Tuesday, 31 January 2012

#25 USA — The Room (2003)

Half way there! At the start of this I didn't think I'd make it to this point. Here's an extra special review to mark this event. Enjoy.

Never has there been a film so misunderstood as Tommy Wiseau's 2003 masterpiece, The Room. The sheer volume of viewers who don't "get" it and instead enjoy it for supposedly unintentional comic value is disgusting. I assure you that the comedy is not only completely intentional, it is the most subtly satirical and intelligent humour since Jacques Tati.

The Room opens with the main character, Johnny, on a tram journey. The understanding of this metaphorical device is key to understanding the nature of the film. The tram here symbolises the modern way of thinking. Tram systems are seen as important because of their "green" nature and are recently being implemented in a number of cities — such as my home town, Edinburgh — to help reduce carbon footprints and suchlike. Johnny steps of the tram at the end of the title sequence, and thus starts a new life, attempting to appreciate the simple things in life, such as American Football and doing chicken impressions. Such a life-changing moment has not been implied so subtly and perfectly since Jeanne Dielman in Chantal Akerman's 1975 film (reviewed earlier).

One comment which is frequently made about the film is that Tommy Wiseau's acting as Johnny is one of the — if not, the — worst performances of all time. What you will notice, however, is that the acting is very restrained and there isn't one false move until he steps off that tram. Wiseau is inviting us into his simple world, one where we should not judge or be judged for how we present ourselves or how good our vagina location skills are (hint, it's not on the belly button). The fact that most viewers do not find this idea incredibly beautiful makes me weep for modern society.

A scene which is frequently misinterpreted, but is in fact one of the most overtly symbolic segments of the film is the flower shop scene. This short scene has more content and depth than most films have in their whole run-time. I will explain a few of the important aspects, but to go through them all would take a lifetime. First off, the shopkeeper fails to recognise Johnny as he walks into the shop, despite his very memorable features. She does not know who he his, because he is a new man, changed by his decision to live a better life. The fast, surreal pace of this scene coupled with the jarring dialog emphasises his dissatisfaction with the emphasis on efficiency in modern life. This channels Tati's Jour De Fete, alongside the absurdism of Bunuel's comedies.

There are moments, however, when Wiseau takes us out of this ideal view of life, showing it as an impossibility. The most obvious of these is in the plot, where his life is ruined by the modern world for attempting to choose a better way of life. More subtly, the frequently blurry camera suggests that this ideal life can only be a dream, and that it is unobtainable now. The picture of a spoon which is often parodied and made fun of also exists to strengthen this idea. It is a reference to the scene in The Matrix where reality is called into question with the bending of a spoon.

The most important aspect which is often seen as amusing i— ah screw it, this film is absolutely awful. Watch it anyway though, as it's rather hilarious.

Also recommended from the USA:
Plan 9 From Outer Space

Friday, 27 January 2012

#24 Turkey — Climates (2006)

Why I chose this: I discovered Ceylan around the same time I saw my first Bela Tarr film. Since then, he has been one of my favourite modern directors. I got Climates on DVD as a Birthday present, but never got round to watching it. This series is turning into a great way to watch DVDs I've had for too long.

Climates stands as another testament to Ceylan's painfully astute understanding of relationship breakdowns. Sitting between the phenomenal Uzak's exploration of a damaged brotherly connection and Three Monkey's examination of a family unit under siege, Climates studies a man-woman (it's not revealed if they are married, unless there was an obvious wedding ring I missed) relationship in its most sorry state.

Ceylan is often lumped into the Contemporary Contemplative Cinema "movement". Although he shares a common approach with a few of his peers — most notably Andrei Zvyagintsev — he has much more in common with the works of Michaelangelo Antonioni. His work demonstrates a profound knowledge of modern society's effects on human relationships, which makes his films very easy to connect with, if you can get past the slow pace.

Ceylan's choice to cast himself and his wife as the main characters is both brave and thought-provoking. How autobiographical is this film? The strength and believability of both performances gives saddening clues.

Although the cinematography isn't quite as stunning as Uzak, it is used as a storytelling device more effectively. It goes together with the mise en scene to reinforce the emotions and connections present in the shot. Physical space and actor positioning is used to show emotional distance between characters and depth-of-field is altered to show disassociation with a character's surroundings.

Music is used sparingly and is all connected to the diegesis in clever ways (cf The Big Lebowski). It sometimes borders on manipulative depressiveness, but never quite crosses the boundary and so remains sincere. However, the weather changing to fit the mood of the scenes sometimes feels fake and obvious, but this doesn't heavily detract from the experience.

The characters feel very real and well developed, and the presentation is painfully honest, but I still didn't find the film to be as great as Uzak or Three Monkeys. Perhaps the main character's boorish insensitivity prevented me from properly connecting with him, or his wife's childish aloofness from understanding the original attraction.

I do have a few gripes, but in general, Climates is a great, if depressing, view of the disintegration of love and how it still leaves pieces of itself behind. Perhaps not necessary viewing, but definitely worth a watch for fans of Ceylan's other work or of slow, humanist cinema in general.

Also recommended from Turkey:
Other films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Uzak, Three Monkeys)
Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven, Head-On)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

#23 Hungary — Damnation (1987)

Why I chose this: I'm sure I've mentioned Bela Tarr a number of times in this series so far. Some of you may have picked up that he is one of my favourite directors. Having only seen Satantango, Werkmiester Harmonies and The Turin Horse, I jumped at the excuse to watch another.

The best way to watch a Bela Tarr film is with equal amounts of patience and Prozac. No-one else makes films which are quite as long, slow and depressing as Tarr. His 1994 masterpiece, Satantango, consists of around 150 shots where very little happens. It also happens to be seven hours long. The Turin Horse tones it down a bit, restricting itself to 30 shots and a measly three hours. It's a good thing that as well as the languid miserablism, his films are among the most beautiful, hypnotic, subtly absurd and intelligent you will find.

Damnation's themes are dense and numerous. Human absurdity, emotional and physical connections, obsession and relationship roles all feature.  devastating bleakness hangs over everything. It is present in the rain, the faces of the characters and the black-and-white images. The scene which I think ties all of these together and has the most emotional impact is the main character talking about his previous relationship with a joyous girl, which ended in her suicide. His descriptions created vivid, colourful pictures in my head, where the colour slowly faded as the happiness fell from their relationship.

The photography is outstanding, consisting of very long shots which track over space at a crawl. Often, the camera would start facing a wall, or the ceiling and I would try to guess just what it would do next; I was almost always wrong. The lighting is stark, striking and effective, evoking film noir at its best. The glacial pace of the shots and editing allow the viewer to drink in every detail of the frames and bask in the atmosphere.

Mihaly Vig's music is as excellent as in his other films (although his genius in The Turin Horse is perhaps the pinnacle of his achievement). It switches between ironically upbeat folksy tunes and melancholic melodic meanderings. The jet-black humour and ultra-bleak tone are both strengthened by its presence.

Tarr's film world is, as ever, unplaceable. It seems to at once exist in the past — a mix of 50s clothes and 70s hairstyles perhaps? — and some future circa the apocalypse. This adds to the absurdity and bleakness of the film and creates a truly unforgettable setting.

Many of the details are left to the viewer's imagination, so everyone's interpretation of certain elements will be different. For example, who is the poetic old woman with the umbrella who pops up every now and again? For me, she seemed like a remnant of a God who has long forsaken this land (hence the title). Others may think I'm talking rubbish; I'll let you decide.

If you have watched a film and thought that it was "too slow", this film probably isn't for you. If you want a well developed story, look elsewhere. But if you are patient, appreciate deep thematic exploration and want an unique experience, then Damnation and it's sister films are near unparallelled.

Also recommended from Hungary:
All other Bela Tarr films
Miklos Jancso (The Red and the White, The Round Up)
Marcell Jankovics (Feherlofia)

Friday, 20 January 2012

#22 France — The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979)

Why I chose this: I flip-flopped a lot here. I watched a number of French films in the last few weeks; Rivette's surreal Celine and Julie Go Boating, a re-watch of Last Year at Marienbad — a personal favourite — and a relatively unknown 70s production called The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting. Another possibility would be Les Enfants Du Paradis, which I think is the best standard-style film ever made. Eventually I settled on the least known one; there's nothing I love more than finding hidden gems, so hopefully I'll satisfy others with this interest.

The late Raoul Ruiz was an unfortunate victim of chance. Despite making over 100 features and possessing a film-making skill to rival all of cinema's best, he never achieved the worldwide recognition of, say, Bunuel or Godard.

The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is, on the surface, a film where two narrators — one seen and one unseen — discuss progressively contrived theories of how a series of paintings join up. Further down, it is a very wry satire on art criticism and interpretation.

I don't think I have ever second-guessed myself more than I did watching this. I myself formulated convoluted ideas on what the film was trying to say, then realised the more that I thought about them and the more obscure they got, the more I was falling into the film's trap and doing exactly what it was satirising. There is a sort of meta-irony in there that would make this film a hipster's wet dream.

The cinematography by frequent Resnais and Greenaway collaborator, Sacha Vierny is stunning. The frames are sharp, shadowy and thoughtfully composed, presenting tableux vivants of the eponymous paintings. Vierny's work on Last Year at Marienbad is felt many times, although never quite reaching the utter perfection of Marienbad's images.

The narrative structure is effective and surreal. We move through the paintings, one by one, before witnessing a kind of snapshot of the paintings intertwined at the end. This compliments the absurdity of the theories in a similar fashion to Bunuel's narratives running alongside the crazy lives of the bourgeoisie.

Although one could discuss theories about the film until Ruiz started rolling in his grave, this would completely miss the point of the film. The satire is fairly subtle, but executed in a way that shows these critics or theorists to be childishly endearing rather than simply calling them idiots. I think they — myself included, as I probably fall under this banner — would perhaps prefer the latter, however. Even if one doesn't catch/pay attention to this facet of the film, they can easily get swept along by the excellent cinematography, surreal atmosphere and complex theorising.

Also recommended from France:
Marcel Carne (Les Enfants du Paradis, Port of Shadows)
Alain Resnais (Last Year At Marienbad, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Night and Fog)
Jean-Luc Godard (Pierrot Le Fou, Breathless)
Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai, Army of Shadows)
Jaques Tati (Play Time, Mon Oncle)
Krzystof Kieslowski (Three Colours Trilogy)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


No review today, exams and suchlike. I'll get one up ASAP. Here's a fluffy kitten instead.

Friday, 13 January 2012

#21 United Kingdom — Black Narcissus (1947)

Why I chose this: If a recent re-watch of one of my favourite films isn't reason enough for a review, I don't know what is.

I'm a sucker for hand drawn backgrounds in film. They add an otherworldly quality which is impossible to achieve otherwise. Black Narcissus joins this with my love of high-saturation technicolour films to make a film of timeless beauty and originality.

A selection from an order of nuns are sent to a remote Himalayan town to start a convent. They aim to educate the natives and keep them healthy, but find themselves brought to conflict by the exotic surroundings and a handsome agent known as Mr. Dean.

I generally don't talk much about acting in these reviews, mainly because it's an aspect of film which doesn't interest me as much as cinematography or music. In this case, failure to mention the acting would be a crime. Everyone in the film gives a top-rate perform ace. Deborah Kerr plays the uptight and very proper sister superior, Clodagh, who slowly reveals a deep humanity as the film progresses. Kathleen Byron is intense and unforgettable as Sister Ruth, who is deeply affected by the surroundings and begins to go mad. Mr. Dean is played with a concern for the nuns and sense of right, overshadowed by a refined brutishness by David Farrar.

In true Archers style, the film is full of memorable scenes. Clodagh's open talk with Mr. Dean ("I couldn't stop the wind from blowing and the air from being as clear as crystal, and I couldn't hide the mountain.") is one of the best written and acted segments I've seen, and the ending is as tense as any Hitchcock film.

All of these components are brought together by Jack Cardiff's spectacular cinematography. There are many images which will haunt the viewer long after the final reel ends. The colours are as sumptuous as you'll find in any Christopher Doyle film and the composition as good as any from Sven Nykvist.

Although the film is about nuns, it is not overtly religious; the focus is on the themes of the power of nature, nostalgia and temptation rather than faith. Each of those three are very well developed and weave in and out of each other for the picture's duration. The story is constructed in such a way that the themes are intrinsic rather than tacked on, which increases their power and the sense on sincerity which the film gives.

As much of a cliche that it is, there is something for everyone in Black Narcissus. Those to whom scenery porn is the most important element will be more than fulfilled, acting fetishists will be captivated by the cast and story lovers have a thrilling ride to be dragged along on. The style grants the film a certain magic that is matched perhaps only by Marcel Carne's Les Enfants du Paradis. Any cinema lover should see this at least once.

Also recommended from the United Kingdom:
Stanley Kubrick (Any of his films)
Powell & Pressburger (A Matter of Life and Death, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
Nicholas Roeg (Walkabout, Don't Look Now)
Carol Reed (The Third Man)
Mike Leigh (Another Year, Naked)
Terry Jones (& Terry Gilliam) (Life of Brian, (The Holy Grail))
Terry Gilliam (Brazil)
Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

#20 Armenia — The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)

Why I chose this: I'm not familiar with any other Armenian works than those of Sergei Parajanov. I'm still to see his other films, but I felt that The Colour of Pomegranates needed to be rewatched, so it seemed like a good choice for this review.

The Colour of Pomegranates is not a conventional biopic. Rather than being a simple dramatisation of key points in the subject's life (e.g. Senna, Ray), it is a visual representation of their work interspersed with poeticised versions of their life, all played out in stunning tableau vivant. The subject in this case is the Armenian poet and bard Sayat Nova (King of Songs).

Unless you've seen another Parajanov film, I can guarantee you've never seen anything like this. Each shot is a work of beautifully surreal art. The image composition is bizarre but striking. Look at the picture at the top of the page. Almost every frame has the same quality as that.

The excellent soundtrack consists of Armenian folk music of many varieties. Every piece is very musically interesting and complements the exotic images perfectly.

The film is not just pretty pictures, there is an incredible amount of symbolism ingrained into the images. Some can be interpreted literally, while some require more thought. No matter how deep into the complex metaphors one wishes to delve, it is impossible to not find any food for thought, which sets it apart from many other visually driven films (such as Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives in the previous review). Some may find some of the symbols too overt, and I may have agreed with them if this were a standard narrative film. In this case, the symbolism is the narrative, so the blatant nature of some metaphors is entirely necessary.

Perhaps the only gripe I have with the film is that it is too short. I own the fantastic Second Run transfer, which has a running time of 70 minutes; I could watch this for hours! I have managed to acquire the rushes of the film, which comes to four hours long, but has no sound. I'll get round to watching this despite this at some point (if anyone wants to know where they can get this, leave a comment).

The Colour of Pomegranates is one of the most dizzyingly original films ever produced. It's beauty and poetic nature are matched by very few and grows with multiple viewings. Anyone who appreciates cinema as art simply must see this film as it stands as one of the highest points that film has ever reached.

Friday, 6 January 2012

#19 Thailand — Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Why I chose this: Apichatpong (or Joe as he likes to be called) is one of my favourite contemporary directors. This week was the first time I got a chance to see his Palme D'Or winning 2010 feature, so what better film to review for my Thailand segment?

Joe is a master of duality and context. In Syndromes and a Century, the juxtaposition of two similar stories set in different places/times makes a perfectly normal trip to the dentist a heartbreaking allegory for the breakdown of brotherhood in the modern world. In Tropical Malady, the placing of a feverish nightmare hunting segment after a love story gives it insane depths of new meaning. In Uncle Boonmee, a princess having sex with a catfish is put alongside visits from a red-eyed monkey-spirit to show... Nope, lost me.

Perhaps there is actually a wealth of hidden meaning in this film. Perhaps I'm just not in tune with the director, or am too simple to understand what's going on. Or perhaps Joe has just created a film with as little concrete meaning as possible in the vein of early Bunuel or Kiarostami's characters and dressed it up with pretty images and mysticism to make us think it's deep. Let us not forget that it was Tim Burton who presented this with Cannes greatest prize; a director to whom "style over substance" is a way of life.

That is not to say that I didn't find anything to take out of Uncle Boonmee, nor does it mean that I didn't enjoy it. The film follows a stream of consciousness through a dying man's memories of his other lives — think of a less substantial implementation of Tarkovsky's Zerkalo — which invokes themes of the power of memory, nostalgia and the essence of life along the way. These themes aren't so much explored as they are vaguely suggested, but the idea of themes is that you at least give us some direction to go in (cf. Antonioni), not just say "think about memory for a minute. Good, now think about erotic fish".

One aspect which is not lost from his other films is the visuals; the images are still breathtakingly beautiful, the trees still an incredible shade of green, the light still shifting and parting over the frame. Another is the mystical and dreamy atmosphere, constructed by the languid pacing, free-form editing and otherworldly imagery. If you found yourself captivated by the second half of Tropical Malady, or hypnotised by the camera's hospital wanderings in Syndromes and a Century, you will be transfixed once again.

Uncle Boonmee is both astonishingly beautiful and unnecesarily opaque. Viewers may fall in love with the style of the film, but there's only so much that two hours of pretty pictures can do without anything to back them up.

Also recommended from Thailand:
Ong Bak
The Last Life in the Universe

I also watched Scorpio Rising this week, which was great. That's one down on my New Years Film Challenge, 29 to go.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

#18 Spain — The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Why I chose this: The first time I heard about this film was when I was still in my cinematic infancy in 2008. It was in the Empire magazine review for Thomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In. At the end of the review, the film was compared to The Spirit of the Beehive, Orphee and Pan's Labyrinth. At the time, Pan's Labyrinth was my favourite film, so the others mentioned were committed to memory. I only attempted to watch The Spirit of the Beehive last year when I took it out of the university library only to find that the DVD was rendered unwatchable by extensive scratches. I returned it and forgot about the incident. A few weeks ago, I took it out of the library again, and found once more that the disk was terribly scratched, despite having told the library to replace it. Luckily, I got a voucher which would give me a £20 Amazon voucher if I opened a free LoveFilm trial, so I obliged and put the film on my list. After a long struggle to watch the film, here are my thoughts.

Making a poignant film where a child is the main character is hard. When one decides to do this, they instantly generate a tightrope of sincerity which they need to be very skilled to stay on. Films of this variety can very easily fall off one side of the line into the "Awwww... Look at the ickle kiddie... Feel sorry for it!" realm of emotional manipulation tactics. Just as easily, it can overbalance into the territory of forced morals and themes, both of which lead to an ultimately shallow work. If, however, the film can make it to the end of the rope (if you'll excuse the extended metaphor), the result can be almost universally relatable. The Spirit of the Beehive is one such film.

The child in question is a young girl called Ana who begins learn life lessons against the backdrop of the Spanish civil war after she sees the film Frankenstien at a travelling cinema. She is played astoundingly well by a seven-years-old Ana Torrent. Her discoveries of death and the world seem as real as her initial innocence and are met with a degree of wonder, confusion and apprehension which only exist in the world of a child. Just thinking about this film revives the tender and serene feelings which go with Ana's discovery of a fugative in a barn and the trepeditious perplexity she displays when her sister plays dead.

The cinematography is beautiful, flooding the frame with dreamlike honey hues and generating sparse pseudo-surreal images. It complements the graceful pace of the film and creates a very relaxing atmosphere.

There is obviously a lot of allegory present, but I'll be honest and say that I didn't pay attention to it as I was utterly captivated by the film's dreamlike quality.

There is nothing which cannot be praised about The Spirit of the Beehive. It remains beguiling, touching, utterly gorgeous and perhaps the greatest film about childhood there is.

Also recommended from Spain:
Talk To Her
The Machinist
Open Your Eyes
Who Can Kill a Child?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year Film Challenge

I never really make New Year Resolutions, mainly because I know I'll never keep them. This year, I stole an idea from my fiancĂ©e to set myself a film challenge instead (she is doing it with books) as I might actually complete it. It will also give me a concrete goal of what to eliminate from my watchlist, which currently sits 725 films. Hence, I have created a list of 30 films which I want to have watched by the end of the year:

1. The 400 Blows
I have not yet seen a single Truffaut film. For someone who claims to know a thing or two about cinema, this is practically inexcusable. I don't know the reason why I've not seen The 400 Blows yet, but I'll aim to see it this year.

2. The Blood of a Poet
I find surrealist cinema fascinating; the short films of Maya Deren and such works as The Seashell and the Clergyman and L'Etoile de Mere continue to amaze me. I have only seen Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, which I found visually astounding, but otherwise underwhelming. I am very interested to see his visual style applied to surrealist film.

3. The Burmese Harp
Music, great cinematography and anti-war message — what's not to like? Additionally, Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge is one of my favourite films. The only thing holding me back is the hefty price tag on the Masters of Cinema dual format edition.

4. Celine and Julie Go Boating
Probably the film I'm most looking forward to seeing, despite knowing very little about it. The film seems like a mystery in itself and all the reviews I read struggle to explain how the film affected them. This one is simply a case of finding a free period of three and a half hours.

5. The Decalogue
Okay, it's a TV series instead of a film, but I'm still counting it. I've seen the majority of Kieslowski's work and am told that The Decalogue is his best. This is as good a reason as any to watch it.

6. Diary of a Country Priest
My two favourite directors are Tarkovsky and Bergman, so Bresson seems like a logical director for me to love. So far, however, I've only seen Au Hasard Balthazar, which I wasn't particularly impressed with at the time (it is on my rewatch list). I feel that I need to try more of his films, and Diary of a Country Priest seems to my taste, so here it is.

7. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Bunuel is another director who's films remain mainly unseen by me. I've only watched Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or so far. I keep meaning to watch more, but seem to get thwarted by scratched DVDs, lack of region 2 availability etc. each time. This year I will succeed!

8. La Dolce Vita
I've seen a few Fellini films, but La Dolce Vita continues to be at once not in the university library and very long (you'll notice that the latter becomes a theme as we go down the list). I promise I'll get down to it this year.

9. The Face of Another
There are three main reasons for this particular inclusion:
1. Woman of the Dunes and Pitfall by the same director are both among my favourites.
2. I recently watched The Skin I Live In and Eyes Without a Face, both of which I enjoyed, but felt they had something missing. This seems to have similar content, so perhaps it will have what the others lack?
3. Anything published by Masters of Cinema goes on my watchlist at one time or another.

10. The Gospel According to Matthew
This has been on my watchlist for a long time, mainly due to reputation. Since Masters of Cinema recently released a dual format edition of the film, this seems like an excellent time to see it.

11. The Great Dictator
I have seen and loved most of Chaplin's highly acclaimed works, but have still not watched The Great Dictator, which many cite as his best. I aim to remedy that this year.

12. The Human Condition
The Human Condition Trilogy is widely considered one of the best films of all time. Since it is also directed by one of my all-time favourite directors, I owe it to myself to watch this, even if it is difficult to get hold of in my country (Scotland).

13. Late Spring
Although I found Tokyo Story to drag unbearably, I intend to go back and watch it again at some point. Perhaps the best plan of action is to familiarise myself with more Ozu films first, so Late Spring gets a place on the list.

14. Marketa Lazarova
I bought Second Run's immaculately presented Frantisek Vlacil collection after getting some Amazon vouchers for a Birthday and recently being recommended his films. I found The Valley of the Bees rather amateurish, but tried to watch Marketa Lazarova anyway. I got 20 minutes through and turned it off as the incoherent editing was getting on my nerves too much. I'm willing to give it another go after getting more into Czech cinema, however.

15. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
As unlikely as it may seem, I greatly enjoy low-budget horror films such as Carnival of Souls and Night of the Living Dead. This and its sequel are considered classics of the genre, so it earns a place in my list.

16. Nostalghia
Since Tarkovsky is my favourite director and Nostalghia is the only of his non-student films which I am yet to see, it is an easy choice.

17. Ran
I tend to find Kurosawa's films very hit-and-miss. For example, High and Low, Stray Dog and Rashomon are among my favourite films, but Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood did little for me. The reason I've not watched Ran (or Kagemusha for that matter) yet, is that I don't want to start watching it, get through an hour and find that it's not to my taste (the film is three hours long). This year I'll bite the bullet and watch it anyway.

18. The Red Shoes
Powell and Pressburger are my favourite British filmmakers after Kubrick. Black Narcissus is a masterpiece for my money; I love the colours, hand drawn scenery and intensity. The Red Shoes is considered one of their best.

19. Repulsion
Madness is a theme which I find very interesting. A number of my favourite films (e.g., Through a Glass, Darkly, The Cremator) explore it to different lengths and I find that it generates scope for intensity and surreal imagery. Repulsion goes on my list due to its reputation for this, and also because it's a classic which I should probably see at some point.

20. The Rules of the Game
I have no excuses. This frequently tops best film of all-time lists, but I am yet to watch it. I hope to fix that soon.

21. Scenes From a Marriage
The problem with Bergman is that he has made so many films which are considered masterpieces, it takes a very long time to watch them all. I've seen a great deal of his pictures, but not Scenes From a Marriage, which is probably the most highly rated of those I have missed.

22. Scorpio Rising
I love Kenneth Anger. Eaux D'Artifice is probably my favourite short film of all time. I have no idea why I haven't seen Scorpio Rising yet.

23. Songs From the Second Floor
I regard You, The Living as one of the best films of the Noughties, so I am very interested in exploring Andersson's other works.

24. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Another which I am rather embarrassed about not having seen yet. This one is on here more because I feel like I should watch it rather than wanting to see it more than other films on my watchlist.

25. The Sword of Doom
Tatsuya Nakadai in a well-photographed jidaigeki in the Criterion collection? Yes please.

26. The Terence Davies Trilogy
These films have been on my watchlist for a while, but reading a very moving article in Empire magazine about Davies made me want to watch them as soon as possible.

27. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Another classic of low-budget horror which I am yet to see.

28. The Thin Red Line
Anyone who has read more than one of my reviews here will know that I have a tendency towards visually beautiful films. The Thin Red Line is here mainly due to its cinematographical reputation and my enjoyment of Malick's recent The Tree of Life. I actually own this film on DVD, I just need to find three hours to sit down and watch it.

29. Les Vampires
I've actually seen the first three episodes of Les Vampires. I hope that by putting this on the list, I'll force myself to watch the rest.

30. A Woman Under the Influence
I recently joined criticker.com to get film recommendations. I am very impressed with it in general, but its main purpose seems to be to force me to watch A Woman Under the Influence. Every third suggestion seems to be for this. I guess I'll need to see what all the fuss is about.

There we have it. We'll see how I fare throughout the year. I'd be interested to hear any feedback about the list — anything I should avoid? Something I should watch as soon as possible?

Also, I'd love to hear other people's film challenges if you have any.