The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Thursday, January 05, 2006
FORWARD, INTO THE PAST: Having reviewed the best movies of
1995, 1985, and 1975, we now plunge backwards to 1965:

1. Repulsion
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Polanski, Gerard Brach, and David Stone

The most claustrophobic and horrific of Polanki's claustrophobic horror movies.

2. The Saragossa Manuscript
Directed by Wojciech Has
Written by Tadeusz Kwiatkowski, from a novel by Jan Potocki

A story within a story within a story within a...

3. The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas

Torturers battle terrorists in colonial Algeria. In the '60s, would-be Guevaras watched this to teach themselves revolution; nearly four decades later, the Pentagon screened it for tips on fighting terror. Whatever else they found in it, both groups got to see one hell of a movie -- a film so utterly unflinching in its amorality that it feels more like a dispassionate documentary than a propaganda picture.

4. The Loved One
Directed by Tony Richardson
Written by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood, from a novel by Evelyn Waugh

The Duck Soup of pet cemetery movies.

5. A Game with Stones
Written and directed by Jan Svankmajer

Many surrealists have directed abstract films without narratives, but only Svankmajer made movies as rich and engaging as the paintings of Dali, Ernst, and Magritte. The stones in this film arrange themselves into simple shapes, into more intricate patterns, and eventually into human beings who swallow each other. Sorry if that description sounds a little abstruse: It isn't easy to describe the plot of a Dali poster either.

6. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Directed by Martin Ritt
Written by Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper, from a novel by John Le Carre

A spy movie that plays like a film noir. In Le Carre's bleak story, the intelligence agencies of the Cold War aren't entirely separate -- they're more like competing forces within one vast corrupting system.

7. Simon of the Desert
Directed by Luis Bunuel
Written by Bunuel and Julio Alejandro

A meditating monk faces off with the devil. This being Bunuel, there's no reason to assume the devil will lose.

8. Chimes at Midnight
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Welles, from plays by William Shakespeare

Falstaff was always more interesting than Henry. Now he gets to take center stage.

9. Looking for Mushrooms
Directed by Bruce Conner

There's actually four versions of this psychedelic travelogue: a silent 8mm loop first shown in 1965; a 16mm version set to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," first screened in 1967; a slowed-down 1996 version -- my favorite of the lot -- set to Terry Riley's "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band"; and, in 2001, an interactive installation that lets you move the film at your own speed. The only one of those I haven't seen is the 1965 edition, but by the arbitrary rules I've set for these lists, this is a 1965 movie. Go figure.

10. Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller, from Farrell's novel

Frequently written off as a retread of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, this over-the-top gothic soap opera is a fine film in its own right.

And speaking of arbitrary rules: In theory, I'm assigning these movies to the year in which they were first screened, not the year they went into general American release. But when I realized I had left The Secret of Roan Inish out of my 1994 list last year and Swept Away... out of 1974's top ten, I bent the law to include them this time around. Also, I've secretly authorized a warrantless wiretap on your phone. Sorry about that.


posted by Jesse 12:47 PM
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