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A Random List of Films   (February 16, 2007)

As a break from the relentless euphoria of the stock and bond markets, let's look at some movies. I keep a list of films I've seen, in no organized fashion, and just for laughs here's a few from last year's list--in no particular order. If you're searching for something to add to your Netflix queue, it might be fun to check these out. You'll quickly note that I like world cinema in all decades.

Sea of Love

(1989, director, Harold Becker) Al Pacino doing Al Pacino as a tough, boozing, conflicted cop who's falling in love with Ellen Barkin. If you hate Al Pacino, don't see the film. If you love Al, or gritty crime thrillers, go for it. A worthy script and one of his finest performances.

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

(1964, director, Vittorio De Sica) Three tales of sex and romance with the sumptuous sophia Loren in her prime, and Marcello Mastroianni as both an anxious "customer" in one story and a good-hearted working-class bloke who must keep his wife pregnant in another. If you haven't sampled much Italian cinema of the glorious 60s, this charmer is a good intro. Delightful perfomances by Loren and Mastroianni.

La Strada

(1954, director, Federico Fellini) Considered a classic by many, and certainly one of Fellini's most accessible and affecting films. Anthony Quinn (yeah, the American actor, dubbed into Italian) and ingenue Giuliette Masina are heart-rendingly true in this tale of a doomed romance. This is subtitled, and in black-and-white, which for reasons I have never figured out is a turn-off to many American film-goers.

Lost Horizon

(1937, director, Frank Capra) Famed director Capra's beautifully filmed version of the Shangri-La (Shambala) story, of a secret Himalayan kingdom where death has been banished. Some of the dialog may remind you of Yoda (from the Star Wars series), but the basic precepts of Buddhism are imparted without too much pain. This is a worthy 30s film, with much of the "treatment" which makes these films favorites 50 years later: great cinematography, a little adventure, a little romance, great costumes, and everything played "big." In other words, the evil people are visibly evil, the hero is clearly heroic, etc.

All About My Mother

(1999, director, Pedro Almodovar) Director Almodovar is famed for his insightful, sympathetic stories focused on women and this is one which won't disappoint. A tremendous cast of Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes and Penelope Cruz (among others) will reach right in and pluck your heartstrings. Almodovar has a knack for pulling off slightly wacky plot devices, and here we have a transvestite father who didn't know he was a father--until now.


(2004, director, Chan-wook Park) A very dark Korean morality play which is very over the top in plot development and violence. Korean cinema is hot right now, and has been for a few years. I think one reason is the Korean directors have explored edgy themes with great stylistic flair. Themes, like, well, eating your neighbor, as in cannibalism. Here we have a revenge plot worthy of the Count of Monte Cristo in its planning and execution. This film was too violent and emotionally unbelievable for my tastes, but if you want to see a film which exemplifies the no-holds-barred visuals and themes of recent Korean films, this might be your ticket.

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copyright © 2007 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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