Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame VI

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Army of Shadows (1969)

The style of direction is sublime...it suits me. Look at that image, what do you notice? Empty space, a small figure in a cavernous room. The set is so large that even the empty desk looks forlorn. That composition speaks volumes. I loved the way Army of Shadows was shot, the long scene takes that lingered long enough for them to seep into the mind, giving time to feel what we just seen. I loved the coldness of the blue green palette which is the opposite of warm and cheery colors. The camera work was effectively still, no 'trick shots' for the sake of showing off. The camera moves when it emphasizes a need for movement and the camera is still when stillness best delivers the ambiance of oppression.

Definitely liked this one. I'm guessing it's a Sean choice.



night and fog

a difficult film to write about for somewhat obvious reasons. there's the harrowing subject matter that certainly left enough of an impression on me to make it impossible to discuss the film in terms of "enjoyment," countered by the fact that i went in worrying that i might be too desensitized to images of atrocity to have the gut-level emotional reaction that the film should rightfully produce on aesthetic grounds. while no individual component of the film feels particularly distinct from what one might find on the history channel, the film gains its power in its editing and framing, so unflinching and unadorned, yet not without a certain horrific visual poetry. there's no question its the most artistically accomplished of any document of the holocaust. while desensitization may have prevented the kind of nausea that one should have while looking at these images, there were still several instances where i felt stricken anew with the unfathomable suffering and cruelty of which humanity is capable.

feels weird to rate this one but since i have to rank it against other films at some point anyway so i'll say
+
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I have Army of Shadows on Criterion blu ray, but have never seen it. Night and Fog is a devastating masterpiece.



night and fog
...while desensitization may have prevented the kind of nausea that one should have while looking at these images, there were still several instances where i felt stricken anew with the unfathomable suffering and cruelty of which humanity is capable...
I seen Night and Fog very recently...If you don't mind me asking, which scenes were the worst for you?



I seen Night and Fog very recently...If you don't mind me asking, which scenes were the worst for you?
the pile of severed heads and the mound of hair are the shots that will stick with me the most probably. honorable mention to the shot of the body getting thrown in the mass grave and really any shot that shows how emaciated the people had become.

in a different way, the shot where you see some of the prisoners' passports was also very striking to me because of how nice and normal the passport photos looked, reminding you that like, these emaciated figures we see once led perfectly healthy, normal lives. puts into perspective what was taken from them.



Army of Shadows is like the other Melville films I've seen, really good but not favorite material. They generally leave me a little cold.

Night and Fog packs a hell of a punch in a short amount of time. It did well on my Doc's ballot.

Finished The Square, going to sleep on it.



Love Army of Shadows and Melville in general, with Le Samourai being my favorite of his films. I'd also recommend Le Cercle Rouge and Bob le Flambeur. The latter film is very atypical of Melville, but while it dragged for me at times, it's also good. The final 20 minutes, in particular, are great.

Night and Fog is obviously great, though as I said in the 5th Shorts Hall of Fame, it's the kind of film which worked best the first time I watched it since it has diminishing returns.
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10 Foreign Language movies to go


Make Way for Tomorrow - 1937

Directed by Leo McCarey

Written by Viña Delmar
Based on a novel by Josephine Lawrence

Starring Beulah Bondi, Victor Moore, Fay Bainter
Thomas Mitchell & Maurice Moscovitch

This review contains spoilers

Make Way For Tomorrow cuts right down into the personal - deep into what we feel when we think of our mother and father, and the degree of empathy we share when we hear about someone old who has had to suffer the heartache and disappointment of being forsaken by their sons and daughters. It makes me glad to have not abandoned my mother during the last years of her life, although there's always the wish that I'd done more and been better. Those were hard years, but I figured that if I'd put her into a nursing home, that would have haunted me for the rest of my life. Watching this film is no less haunting, for it's one of the saddest and most heartrending films ever committed to celluloid. It began life as a novel penned by advice columnist Josephine Lawrence, and was adapted into a play before Viña Delmar wrote the screenplay that would become one of Leo McCarey's best films. McCarey had enough clout to resist tacking on a 'happy ending', and as a result left audiences in tears after every showing.

Barkley Cooper (Victor Moore) and his wife Lucy (Beulah Bondi) have gathered four of their five offspring at their house, as they have some upsetting news - the bank is taking their dwelling as they've been unable to keep up with the payments needed. They need urgent help. Unfortunately, none of the Cooper's sons or daughters have enough room to house both parents, so George (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife, Anita (Fay Bainter) take Lucy, while Cora (Elisabeth Risdon) and Bill Payne (Ralph Remley) take Barkley. While Barkley looks for work that would help the couple reunite and be independent again, Lucy starts to make life difficult in George and Anita's household. She has to share a bedroom with their daughter Rhoda (Barbara Read) which means her friends neglect to visit, and Anita won't get to keep an eye on which boyfriends she spends time with. When Barkley gets sick, Cora uses this as an excuse to have him move to the warmer climate in California with daughter Addie. As there's only room there for one, it means Barkley and Lucy have only a few hours to say their goodbyes to each other as he heads West, and Lucy heads into a nursing home - feeling unwelcome at her son's place.

The film is a mix of comedy and drama, but the drama is such that it takes root at every stage of the story and therefore the comedy plays only a supporting role to the pathos of Barkley and Lucy's situation. I found the amusing aspects very endearing. The best example for me was when Anita is teaching bridge to a collection of well-to-do clients at home, and Lucy has her rocking chair brought in. Before long we're hearing a *creak* *creak* *creak* which pervades the entire space and distracts everyone from what they're doing. Lucy has an air of surprised, slight embarrassment when she realises what's happening, and tries to rock more quietly, but it's not long before Barkley calls her on the phone, and she's chatting to him in a boomingly loud voice - as older people often do. This is where the comedy slides gracefully into the poignancy of the situation, and as most of the bridge class can't help but hear everything she's saying, they display looks of bemusement at first, but after a while they start to feel awkward as more personal matters are discussed, and then solemnly sad as they realise a looming sense of tragedy and sorrow - these two people dearly miss each other, and are pained by the place they find their lives in. Leo McCarey's direction is amazing, and everything is expertly modulated.

Beulah Bondi is my favourite performer from the cast, and it's interesting to note that she's only in her mid-40s. Both Boni and Victor Moore wore make-up to make them look older than they were. She gives her character a sweet, sensitive edge, but also appears as someone very much aware and intelligent despite her advanced years. When she takes away her son's discomfort, and instead suggests to movie into a nursing home herself, it's a devastating moment - and one where she's only thinking about him, no matter what kind of pain she's in. Her caring extends to her granddaughter when they both go to the cinema, and Rhoda sneaks away to visit her boyfriend. When she returns, Lucy agrees not to give away her secret as she perhaps thinks in the moment that Rhoda needs this at a time when she's sharing a room with her and robbing her of privacy and space. For a moment it feels like an extension of friendship and solidarity, and peace. Later, Lucy will bare the brunt of her daughter-in-law's fury for not having revealed this, and again Lucy doesn't contest but apologizes. She's in an awful position, with no home of her own and her family feeling as if she's a burden. Beulah Bondi is the actress I take away from this film, although Thomas Mitchell is also excellent.

The cinematography was the responsibility of old hand William C. Mellor, who later went on to work on a 1951 personal favourite of mine - A Place in the Sun. He continued to work on important films up to his death in the early 1960s, and visually this film reminds me of a film that it shares more than a visual similarity with. Tokyo Story. I kept thinking of Yasujirō Ozu and that film in particular while I was watching this, so it didn't surprise me that it was one of the biggest influences on that film and Ozu's work. There are numerous times in this film when we as spectators feel as though we're in a direct line of sight between two of the characters, especially during charged moments - with characters looking directly into the camera. I felt a part of what was going on to a further extent than with any other film from this time period, with a less distanced feel to everything. It was the black and white cinematography that made it at all possible to age two actors to the degree they'd been aged, and I was worked towards the expressiveness of their faces. It was interesting to see some shots of the old pair walking in New York with a backdrop being used - it must have been far too difficult with that day's technology to capture those shots on location.

Make Way For Tomorrow was somehow never nominated for any Oscars, although Leo McCarey won a Best Director Academy Award for The Awful Truth, which came out the same year. The way he thought about the former was such that he's quoted as saying "Thank you, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture." The film garnered a reputation as a "depressing" film, and as such failed to make an impact at the box office, but seen in retrospect, this indeed did deserve Oscar recognition and popularity. It at least has managed to cement a place as a great film over the years, and I agree heartily with that assessment. The message of the film is still very much relevant today, and my feelings are so in tune with it that it affected me on a personal level, as I said at the beginning. The film also had a political message at the time, with the American Social Security Act only having been enacted in 1935 (which was fought, much like Health Care reforms are today.) For the elderly to be left in such a situation is a sad indictment on any society, so it was a sign of progress and obviously this film very much agrees with that fact.

The last act of Make Way For Tomorrow deals with Barkley and Lucy in New York - due to appear for a last dinner at their kids' place, but deciding they'd rather spend that time together, and alone. As they pay a visit to the hotel they went to on their honeymoon, people they come across are generally very kind to them. These are the people who can afford to be kind, for their time with the elderly couple is brief. Often it's harder to get on well with those we know well and live with, for responsibility, habits, needs and wants create tension and animosity. I really admire this film for it's ability to say so much about a complicated issue, and to explore it in so many interesting ways. Of course, it's this final stretch that proves to be so heartbreaking - for Barkley and Lucy love each other so dearly, and this is their last few moments together. Their kids have decided not to put up with them, and because of that they're going to suffer. Leo McCarey won't demonize them though, and instead gives us both perspectives. Personally, I felt a little resentment towards these people - but not only do Barkley and Lucy care enough about them to want them to be happy (they want their happiness much more than their own) - but they're much better people than I am.

I was able to connect with this film on a far deeper level I thought I'd ever connect with a 1930s film - it's focus on family and elderly parents felt familiar to me. I agree with "Honour thy father and thy mother" - which is a quote the film directly reminds us of at it's very start. All the way through, it was sweet, amusing and had me emotionally involved. If there's a film that was going to make me interested in more of Leo McCarey's work, it's this one - and I felt I could really get closer to the characters here than I usually can in a 1930s film. I come at it as a big fan of Ruggles of Red Gap, a film McCarey made two years previously, and a film with some of the same traits this one had, so I can't say that this is the first of his films I've seen, but it's the one that confirmed to me how very much I love his work. Quite a number of great directors and filmmakers single out their praise for Make Way For Tomorrow, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm glad to have been able to get to know it, and it's another enjoyable step on an upward journey in discovering all cinema has to offer.

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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

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The Square (2017)



Cannes winner here. Didn't know what to expect and I'm still not sure what to make of it. It's about the curator of a museum in Sweden, his work and his personal life. Looking at it as a satire of the art world is my preferred way to go with this, and I see it as sort of an abstract film. There's a lot more here though but I started to sour a bit towards the end when it seemed to get preachy. Almost 2 1/2 hours long but very watchable, there's not really a plot. It's very funny at times in subtle and unusual ways so a lot of credit to the filmmakers. The acting is great especially from the lead. My wife surprisingly enjoyed it. Going into the last half hour, my rating could have been a full popcorn more or less than what I eventually settled on. A very interesting and unique film.




the pile of severed heads and the mound of hair are the shots that will stick with me the most probably. honorable mention to the shot of the body getting thrown in the mass grave and really any shot that shows how emaciated the people had become.

in a different way, the shot where you see some of the prisoners' passports was also very striking to me because of how nice and normal the passport photos looked, reminding you that like, these emaciated figures we see once led perfectly healthy, normal lives. puts into perspective what was taken from them.
It was all shocking to me but what really struck me cold was the huge piles of human hair that filled a warehouse and the giant piles of personal items like the passports. I think seeing such a volume of things like shoes in the 100,000s really brought home just how many people were killed in just one concentration camp. That and the attempts to make soap out of the victims...Soap! out of people! That is so damn twisted that it makes me realize how just how dangerous and evil human beings can be.



Make Way For Tomorrow was pretty special and I rated it highly in the HoF it was in...but I don't really have a desire to see it again. Nor do I have a desire to watch The Square again, it was OK even interesting at times, but not my cup of joe.



Man, the worst thing about having a good selection of films is that it's impossible to make a voting ballot you're happy with. I'm giving you guys a heads up now: some great films are going to be upsettingly low on my list.



Man, the worst thing about having a good selection of films is that it's impossible to make a voting ballot you're happy with. I'm giving you guys a heads up now: some great films are going to be upsettingly low on my list.
I feel your pain, making it even harder for me is do I go with the best film as highest rated OR do I go with films that are best suited for my taste? So hard to decide



Army Of Shadows, Night And Fog, and Make Way For Tomorrow are all excellent in very different ways. Not surprising that the Melville is my favorite. Not surprising that Citizen guessed I was the one who recommended it. I have always felt Citizen should love Melville and apparently I will just keep recommending Melville flicks to him till it happens.

I saw and like The Square a lot. Surprisingly for such an odd film it hasn’t really stuck with me. I do recall moments, but the overall plot is gone.
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10 Foreign Language movies to go
The ape-man performance art scene in The Square will stick with me for a very long time - it had everything, and pushed "art" beyond acceptable boundaries (despite being quite illustrative), as performance art will sometimes do :



I watched Army of Shadows some time after the Foreign Language Film Countdown and thought it was an absolute masterpiece. Likewise Night and Fog, which I've seen a couple of times now - a must-see film when talking about the Holocaust.



...Not surprising that Citizen guessed I was the one who recommended it. I have always felt Citizen should love Melville and apparently I will just keep recommending Melville flicks to him till it happens...
Fine by me So far I've liked the Melville films I've seen but I ain't see many, not yet.



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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Army of Shadows is brilliant. I would recommend Army of Shadows, Le Cercle Rouge and Le Samourai to everyone (although didn't specifically in this HoF!).

Night and Fog was my pick for Inmate. I remember when I watched it (I think for a HoF on here) thinking at the start that it wasn't going to be anything I hadn't seen before, that it might not have the punch it would have had when released, but it definitely still had a punch; a very well -made presentation of the awful facts. I would recommend this to everyone too.

Make Way For Tomorrow is another excellent film. I think I nominated this for raul in a previous personal rec hof - glad to see he liked it so much he's recommending it for other people!