- The Battle Of Algiers
- Tokyo Olympiad
- Red Beard
- Bunny Lake Is Missing
- Pierrot Le Fou
- The Collector
- The Shop On Main Street
- Juliet Of The Spirits
- The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
- Viva Maria
In the wake of the popularity of James Bond adventures, it was only a matter of time before the antidote to all that glitzy action and sex would come along…and John Le Carre did not miss the opportunity to provide it. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold presents the work of spies as dour, depressing, lonely and dangerous, and Richard Burton is terrific as the agent who has been rendered soulless by his experiences. Burton was too expressive and commanding an actor to let the character go slack; watching him suffer the emptiness of his life is surprisingly captivating.
There’s really no performance by Jeanne Moreau that doesn’t merit being mentioned in these lists; my favourite is Jules And Jim, but I have to say how entranced I am by her command of brittle comedy in Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! She does a terrific job of convincing you that she could abandon her job in burlesque, take up with the Mexican revolution and lead the troops to glory. One of the great director’s most charming achievements.
Amid the passionate romance and the snowy backdrops of Doctor Zhivago is a riveting performance by a serious, angry Tom Courtenay. Courtenay often brings his strange combination of exuberance and otherworldly strangeness to his roles; director David Lean dampens the joyful curiosity he brought to films like Billy Liarand King And Country without damaging his power to command the scene. The same year, his appearance in Operation Crossbow gives a great deal of dramatic weight to a film that is otherwise not the grittiest World War II adventure you’ve ever seen.
One of the great screen collaborations began in the 60s when the team of Merchant Ivory combined the talents of James Ivory, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Ismail Merchant to make some of the most indelibly original films ever made (even when they weren’t that good). Their early work features a level of brittle comedy that disappeared following their success with arthouse period epics in the 80s and beyond, and the best of them was Shakespeare Wallah. The gem of the film is a supporting performance by a gorgeous young Madhur Jaffrey as a Bollywood star whose rising popularity is in direct contrast to the failings of a British family traveling through India performing Shakespeare to dwindling interest.
Movies that inspire that “How did they do that?” reaction are usually ones that feature impressive visual effects or makeup. Every once in a while, however, one comes along with a level of superb documentary-like accuracy that baffles the mind more than monsters or space travel do, and that is the sense of awe that Gillo Pontecorvo creates with his masterful The Battle Of Algiers. Pontecorvo recreates the various conflicts that led to the freedom and independence of the North African country from French colonial rule, and does so in a way that is as entertaining as it is tragic and believable.