Bogie56

Your Favourite Foreign Language Films from 1954

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3 hours ago, CoraSmith said:

Visconti's Ossessione is the first of three films about the interesting Cora Smith, although the Italians changed her name to Giovanna Bragana. Massimo Girotti and Clara Calamai play the two secret lovers from James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. She doesn't have the flamboyant entrance of Lana Turner, but it's a more down to earth version, sometimes considered the first neorealist film.

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James M. Cain's novel received no acknowledgment though Ossessione is clearly based on it.  For many years the Italians just ignored world copyright law.  Until they sorted out the copyright dispute with Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars could not get a North American release.

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18 hours ago, CoraSmith said:

Visconti's Ossessione is the first of three films about the interesting Cora Smith, although the Italians changed her name to Giovanna Bragana. Massimo Girotti and Clara Calamai play the two secret lovers from James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. She doesn't have the flamboyant entrance of Lana Turner, but it's a more down to earth version, sometimes considered the first neorealist film.

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I like both films. Two different styles of the same story gives us a richer, more complex perspective of the characters and plot.

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I caught Jacques Becker's Goupi Mains Rouges or It Happened at the Inn a few years ago at the BFI Southbank.  It is certainly not without flaws but I found it quite entertaining.  

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It begins with a young man played by George Rollins who is returning home after being away for many many years.  Oddly when he is met by an Uncle he is given the wrong directions and ends up in a secluded spooky cabin for the night.  This practical joke is typical of the cold reception that Rollins receives from his family who run a village Inn.  The eccentric family are caught up in trying to find the grandfather's stash before he dies.  The whip wielding mother played with great flourish by Germaine Kerjean is murdered in the night for the money.  Becker's film has a bit of everything:  comedy, murder mystery.  Unfortunately it never quite lives up to its premise.

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Germaine Kerjean

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On March 31, 2018 at 5:23 AM, Bogie56 said:

and I’ve also seen …

Titanic (1943) Herbert Selpin, Werner Klinger, Germany

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The German version of the Titanic disaster was on my "I've also seen" list which means I didn't think it was very good.   But if you are like me and want to watch just about any film this is worth catching for a few reasons.

I caught it when it was on TCM a number of years ago.  Unfortunately they have not included it in the evening of Titanic films they have planned.

It is a pure propaganda piece.  The villains of the story are the nasty corrupt British capitalists who disregard safety at every turn to try to break a frivolous speed record and make good their stock.  Parachuted into the story is an officer on the Titanic who happens to be German.  He tries in vain to warn of an impending disaster and when it strikes becomes the most heroic person in the film.

The behind-the-scenes story is interesting.  The first director Herbert Selpin apparently had story complaints so he was arrested and replaced by Werner Klinger.  Selpin was found hanged in his cell.

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Mine is "Das Leben der Anderen" (The Lives of Others), about East and West Germany after World War 2. It's so touching, and I love the ending. 

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On March 31, 2018 at 5:23 AM, Bogie56 said:

and I’ve also seen …

Le Baron Fantome (1943) Serge de Poligny, France

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I can barely remember anything about the The Phantom Baron.  I know it had tons of atmosphere but otherwise fell a bit flat.  Here is the first line of an imdb review which does a better job than I ...

Gothic oddity
michael.will3 August 2001
Jean Cocteau co-writes the screenplay and plays the briefly seen title role, but his influence is all over the place. After a creepy beginning heavy on the German Expressionism, it settles into a leisurely Bronte-style romantic cauldron, with a quadrangle of post-Napoleon Era youths in a French village battling class distinctions that get in the way of their romantic yearnings, which, interestingly, seem largely based on whoever is the most inaccessible.
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My top FF films of 1944 of the 3 that I have seen are ….

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1.  The Children Are Watching Us (1944) Vittorio De Sica, Italy

2.  Torment (1944) Alf Sjoberg, Sweden

and I’ve also seen …

The Most Beautiful (1944) Akira Kurosawa, Japan

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  1. Torment, Alf Sjöberg, Sweden
  2. Ivan the Terrible, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR
  3. The Children Are Watching Us, Vittorio De Sica, Italy

 

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My list of favorite foreign films of 1944-

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1.) Six P.M., Ivan Pyryev, Russia

2.)Ivan the Terrible, Sergei Eisenstein, Russia

3.) Torment, Alf Sjöberg, Sweden

4.) The Children Are Watching Us, Vittorio De Sica, Italy

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1944

  1. Ivan the Terrible, Part 1, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR

This is the first year in which a foreign title that I've seen earned a rating of 5/10 or lower. I will continue to list all of the foreign titles that I've seen from each year, but I'll only rank those that earned a 6/10 or higher. Anything with a 5/10 or lower I'll simply list in alphabetical order beneath the ranked list.

  • The Most Beautiful, Akira Kurosawa, Japan
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So I have to ask...I'm sure Bogie and Gershwin have seen Ivan the Terrible, Part 1. Why didn't either of you list it? Is this another year discrepancy? Or am I just assuming too much that you've both seen it?

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6 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

So I have to ask...I'm sure Bogie and Gershwin have seen Ivan the Terrible, Part 1. Why didn't either of you list it? Is this another year discrepancy? Or am I just assuming too much that you've both seen it?

No, I haven't seen it as yet.  Though I do have the box set dvd.  I might as well post this ...

Michael Gebert’s Golden Armchair Award for the 1943 foreign film was …

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Ivan the Terrible Part One (1944) Sergei Eisenstein, Russia

[Gebert was probably going by an old production date of 1943 for the film.  The imdb has a January 1945 release date while wikipedia specifically says it was on December 30, 1944.  I will go with wikipedia date as are others]

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2 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

[Gebert was probably going by an old production date of 1943 for the film.  The imdb has a January 1945 release date while wikipedia specifically says it was on December 30, 1944.  I will go with wikipedia date as are others]

IMDb also has the Dec. 30 1944 premiere date. 

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13 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

So I have to ask...I'm sure Bogie and Gershwin have seen Ivan the Terrible, Part 1. Why didn't either of you list it? Is this another year discrepancy? Or am I just assuming too much that you've both seen it?

I was just going to list them as one film in 1958. If everyone else is listing the first part as 1944 I will edit my list too though.

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3 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

IMDb also has the Dec. 30 1944 premiere date. 

Interesting.  That's new to the imdb as I made my Gebert notes ready to post only a few months ago.

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I realize I forgot to list this during the previous week.

1001 Movies titles for 1943

  • Ossessione, Luchino Visconti, Italy

1001 Movies titles for 1944

  • Ivan the Terrible, Parts 1 & 2, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR (I know part 2 wasn't released until '58, but this is how the book has it listed)
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4 minutes ago, Gershwin fan said:

I was just going to list them as one film in 1958. If everyone else is listing the first part as 1944 I will edit my list too though.

Yes, 1958 is the accepted date of release for Part Two.  I haven't seen it so it doesn't much matter but personally I would go with 1946.  I have my own peculiar rule that if a film is released long after it was completed, sometimes for political reasons I go with the completion date.

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1 minute ago, LawrenceA said:

I realize I forgot to list this during the previous week.

1001 Movies titles for 1943

  • Ossessione, Luchino Visconti, Italy

1001 Movies titles for 1944

  • Ivan the Terrible, Parts 1 & 2, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR (I know part 2 wasn't released until '58, but this is how the book has it listed)

From the foreign editions 

Vredens Dag, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Danish edition

Le Corbeau, Henri-Georges Clouzot, French edition

The Voice of the Heart, Dimitris Ionnapoulos, Greek edition

The Way You Wanted Me, Teuvo Tulio, Finnish edition

White Roses, Hannu Leminen, Finnish edition

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1. Ivan the Terrible, Part One  Sergei Eisenstein, Soviet Union

2. Le Ciel est a Vous, Jean Gremillon, France

3. Army, Keisuke Kinoshita, Japan

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Playing a little catch up here.

The Prix Louis Delluc began in 1936.  It is an award given by 20 of France’s Film Critics.  The 1936 winner was …

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The Lower Depths (1936) Jean Renoir, France

The winner of the 1937 Prix Louis Delluc Best Picture was …

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The Puritan (1938) Jeff Musso, France

The winner of the 1938 Prix Louis Delluc Best Picture was …

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Port of Shadows (1938) Marcel Carne, France

The next time the award would be given is in 1945.

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The 1944 Argentinian Film Critics Association Best Picture Award went to …

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His Best Pupil (1944) Lucas Demare, Argentina

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La Torre de los Siete Jorobados (The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks).

Directed by Edgar Neville, with Antonio Casal, Isabel de Pomés, and Félix de Pomés. Spain.

A ghost helps a young man win at roulette; in exchange, the young man must protect the ghost's niece from impending danger.

A bit stiff and stilted for modern audiences, but well made and entertaining mystery thriller.

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Ivan the Terrible is one of my favorite films of the forties.  Here's Matthew Dessem's post back at his blog, the Criterion Contraption:

I was wrong about Sergei Eisenstein. What I'd seen of his work had led me to believe he was only of historical interest: a master of technical innovations that have since been so thoroughly absorbed into cinematic grammar that they no longer seem remarkable. The person who invented the wheel undoubtedly changed the world of transportation forever, but that doesn't mean you'd like to spend two hours cruising along in Caveman Ug's first cart. Watching Ivan the Terrible was a bit like discovering that, just before he died, Caveman Ug also built a Ferarri. So: I was wrong about Sergei Eisenstein. The Ivan the Terrible films are masterpieces.

Not all masterpieces are things you want to see every weekend, however, and I'd recommend not popping these in when you're looking for a bit of lighthearted fun. Ivan the Terrible is a claustrophobic nightmare, the biopic reimagined as horror film by way of Disney and German Expressionism. Usually when someone says "You've never seen anything like this!" they really mean, "I haven't seen any of the hundreds of similar films, and I'm hoping you haven't either!" I'm as guilty of that as anyone, but I'll say with some confidence that you've never seen anything like the Ivan the Terrible films. They don't seem to have been made by the director of Alexander Nevsky. Actually, they don't seem to have been made on this planet. The first adjective that comes to mind is diseased. Most viewers won't make it through the long, slow opening scene. That's a shame, because the second adjective that comes to mind is indispensable. There are more insightful films about the way power corrodes those who would wield it, or the dangers of giving oneself away to an abstract idea, or even Russia and other totalitarian regimes. But there's something about these two films; they burrow into your head and stay there. And I do mean burrow; the movement of the film is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into. Every frame the film advances moves its characters closer to a point of absolute malignant stasis. And in virtually every scene, Eisenstein undercuts the traditional tropes of heroic biography, creating one of the most unsettling movies ever made.

The first scene is as good an example as any; Ivan, Prince of Moscow, is being crowned Tsar of All Russias. It's a giant set piece of imperialistic pageantry, and Ivan, wearing the crown for the first time in his life, looks as idealistic and regal as we'll ever see him. It doesn't hurt that he's being portrayed by Nikolai Cherkasov, who audiences would be primed to think of as a straightforward hero, thanks to Alexander Nevsky.

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This scene is in dozens of movies, in one form or another. But Eisenstein keeps cutting away from the ceremony to reaction shots of the crowd, of which a few examples will suffice. Notice how carefully composed these images are; the only other film I can think of where every shot is so visually striking is The Passion of Joan of Arc:

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Beautiful photography, all in the service of making a viewer ill at ease. I'll go ahead and say it: this movie will make you paranoid. Or in my case, even more paranoid. Even Mikhail Nazvanov's Andrei Kurbsky, nominally one of Ivan's close friends, seems less than pleased by the ceremony.

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Eisenstein doesn't give us any context for these disconnected shots of malice and contempt at first, just plunges us into Ivan's landmine filled court. Ivan seems pretty indifferent to the hostility that surrounds him; he just stares off into the distance in the manner of someone who's above it all. Which is literally true, naturally. His first speech at the coronation ceremony has three main planks: he's going to end the "pernicious power of the boyars," he's forming a standing army and giving citizens a choice between conscription and taxation, and he's ending the church's tax-exempt status. Yep: it's basically how Hugh Hewitt imagines Obama's Inaugural Address. The point is not the specifics of his platform, so much as the fact that he's immediately asking his citizenry to sacrifice in the name of the Russian State. You can see in his eyes that he's the kind of person who dedicates himself to noble goals. Or at least that's what he tells himself. We get to see one more moment of pomp and circumstance for Ivan, his wedding to Anastasia Romanovna.

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Once again, Ivan is surrounded by people who aren't even trying to conceal their contempt for him, with one exception, his cousin Vladimir Staritsky. Vlad doesn't have an evil bone in his body, mostly because he's a complete moron. Here, he's yelling "Kiss her!" to Ivan, with a mouth full of food.

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Naturally, Vladimir is the patsy that the boyars want to put on the throne in Ivan's place. They're led by his charming mother Efrosinia, played by Serafima Birman as almost comically untrustworthy.

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Ivan's wedding ends in classic Russian style: Moscow is burned to the ground, the peasantry storm his castle, Kazan declares war on Russia, and Ivan leads an army off to war. Presumably, the royal wedding planners were all beheaded. From here on out, everything moves downhill and inward, although the early scenes are actually relatively open and broad. The battle of Kazan features some large-scale exteriors that are positively sweeping:

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Of course, what we're seeing there are the artillery and troops led by Kurbsky. The battle is won because Ivan relies, instead, on a team of sappers:

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As elsewhere in the film, it's all about digging in. The leader of the sappers is one Malyuta Skuratov, who begins the film as a bit of a dunce, a man of vigorous passions and actions; he's always doing things like wiping the sweat off his brow, or enthusiastically rallying people to Kazan:

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Ivan senses potential in Malyuta's dumb obeisance before power, and promptly employs him to run his intelligence-gathering operations. The work isn't good for his working-class vigor; by halfway through the first film, he moves through the courts like a wraith, just taking everything in.

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Note that only one eye is in the frame: long before Sauron, Eisenstein had figured out the sinister effects of disembodied eyes.

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I suppose living in a surveillance state makes one particularly sensitive to questions of observation, particularly when you're making a movie about another surveillance state. Eisenstein takes every opportunity to shoot his characters with one eye obscured, using props, costumes, and lighting to make cyclopean monsters of his cast.

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The shots don't seem to have any significance to the film's internal mechanics: a one-eyed shot doesn't have much relation that I could see to a character's moral status at that point in the film. Instead, the cyclops shots are just a pervasive image that Eisenstein goes back to again and again, heightening the paranoia the films are steeped in. It's worth mentioning at this point that one of Ivan's signature achievements was the creation of the Oprichniki, Russia's first secret police squad. They're led by Malyuta, and they get the same faraway look in their eyes Ivan does when he talks about the Russian State. Here's Fyodor Basmanov, a representative sample:

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He's looking pretty happy for someone whose father has just disowned him so he can join the Oprichniki. In the Ivan films (as in life), anytime someone's looking off into the distance, you'd be well advised to stay the hell away from them. When you're looking long-term, a little bloodshed in the here and now isn't worth losing any sleep over. Here's the trifecta:

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There's exactly one character who doesn't become more and more corrupt every time we see her, and the narrative treats her just about as kindly as Efrosinia does.

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That's Lyudmila Tselikovskaya as Ivan's wife Anastasia, the only character who seems more or less blameless (though like all women in the film, she's been kept from any real power—but leave the question of virtue without agency for another post). Anyway: Anastasia is the film's repository for positive values. She doesn't make it out of the first movie. She asks Ivan for water; he finds a conveniently placed poisoned goblet, and that's that. Efrosinia is to blame, although it should be noted that Malyuta, the "Eye of the Tsar," is looking in exactly the wrong direction when Ivan finds the poison.

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The problem with surrounding yourself with people who worship you is that they'll kill your wife (or do nothing to stop her murder) if they think it will bring the two of you closer. And Malyuta, it should be remembered, quite literally kneels at Ivan's feet panting and slavering like a dog.

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Things just keep getting grimmer, more constricted, and above all more paranoid. By the opening of the second film, Eisenstein has abandoned any pretense that he's making a biopic. Kurbsky's betrayal of Ivan and surrender to the Poles pretty clearly takes place in some kind of homoerotic fairy tale, not sixteenth century Europe.

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Eisenstein had originally planned for his film to open with the murder of Ivan's mother and a lengthy sequence of Ivan's rule as a child, manipulated by the boyars. Mosfilm told him he had to start with something uplifting (the coronation), so Eisenstein used the footage he'd shot in the second film, which is where it belongs. Like Kurbsky's surrender, it's from the world of fairy tales, where parents are lost and guardians are wicked.

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The film works better by slowly degenerating into a fairy tale; starting there would have been a mistake. The may be the only instance of a Soviet bureaucrat making a decision that improved art. Except for one other: they gave Eisenstein some Agfacolor stock that the retreating German troops weren't using any more. So at just about exactly the time the film hits the bottom of its moral abyss, Eisenstein gets to use color. He rose to the occasion, and so did Prokofiev: "Dance of the Oprichniks" is the best part of the score. Ivan the Terrible, Part II is the only film besides The Producers to feature a showstopping musical number with a chorus line of mass murderers.

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It's not played for laughs. Like Lolita, Ivan the Terrible is filled with "travesties of familial feeling" (Martin Amis's phrase), and Ivan's revels are no exception. Here's the dancer the choreography is built around:

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Fyodor in a mask is a pretty obvious example, but Eisenstein goes so far as to create travesties of earlier scenes in his own film. In doing so, he asks more of viewers than most directors. It's impossible to overstate the sheer visual craftsmanship on display throughout these movies. When you see Vladimir—drunk to the point of stupefaction—rest his head on Ivan's lap:

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You're meant to think of an earlier shot of Vladimir and Efrosinia:

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But that shot was already a travesty of the Pietà. See what I mean about knotting into? Does Eisenstein go all the way back around to sincerity? Well, shortly after Vladimir passes out, we get this:

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That looks an awful lot like Ivan as a boy, down to the eye movement; which doesn't bode well for Vladimir. Eisenstein's not done with the Pietà just yet.

Beyond the painstaking visual craftsmanship and the relentlessly self-devouring narrative structure, the staggering thing about Ivan the Terrible is that it's only two-thirds complete. What could Eisenstein possibly have done in the third film to continue Ivan's decline? Well, the historical Ivan beat one daughter-in-law into miscarrying, tried to rape the other, and bashed his son's skull in, so Eisenstein had room to play with. Or rather, he would have, if Stalin hadn't decided that perhaps Eisenstein's portrait of a diseased survelliance state and its batshit crazy, megalomaniacal autocrat wasn't the kind of Russian mythmaking he was aiming for. But even incomplete, Ivan the Terrible is an unqualified masterpiece, a perfect union of form and function. Every scene, every shot, every frame presents a unified vision of humanity in which everyone is a jackal, an imbecile, or both. Happy New Year, everybody!

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Randoms:

  • Ivan the Terrible, Part II features probably the best subtitle in the entire Criterion Collection. I'm not really sure how this even happened:

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  • Eisenstein had clearly given some thought to the question of how to make the third film even more unsettling than the last, as a few surviving fragments make clear. For one thing, he'd cast Mikhail Romm, then the chairman of the Film Union, in the role of Queen Elizabeth. Cate Blanchett eat your heart out.

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  • I think it's safe to assume that Ivan the Terrible, Part III would have been as unnerving as its predecessors.
.

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My top FF films of 1945 of the 5 that I have seen are ….

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1.  Children of Paradise (1945) Marcel Carne, France

2.  Rome, Open City (1945) Roberto Rossellini, Italy

3.  Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne (1945) Robert Bresson, France

4.  Doorway to Heaven (1945) Vittorio De Sica, Italy

and I’ve also seen …

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945) Akira Kurosawa

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1945

  1. Rome, Open City, Roberto Rossellini, Italy
  2. Children of Paradise, Marcel Carne, France
  3. Sanshiro Sugata Part Two, Akira Kurosawa, Japan
  4. The Men Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail, Akira Kurosawa, Japan

 

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