A Man Escaped - Robert Bresson (1956)
French art does French resistance, or: How to break out of prison with nothing but a spoon. And no panning. Austere instructional film about tight-lipped terrorist spy in cell who doesn’t masturbate. Mozart C-minor Mass adds emphasis to tragic heroism of incarcerated French spirit during Nationalist-Socialist collaboration. (Shower-scene not included.)
American Beauty - Mendes (1999)Suburban liberationist phantasy about beating the system (as it beats you). Main messages: materialism and narcissism corrupt; homophobia (exposed as -philia and thwarted desire) leads to violence; opting-out as the path to authenticity: sex (or its intention), drugs, and the transcendence of middle-class conformism through the cult of hedonic American style "beauty."
Kes - Ken Loach (1969)Unvarnished late British kitchen-sinker and all-time top-tenner about degradation of adolsescing boy who finds short-lived state of grace through falconry. Think: The Yearling set in a northern industrial town, sans Delius' score. Man’s iniquity (socio-economic oppression) wages war on unwitting emancipation attempt from class-dependent bondage. (With shower-scene.)
Berlin-Alexanderplatz - Fassbinder (1980)
I-VII : Ponderous sepia-toned chamber-opera about Weimar-era wife-killer released from Tegel prison into post-war Berlin’s socio-political chaos only to be tempted away by corrupt circumstances from his path-to-regeneration and righteousness.
VIII-XII : ‘Mieze’s’ [Barbara Sukowa] miraculous innocence emplotted as synesthetic-reverie. Aural-dramatic counterpoint to end all counterpoint. Consummation of the Fassbinder-Peer Raaben collaboration and apotheosis of “New German Cinema.” With epilogue.
Plein Soleil - René Clement (1960)Highsmith’s Talented Mr. Ripley as mediteranean sun-drenched noir. A symphony of blues, reds and whites frames breath-robbing fleur du mal Alain Delon and his till-the-end-successful revenge-murder-theft from envy. Who needs Hitchcock?
Maria’s Lovers - Konchulowsky (1984)
Home-coming to a Russian-American community finds veteran struggling with flash-backs and a reluctance to penetrate idealized virgin bride's vagina. Nastasia Kinskey, Jon Savage, Keith Carradine and Robert Mitchum star. A paradigm of authentic Sitz-im-Leben mis-en-scène. The incomparably intense Savage invites you in.
The Yearling - Clarence Brown (1946)
Bucolic innocence meets life’s hard facts. Father and son bond in exotic Florida swamp-land while bitter odd-man-out mother kills joy. Yearling transitional object represents the unmasculine as miraculous in its own right. Alas, as per Schiller: “Auch das Schöne muβ sterben,” and Bambi [spoilers!] has to be double-barreled out of its misery by the one who most adores it. Claude Jarman Jr. will rip you apart.