THE TOP EIGHT FILMS I SAW FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2010.

I don't know how many films I saw in 2010. In January I started a list (as I have this January) but kind of lost momentum with it around the fifteenth of the month. I'm not the most methodical of people. This year I'll try to do better, but don't bet your pay packet on it.

As a culture we have a tendency to only know the recent and only to appreciate the latest in media. Tom Wolfe called it information ricochet; nostalgia for something that only just happened. To not look at older films is like being presented with an enormous cake called CINEMA and only nibbling on the icing. Over the years I've seen a films in an amount that can only be described as a shitload. When I start to feel jaded and pissed off at the crap that's being served up as cinema these days, something marvellous happens. Whatever aspects of the Universe look after fools and cinephiles steers me in the direction of a good old film I've never seen before. There's always a special thrill to that experience. I'm not talking about seeing Gone With The Wind or Sound of Music, neither of which I have any interest in ever seeing, but smaller, more interesting films which don't usually get on favourites lists because they've been hard to source or are just not on anyone's radar.

So here's my list of the top eight older films (with one exception) that I saw in 2010 that I hadn't experienced before.


Coup De Torchon a.k.a. Clean Slate (1981) Directed by Bertrand Tavernier.

This film surprised the shit out of me. Everything about it conspires against it working. It's a French film based on a 1964 Jim Thompson novel. The novel is set in a town in Texas. The movie is set in a French West Africa colony in the 1930s.But it works fantastically well. Phillipe Noiret stars as Lucien Cordier, the lazy, ineffectual local police officer who has a philandering wife, takes abuse from both his superiors and the local brothel owner. Cordier takes the abuse with good humour, but then something changes and his nature, and his relationships change drastically, horribly and murderously. Not that this is a grim revenge flick at all. It has humour, great locations and a terrific cast including Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Marielle and Stephane Audran. Coup De Torchon uses humour in a way I don't recall experiencing before. We laugh, then slowly realise that what we're laughing at is the acts of the subtlest form of psychopath. I heard about it from Ivor Cole, the ABC Radio Darwin evening presenter who suggested it for our weekly movie talks on air. I recommend this film highly. It's a memorable, intelligent, striking piece of cinema which should be better known than it is.


Expresso Bongo (1959) Directed by Val Guest.

I had heard about this wicked little satire on the lower and shallower end of showbiz years ago but hadn't been able to watch it until 2010. Laurence Harvey plays Johnny Jackson, a sleazy, chameleonic music promoter and talent scout in London's Soho. He has a girlfriend Maisie (Sylvia Sims) who is a stripper and wants a better life. Jackson finds a teenaged singer Bert Rudge (played by Cliff Richard) whom he renames Bongo Herbert and grooms to be a pop star. The film's inventive (even the title sequence helps set the scene for the film in a funny and imaginative way), wickedly satirical and from our perspective in 2010, the use of real locations around Soho give it a great historical texture. Laurence Harvey's Johnny is an energetic, intelligent and star-making performance. Johnny tailors his accent and attitudes to the people he's speaking with, going from Cockney, to London Jewish, to even South African as smoothly as he walks across a street. A must see.


Judex (1963) Directed by Georges Franju.

If you've seen Franju's Yeux Sans Visage (and if not, why not?) then you have to check out Judex. France in the early 20th Century was replete with anarchic fictional criminal masterminds. Fantômas, Arsène Lupin and Judex In 1963 Franju made the second remake of Judex starring both his star from Yeux, Edith Scob and a stage magician called Channing Pollock as Judex. This one, while it does lose some energy later in the film, this black and white flick is visually rich and has what we know know as “steampunk cred”. While Judex in this film isn't as totally anarchic as, say the protagonist of the three 1960s Fantômas movies starring Jean Marais that André Hunebelle directed, Pollock is a striking figure as Judex and I enjoyed getting sucked into this belle epoque story of treachery, masked female criminals in black leotards and revenge.


The Bride Wore Black (1968) Directed by Francois Truffaut.

Jeanne Moreau is slightly too old to play the avenging angel in this tale of single-minded revenge but she does pull it off in spite of this. A bride whose husband is shot on the steps of the church immediately their wedding tracks down the five men who were responsible for his death. Watch it without checking out the Wikipedia page for the film, because it has spoilers for the kick-arse ending. If you want to see one of the major influences on Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, this is the go-to-flick. It's hypnotic and has moments of surprising and delightful black humour. Based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich, which I also recommend you check out.


T'is Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris(2006) Directed by Raymond Felitta.

This is the best jazz documentary I have ever seen. De Felitta goes on an odyssey to find out about a forgotten jazz singer called Jackie Paris who was incredibly big in the 1950s and on his way up, but never made it to the heights of stardom. De Felitta thinks he's been dead for years, but finds out that he's not. The arc of this doco's narrative is thought-provoking and extremely well edited. It's a story of how a man's personality effects the trajectory of his fame and how some people can't escape their upbringing and the unfortunate events of their lives. In spite of this, Jackie Paris' music is sublime. Being the obscure pop culture maven I am, I knew about Jackie Paris before I knew about this documentary.


Johnny Cool (1963) Directed by William Asher.

This film has a message, and that message is “Do Not Fuck With The Mafia Or They Will Do Things To You That You Won't See In The Saw Franchise”. It stars cult movie favourite Henry Silva as a young Sicilian outlaw called Giordano who is groomed by an exiled Mafia boss in Italy to be his tool of vengeance against the other Made Men back in the USA. Trained, and restyled as Johnny Cool, he goes to the States, wreaks havoc among various mafiosi and dodgy characters including Jim Backus in a rare non-comedic role, John McGiver, another retooled comedic actor, and Rat Pack stalwarts, Joey Bishop, Brad Dexter and Sammy Davis Junior who sings the theme song. He meets and seduces by sheer force of personality a socialite played by Asher's wife and soon to be Television Witch, Elizabeth Montgomery, who is later raped by hooligans who themselves are later castrated by Silva. A weird, cultish classic waiting to happen. Not a great film, but a hard to forget one.


Summer Holiday (1960) Directed by Peter Yates.

While Cliff Richard is the blandest of pop stars to populate the second half of the 20th Century, this musical about a bunch of London Transport workers who take a double decker bus on a tour of Europe, meet a group of girl-dancers and a female singing star with an overbearing mother, has a great vitality to it. Not many of the songs are memorable, but Yates, who a few years later made the classic movie, Bullitt uses the locations, the enthusiasm of his performers and the zeitgeist of a British youth culture that was on the verge of exploding across the World to make an engaging, fun movie. Una Stubbs, who plays one of the dancers and just about steals the movie, is also the actor who plays Mrs Hudson in the 2010 BBC series, Sherlock. Summer Holiday also has some of the dialogue sung, rather than spoken, which may have been an influence on Jaques Demy's musicals The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort later in the 1960s, though come to think of it On The Town did the same thing in the 1940s...


Went The Day Well? (1942) Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti.

This 1942 movie about a group of German paratroopers who, pretending to be British soldiers, take over a British village in preparation for a Nazi invasion is a hidden gem. The director, Cavalcanti who also directed the shit-scary ventriloquist dummy story in 1946's Dead Of Night, makes the scenario believable and richly atmospheric. The villagers and the Nazis are well fleshed-out characters and there are some great moments of surprising violence and courage. Went The Day Well? can also be read as a subtle training manual for Britain on how to resist a (then) possible invasion. The film stars Leslie Banks, an interesting actor who had scars and partial-paralysis on one side of his face from injuries he acquired in World War 1. When he was playing sympathetic roles, he was always filmed from the unscarred side, when he was a villain, the disfigured side was prominent. Having been created at a time when the outcome of WW2 was by no means certain, gives this film added significance and dramatic power.

I'm sure I've seen more great films for the first time in 2010 but for the life of me I can't remember what they are. Try these ones out. Not one of them is in any way disappointing and several of them are intensely and entertainingly memorable.



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