1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#601 Post by swo17 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:49 pm

domino harvey wrote:
swo17 wrote: One interesting change: One film that nearly topped our prior list and another that barely cracked the top 100 have essentially switched places this time. Both are by the same director.
Let's see how good I am at this: Notorious and Rebecca
Good guess, but no.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#602 Post by knives » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:04 pm

I'm thinking Hawks.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#603 Post by swo17 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:11 pm

Keep thinking.

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Brian C
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#604 Post by Brian C » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:20 pm

De Sica.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#605 Post by swo17 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:27 pm

Neowrongalism

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#606 Post by knives » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:37 pm

Rossellini? I thought I was going to be the only one voting for him. 100 eligible yet?

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#607 Post by swo17 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:45 pm

Only 92 films eligible so far.

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Brian C
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#608 Post by Brian C » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:10 am

I call foul on your definitions of "nearly" and/or "barely".

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Murdoch
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#609 Post by Murdoch » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:19 am

Christmas in July and the Lady Eve? Or substitute in whatever Sturges, I'll just go with Sturges in general.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#610 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:27 am

Someone here is on the right trail, but in the interest of remaining coy... :-#

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#611 Post by swo17 » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:09 am

With another list in, here's your cryptic clue for the day: The highest riser from the prior list (currently up 116 spots) and the highest ranking film that didn't place last time (currently #13) have seven Oscars between them. One of them is not in the Criterion Collection. And...speculate!

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#612 Post by swo17 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 3:07 pm

I hope the fact that I haven't received any more lists in the last few days is unrelated to my obnoxious clue shenanigans. Only like three days left until the deadline, people!

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Tommaso
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#613 Post by Tommaso » Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:13 pm

Exactly, and I mean to use these three days. :-)

In the meantime, thumbs up for The Devil and Miss Jones. Not much to add to what Domino said about it, but it has indeed an outstanding performance by Charles Coburn who is ultra-charming, warmhearted and after all, dead funny (as is the whole film). One of the great comedies of the era, and it's beyond me why noone has released it on dvd yet.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#614 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:23 am

Yeah. you probably won't see my list until the last minute either. I'm probably going to use the last three days to watch the last few spotlight titles, although I doubt it'll make any major difference: I'm currently stalemated trying to edit my 70 title list down to 50.

A few quick and succinct last minute recommendations:

Lumière d’été (Jean Grémillon, 1943) - All the Grémillon talk so far has focused on Le Ciel est à vous and Pattes blanches, but they have ignored what I consider his best film this decade. This is Grémillon at his most abstract and surreal since Daïnah la Metisse (if in less obvious ways), all slowly building to a tragedy to rival his most moving pictures. Also: Remorques, which despite its barely existent plot, is possessed with an incredibly sorrowful power.

Under the Bridges (Helmut Käutner, 1946) - One of the original film maudits, and perhaps the masterwork of 40s German cinema. Its plot is nothing new, the product of a thousand romantic comedies, but Käutner's technique is masterful, making the cliché seem revelatory. A product of the Third Reich, many people may feel compelled to write it off as escapist fluff, made to distract one from the bombs that were falling even as the camera's were rolling. But its gentleness, its sensuality, its humanism... all of it feels like a subversive defiance to the obscenity of Nazism.

Une si jolie petite plage (Yves Allégret, 1949) - Probably my biggest discovery since starting the project. The post-war strand of poetic realism was even darker than what came before, and this may be it at its bleakest and most somber. On one hand, it's looking backward: the inn is a gathering of the damned like the cabin in Port of Shadows. Like Gabin in Le jour se lève, Gérard Phillipe is a ward of the state. The sorrowful seafront atmosphere emanates from Remorques, and the elemental force of the mist, rain and wind build to the tangible presence of Jean Epstein's sea-poems. But it's the palpable misery, seeping into every crevice like the dampness from the sea, that makes this film a cut above. This movie feels like an exorcism, with Phillipe as the sacrificial lamb to a country still reeling from the sins of the Occupation.

The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946) - zedz called Somewhere in the Night "[t]he best David Lynch film of the decade". Arthur Ripley would like to have a word with you. After cheerleading for it so late during the Noir project, it would be a shame for this to rank low again. An essential film noir for the decade, and among the strangest and most paranoid... and romantic.

La perla / The Pearl (Emilio Fernàndez, 1947) - If you want to know what the Mexican Golden Age was all about, you couldn't pick a better place to start. John Steinbeck admired Fernàndez enough to write this novella/screenplay for him. John Ford was impressed enough with his work here to hire him as producer and assistant director on The Fugitive. It's not hard to see why: this fable is a sumptuous visual feast to rival the master at his most ornate, with a rural poetry that recalls Dovzhenko, and shimmering surfaces that could make Dieterle or Cocteau jealous.

Ivy (Sam Wood, 1947) - All this talk of Sam Wood, and yet no mention of my favorite? Wood reunites with William Cameron Menzies (who produced) and once again, the the distinction concerning the true auteur here is blurred. Regardless, they score big with a pitch perfect Victorian noir. The perfect counterpoint to Rebecca and Letter from an Unknown Woman, with Joan Fontaine playing the exact opposite of the possessed and masochistic characters of those films.

Dreams That Money Can Buy (Hans Richter & Co., 1947) - A film I'm surprised not to see mentioned. It's a film out of place and out of time. Made in New York, it's undoubtedly a European work. While made after the war, it nevertheless points back to the avant-garde of the early thirties, and not the looming New American Cinema (Speaking of which, no mention of Kenneth Anger's Fireworks yet?). But we can only be so lucky to have relics like these wash up from the sea of time! For all my surrealist junkies... Also, in a similar vein: Fantasia, and even better, to my eyes, The Three Caballeros!

Opfergang (Veit Harlan, 1944) - I can't recommend the film as highly as Tommasso... I do think it's a deeply fascist film (and yes, I know I really should take the time to write up something more substantial). But it's nonetheless a major film. This film is the epoch of Harlan's melodramas, as opposed to his explicitly propagandistic works (Der grosse König, Jud suss, Kolberg). As such, we're dealing not with ideological fascism, but emotional fascism, and when combined with Harlan's ravishing surfaces and startling imagery, it's not as easy to resist ipso facto. This is the point where fascism becomes undeniably seductive. To ignore the implications of it's "sacrifice" is to be reckless; to ignore the film's emotional power is to lie to one's self.

L’espoir (André Malraux, 1945) - If you need to reassure yourself after the "fascist panic" of enjoying the above film, then let me recommend this as the perfect second bill. Like Dreams That Money Can Buy, it's a film out of place and time. Largely shot (and unfinished) in the late 30s, by the time it finally hits the streets, not only had the Republic been defeated, but even Spanish cinema had fully begun production again in a Francoiste vein. As such, what may have been propaganda had been transformed into something else: a nostalgic and poetic requiem for a cause long lost, and for the people who died for it.

Bluebeard (Edward Ulmer, 1944) - All the talk of Ulmer so far has focused on his film noirs (my favorite of which is the Kane-like Ruthless). My favorite, on the other hand, is this horror film. Among the best - and most adventurous - of the decade. It starts off like a gothic chiller, but under Ulmer's hands, turns into a twisted and perverse psychodrama. John Carradine considered this his favorite work, high praise for a man who this decade alone was in the likes of Grapes of Wrath, Swamp Water and Hitler's Madman. He may have been right.

Hellzapoppin’ (H.C. Potter, 1941) - If you, like me, rue the way the great cycle of thirties' comedies - the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy - declined into a less impressive batch of forties (Danny Kaye was probably the best of the batch, and I'm not a Danny Kaye fan), then this is a film for you. A pure shot of anarchic comedy bliss. It's zany, madcap, demented, vaguely surreal, never less than inventive. It might be the last gin-soaked gasp of 30s comedy. That the UK got this on DVD before us should be a source of national embarrassment. That, five years later, the situation has not been rectified, should be source of national shame.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#615 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:21 pm

swo17 wrote:I hope the fact that I haven't received any more lists in the last few days is unrelated to my obnoxious clue shenanigans. Only like three days left until the deadline, people!
I'm probably going to have to send mine very, very last thing Sunday UK time. Still 4-5 I'll watch this weekend - even then I've not seen everything I wanted.

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Tommaso
Joined: Fri May 19, 2006 10:09 am

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#616 Post by Tommaso » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:47 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:Opfergang (Veit Harlan, 1944) - I can't recommend the film as highly as Tommasso... I do think it's a deeply fascist film (and yes, I know I really should take the time to write up something more substantial). But it's nonetheless a major film. This film is the epoch of Harlan's melodramas, as opposed to his explicitly propagandistic works (Der grosse König, Jud suss, Kolberg). As such, we're dealing not with ideological fascism, but emotional fascism, and when combined with Harlan's ravishing surfaces and startling imagery, it's not as easy to resist ipso facto. This is the point where fascism becomes undeniably seductive. To ignore the implications of it's "sacrifice" is to be reckless; to ignore the film's emotional power is to lie to one's self.
I do agree partly, especially as the film of course fits ideally to some aspects of the official ideology in the last days of the Third Reich. I only wonder whether there's not a bit more to it, whether the film is about some more general questions about how to live your life (and how to deal with death) whose 'answers' could be easily embraced by fascism without them being exclusively fascist in themselves. The emotional power of the film comes less from the seductive qualities of its supposed fascism, but rather from the way the film orchestrates its 'themes', how it allows you not a single minute of breath from its constant attack on all the senses, almost in the sense of a 'total work of art'. Perhaps that's why when I'm looking for something else to compare it with there's always Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods" that springs to my mind first, also thematically in its depiction of a decadent society and final celebration of death.

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Gropius
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#617 Post by Gropius » Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:17 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:Dreams That Money Can Buy (Hans Richter & Co., 1947) - A film I'm surprised not to see mentioned. It's a film out of place and out of time. Made in New York, it's undoubtedly a European work. While made after the war, it nevertheless points back to the avant-garde of the early thirties, and not the looming New American Cinema (Speaking of which, no mention of Kenneth Anger's Fireworks yet?). But we can only be so lucky to have relics like these wash up from the sea of time! For all my surrealist junkies... Also, in a similar vein: Fantasia, and even better, to my eyes, The Three Caballeros!
It's been a long time since I saw this, and I haven't had time to rewatch it, but I remember thinking that it didn't hang together particularly well as a feature - all that comes to mind are fragmentary episodes. It always strikes me as a shame that so few of the 20s avant-gardists made the transition into directing features, but then Dreams does seem to illustrate some of the problems involved in that transition.

As for Anger, my vote goes for Puce Moment, even though it's a fragment of an unrealised project: it's the essence of sequined Hollywood glamour and artifice, abstracted from a narrative context. Fireworks may be more important to his oeuvre, but it lacks the direct aesthetic appeal. One ought to find room on one's list for a few trifles (another of mine, perhaps too obviously the 'camp choice', is Siodmak's Cobra Woman, which, while flagrantly trashy, has some of the same virtues as Anger, and would influence Jack Smith so greatly).

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#618 Post by swo17 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:07 pm

I realize it is basically too late for anyone to actually watch these, but I feel compelled to make spotlights out of two films I've previously recommended, if only for posterity's sake:

The More the Merrier (George Stevens) (which reteams Coburn and Arthur from the great The Devil and Miss Jones)
Krakatit (Otakar Vávra) - the real best David Lynch film of the decade

Please make a note to watch these films at some point in your life.
Last edited by swo17 on Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#619 Post by knives » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:16 pm

I thought that Stevens picture was kind of average actually, but aside from Vivacious Lady that's been my response to all of his films.

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Steven H
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#620 Post by Steven H » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:16 pm

For me, the 1940s list this go around was strange. Instead of being introduced to a lot of new films (which I just didn't have enough time for), I found my taste had changed fairly radically compared to the last CForum go-round. I probably deleted half the films I listed last time because I just fell out of love with them and then found myself reconnecting with a lot of films I'd previously seen and hadn't really been all that interested in. I think doing the noir list is going to end up having a bigger effect on my 50s list than my 40s one, however (I was expecting it to make a big difference, but it mostly just meant Ride the Pink Horse got onto the list). Anyway, hopefully I'll have more time during the 50s one to do something more interesting than just rearrange stuff.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#621 Post by swo17 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:29 pm

Steven H wrote:found myself reconnecting with a lot of films I'd previously seen and hadn't really been all that interested in.
That's happened to me for quite a few films this time around as well--Sullivan's Travels, Bambi, The Fallen Idol, Out of the Past, and especially Magnificent Ambersons, which I had tried to connect with at least three times before in the past, but this time it just totally clicked for me.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#622 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:09 am

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell and Pressburger, 1943)

I think the odd thing about this movie is how much its strengths have nothing to do with what seems to be its message, nor with the caricature concept of Blimp- there is a note in one of the features that the original conception of the movie was more about the idea that the old and the young are fundamentally unable to understand one another, and I think that idea comes across much more strongly than any argument about the necessity of brutal or indecent action in fighting against the Nazis.

It's an almost Wellesian movie, in that it seems to be fundamentally about what one loses or gains in the passage of time, and the structure- which presents Livesey in the worst possible light, then loops around such that you see the same thing and feel nothing but love for him- is absolutely genius. The notes for the movie also mention that Olivier was originally slated to play the Livesey role, and in some ways that would fit perfectly- Olivier is a close match for Walbrook and would have felt more of a natural opposite number, and Olivier is less inherently lovable than Livesey, and could perhaps have gotten across the idea that we're supposed to condemn the Blimpish aspects of Candy's character better- but I'm not sorry they didn't get him, as there's something extraordinarily beautiful about the relationship between Walbrook and Livesey as we see it. It's something P&P do well- an almost transcendental decency, one that makes me fall in love with people even as they're representing ideas or worldviews I don't care for, as when Walbrook gives his speech about how the English need to start machine gunning women and children or something.

I think I wasn't very impressed by the movie for the first segment, but as we shift forward it gets a feeling of time slipping away from one that is almost inexpressible- that aspect reminded me very much of Welles, of The Magnificent Ambersons in particular. The repeated use of Deborah Kerr as a young women works as a counterpoint to the other two as they age, and highlights how much they've changed- and makes one feel the weight of their mortality. It's a movie that belongs to be matched more with Ambersons and Make Way for Tomorrow than with anything else I've seen discussing the war, and I think seen in that light it's a very great movie.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#623 Post by swo17 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:41 pm

A bunch more lists have come in, and here's an interesting current result: There are two ties right now, at #12 and #69, where both tied films are by the same director. In one case, they're both short films.

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Tommaso
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#624 Post by Tommaso » Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:57 pm

Some Maya Deren, I guess.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#625 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Feb 25, 2012 2:38 pm

I would guess Jennings or Fischinger for the shorts, actually

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