Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Jeffery Berg ""

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Jeffery Berg

Jeffery is a longtime contributor here at RPS and also runs his lovely blog JDB Records:
Check out his 2013 film Discoveries here:
and 2012 here:
In dreary, post-WWII England, an ambitious young man (deftly played by Laurence Harvey) begins two relationships: a schematic one with a mogul's daughter and a more emotional one with an older, unhappily-married woman. A lonesome film which reveals heartache and the dynamics of class struggle (still so relevant today and perhaps, forever). Best Actress winner Simone Signoret is magnificent as the troubled mistress. Jack Clayton's gritty direction remains extremely impressive for a debut feature and signaled the beginning of a movement of realism in British cinema.

Another late-1950s British movie of intimate character studies, SEPARATE TABLES is a smoothly filmed portrait of seaside hotel guests with their own pent-up secrets, passions and lies. The well-cast ensemble gives layered depths to the sometimes soapy story; most notable are cagey David Niven and Wendy Hiller in their Oscar-winning turns and also a radiant Rita Hayworth.

3. LOST HORIZON (1937)
I saw this at Film Forum as part of the Frank Capra repertoire and was taken aback by its strangeness. A misfit group of plane crash survivors end up in Shangri-La (a term originated here by novelist James Hilton)--a Utopian "paradise" in the mountains of Tibet. Borderline sci-fi, surreal, a touch cynical, and spectacularly-designed, it's hard to believe this is a Capra movie. 

4. SALESMAN (1968)
The Maysles' (GREY GARDENS) and Charlotte Zwerin's documentary on traveling Bible salesmen is perhaps revolutionary. Haunting and revealing in stark black-and-white photography, with its snippets of radio, conversations, and desperate attempts of men
selling a pricey tome for the times, the doc ends up being an ironic and quietly potent statement on capitalism. I'll never forget a Florida man enthusiastically showing off his new record player in his living room, playing a muzak version of "Yesterday."

5. SABOTAGE (1936)
Twisty Hitchcock tale follows the unsuspecting wife (the magnetic Sylvia Sidney) of a London terrorist. It's one of Hitchcock's less-mentioned efforts but the combination of Sidney, the skillful editing (the shot of a child ghost is breathtaking) and movie house scene of Walt Disney Silly Symphony's "Who Killed Cock Robin?" shows the director at his humorously macabre best. 

6. VALLEY GIRL (1983)
Sparks fly for Nicholas Cage (who has never been as charming and un-self conscious) and Deborah Foreman in mall culture Cali. This has been on my list for a while after reading beaming recommendations from this blog and Cinema Du Meep. The incredibly fun soundtrack, the charismatic cast (including spunky Elizabeth Daily), and the film's bright visual color palate are all vibrant and vivid and fun!

7. L' AGE D'OR (THE GOLDEN AGE) (1930)
In portraying a passionate, tenuous relationship between a government ambassador and a socialite, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's series of dreamy vignettes slice up the bourgeois value system, religion, sex (the marble statue toe fellatio sequence is still quite a shock to behold) and the conventions of traditional narrative. 

After catching it in bits and pieces over years, I finally viewed the entirety of Herbert Ross' melodrama of aging dancers. It's not always great--a subplot featuring a romance between Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Browne feels under-cooked--but co-leads Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft are both captivating to watch, especially in their
climatic, windswept duel. Gorgeous use of music as well  (loved Chopin over the end credits) and some beautiful dance sequences (notably Baryshnikov).

9. THE FAN (1981)
Ridiculous, enjoyable early-80s Paramount trash where hot psycho groupie (Michael Biehn) stalks Lauren Bacall. The atmospheric feel of Manhattan (insane gay bar scene) and Bacall's torchy performance of Marvin Hamlisch-penned "Hearts, Not Diamonds" are the highlights. It was especially sad to lose Bacall this year; THE FAN is one of many reminders of how incomparable she is.

10. OLIVER'S STORY (1978)
That the LOVE STORY zeitgeist was impossible to duplicate is perhaps a statement of this super subdued follow-up. For those who find WASP-grief hard-to-stomach should stay away, but O'Neal is actually quite good as mourning widower who begins a relationship with a no-nonsense tycoon (Candice Bergen). The locations of New England, NYC and Hong Kong adds to the realism and ambiance, even if there isn't much drama to the proceedings. In its depictions of yuppies and their moneyed concerns, you can just feel the groundswell of the Reagan wave about to hit the country in subsequent years.


David Pascoe said...

Valley Girl - the soundtrack of which provided Frank Zappa with his only hit single.

Interesting choices - Salesman sounds particularly intriguing.

Anonymous said...

I hate that I've only seen a few of these, or maybe I love if, because it gives me so much more to see!