I must say, I was starting to worry about whether Martin Scorsese had sold his soul to the Hollywood media elite after a couple of decades of producing such shameless Disney-fied fluff as The Aviator and Hugo or bloated, pedestrian epics like The Departed and Gangs of New York. But with Silence, a visually haunting historical drama about several Jesuit priests’ struggles between faith and temptation in the face of religious persecution in 17th-century Japan, the veteran director has atoned for his past sins.
Few films have more hauntingly portrayed Mother Nature’s simultaneous beauty and brutality than The Revenant, an austere man-versus-nature saga set in the untamed wintry wilderness of early-nineteenth-century America. With grit, finesse, and a fine eye for photographic detail, director Alejandro Iñárritu brings to life a survival story whose blood-drenched imagery indelibly imprints itself in the imagination, its visceral realism rarely failing to get beneath our skin despite a few far-fetched plot elements and, at a little under three hours, a somewhat-too-leisurely running time.
Although perhaps not as well-remembered as Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, or Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious is one of his most brilliant films, presaging the director’s immediately recognizable visual style that would flourish in the 1950s. Interestingly, it is also one of the earlier films in which Hitch employs a romance as bait to lure audiences in with his characteristic irony.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat may begin with a torpedic blast, but it rapidly enters a maelstrom of sanctimony, dime-store impromptu romances, and heavy-handed propagandizing. It’s hard to believe that this rudderless tale about the sinking of an Allied freighter by a German U-boat during World War II was helmed by the same “master of suspense” who produced the gripping small-town drama Shadow of a Doubt only a year earlier.
Foreign Correspondent is notable for being only the second film Alfred Hitchcock made in Hollywood; it’s also one of the Master’s tauter, more cerebral thrillers. Though a relatively unheralded work, its multilayered tale of international espionage makes it a worthy forerunner to the cineaste-revered classics of the 50s such as The Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest.
Watching John Wells’s The Company Men, I couldn’t help but recall the emergence of the faceless proletariat drones from their subterranean prison in Fritz Lang’s silent-film classic Metropolis from 1927. True, the systems employing the workers depicted in the two films are superficially quite different. On the one hand, few films seem a more scathing commentary on the evils of communism than Metropolis, with its critique of the expendability of the worker masses employed by a city ruler. On the other, the Global Transportation Systems (or GTX) executives in The Company Men would probably be viewed by many Americans as ruggedly individualistic capitalists who have deservedly eaten their slice of the American pie. However, the end results of the economic philosophies underlying the two films are not so dissimilar. Slaves towing the corporate line are just as expendable (and faceless) as slaves toiling for a commonwealth.