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

Tuesday, January 07, 2014
THE YEAR MY DAD WAS BORN: We've discussed my favorite films of
2003, 1993, 1983, 1973, 1963, and 1953. I think I've spotted a pattern!

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1943, it gave its Best Picture award to Casablanca—a peculiar choice, since the film actually debuted in 1942. It appears in my top 10 list for that year, not this one.

1. Shadow of a Doubt
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, from a story by Gordon McDonell

Few things are as odd as watching Thornton Wilder's sensibility collide with Hitchcock's. Wilder's screenplay is an ode to conformity, and Hitch's picture drily undercuts the script at every turn.

2. Meshes of the Afternoon
Directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
Written by Deren

If a movie is set in a spooky dreamworld, chances are good that it owes a debt to this.

3. Le Corbeau
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Written by Clouzot and Louis Chavance, from a story by Chavance

A Vichy-era portrait of paranoia in a small town. The Resistance denounced the film as an attack on the French people, but in retrospect it looks like a critique of the culture of collaboration.

4. Red Hot Riding Hood
Written and directed by Tex Avery

The Male Gaze: A Comedy.

5. Ossessione
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Visconti, Mario Alicata, Giuseppe De Santis, and Gianni Puccinim, from a novel by James M. Cain

The first and best of the pictures based on The Postman Always Rings Twice.

6. The Ox-Bow Incident
Directed by William A. Wellman
Written by Lamar Trotti, from a novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

There's more to this noir western than a morality tale about the evils of lynching. In some ways, the view of humanity on display here is as bleak as the outlook in Le Corbeau.

7. I Walked with a Zombie
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Written by Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray, from a novel by Charlotte Brontë

Tourneur and producer Val Lewton's follow-up to Cat People isn't quite as good as its predecessor, but it's still one of the best horror pictures of the '40s.

8. Five Graves to Cairo
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder and Charles Brackett, from a play by Lajos Bíró

Billy Wilder's Casablanca.

9. Day of Wrath
Directed by Carl Dreyer
Written by Dreyer, Poul Knudsen, and Mogens Skot-Hansen, from a play by Hans Wiers-Jenssen

A film about a witch hunt. This would make an interesting triple bill with Ox-Bow and Le Corbeau.

10. The Eternal Return
Directed by Jean Delannoy
Written by Jean Cocteau

A fairy-tale romance. Remember, real fairy tales are cruel and weird.

Honorable mentions:

11. Tortoise Wins by a Hare (Bob Clampett)
12. Journey Into Fear (Norman Foster, Orson Welles)
13. Dumb-Hounded (Tex Avery)
14. Stormy Weather (Andrew L. Stone)
15. The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson)
16. The Fallen Sparrow (Richard Wallace)
17. Tin Pan Alley Cats (Bob Clampett)
18. Falling Hare (Bob Clampett)
19. Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (Bob Clampett)
20. What's Buzzin' Buzzard? (Tex Avery)

I'll spare you the trouble of counting: 7 of those 20 films are cartoon shorts, all from either Tex Avery or Bob Clampett. I've said before that if I allowed individual TV episodes onto these lists, there would be years in the '90s overwhelmed by installments of The Simpsons. I suppose this is the equivalent for the World War II era.

Of the films of 1943 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Lumière d'été.

posted by Jesse 8:34 AM
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