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Best Films of 1970
Best Films of 1971
Best Films of 1972
Best Films of 1973
Best Films of 1974

Best Films of 1975
Best Films of 1976
Best Films of 1977
Best Films of 1978
Best Films of 1979

Mean Streets
Spirit of the Beehive
Edvard Munch
Desert of the Tartars

Minnie and Moskowitz
That Obscure Object of Desire
Nosferatu the Vampire

BEST FILMS OF 1977 - List in Progress
by Mike Lorefice

Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett


Full Movie Review

The Lacemaker
Claude Goretta

Isabelle Huppert became a star with this brilliant portrayal of a shy lonely unappreciated apprentice. One of her specialties is playing distant, reserved, and/or withdrawn characters that are seemingly enigmatic if not ineffable, but ultimately teaching us what we need to know about these tragic figures. Huppert spends all her time hanging out with the same person. First it's a hedonistic ugtician (Florence Giorgetti) who puts all her effort into landing a man, abandoning Huppert when she finally succeeds. Later her companion is an intellectual student (Yves Beneyton) who is afraid his friends and relatives won't like her because she's neither bright nor rich enough. Though these influences are disparate, the similarity is their supposed superiority to her. The former has sexual experience, the latter has book knowledge, while Huppert is an undereducated virgin who tags along with them but doesn't exactly participate. The film employs a lot of long shots, shrinking Huppert into the preferred masses. If this is supposed to be some kind of political allegory about the gap between the rich and poor, educated and uneducated it mostly fails, but it's a successful film if we take it largely at face value. This is a film about a relationship crushing a tender heart, thematically similar to Robert Bresson's masterpiece Une Femme Douce even though stylistically inferior. Huppert might not be the right friend or lover for them, but given all the time they spend with her they could put a little effort into getting to know her. She is not the type of person that helps herself, she drops no clues as to what, if anything, stirs her passion, but if they were better comrades they wouldn't simply assume her problem is lacking their social skills, knowledge, and experience. She's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but they don't ever stop to consider what she can give them. They don't appreciate her grace, gentleness, sweetness, kindness, modesty, or natural beauty. [7/10/06] ***


Padre Padrone
Paolo & Vittorio Taviani

Rising from the depths of Italian TV, the Taviani brothers put themselves on the international map with this Cannes Festival winner. Though it would turn out to be their most famous work, it's not their best and is arguably as dislikable as it is likeable. The film takes a scathing look at the ignorance and brutality of rural life, with an abusive I'm the boss and everyone will obey me unquestioningly father trying to beat his eldest son into becoming a shepherd like him. The father is not really sadistic and we are allowed to see that he acts the way he does because he believes that will keep his poor family from starving. Pulled out of school at a young age, the son spends the next several years of his life trying to escape the farm in Sardina, eventually learning real (Tuscan) Italian and becoming a linguistics professor. One reason the film is not as enjoyable as some people would like is we never really see his achievement; it's mostly him surviving the torment because that rather than his immense loneliness is what the Tavianis decided shaped his character. Actually, he does not seem to have much character at all, largely because he has no outlet to express any. The film is part of the brief second neorealist movement, showing the struggles of the boy in washed out color. Technically it's somewhat creaky. Largely due to the editing it doesn't exactly flow, and the soundtrack often seems out of place (as if they watched too many Hollywood movies and decided they better try to stir the audience here and there). The use of sound was quite notable though. Rather than voice-over narration, the Tavianis occasionally break into an aural montage of different character's thoughts on a subject. The largely wordless first hour, which consists of the boys 10 or so years of rural banishment, is the stronger portion with some impressive long shots and a bit of the kind of honesty we rarely see on the screen because it's too gross. The lack of romanticism is meant to show modern ways and conditions are superior, but today what it should point out is man has the tendency to go completely in one direction. We had all these years of no technology, which was bad, but the other end of the spectrum with inescapable technology and nothing but one giant shopping mall is at least equally bad. Either way, unrelenting loneliness and alienation are the major characteristics of the times. [8/5/06] ***


Dario Argento

Full Movie Review

3 Women
Robert Altman

Though the popularity of Spielberg's spell it all out hokum was in the mist of destroying Hollywood, a few artistic endeavors were still getting studio funding. Altman dreamed this project up one night, and Fox actually gave him the go ahead despite the fact he was going to make it without a finished screenplay. Altman was going for something totally emotional, a film whose merit lay completely in what you thought of it. So it's one of those love it or hate it films. It doesn't completely make sense, but it wasn't intended to. It doesn't completely work, but no Altman film gives the audience as much freedom. Though called 3 Women, it's mainly about 2. Sissy Spacek is a clueless bumpkin from Texas moved to California. She idolizes Shelly Duvall, who plays the corporate dream, a character so perpetually mired in adolescence she believes following the corporate instructions (through their media, etc) makes her the quintessential cool character. She's so blinded by the myth she doesn't realize everyone but Spacek treats her with disdain. Altman is at his funniest here with Duvall giving her story and it just being a stratosphere away from what we know to be true, for instance her would be boyfriend having a perpetual cold and doing a fake cough every time he sees her to avoid a date. Spacek idolizing Duvall leads Altman to Persona territory, identity being a major theme. But beyond being a portrait of where the American woman is being steered seen through veils, mirrors, water, and every type of dreamy distancing device the film really defies description: it implies a lot but avoids traditional plot and, in fact, drama in every way. [8/1/06] ****

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