Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Classical movies I have seen (and why) - part 1

I've never been a fan of classical movies until very recently. Black and white just didn't appeal to me, and I thought that the stories were too shallow. Not to mention that the camera techniques and effects back then are very primitive compared to the present - hence boring. 

But then I chanced upon a list of the best movies ever created and I was shocked to see majority of them being dominated by very old movies. How could movies created with ancient technology come through as being best of all time? That piqued my interest, and I began watching a few of them...

...and now I can say I am more or less hooked. This from a guy who's seen probably only Ten Commandments among the classical movies before. It wasn't the technology - it was the story and the storytelling that carried movies back then - no amount of special effects can substitute that. Every now and then, the technological breakthrough would happen, which would go on to become the standard for all succeeding movies. 

Without further ado, here's the list of the movies I have seen, in no particular order:

1. Ikiru (buy the movie in Amazon)

What it is about: A man - who spent the last three decades of his life dedicated to work - suddenly realizes he has stomach cancer and has only a few months left to live. He realizes he's been dead for the last three decades, and begins looking for ways to truly live his life.
Why did I watch this movie: Roger Ebert said it is the greatest movie of Akira Kurosawa. And Akira Kurosawa's movies are always among the top of the list of greatest movies ever.
Why you should watch this movie: Every person who's been working for a few years now should watch this. Before it's too late. Let me rephrase Ebert: Watch this movie every 5 years and inevitably you'll see how you're slowly transforming into the man in the movie.

2. Rashomon (buy the movie in Amazon)

What it is about: A priest, a woodcutter, and a passerby sit under a gate discussing the most bizarre experience they've had - a hearing about the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife.
Why did I watch this movie: Because it is another highly regarded Akira Kurosawa work - in fact, this was the movie that catapulted him to international fame, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival
Why you should watch this movie: This movie will make you think very hard about truth, justice, and people's motives. Listen to the testimonies of the priest, woodcutter, thief, wife, and (how did this happen?) the samurai himself. As Ebert wrote, "The wonder of 'Rashomon' is that while the shadowplay of truth and memory is going on, we are absorbed by what we trust is an unfolding story. The film's engine is our faith that we'll get to the bottom of things"
- is it clear I am an Ebert fan? :)

3. The Passion of Joan of Arc (free movie!)

What it is about: The last few days of Joan of Arc's life, starting from her trial in front of the priests until her execution. 
Why did I watch this movie: I watched this movie because many have said that the performance of the lead actress Renee Falconetti is widely considered one of the best - if not the best - performance ever caught on film.
Why you should watch this movie: The performance is indeed mind blowing. Many shots are taken close up, showing only the faces, but even these alone carry the emotion and tension of the movie very well. I watched this movie with Richard Einhorn's musical composition "Voices of Light" which makes the silent movie all the more haunting.

The whole movie is available on youtube!

This is a long overdue post.
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