Official Nominations: Dersu Uzala. Letters From Marusia. The Promised Land. Sandakan No.8. Profuma di Donna.
Of all the Kurosawa films, you’d think Dersu Uzala would be pretty far down the list. It’s not an immediate masterpiece like Seven Samurai, but it’s still great. It’s based on the life of an educated Russian explorer and the nomadic hunter of the title – how these two men work and learn and get older together and come to a mutual respect in a harsh but beautiful wilderness. It you know anything about how Kurosawa directs and frames, then you think of a Russian wilderness you can imagine what how Kurosawa would film it. It’s a lovely, poignant, tragic story too which will remind viewers of something like Ikiru. Letters From Marusia is pretty tragic too, a film based on a real life event when a town of miners decided to strike for better working conditions. Knowing that this could lead to military intervention from their government, they try to defend themselves. The Promised Land isn’t the most exciting film Wajda ever made, but it is stark and uncompromising, following the lives of three friends trying to set up a business and make loadsa money. Interestingly it has a similar ending to the previous film nominated. Sandakan No. 8 is another stark one, taking a damning look at the way women, or at least prostitutes can be treated in the country. It’s about a young girl sold into prostitution, and how she grows up in the business becoming disillusioned with life and people and how she can’t reintegrate into society once she comes home. Finally, Profuma di donna is the original version of Scent Of A Woman. It’s actually pretty similar, except it’s in the 70s and in Italy. I’m not a huge fan of either film though.
My Winner: Dersu Uzala
My Nominations: Dersu Uzala. Deep Red. Furtivos. Graveyard Of Honour. Inserts. Katie Tippel. The Land That Time Forgot. The Man Who Would Be King. Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The Passenger. Picnic At Hanging Rock. Seven Beauties. The Story Of Adele H. Tommy.
Yikes, what a year. There’s a whole host of great films here, a few I didn’t include and a few I haven’t seen which would likely warrant inclusion. My list does of course include guilty pleasures, but if you enjoy them more than those genuinely nominated that’s good enough for me. Only Kurosawa’s film makes it to my list, but there’s no shortage of classics to accompany it. Staying in Japan we have Kinji Fukasaku’s seminal Yakuza thriller Graveyard Of Honour about the torrid life of one gangster, featuring a number of stunning stunts. Staying in the East we have Picnic At Hanging Rock, one of Australia’s finest films of the decade, haunting, ambiguous, beautiful.
The Land That Time Forgot is a bit of cheat given it’s a joint US/UK production, but I include it here anyway as it is one of the most entertaining films of the era and maybe the best example of the Lost World genre ever committed to screen. Dated now, and not exactly filled with acting greats, it’s nevertheless a personal favourite. Another exciting US/UK venture is The Man Who Would Be King in which John Huston makes a rollicking, if overlong epic while Monty Python And The Holy Grail sees the Python group unleashes their unique brand of insanity upon the world. Tommy is maybe the best, certainly the most regarded, movie based on an album.
Elsewhere in Europe, Antonioni shows off in his films about abandonment and escape – The Passenger features shots and camerawork which still power to wow in today’s world of digital trickery. Paul Verhoeven gives us the life of Katie Tippel in typically sexualized style while Inserts examines in humourous style the options available (porn) for silent actors when talkies became popular – two films which were fairly shocking for the time but never found a worldwide audience. Furtivos is one of Spain’s best films and is crying out to find a new audience – an uncomfortable, uncompromising drama about a deceptive hunter and his monstrous mother, while Seven Beauties is similarly controversial as we follow the life of an Italian scumbag who will do anything to survive – another film which deserves a look by modern viewers. Finally, The Story Of Adele H is Truffaut’s biography of one of Victor Hugo’s daughters as she becomes obsessed with a man, following him around the world in an entirely unrequited path of destruction.
My Winner: Monty Python And The Holy Grail
Let us know your winning pick in the comments!