Official Nominations: Madame Rosa. Iphigenia. Operation Thunderbolt. A Special Day. That Obscure Object Of Desire.
Simone Signoret brings another character to life in Madame Rose, this year’s winner, a film which focuses on her last days while also recounting in part her younger days in Auschwitz. She was forced into prostitution and now runs a home for the abandoned or lost children of other prostitutes, striking up a friendship with a Muslim boy. It’s a warm film, and a good character study, but I think there are better choices here. Michael Cacoyannis finishes his Greek Tragedy trilogy with Iphigenia, a fairly faithful though ambiguous retelling of the story. If you know me, then you’ll know I love anything related to Greek or Roman mythology, especially where Troy is concerned. If I was a director and became successful enough to make whatever sort of project I wanted, The Illiad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid would be top of my list. This film follows the innocent daughter of King Agamemnon – he is heading to Troy to kick off the war but on the way offends one of the Goddesses who says he must sacrifice his own daughter before his ships will be allowed to reach Troy. If you’re into this sort of thing, then you’ll enjoy the film, but I don’t think there’s much here for non-fans.
Cult figure Menahem Golan made his most (only?) acclaimed work with Operation Thunderbolt – a film based around a real life hostage crisis. It honestly isn’t as bad as it sounds, and this is coming from someone who loves even the crappiest Cannon movie. A Special Day is in many ways the perfect Academy movie – packed with issues like sexuality, gender, based in historical fact, and topped off by starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. All it really needs is to be a musical and it would have won 8 Oscars. It’s not well-remembered now, but thanks to its cast it still has some pulling power. Loren is a bored housewife who cares for her husband and many children – she’s at home doing the usual daily crap while the rest of her family are out in support of a parade for Hitler and Mussolini. Her pet bird escapes and she finds it with one of her neighbours, a gay guy and anti-fascist. They spend the movie chatting about their lives. Again, it’s better than it sounds but with any other lead actors I would struggle to see anyone wanting to see it, as funny and honest and interesting as it undoubtedly is.
Finally, a probably the most famous film on the list is Bunuel’s final film – That Obscure Object Of Desire – a film which doesn’t entirely deviate from his surrealist leanings but is nevertheless more approachable. It follows a stormy relationship between a wealthy French guy and a much younger Spanish dancer played by both Carole Bouquet and and Angela Molina. The key is that this isn’t a younger/older version of the character – the actresses interchange seemingly at random throughout the movie which is jarring at first, then becomes amusing, then becomes normal. It’s great, and one of Bunuel’s best.
My Winner: That Obscure Object Of Desire
My Nominations: That Obscure Object Of Desire. A Special Day. Iphigenia. Cross Of Iron. The Duellists. House. Soldier Of Orange. Suspiria.
Five films join three from the official list – Sam Peckinpah’s Cross Of Iron; an epic war movie with plenty of brutal action and some interesting casting and Hausu, a bizarre Japanese movie which should be experienced without knowing anything about it beforehand. Ridley Scott emerged with his epic The Duellists, a film about cinematography as much as its about its two feuding leads.
Paul Verhoeven continues his euro work with arguably his finest pre-Hollywood feature Soldier Of Orange, in which Rutger Hauer and his friends each split off at the beginning of WWII ending on different paths and even opposing sides. It’s one of the director’s straightest films and should appeal to anyone with a love of war movies. Finally, Dario Argento had been perfecting the Giallo form throughout the decade, crafting spellbinding set pieces of murder and mayhem and giving audiences unusual and unique visuals set against labyrinthine or nonsensical plots. Suspiria remains the most famous Italian horror movie ever, and one of the most popular non-US horror movies there is as a teenage girl goes to a ballet school and uncovers murder and witchcraft. Not many horror movies, not many movies period look like or sound like Suspiria, so it is a must for true film fans.
My Winner: Suspiria
Let us know your winners in the comments!