, the Tricycle Man (played by Jeff Goldblum) - a magician who never speaks, Kenny Frasier (played by David Hayward) - a loner who carries a violin case around with him, and John Triplette (played by Michael Murphy) - a consultant for the presidential campaign of Hal Phillip Walker (voiced by Thomas Hal Phillips) - it's Walker's presidential campaign that knits the film together, and you often hear parts of his various speeches. Elliott Gould and Julie Christie appear briefly as themselves.

The fact that the film is split fairly evenly between these 24 characters is what makes it so unique, and these characters do things which often overlap with each other. Various recording sessions, concerts, performances and political rallies sees them moving from place to place - having discussions and running into each other. Politics, music and celebrity are the main issues the film revolves around, but it does this in a way that's both complex and captivatingly simple. Barbara Jean battles a nervous breakdown as Opal tries to record interviews and Delbert along with John Triplette organises a rally for Walker. Through all of this we eavesdrop on various conversations and make observations. Keith Carradine's Tom, meanwhile, beds a variety of the female characters while remaining emotionally distant from everyone. Sueleen Gay is roped into appearing at a strip club when all she wants is to do sing, which she can't and as such never will - and all the characters end up congregating together at the political rally where the film's denouement takes place with a very dramatic event which ties everything we've seen together into a meaningful and tragic way. It makes great use of the music, which ranges from great to awful in a very realistic and believable way.

The music was, very surprisingly, composed by the actors themselves, usually the ones who end up singing what they've composed. In this way, Carradine managed to garner an Oscar from the only time he was nominated for one - winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I'm Easy" in 1976. The film did end up getting nominated for Best Picture (the year One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won, competing with Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws and Barry Lyndon) with both Lily Tomlin and Ronee Blakley both being nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I find most of the performances in the film fairly even, but perhaps Blakley and Tomlin's did nudge ahead of the rest slightly. Dealing with a breakdown, having a loveless affair and looking after special needs kids brought out more emotion and complexity than other actors had to dig up. I enjoyed watching the entire ensemble, especially Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall after seeing them both as a couple in Altman's Thieves Like Us - making their brief union together in this something of a reunion. The singing from Carradine and Blekley was great, and I enjoyed it very much.

The story was pretty much mapped out by Joan Tewkesbury (who also had a hand in writing the screenplay for Thieves Like Us) after Altman sent her to Nashville to come up with ideas - many events, for example the accident on the freeway, actually happened to her while she was there. The dialogue itself was left up the the actors. You can hear Tewkesbury's voice when Tom talks to his lover on the phone, and again when Kenny Frasier talks to his mother on the phone. This method, and the way Robert Altman directed the film, was on a level of sublime filmmaking - and I would have liked to have seen him win the Oscar for Best Director he was nominated for, but this was the year of Milos Forman and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Robert Altman is one of my friend's number one favourite filmmakers, and I've seen many films of his that I rate very highly - one of the films of his I like the most, Brewster McCloud, has a very similar feel to Nashville in style, and another, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is without peer. He had a truly great decade in the 1970s, and came back into the mainstream in the 1990s with The Player. Those films of his I haven't seen, I look forward to seeing very much. Altman has said that Nashville was the first film of his in which he had 100% creative control.

Director of Photography Paul Lohmann handled the cinematography, but this film has the feel of one that isn't composed of many carefully mapped out shots - it has more of a documentary feel, with the camera capturing the most important of what is sometimes several events happening at the same time. There are sometimes interesting things going on in the background of shots, and a lot to take in through the film's packed 160 minute running time. It's said that the initial cut of the film ran much longer, and initially consideration was given to releasing Nashville as two or three films - but Altman has at times contradicted this. I can imagine that there was a lot of footage shot, but that there's a lot of overlap, with various characters performing the same events in different ways. Lohmann was cinematographer on Altman film California Split, but he wasn't a regular who teamed with the filmmaker - he also ended up as DOP on a couple of 1970s Mel Brooks films. Musically, Richard Baskin ended up supervising what the various actors didn't compose - he can be seen at the start of the film as piano player "Frog", who Haven Hamilton dismisses. Musically, Nashville is a very enjoyable film.

So, overall the impression I get is a film that was heavily influenced by the spate of assassinations blighting the American political scene at the time, the war in Vietnam, the political convulsions which Richard Nixon was sending through the entire country all mixed up into a music scene which had at it's time a few epicenters - Nashville being one. The scene in Nashville would have had patriotic overtones, as we see in the film's first scene, but also will have commented on and influenced American culture as a whole. Focusing on a presidential campaign in Nashville combined everything, and the unpredictable results of letting the actors guide themselves produced off-the-cuff lines that are revealing and interesting. Fed into that is the obviously scripted words of candidate Hal Phillip Walker - a populist telling the average American what he or she wants to hear. There are no overt comments overall, with the person who watches it left to put all of the pieces together as they listen to Barbara Harris sing Caradine's "It Don't Worry Me" - but there's a feeling of unease - and a feeling that nobody really controls or guides this cultural synergy - with music, advertising and our fellow man both influencing or inhibiting the direction the nation as a whole takes - but where one person alone can never make a difference, unless it's the assassin.

I had many different ideas about what Nashville was about, and as a whole it's a very stimulating film, along with being enjoyable to watch and listen to. The counterculture revolution of the 1960s had subsided, and what seems most noticeable about this mid-70s period, apart from it's cynicism, is the feeling that chaos is all that really rules, and it's given free reign in a cinematic kind of sense here. When characters in the film are superficial, it stands out from our point of view because we can see what's happening from every vantage point - and it's often one person's vanity that blinds them to what's really going on in a larger context. It's an amazing film because it's more visible with this kind of filmmaking, and anything more structured doesn't resemble how the world really works. For me, it's also very interesting to watch Kenny Frasier make his way through the film with his violin case - he's one person who's not at ease, but at the same time exhibiting no external sense of conflict. He's not influencing anyone, and not being influenced. He's not a part of this large co-functioning community at all - but simply the mystery at the heart of this American heartland.

On the film's surface however, it's not so heavy or intricate, but a lot of fun, and a very funny film with something amusing happening all the time. No character (except Tom perhaps) is above being shown up as a boob or the butt of some joke which takes away his or her dignity, because that's also what life is about, especially in a Robert Altman film. It thrills us with the unexpected, such as when Winifred reveals at the end just how well she can sing and how adept she ends up being in pacifying the crowd with her song. It's a little unnerving, how quickly everything reverts back to normality, but that's humanity as a whole - as resilient as we are - in spite of our lesser virtues. I don't know if Altman planned on capturing as much of us, and of American culture, as he did, but obviously this film has a lot to say - even though much of what the director had to say he ended up capturing subconsciously, guided by the chaotic events that occurred as his screenwriter travelled through Nashville to try and take the city on and get a feel for it. "The damndest thing you ever saw." That's the best the publicity people could get to a functioning tagline - and it is like that. Another unique film from the 1970s that was of it's time and place and of it's artist - the incomparable Robert Altman.




I haven't seen Nashville since the 70's countdown but I thought it was great. Big fan of Altman, there's a couple more of his movies I still want to see (hint hint).



You should check out Paisan and Germany, Year Zero as well, the other two films in the trilogy. They're also very good.
Paisan sounds like I might like that.

@Citizen Rules I recommend Germany Year Zero. Great film!!
I've seen Germany Year Zero in an HoF, but I couldn't find English subs so just watched it in German. Did I mention I don't speak a lick of German.



Paisan sounds like I might like that.

I've seen Germany Year Zero in an HoF, but I couldn't find English subs so just watched it in German. Did I mention I don't speak a lick of German.
The thing about Germany Year Zero, even if you don't understand the language, you still understand the story. It's a tragic one.



The thing about Germany Year Zero, even if you don't understand the language, you still understand the story. It's a tragic one.
Yeah that's very true. I was surprised by watching the actor's faces how much emotion I could get out of it, when I didn't know what they were saying. That's one film I'd really be interested in seeing again just because the subject matter is pretty unique. I don't know of any other films about Germany during the occupation.



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Nights of Cabiria

I think the main reason I hadn't watched this before was that I had vaguely confused it with La Strada, which I have seen. Another reason might be that I never liked La Dolce Vita and have always been slightly wary about Fellini as a result. One thing that surprised me about this was that it had quite a few similarities to La Dolce Vita, but manages to address a lot of the issues I had with it - where La Dolce Vita is told from the viewpoint of a wealthy, cynical womanising man, here we have a naive prostitute with a genuine yearning for love and a better life and it allows for much more truth and warmth even when some of the situations presented are similar.

I wasn't sure I would like this at the start, I thought I would find the main character annoying, she just kept shouting at everyone, but she became deeply sympathetic and the film emotional and compelling. I wasn't initially convinced by Giulietta Masina's central performance - it's a little exaggerated and clown-like and at first seemed at odds with the realism - but that soon became a strength, clearly a deliberate choice. She's not quite real, she's almost an innocent abroad and we see the reality and oftentimes cruelty of the world as it happens around and to her. I liked that there are some scenarios that deliberately echo and mirror each other. I think if I watched it again I would find even more.

WARNING: "Nights of Cabiria" spoilers below
Even though I could sense things weren't going to end well for Cabiria (I think I have seen that the final scene of her walking amongst the parade with a tear rolling down her cheek before), the climactic scene on the cliff was still sad and shocking.


It looks great, of course, particularly the scenes set at night.

Glad this was nominated for me, I think it was a good film.



Yeah that's very true. I was surprised by watching the actor's faces how much emotion I could get out of it, when I didn't know what they were saying. That's one film I'd really be interested in seeing again just because the subject matter is pretty unique. I don't know of any other films about Germany during the occupation.
I believe the film was shot right after the end of WW2.

Also, not sure if you knew this, the director, Roberto Rossellini,, is father to actress Isabella Rossellini.

I have the Criterion copy of the film.



I believe the film was shot right after the end of WW2.
I have the Criterion copy of the film.
Also, not sure if you knew this, the director, Roberto Rossellini,, is father to actress Isabella Rossellini.
I didn't know that, but my wife told me during the movie.



Nights of Cabiria is probably one of my more 'must see films', that I haven't seen...yet!

Nashville
I was mid range with the movie. I'd watch it again if it was ever in an HoF...Well that goes without saying but I wouldn't mind a rewatch.



The Ballad of Narayama (1983)



This is a Cannes winner, and a remake of a 1958 film which is on the Ebert list. I did not like the other version, and it's Kabuki style had a lot to do with it. This was done with a much different style, and my biggest hope came with being a fan of the director, Shohei Imamura.

I'm not sure what time period it is, but it's set at like this middle of nowhere village where people just live to survive and many are just looked at as another mouth to feed. The basic story I find to be a little morbid. Once people turn 70, they are brought up into the mountains by a family member and just left to die. Although to them it is spiritual, it seems that it's the result of them now being considered useless. Depending on the family, the feelings of the family members could be different. A son may not want to bring his mother who wants to go, or a son might bring his father who begs not to go, so there is an emotional side. While not violent, there's some sick stuff in this film including infanticide, beastiality, the general cruelty of nature, and a scene in which an entire family is ripped from there home and buried alive for the stealing of food. These are things that alone would make the movie memorable, but of course it's also really well done. Not the most enjoyable film but certainly a good one.

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