In continuing the gold mining for obscure films around the
world, and learning about different cultures through their rich artistic
expressions, I’ve selected these 10 titles that deserve greater recognition.
An Innocent Witch (1965)
Japanese director Heinosuke Gosho has never crossed the
border as his celebrated colleagues Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi and Miyazaki,
among others, though his career is as consistent as that of all those cited,
with a particular dedication to seek the beauty behind the sadness of common
characters, an element that guarantees his best films an aura of fascinating
melancholy. And it is worth noting, in this beautiful work produced by Shochiku
studio, its language has survived impeccably to the arduous test of time.
The plot begins on Mount Osore, the entrance to hell, with
the trepidant steps of an old woman seeking a blind shaman to help her get in
touch with her deceased daughter. In flashback, we meet Ayako (Jitsuko
Yoshimura), a naive girl from the interior who ends up having to work selling
her body in the late 1930s, on the eve of the war, sacrificing her own life to
feed her parents.
Upon arriving at the brothel, it attracts the attention of a
repulsive older man who pays for the exclusivity of her services. The camera in
the claustrophobic photograph of Shinomura Sôzaburô reinforces the confinement
of prostitutes, often filming them through vertical wooden beams that simulate
the bars of a prison.
Without revealing much about the development of Hideo
Horie’s script, she will indirectly become involved in three client deaths
linked by a family bond, something that will awaken in the hypocritical, sexist
and ignorant society at the time; the fame that it is possessed by demons.
The intense third act displays a brave criticism of
organized religion, highlighting the psychological damage that dogmas and
ritualistic lies have caused the protagonist, who, believing herself to be
guilty of all that has happened, agrees to go through the ruthless and stupid
ceremony of supernatural purge.
Ayako, a pure flower of gentleness who was unable to respect
the rigid code of never surrendering her heart to work, suffers humiliated
before a bunch of arrogant, deluded and superstitious priestly vipers.
The Troops of Saint-Tropez (1964)
“An agent of order is always unpopular.” The phrase said
austerely by police officer Cruchot, played by Louis de Funès in the first film
of the franchise, synthesizes his hilarious devotion to work. When the dream of
his troubled colleagues is shown in a moment of leisure, he is the only one who
does not seek the pleasures of the flesh, only the heroic fulfillment of his
function in society.
The French actor who charmed the audience with their faces
and mouths is best known for “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob,” but I think
his most relevant contribution is in the six projects of the Gendarme (police),
especially in the first and third, addressed in this text, enriched by the
killer chemistry of the protagonist with his superior in command, Gerber,
played by the impeccable Michel Galabru.
“The Troops…” is uneven but has unforgettable sequences,
such as the frenetic transition from black and white to color at the beginning,
a troubled nun-driven car ride, and the police odyssey to arrest a group of
nudists at the beach.
After several disastrous onslaughts, injured by a watchman
sitting on the branch of a tree, the officers receive an embarrassing lecture
by Cruchot, who outlines the most stupid strategy, something that might well
have come out of the mind of Inspector Clouseau: training the men without
uniforms, so that they come near naked from the place.
Without raising suspicions, they fight against time while
they dress in their costumes, approach the nudist mourners, and in an ingenious
touch of the script, ask for their documents.
Many Wars Ago (1970)
Francesco Rosi is almost never mentioned in lists, but his
set of works is spectacular, having influenced names like Oliver Stone,
Costa-Gavras and Gillo Pontecorvo, in addition to being quoted with much
admiration by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.
Choosing to adapt the book “Un anno sull’altipiano” by
Emilio Lussu, the director joins the author’s blunt speech, denouncing the
insanity of war with a personal analysis of power relations in male groups,
courageously confronting political clarity and questioning the interventionism.
Everything beautifully framed by the photography of
Pasqualino De Santis (who would make Visconti’s “Death in Venice” the following
year), creating unforgettable moments like the soldiers’ march through the
smoke of the bombs, and especially the bluish night illuminated by the
explosions in the war of trenches.
The plot approaches the despair of demoralized soldiers, led
by a general (played by Alain Cuny) who’s willing to sacrifice his men even in
unnecessary situations, by simple egocentric whim. Riot is a only a matter of
time, when the nails that keep the monstrous and stupid machinery of war
running end up realizing that death is a more dignified condition than the
subhuman reality of existence.
The Brute and the Beast (1966)
Italian director Lucio Fulci is recognized worldwide for his
work in horror (works such as “Zombie 2” and “Dark Horror”), but he made some
westerns, with “The Brute and the Beast” being his first and best work in the
Franco Nero (coming from the recent success in “Django”) is
associated with Uruguayan George Hilton (who would establish itself in the
genre, including interpreting the mythical “Sartana”) in one of the best sequences
of action already captured in the Spaghetti Western genre, which is only one of
the qualities of this work.
The excellent soundtrack (by Coriolano Gori, with the theme
song sung in English, as usual by Sergio Endrigo) and the violent whipping
scene suffered by the hero were not only spared by the cruel action of the
time, but managed to keep their efficiency intact. The comic relief in the
figure of the smart digger (played by Chinese actor Tchang Yu) will induce the
viewer to laugh with the same skill.
Inspired by the psychological western of Raoul Walsh,
“Pursued,” the film was a watershed for the director (who would attract the
attention of producers) and his two protagonists. Nero would confirm with this
success with his lucrative charisma (replacing Giuliano Gemma in the eyes of
the fans), while Hilton would build a career thanks to this supporting role,
which eclipses the protagonist.
The high point (including inspiration for filmmaker John
Woo) is the final shootout, where the show of destruction (prior to “The Wild
Bunch,” which Sam Peckinpah would make in 1969) disrespects any verisimilitude,
with Nero leaping acrobatically and already falling while shooting.
The images I keep in mind after the session are those in
which the duo clearly amuses themselves while performing their revenge,
exchanging arms with each other. The camaraderie between people who respect
each other (even with differences), uniting in a common goal.
The Experiment (2001)
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel adapts Mario Giordano’s novel
and turns it into a distressing cinematic experience. Knowing that this is a
real story helps to keep our eyes from blinking as we get sucked into the plot.
A team of scientists summons 20 men from different
backgrounds to a psychological experience in exchange for a cash prize. The
participants are placed in a prison and randomly divided into two groups: eight
of them play the role of guards and the other 12 of inmates. Prisoners must
obey the rules imposed by colleagues who represent authority figures.
At first, comradeship reigns in the environment. But in a
short time, the false guards change their behavior and violence (even if
forbidden) fills in the gaps. The inmates become increasingly submissive and
the guards increasingly aggressive.
A psychological study of unprecedented human behavior and a
work that will hardly get out of your mind. At the end of the session, it is
very clear that we only really know one person after giving them power.
Razor in the Flesh (1969)
Brazilian director Braz Chediak was able to establish an
oppressive atmosphere that is practically unbearable, beginning with closed
plans and long planes-sequence, with a wise use of silence that goes beyond the
almost 30 initial minutes only with diegetic sounds.
The corrosive text of Plínio Marcos, defended in a
naturalistic way by the trio: Jece Valadão/Glauce Rocha/Emiliano Queiroz fills
and consumes the claustrophobic environment, the fetid and disorganized room
that serves as a microcosm of a hypocritical society.
The conflicts originated by acts of pure pettiness cause
gratuitous aggressions, like a cancer that slowly spreads out of the organism.
The pimp who takes pleasure in humiliating his prostitute, extravasating with
physical and psychological violence, a coined homosexual desire, an element
suggested in several scenes, pointing with sadism the signs of precocious aging
in the woman who lives in the appearance.
In this pension room, collective hatred, born of social
dissatisfaction and natural weariness in the face of empty rituals, brings the
characters to the edge of resistance. Silence throughout the first act, more
than a resource of style, also serves, with its unnaturalness, to emphasize the
metaphorical characteristic of each subsequent dialogue.
All feelings are meticulously potentialized, for it is not a
simple case that could stamp the headlines of a tabloid newspaper, but an
existential poplar, tired beings trying to avoid imminent extinction due to
natural evolution. They purge the truths from their lips, their words like
sharp knives, like razors in the flesh, for they know that in that corrupt
society in formation, only the lie would survive.
The Truth (1960)
“The Truth” delivers good doses of sensuality in flashbacks,
but in essence it’s a flawless courtroom drama. The actress had for the first
time a material that truly challenged her. She plays the rapturous Dominique,
who is accused of murdering her lover, played by Sami Frey, who was engaged to
her timid sister. As we accompany her judgment and witness testimony, we are
presented with the journey that has led her to that dreadful destiny.
The script was written by Clouzot and his wife, Vera
Gibson-Amado, who would die soon after. The touch of genius is to make the
viewer’s view of the young person change to each new situation revealed; the
text urges us to judge every action on screen in an untimely manner, just as
society does in the macrocosm, trying to reduce the complexity of feelings of
humans to an easily identifiable pattern.
The girl is good or bad, without shades of gray. And the
plot involves this simplification with the mantle of cruelty, the denial of
empathy, the arrogant detachment from the vain figures of authority, lawyers,
judge and jury, who see the girl as statistic, as one more case among many.
What matters, at the end of the day, is to be superior;
defense and prosecution lawyers seek respectability, and as the clash lasts
until the final hammer, the two defend only the money in the account. Whether
or not the young woman will be condemned to death, other clients will come.
In a brilliant scene, the two professionals, in the heat of
the silent battle arena, consciously omit for convenience snippets of a letter
being read, shaping the facts without any remorse. It’s part of the job. What
does truth matter to them?
Dominique stole her sister’s fiance with the clear intention
of assaulting her, always so courteous and sweet, but the boy also acted wrong:
he did not care about the bride’s feelings. After achieving his goal, she
became disinterested in him, returned to his routine of parties and much
flirting; the boy rebelled and became jealous.
It is here where the film delivers one of its most beautiful
scenes, one of strong symbology. He is a conductor, he lives in music and in
art, he likes to control everything. She, a force of nature, detached from
social norms, free. Abandoned, the one who laughed in the face of conservatism,
the one who believed to be so self-sufficient, enters hidden in its place of
work and cries stupefying to see him ruling.
The greatness of that sound, so unlike anything she used to
hear, activates something within her that had never been stimulated. Genuine
love, not caring for child competition for attention, a feeling that does not
go away by not being reciprocated, since it does not depend on acceptance. It
simply exists. This moment further magnifies the brutal outcome of the work,
adding precious layers, highlighting how fragile the concept of judgment is.
The journalists who covered the case, even before the last
words were spoken, have already left the place. What matters is the headline,
and what matters is to be the fastest to deliver the matter. The human material
in this equation is garbage.
8. Westfront 1918 (1930)
Radically different from what happens in the overestimated
“All Quiet on the Western Front,” released that same year, which exhibited the
anguish of World War I with a showy lacquer, the eye of the director GW Pabst,
demonstrating security in his first foray into spoken cinema, is directed at
the courageous de-romanization of combat, denying all possibilities of solving
scenes by empowering action as a facilitator of any emotional catharsis,
failing to exploit any moment that has violence as the main factor in the
He refuses the formulas of films of the genre, with his
static camera capturing the destruction without aesthetic pretensions, also
avoiding the common place that always inserts the military experience as
defining element of the character of the soldiers.
The script, based on Ernst Johannsen’s book, shows that all
those men would have made much more money if they had stayed in their homes;
that war is stupid, a tremendous and absurd waste of time. Even the few moments
of necessary fun that the film tackles in its first act, naive vaudeville
presentations, are shown at a slow pace, evidencing the feeling of emptiness
The photograph of Fritz Arno Wagner, who had been
responsible for Murnau’s “Nosferatu,” helps to give realism to the episodically
structured scenes of the trenches, following the adventures of four soldiers
placed in a grotesque reality, obeying orders to annihilate others strangers,
but equal, who already consider themselves dead in life. It is also interesting
how the script treats the desperate reality of the women of the soldiers, who
were forced into prostitution, evidenced in the scene that shows the flagrance
of a betrayal.
It’s beautiful the way the work ends, putting two dying
enemy soldiers side by side. One no longer breathes, while the other recognizes
no reason for the hatred that put them in that situation.
The strong message that remains in the mind after the
session: to feel the presence of death, hand in hand, two victims in a simple
need, the satiate of thirst. But the most powerful image remains that of the
soldier collapsing emotionally on the battlefield, uttering a terrifying cry,
contemplating the whole dimension of human insanity.
Tattooed Life (1965)
One of the biggest inspirations for Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.”
That’s what you normally write when you approach this movie. It’s a tremendous
injustice to reduce this spectacular masterpiece to the position of being an
influencer of a smaller, yet popular and entertaining project.
Without revealing much about the plot, so as not to spoil
the experience, it was the first time that Seijun Suzuki received an alert from
his superiors about having gone too far in his style, which by itself already
would be reason enough to arouse his interest and make him redouble his
attention, especially in his magnificent outcome.
The story prompts emotional investment, something that is
not usual in his filmography, so I consider it an excellent starting point. The
second act has an intelligently slower pace, precisely to establish carefully
the relationship between the brothers, especially their antagonistic
motivations, which favors the psychedelic catharsis that occurs in the third
There is even less room in the script for a romantic
subplot. “Tattooed Life” shows Suzuki mastering the perfect balance between his
authorial inventions and the need to deliver a product of commercial value.
The Diamond Arm (1969)
The idea is a satirical blend of James Bond films, which
were extremely popular at the time, with a devious insight into the way of life
of the Soviets. But what really stands out is how the libertarian script
subverts the film conventions from the initial credits, which promise a
prologue, division into parts and epilogue, an epic pretense that is already
broken in the first sequence.
There is no prologue, there is no epilogue, and the second
part is announced after an interval just minutes before the end. It is
understandable the fame of the work in some countries: it is not a simple
comedy, as it embraces varied strands, from slapstick to the more refined humor
usually found in British films. The duo of Yuriy Nikulin (who was a circus
clown) and Andrey Mironov lavishes charisma, especially in the superior third
Writer/director Leonid Gayday has some bright moments, like
the scene of the young man who “walks on water.” He admired Chaplin, so the
inspiration is clear in the clever use of silence.
Link para a postagem original no “Taste of Cinema”: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2018/10-masterpieces-of-world-cinema-you-should-not-miss-part-4/