More than you might imagine in ‘M’, so lots to choose from.
Regular readers will recall that I am not a great fan of modern cartoons and animated films. Pixar leaves me cold, to be honest, and if I ever have to watch (or listen to ) ‘Frozen’ again, I may just jump out of the window. (It’s OK, I live in a bungalow.) However, and it’s a big however, I am a fan of many Japanese animation films, in the genres known as Anime and Manga. So I will begin by featuring one of the best-known directors from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki, the founder of Studio Ghibli. His outstanding film ‘Princess Mononoke'(1997) was the first one I watched, and I was immediately on the lookout for more. ‘Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind’ (1984) totally captivated me, and I then discovered ‘Spirited Away’ (2001). I watched as many of his films as I could find, including the haunting ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (2004), and my favourite Ghibli film, ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013). I highly recommend them, but would add this advice. Many versions are dubbed by American actors, for the international market. These films are much better in Japanese, with subtitles. Undoubtedly the best way to watch them.
British director Shane Meadows is best known for his dark and gritty films showing life on the fringes of society in ‘Middle England’. The bleak estates of places like Nottingham, and the remote locations on the East Coast, facing the North Sea. As well as achieving success as a film-maker, he has also worked for TV, and on documentaries. He may not be internationally famous, but he has given us some of the best modern British dramas ever made, starting a one-man ‘New Wave’ in British Cinema that was followed by the likes of Ben Wheatley. I won’t add a long list, but I suggest you should all try to watch Paddy Considine starring in the overwhelming ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ (2004), and the wonderful actress Vicky McClure, in ‘This Is England’ (2006).
French director Jean-Pierre Melville chose that name because he liked the writing of Herman Melville, and he used it as a pseudonym when working with The Resistance, during WW2. His real name was Grumbach, which doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? His stylish films include some of my favourites in the French language, from the WW2 resistance drama ‘Army of Shadows’ (1969) with the great Lino Ventura, to the crime thriller ‘The Red Circle’ (1970). Perhaps his most impressive film for me though was the moody hit-man drama, ‘Le Samourai’ (1967) starring Alan Delon in arguably his best role. A leading man has rarely looked so cool on screen, I assure you.
My top choice today is the modern master of brilliant visuals, making films that look their best on the big screen, and turning tried and tested subjects into small works of art. He may divide critics, and his slow-paced films might be too much for some viewers, but for me, his best work is unparalleld since the heyday of the epic, during the 1960s. Terrence Malik began his carer with the film ‘Badlands’ (1973). This starred Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, in the 1950s set crime drama about a young couple who rob and murder, then go on the run in the badlands of Montana. As well as memorable performances by the leads, this is just wonderful to look at, and set the style that followed. Using mostly natural light, his next film, ‘Days of Heaven’ set the story in the early 20th century, in the remote farmland of Texas. Richard Gere and Brooke Adams took the leads, in a romantic triangle that also involved the excellent Sam Shepard. But the important thing to note, is that this film is actually photographed. Malik does more than point the camera at his cast, and shout ‘Action!’. Some critics argue that the stories are secondary to the imagery in his films, and that may be true. But I don’t care. Last but not least, his epic WW2 film, ‘The Thin Red Line’ (1998). This is quite simply one of the best war films I have ever seen, and also one of the best films I have seen in any genre. As well as his signature style, and philosophical theme, it produced terrific performances from an amazing cast.
He made other films, and is still working today. But those three are enough for now, believe me.
Here’s the trailer for ‘Days of Heaven’. Ignore the cheesy voice-over.