Tag Archives: Akira Kurosawa

Desert Island Discs

Picture the scene….. The FED EX plane you’re travelling in has been struck by lightning, causing it to plunge into the ocean. You get washed up on the beach of a nearby island which is apparently without habitants. Instead of a football for company you find a 50 inch plasma TV with attached DVD player which was miraculously wrapped in waterproof packaging. Somehow you discover a power supply and are delighted that 10 movies have escaped unscathed in the over the shoulder folder holder you had on your person at the time of the tragedy.

These are the 10 films that will prevent you going insane whilst you wait for McDonalds to discover this is the one place they don’t have a restaurant….

My picks are:

REAR WINDOW, Alfred Hitchcock (1954)

THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Joel & Ethan Coen (1998)

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Stanley Kubrick (1968)

HEAVEN CAN WAIT, Ernst Lubitsch (1943)

MEAN STREETS, Martin Scorsese (1973)

MANHATTAN, Woody Allen (1979)

RASHOMON, Akira Kurosawa (1950)

RIFIFI, Jules Dassin (1955)

IF…., Lindsay Anderson (1968)

PAN’S LABYRINTH, Guillermo Del Toro (2006)

This was a really hard thing to do, and the selections could well change as I think about it more. There’s no Welles, Antonioni, Bergman, Ozu, Lynch, Powell & Pressburger…. God, the list is huge. These are the 10 films that tick as many boxes as possible whilst being infinitely watchable. I also think that each of these 10 films gives you something very different, from the half an hour of silence during the robery scene in Rififi to the technicolor joy of HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Although there are many other top ten lists that could be made, these movies would keep me going for a LONG time.

Although this post could be considered cliche, arbitrary or even downright lazy, there are rules…..

Trilogies are allowed, maximum of 4 (no more than a trilogy though, so you can’t select the POLICE ACADEMY series, not that you would…. I hope)
TV shows aren’t.
Box sets aren’t (unless it’s specifically a trilogy)
I say DVD, this of course includes blu ray. (That’s for Matt, the high def philistine )

So over to you good people. The ten movies that would keep you happy in times of hardship, let’s have it.


Great Movie Openings: Pépé le Moko

What I love most about the start of Julien Duvivier‘s 1939 film Pépé le Moko is it’s fearlessness in delivering information to the audience at breakneck speed. In the first 6 minutes (including the titles!) we are given a clear idea of who Pépé le Moko is, why he’s in Algiers, it’s explained how dangerous he is, We’re told what crimes he’s committed and why the police have not been able to apprehend him. The character Inspector Slimane is introduced, he will have a huge influence on le Moko’s fate and at the end of the scene, we learn the police are going after him.

We’re, 6 minutes in, left with no doubt as to what’s going on in this picture.

The nicest thing about this opening sequence however is the description of the Casbah, Pépé le Moko’s sanctuary and prison. The camera pans to a very basic looking map of the Casbah, we then dissolve to a wide shot of the place itself. There follows a documentary style sequence showing the labyrinth of streets and terraces that hide the fugitive, all voiced over by a detective who describes the area in terms that can only be described as poetic.

It’s very effective and draws you into the film immediately. Akira Kurosawa was also known for taking this direct approach in many of his films.

12 Men, One Room and a Question

I’m assuming a lot of people have seen this film but I felt compelled to say something about it. It’s one of those pictures that had been in my collection for months but getting round to it had always been blocked by something. About 5 weeks ago I put it on and, before the credits even started to roll, I got a huge pang of guilt because I hadn’t seen Kurosawa’s RASHOMON (1950) so that went on…. More on that later. A few weeks later I stuck it in a bag, amongst some others to take through to Jamie Stone’s with the intention of watching it on his projector, to give it some big screen respect. Much to my delight we ended up watching THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) which was very fitting for the shoot we were doing but, again, prevented me from watching it. Last night I was about to start watching 3 COLOURS: BLUE (1993) (which again, is a picture I’m ashamed not to have seen) when this movie demanded to be seen….. the film I speak of is, of course, Sidney Lumet’s 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).

Never before did I think a picture set in one room be so absolutely riveting. All facets of American life and society are around the table as part of a jury given the task of deciding if a kid is guilty of 1st degree murder. Henry Fonda plays Juror number 8…. we never find out his name, or most of their names. Fonda is the only man to vote not guilty in the first round of voting. Names do not matter in this scenario, all that matters is what each man represents and how that representation forms his opinion of the case. The film is beautifully shot by Boris Kaufman who also captured the natural anger of Lee J. Cobb in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) his camera movements (and choice of lenses) during the exchanges at the table are such that, as the picture progresses we are drawn closer and closer to this claustrophobic situation.

This movie is probably on a million “movies to see before you die” lists…. For once I agree with them. The scene below is a great exchange between Fonda and Cobb. I’ll not say to much about it as the action speaks well enough for itself.