i drove a toyota corolla that isn’t mine into the texas state capital and before thirty hours were up I managed to slip in four films with my future roommate, combine that with a shot of guy talk and suddenly you know exactly how a well put together mise-en-scene can make 103 degrees outside seem like an early autumn.
lists should always be questioned yet scanning the top lines of one-through-tens is often our most efficient way of becoming conversational masters on a given subject without doing the back-work.
that being said, rent a couple of these, and just make sure your air conditioner is up for a challenge.
i can guarantee this is back-work you won’t regret.
à boute de souffle (1960) - jean seberg
if the stripped shirts don’t get you, that smile will. if you ever wondered why the rates of high school female french students with pixie cuts is higher than their spanish counter parts, don’t necessarily look to amélie. if starting a film movement, 1960s paris, a live-free-die-young mentality, and a bogie reference to melt hearts isn’t enough to get you watching, i’ll tell you this: at the end of the film, you’ll know why “new york harold tribune” could be a wet dream. (tps)
2046 (2004) - faye wong
i first remember faye wong in chungking express leaning over a counter and whispering “chicken salad.” she had me right there. wong kar wai is in the very good habit of bolstering his already sumptuous images with actors who somehow manage to still be the focus of our attention. wong takes on a number of roles in wai’s hk tribute- the dream android, the coy mistress, the unrequited lover- but all of that seem accessory to her precise touch and her perfect form. the film tends to open around her, leaving enough rope for most actors to hang by, but finding wong unperturbed; she steps with a daring confidence through each vignette, serving as the welcome catalyst to a film never about her, but always reliant. (tvs)
how to steal a million (1966) – audrey hepburn
if her father in the film traffics replicas of art and beauty, he definitely created one statuette that will be good for the ages. the lace clad legs, in my book, could get away with far more than just larceny. hepburn, though always worthy of admiration, adds in a sultry touch not necessarily worthy of an oscar nod, but definitely some toe curling. (tps)
une femme est une femme (1961) – anna karina
somehow godard’s most playful, uninhibited, and well-executed work is now relegated to the back-burner of this prodigious legacy. but nowhere in the jlg canon can you find so perfect a symbiosis between the new wave star and his chosen muse. karina’s performances go straight to the heart of what 1960s france has to offer a viewer- whether running through the louvre or upholding the subversive element, giving androids a better name or singing the strip tease, karina is an exuberant and vivacious screen presence, addictive even to her most subtle pout. she’s is on top of her game in femme, between her sailor suit, burnt roast, and book amalgams you’ll have a hard time making your first viewing your only one. (tvs)
manon des sources (1986) – emmanuelle béart
as much as the 200 year old farm house and always nutritious mediterranean sun draws me back to the south of france, if this film were all i knew of my beloved country, i’d perhaps love it just as much. there must be something about french vowels that can make mouths shaped just so. you gotta give it to any woman who can make a sequel more memorable than its first starring the french film god. granted, this film came out in 1986 and should be every farm aide’s fantasy, just hopefully not taken to the extreme taken in the film (fabric should not be used that way), and even after 20 + years, the woman has shown some staying power. still a french vogue cover girl (which often means a lot more skin than its tame american counter part), check out what an h&m ad looks like in france. (tps)
leri, oggi, domani (1963) – sophia loren
if you’re ever feeling fortunate, stop. recollect the year 1963, remember than in it the insufferable marcello mastroaini scored not once, but twice on this list. shortly after his stint tooling round with the lovely ms cardianale shotgun in his roadster marcello hopped the train to meet up with de sica and dive in to his next assignment: barking in bed while sophia loren gave him a tour of the room. loren masters each sequence of the film (yesterday, today, and tomorrow for us inglesi) delivering with verve as the sympathetic call girl, the flighty superstar, and (especially!) and indomitable populist matron. she throws herself into each sequence with a contagious abandon that leaves you at turns stunned, breathless. (tvs)
blow (2001) penelope cruz
hunter s. thompson, another face if jd, once said, “i hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” thompson had it all, including the tragic ending, as did george jung in blow, with one added benefit… take a torrid affair between two of the darkest and smokiest out there and add in a few flash cuts of whips, cuffs and chains, and suddenly tragic endings seem oh so utterly worth it. (tps)
8 1/2 (1963) – claudia cardinale
the only time i believed a director when he told me he was in love came somewhere around the 19-second mark of this trailer when felini brings us claudia, the ostensible missing link in guido anselmi’s doomed production: the vestal white, the perfect smile, the evident restraint of guido’s reaction gives clear signal that our boy is done. but cardinale would have that effect on about 60% of the human population. her role is small, making a total of four appearances, but when she’s onscreen you remember every crevice, hoping in some way that a more detailed topography of the image will keep her there a second longer. cardinale, in a few photogenic minutes, steals the movie right from under felini’s nose, and to his endless credit, the maestro doesn’t seem to mind one bit. (tvs)