The five things you’ve never seen
With John Carter behind us and Ghost Rider II coming up, you may want to avoid your nearest theatre and spare your eyes and ears from the flashing lights and booming cacophony of Hollywood blockbusters.
History has distilled the greatest films of the 20th Century for us; the wheat gets seen and loved and the chaff gets buried under an interminable pop culture flood. However, sometimes the world gets it wrong and classics slip through the cracks. So here is a list of five must see movies you might not have seen.The Third Man (1949)For fellow cinephiles, this movie needs no introduction. For the rest of you, this is the classic on the list, on level with Citizen Kane and Casablanca but without the hype. The Third Man is film noir to the core, with crime, cynicism, and a femme fatale. It’s an absolutely beautiful film; each picturesque shot is worthy of framing in an art gallery. Filmed in the bomb-worn, war-torn streets of Vienna just after World War II, the film has some of the best chase scenes in movie history. The black and white look is used to full effect; characters and locales bask in the classical elegance of monochrome. The ending is infamous and is absolutely astounding in its simplicity and power.
Holly Martins arrives in Vienna to find his friend Harry Lime mysteriously and inconveniently dead. The more Martins learns about Lime’s strange death, the more complicated the story becomes. The ending is perhaps the most famous aspect of this film, and certainly one of the best film endings ever shot. If you see only one movie on this list, make it The Third Man.Oldboy (Oldeuboi, 2003)After a night of heavy drinking, Oh Dae-Su is abducted and imprisoned without explanation. After 15 years of Korean TV and fried dumplings, he’s finally released and decides to seek revenge on his captors. But the more he learns about why he was kidnapped, the more terrible the truth becomes.
Filled with strange and terrifying moments, Oldboy is not for the faint of heart. At one point we watch Oh Dae-Su eat a live octopus in close-up, complete with tentacles writhing and wriggling on his face and hands. The film is at times excruciatingly violent and will turn away some, but the brave are rewarded with an intricate, fully developed, well-executed story.
Oh Dae-Su leaves a trail of brutal violence in his wake, and the camera’s there to catch it all. One particular fight scene takes place all in one continuous shot; it’s utterly mind blowing, and is certainly one of the best action sequences ever filmed. The film’s horrifying, bloody, climactic end is almost Shakespearean; your jaw will stay dropped for the rest of the day.Being John Malkovich (1999)For you science fiction fans waiting for Prometheus, I give you a mind-bending, wormhole-traveling, psyche-squishing, brain-bender of a film. John Malcovich, John Cusack, and Catherine Keener play characters in a world with a fanatical love of puppets. Cusack is a struggling puppeteer who finds a portal into actor John Malcovich’s head. When anyone enters the portal, they get a few minutes of a sort of first-person experience, where they see, feel, hear Malcovich’s everyday life. The rest makes even less sense, but the result is fantastic.
Easily the strangest movie in this list, the film is very similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind except it’s darker, weirder, and better.
There are many technically impressive sequences. In one instance, Cusack and Keener chase each other through physical representations of Malcovich’s? psyche, stumbling through twisted, illusion-like memories. In another, Malcovich enters his own portal with fantastically strange results. The puppeteering scenes alone are impressive and powerful, but this film is dense with interesting, dynamic characters and strange sub-plots. This film deserves a whole lot more recognition than it has now.Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la Peur, 1953)A medley of foreigners are trapped in a backwards Mexican town without enough money to leave. Four desperados finally get a job, but it’s a suicide mission: two trucks loaded with nitroglycerin need to be driven 300 miles over treacherous terrain. Two thousand dollars is waiting for each man at the destination, but the four don’t expect to arrive at all.
Poignant themes on cowardice and camaraderie give this film emotion and meaning. Each character is introduced and developed extremely well; each has his own motivations, desires, faults, and idiosyncrasies. The viewer builds a strong emotional investment with the characters, which adds to the suspense effect when they are in danger.
Hitchcock fans need not look further. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot is incredibly effective at building suspense; gut-churning sequences will prick your hairs and pop your eyes. Despite Oldboy’s martial arts scenes, this is the action film on the list.Brazil (1985)Directed by Terry Gilliam, better known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil is my personal favourite on this list. Starring Jonathan Pryce in the main role, Robert DeNiro makes an appearance as well and Michael Palin does a fantastically funny job. The film could be described as a comedic representation of Orwell’s 1984; it’s a hilariously executed satire on bureaucracy and government control. Brazil’s world is a chaotic carnival of “terrorist bombings,” plastic surgery, and technological oppression.
Sam Lowry constantly struggles to fit in with an obscenely inefficient and materialistic society. After working a trying day in a hyperhectic office, Lowry has a strange dream about a damsel in distress. When he sees a similar looking girl at work one day, he chases after her. Lowry’s obsessive and desperate behaviour causes the stakes to escalate, and the plot crescendos to an ending that is wonderfully schadenfreude.