Top Ten By Year: 1925

Top Ten By Year: 1925 posts: Favorite Shots, Movie Poster Highlights, Poll Results, What I’ll Remember
Top Ten By Year posts: 1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I pick weak years for me re: quantity of films seen and/or quality of films seen in comparison to other years from said decade. I use list-making to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-driven way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on personal ‚Äėfavorites‚Äô not any notion of an objective ‚Äėbest‚Äô.

I miss the¬†way¬†actors faces used to be photographed. The head-on shot. Directors and actors using the camera as connective tissue, a delivery¬†service¬†to the audience. This wasn’t breaking the fourth wall — just one of the most commonly used angles,¬†getting us access to the¬†in-between spaces. In silent film, we¬†frequently become eavesdropping ghosts with the ability to insert ourselves anywhere without disruption.

After starting in April, I have finally reached the end of 1925. The road was rough this time around for a few reasons. For one thing, I went through a major break-up which put life and movie watching on hold for a good month and a half. And I’m not going to lie, restricting my viewings to mostly¬†silent films for several months was trying at times. I love silent films, but I often have to be in a certain receptive head-space for them, a kind of synchronization that aligns us both. And I’m picky with them to boot. And so, working¬†through the watchlist took longer than it normally would have.

I’m also in a writing slump. I normally take notes while watching films, and/or jot down thoughts in a notebook after viewing. But for 1925 I became very lazy about this process. So the idea of writing about films I watched months ago, when you aren’t feeling inspired to begin with, has¬†put me at a standstill. The more I try to force it, the more time I end up wasting, and wasting time is something I’m trying to do less of these days. So for this year, I’m going to do what¬†I hoped I’d never do; I’m just going to drop the list without ceremony. This decision basically goes back on the entire purpose of this project, but I don’t think enough people read this for it to be more of a disappointment than it probably is for myself. But I cannot sit in 1925 limbo any longer. So here you go. We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming for my next year, 2005.¬†

What I’ve learned is that I love silent spectacle; there is, and never will be, anything else like it. I’m more drawn to silent films that¬†try to operate in more than one mode, tone, or genre even if they sometimes fail at doing so. And finally, the power of an actor’s face, and their chemistry with the camera¬†and costars, goes a very long way for me.

1925 Films Seen: (bold; first-time viewing, italic; re-watch)
Joyless Street,
Seven Chances, Phantom of the Opera, The Eagle, The Red Kimona, Lazybones, The Freshman, The Wizard of Oz, Cobra, The Goose Woman, Lady of the Night, Variete, Tartuffe, The Salvation Hunters, Go West, Woman of the World, The Lost World, Whirlpool of Fate, The Gold Rush, Master of the House, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Orochi, Body and Soul, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Pleasure Garden, Visages D’Enfants, Don Q, The Big Parade, Ben-Hur, Chess Fever, Battleship Potemkin, The Unholy Three, Strike, The Gold Rush, The Merry Widow, The Road to Yesterday, Stage Struck

Joyless Street 1

1. Joyless Street (Germany, Pabst)
2. Stage Struck (US, Dwan)
3. The Merry Widow (US, von Stroheim)
4. The Road to Yesterday (US, DeMille)
5. The Gold Rush (US, Chaplin)
6. Lazybones (US, Borzage)
7. The Big Parade (US, Vidor)
8. The Eagle (US, Brown)
9. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (US, Niblo)
10. The last 20 minutes of Seven Chances (US, Keaton)

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1925: A Love Letter

My What I’ll Remember posts are an ongoing tradition. A logbook of sorts, they pay tribute to all the year-specific viewing I’ve done over the past however many months. It also stresses that, while the Top Ten list is the crux of this whole project, it’s really a means to an end. It goes without saying, but the process and journey of watching and re-watching these films is most important. I’ve recently looked back on previous What I’ll Remember posts and they evoke the feeling of a photo album, flipping through filmic memories of all shapes and sizes. Top Ten By Year: 1925 will go up late next week.

Top Ten By Year: 1925 posts so far: Movie Poster Highlights, Poll Results, Favorite Shots of 1925

Posts in the What I’ll Remember tag: 1943, 1958, 1965, 1978, 1992, 2012, 2013, 2014


MVP of 1925: John Gilbert (The Big Parade, The Merry Widow)

The realization that impressive craftsmanship and individual merits aside, I am very picky when it comes to silent films that captivate me as a whole…which makes me feel like a shitty cinephile.¬†

Favorite Characters: Jenny Hagen (Gloria Swanson; Stage Struck), Jack (William Boyd; The Road to Yesterday), Sally O’Hara (Mae Murray; The Merry Widow), Molly Helmer (Norma Shearer; Lady of the Night), Countess Elnora Natatorini (Pola Negri; A Woman of the World)

Rape, attempted rape, or the threat of rape and/or assault is almost guaranteed to crop up
(Whirlpool of Fate, Orochi, The Road to Yesterday, Variete, The Salvation Hunters, The Red Kimona, Tartuffe, The Wizard of Oz, The Joyless Street, Body and Soul, The Merry Widow, The Unholy Three, Phantom of the Opera)

Goose Woman

There’s a disturbing image for you (The Goose Woman)

Clarence Brown putting his engineering skills to use with that majestic tracking shot through a banquet table (The Eagle)

Introducing (relatively speaking): Paul Robeson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Georgia Hale (The Gold Rush, The Salvation Hunters), Constance Bennett

Introducing to Hollywood: Vilma Banky (The Eagle)

woman of the world

Pola Negri’s tattoo in A Woman of the World (:whispers: “she did it for a man she loved!”)

Least Favorite Characters: Farmhand/The Scarecrow (Harry Semon; The Wizard of Oz), Levett (Miles Mander; The Pleasure Garden), Jill Cheyne (Carmelita Geraghty; The Pleasure Garden), Ken/Lord Strangevon (Joseph Schildkraut; The Road to Yesterday), Mary Drake (Gertrude Olmstead; Cobra), Metzger von Melchiorstrasse (Werner Krauss; Joyless Street)

Lon Chaney playing a man whose love goes unrequited; how shocking! (The Unholy Three, Phantom of the Opera)

Pretending you aren’t in love with someone so they can be happy and move on (Cobra, The Unholy Three, Lady of the Night)

Red Kimona 1Tartuffe 3

Postmodernism rears its head by breaking the 4th wall in The Red Kimona and Tartuffe

The disasterpiece that is The Wizard of Oz

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari reunion! (Werner Krauss and Lil Dagover in Tartuffe)

Selection of purple prose intertitles:
“In his mind the boy divided human beings into Children of the Mud and Children of the Sun. Himself, he belonged somewhere between the two.” (A typical one in The Salvation Hunters)

“On the edge of the Grand Canyon, in the shadow of infinity” (The Road to Yesterday)

stage struck 4 200_s

Color (two-strip Technicolor or stencil) (Stage Struck, Phantom of the Opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ben-Hur)

The idyllic French countryside at the center of Whirlpool of Fate

The sheer spectacle of Ben-Hur

The completely unrecognized comedic stylings of Gloria Swanson. She does a wide range of physical comedy in Stage Struck, utilizing the entirety of her body and the intricacies of her face


Larry Semon is the world’s worst-case scenario Martin Short (The Wizard of Oz)

Told in flashback: Variete, The Red Kimona

Yakov’s death in Strike

Directorial debuts (or close enough): Alfred Hitchcock, Josef von Sternberg, Jean Renoir, Lewis Milestone

50b19134f7de2afe35d72a7bf39cf4ebThe Gold Rush 1

William Boyd serving up some young Kurt Russell in The Road to Yesterday, and Georgia Hale serving young Catherine Keener in The Gold Rush

An independent message film about forced prostitution co-directed, produced and overseen by a woman, Dorothy Davenport aka ‘Mrs. Wallace Reid’ (also adapted by Dorothy Arzner!) (The Red Kimona)

10 Performances of 1925: John Gilbert (The Big Parade), Zasu Pitts (Lazybones), Charlie Chaplin (The Gold Rush), Mae Murray (The Merry Widow), Gloria Swanson (Stage Struck), Louise Dresser (The Goose Woman), Harry Earles (The Unholy Three), Norma Shearer (Lady of the Night), Georgia Hale (The Salvation Hunters), Asta Nielsen (The Joyless Street)

John Gilbert rises to stardom and meets Mae Murray as she descends from stardom (The Merry Widow)

Am I the only one who finds Charlie Chaplin the most attractive during his bread roll ballet in The Gold Rush? (P.S he’s always attractive)

Merry Widow 3

John Gilbert’s lascivious stares are both sexy, and terrifying (The Merry Widow)

Favorite intertitles:
“Doff your hat you mannerless knave!” (A typical piece of dialogue from the 17th century portion of The Road to Yesterday)

“Gudule was endowed with the ability to make a good stew while using questionable ingredients” (Whirlpool of Fate)

“A gentleman’s relation to a lady is indicated by the manner in which he rings her doorbell” (Lady Windermere’s Fan)

“Martha Tuttle was one of those mother hens who clucked long after the deed was done” (Lazybones)

“I will only marry a man of great deeds and strange experiences – a man who can look death in the face without flinching!” –¬†Miss White, who might be single for a very long time, oh wait except she’s married by the end of the film (The Lost World)

Phantom of the Opera 1 Phantom of the Opera 2 Phantom of the Opera 3

Don’t ask me why, but I live for scenarios like this (above) (Phantom of the Opera)

Lazybones making what is on paper a really queasy central romance into something delicate and beautiful

Mads’s stony face remains in tact as her son throws all manner of clothes at and past her in Master of the House

The incredible aerial shot fight scene at the end of Orochi

The innovative model animation of the dinosaurs in The Lost World

stage struck

The unbearable cuteness of Gloria Swanson’s Jenny having regular conversations and role plays with a stuffed dog named Flea (Stage Struck)

Photographed by the incomparable Karl Freund! (Variete and Tartuffe)

The Goose Woman, just one example of ceilings visible in the frame before Citizen Kane

The romantic interest of Stage Struck; wheat cake extraordinaire Orme Wilson who is obsessed with actresses and says things like “You oughta see her – she’s the Duke’s mixture” and “You’re about as funny as a murder”


Why yes, that is a duck projectile vomiting (The Wizard of Oz)

Emil Jannings as the eternal fool? Yes. But you expect me to buy him as a fucking trapeze artist? Girl. Sorry. Next. (Variete)

Slow motion in Whirlpool of Fate, The Joyless Street, The Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, Phantom of the Opera

The proto-Cocteau dream sequence in Whirlpool of Fate

Discovering the greatness of character actress Louise Dresser (The Eagle, The Goose Woman)

Red Kimona 2battleshippotemkin2

Walter Lang, Dorothy Davenport, and Sergei Eisenstein have you beat by 69 years Steven Spielberg (The Red Kimona, Battleship Potemkin)

Can the lost art of the then-ubiquitous visual of aggressively intimate head-on close-ups be resurrected? I miss it so (literally all the movies)

Largely forgotten vamps/’exotic’ types of the day: Nita Naldi (Cobra), Lya De Putti (Variete)


Women are Cobras! Get it? (Cobra)

Based on a play: Cobra, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Tartuffe, Cyrano de Bergerac, Master of the House

Pair The Goose Woman with Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day for two very different films about down-on-their-luck alcoholic older women

Masquerading religious ‘devotees’ (Tartuffe, Body and Soul)

big parade pic A

Meet cutes don’t get cuter¬†than this (The Big Parade)

Playing two characters (Paul Robeson in Body and Soul, everyone in The Road to Yesterday, Norma Shearer in Lady of the Night)

Costume Highlights:

The first year in the career of legendary fashion designer Adrian (The Eagle, The Road to Yesterday, Cobra, Her Sister from Paris)

The Eagle

Vilma Banky’s pearl headdress in The Eagle

Gloria Swanson -1927-Stage Struck

Gloria Swanson’s outfits in the Technicolor dream sequence in Stage Struck

Lady of the Night 6
Look at those pockets!!!!!!

Lady of the Night 1 Lady of the Night 3

Pretty much everything Norma Shearer wears in Lady of the Night

Merry Widow 9 Lady of the Night 5stage struck 3

I miss elaborate head-pieces (The Eagle, Lady of the Night, Stage Struck, The Merry Widow)

Joyless Street 5

Tamara Geva’s coat in Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)

Top Ten By Year: Favorite Shots of 1925

Each time I take on a year in film for the Top Ten By Year Project I end up adding more components. At the end of What I’ll Remember for 1978 I posted some of the shots that stood out for me the most. For 1925, I’m just making it a separate post because I’ve ended up with quite a few screenshots. I’m posting them on my tumblr page as thematic photosets and I’ll try to recreate them here as best as I can. This is by no means exhaustive but as often as I could I tried to pull what jumped out at me as being particularly evocative. I’ve realized I’m a sucker for hands, shadows, faces, and reflections. Basically, I’m an easy visual lay.

Part 1: Shadows

Strike (Eisenstein)
Joyless Street 15
Joyless Street (Pabst) Impossible to catch in a still. Trust that it’s a moment of frenzied shaky mania
orochi 2 (2)
Orochi (Futagawa)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Red Kimona 3
The Red Kimona (Davenport/Lang)
Strike (Eisenstein)
the unholy three
The Unholy Three (Browning)

Part 2: Hands and Feet

Battleship Potemkin 1
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
body and soul 2
Body and Soul (Micheaux)
Joyless Street 11
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 13
Joyless Street (Pabst)
lady windermere's fan 1
Lady Windermere’s Fan (Lubitsch)
Merry Widow 1
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 2
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Salvation Hunters 5
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
tartuffe 4
Tartuffe (Murnau)
tartuffe 5
Tartuffe (Murnau)
The Eagle 2
The Eagle (Brown) (part of a tracking shot through the table)
Joyless Street 3
Joyless Street (Pabst)

Part 3: Reflections

Lady of the Night 4
Lady of the Night (Bell)
Red Kimona 2
The Red Kimona (Davenport/Lang)
Salvation Hunters 3
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Variety 3
Varieté (DuPont)
phantom of the opera 4
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)

Part 4: The Faces of Women

body and soul
Body and Soul (Michaeux)
Goose Woman 2
The Goose Woman (Brown)
Joyless Street 1
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 7
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 8
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 9
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Lady of the Night 3
Lady of the Night (Bell)
Mery Widow
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Salvation Hunters 2
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Whirlpool of Fate 2
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)
Whirlpool of Fate 3
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)

Part Five: Scenic and/or Establishing Shots

Whirlpool of Fate 4
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)
Whirlpool of Fate 1
Whirlpool of Fate
The Big Parade 2
The Big Parade (Vidor)
The pleasure garden
The Pleasure Garden (Hitchcock)
Merry Widow 5
The Merry Widow (von Sternberg)
Battleship Potemkin 3
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Ben Hur
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Niblo)

Part 7: The Rest

The Gold Rush (Chaplin)
Battleship Potemkin 2
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Joyless Street 12
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 14
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Lady of the Night 2
Lady of the Night (Bell)
lady windermere's fan 2
Lady Windermere’s Fan (Lubitsch)
Merry Widow 6
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 7
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 8
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
orochi (1)
Orochi (Fukasawa)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Salvation Hunters 4
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Salvation Hunters
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
strike 2
Strike (Eisenstein)
Tartuffe 6
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
the big parade 2
The Big Parade (Vidor)
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Variety 1
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 2
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 4
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 5
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 6
Varieté (Dupont)
Whirlpool of Fate 5
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)

Top Ten By Year: 1925 – Poll Results

Previous Top Ten By Year Polls: 1958, 1978, 1992

(Reminder of the Poll rules: Participants could vote for up to 10 films; no more, but certainly less. Order was not required since it had no bearing on the results.)

First off, thank you so much to everyone who voted, from those¬†impressively well-versed enough in silent cinema for¬†a full top ten, to¬†those kind enough to contribute a handful of passionate picks. I knew it was going to be a much lower turnout than usual due to the year in question, and I wasn’t wrong. 47 people voted for 50 different films.

Taking into account the internet‚Äôs oversaturation¬†with¬†lists/listicles, I hope it‚Äôs clear that this project is anything but tossed off. Seeing what makes the collective top ten is a lot of fun, but may I direct your¬†attention to the full breakdown of votes and the individual ballots?¬†My hope with these polls is¬†that in addition to¬†promoting¬†scraps of anticipation for the¬†related posts to come (What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1925: A Love Letter, Favorite Shots, and the Top Ten. Poster Highlights can be found here), that they mainly serve as a reference point for anyone looking for new films to watch whether it’s from seeing:

a. what ‘Film Twitter’ collectively loves
b. more importantly, the films towards the bottom of the list, the ones you’ve never¬†heard of that are¬†begging for (re)discovery.
c. the individual ballots of folks whose taste and knowledge you value (“I don’t know what this is, but if Labuza likes it, surely it’s worth a gander”; what do you mean, of course people talk like this)

Keep a look out next month for the final two posts for Top Ten By Year: 1925.

I’m also so happy and honored to announce my participation in the upcoming installment of The Film Experience’s Smackdown Panel, where we’ll be dissecting the Best Supporting Actress performances from 1948. I’m a huge fan of this column, so to be on it is both exciting and intimidating. You can find what 1948 in film means to me here, and expect the write-ups and podcast companion up at the end of the month!

Leave your thoughts on the poll in the comments section!


POLL RESULTS – Top Ten By Year: 1925
1. The Gold Rush (Chaplin, US) Р41 votes 
2. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, Soviet Union) ‚Äď 39 votes
3. Seven Chances (Keaton, US) ‚Äď 26 votes
4. The Freshman (Newmeyer/Taylor, US) ‚Äď 25 votes
5. The Big Parade (Vidor, US) ‚Äď 21 votes
6. Strike (Eisenstein, Soviet Union) ‚Äď 19 votes
(6). Phantom of the Opera (Julien, US)‚Äď 19 votes
8. Go West (Keaton, US) ‚Äď 11 votes
(8). Master of the House (Dreyer, Denmark) – 11 votes
10. Chess Fever (Pudovkin/Shpikovsky, Soviet Union) ‚Äď 10 votes¬†

The Rest:
7 votes:¬†Variet√©, Lady Windermere’s Fan, The Merry Widow
5 votes: Tartuffe
4 votes: The Unholy Three, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
3 votes: Joyless Street, Orochi, Lazybones, The Monster, Body and Soul
2 votes: The Salvation Hunters, The Lost World, The Eagle, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life
1 vote: Cyrano de Bergerac, A Woman of the World, Saint-Bernard, Les Aventures de Robert Macaire, Poil de Carrotte , Paris qui Dort, Whirlpool of Fate, In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea, Don Q Son of Zorro, Super Hooper Dyne Lizzies, The Pleasure Garden, Proud Flesh, Sally of the Sawdust, Le Double Amour, Furasato no uta (Song of Home), Gus Visser and his Singing Duck , Stella Dallas, Dark Angel , Zandar the Great, His People, Beyond the Border, Stage Struck , Kentucky Pride, The Rat’s Knuckles, Faces of Children 

Individual Ballots: 

The Big Parade, The Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, The Freshmanm, Seven Chances, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, Joyless Street

Strike, The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, Phantom of the Opera, Strike, The Merry Widow, Go West, Master of the House, The Freshman

@salesonfilm (Kristen Sales of salesonfilm, Movie Mezzanine, FilmFracture, etc):
Chess Fever, The Freshman, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, Go West, the final chase sequence in Seven Chances

@SchmanthonyP (Brian Schmid):

@ProphetKotto (Alex Megaro):
Le Double Amour (Jean Epstein), Seven Chances, Grass, The Gold Rush, Tartuffe, Phantom of the Opera, Battleship Potemkin

@whynotanna (of Start Focus End):
Battleship Potemkin, Phantom of the Opera

@cinemasights (James Blake Ewing of Cinema Sights):

@Cinedaze (Paul Anthony Johnson of Film-Philosophy, Popmatters):

@pogform (Hannah):
Ben Hur, Seven Chances, Go West, The Gold Rush

@ch_williamson (Chuck Williamson of The Missing Slate):

@dallasshaldune (TJ Duane):
Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, The Freshman

Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, Strike

@railoftomorrow (Scott Nye, writer and podcast co-host at CriterionCast, etc.):
Big Parade, Seven Chances, Gold Rush, Potemkin, Go West, Strike, Merry Widow, Master of the House

@joshbrunsting (Josh Brunsting of CriterionCast):
The Freshman, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, The Gold Rush, Master Of The House, Chess Fever

@astoehr (Andreas Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grrr, Movie Mezzanine, etc.):
The Big Parade, The Gold Rush, Seven Chances, Battleship Potemkin, & Orochi

1. The Gold Rush 2. Potemkin 3. Phantom of the Opera

@DavidBlakslee (David Blakslee of Criterion Reflections):
B’ship Potemkin, Body & Soul, Freshman, Go West, Gold Rush, Master of the House, Paris Qui Dort, Whirlpool of Fate

@CinemaGadfly (
1. The Gold Rush 2. The Freshman 3. Master of the House

@willow_catelyn (of Curtsies and Hand Grenades):

@bmrow (Brent Morrow):
1. Lady Windermere’s Fan 2. Chess Fever 3. Lazybones 4. Strike 5. Battleship Potemkin 6. The Merry Widow 7. Variet√© 8. The Freshman 9. Master of the House 10. The Monster

@TaybackX (Ken Adams):

@erikgregersen (Erik M. Gregersen):
Seven Chances, The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea, The Freshman, Strike, Don Q, Son of Zorro

@redroomrantings (Justine A. Smith, Chief Film Editor and podcaster at Sound on Sight):
1. The Big Parade 2. Lazybones 3. Battleship Potemkin 4. The Gold Rush 5. The Phantom of the Opera


@TheEndofCinema (Sean Gilman of The End of Cinema; The George Sanders Show, and They Shot Pictures podcasts):
The Gold Rush, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, Seven Chances, Strike!, The Freshman, Phantom of the Opera

1. The Gold Rush 2. The Phantom of the Opera 3. The Big Parade 4. Varieté 5. Seven Chances

@MoviesSilently (of Movies Silently)

@Cinematic_Life (of This Cinematic Life):
Potemkin, Phantom of the Opera, The Gold Rush, The Freshman, The Unholy 3

@oblongpictures (Chris Salt):
Potemkin, Tartuffe, Freshman, Phantom of the Opera, 7 Chances, Gold Rush, Big Parade, Go West, Gus Visser and his Singing Duck

@jchristley (Jamie N. Christley):
1. The Big Parade, 2. Seven Chances, 3. Go West, 4. The Rat’s Knuckles 5. Lady Windermere’s Fan 6. Lazybones 7. The Gold Rush 8. Sally of the Sawdust 9. Chess Fever 10. Master of the House

@jaimegrijalba (Jamie Grijalba):
1. The Gold Rush 2. Battleship Potemkin 3. Orochi 4. The Phantom of the Opera 5. Furasato no uta

@pierrefilmon (Pierre Filmon):
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Potemkine, Gold Rush, Saint-Bernard

@rgodfrey (Ryan Godfrey):
1. Phantom of the Opera 2. Seven Chances 3. The Gold Rush 4. Battleship Potemkin 5. Body and Soul

@realcbeckett (Christopher Beckett):
The Gold Rush, The Big Parade, Seven Chances, Potemkin, Strike, Ben Hur, Master of the House

1. Strike 2. The Big Parade 3. The Gold Rush 4. Battleship Potemkin 5. Seven Chances 6. Master of the House 7. Ben-Hur 8. The Phantom of the Opera 9. The Merry Widow 10. Go West

@48ONIRAM (Brian!):
Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, The Freshman

@sarahnwondrland (my Aunt!):
1. Seven Chances 2. The Freshman 3. Battleship Potemkin 4. The Gold Rush

Battleship Potemkin. The Gold Rush. The Freshman. Big Parade. The Monster. Proud Flesh, Stella Dallas.

@adamhopelies (Adam Batty, Lecturer and founder of Hope Lies At 24 Frames Per Second):
Les Aventures de Robert Macaire, Tartuffe, Battleship Potemkin, The Big Parade, The Gold Rush, The Freshman, Strike, P Garden, The Salvation Hunters



1. The Big Parade 2. Strike 3. The Gold Rush 4. Body and Soul 5. Seven Chances 6. Master of the House

1. Variety 2. The Gold Rush 3. The Phantom of the Opera 4. Seven Chances 5. Battleship Potemkin 6. The Big Parade 7. Go West 8. Strike 9. The Freshman 10. Grass: A Nations Battle for Life


Peter Labuza (Author of Approaching the End, host of The Cinephiliacs, contributor to Variety, etc.):
The Big Parade (Vidor, USA), Faces of Children (Feyder, France), Seven Chances (Keaton, USA), Stage Struck (Dwan, USA), Kentucky Pride (Ford, USA), Master of the House (Dreyer, Netherlands), Orochi (Futagawa, Japan), Chess Fever (Pudovkin, USSR), The Freshman (Lloyd, USA), Battleship Potekmin (Eisenstein, USSR)

Travis Clark:
The Gold Rush, Seven Chances, The Phantom of the Opera, The Big Parade, The Freshman, Variety, Battleship Potemkin, Strike, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Chess Fever

Steven Venn:
Battleship Potemkin, The Gold Rush, Phantom of the Opera, Seven Chances, Tartuffe, Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, Dark Angel, The Freshman, Lady Windermere’s Fan

Adam K. (rl friend):
The Big Parade, Phantom of the Opera, Battleship Potemkin

Calling All Submissions for the Top Ten By Year: 1925 Poll


I’m in the final third of my research for Top Ten By Year: 1925 (I’ve got about 13 viewings left). With 1992, 1958, and 1978 I conducted a poll with all you fellow film lovers, asking what your choices would be. It has been such a success so far, and it’s become the inaugural kick-off for festivities in the Top Ten By Year Project. Next month, be on the lookout for 1925 coverage; I already posted my Movie Poster Highlights of 1925 and coming up will be a What I’ll Remember post, the Top Ten, and of course the Poll Results.

Order doesn‚Äôt factor in for results,¬†but you are more than welcome submit them that way. If you’ve only seen a handful of films from 1925, don’t merely a list of what you’ve seen. I only want submissions for films you consider favorites. If that means it’s only 1 or 2, that’s perfectly fine!¬†I don‚Äôt want 10 for the sake of 10 or even 5 for the sake of 5. Only the ones you love.¬†

Leave your lists in the comments section. Voting is open for the next seven days.

Movie Poster Highlights: 1925

During the last pass through the Top Ten By Year project, 1978, I introduced a new tradition during all my round-up coverage; the Poster Appreciation post. I’m about 60% finished with my latest year, 1925, and figured, why not establish the poster post as an early prelude to the festivities to come? So here we are. This has been, to put it frankly, a shitty time for me. The distraction of this project has been a help, and then it wasn’t, and now it is starting to be again.

In most cases I have unfortunately been unable to identify or give credit to any artists who contributed to or created these pieces. There is not a lot of easily accessible documentation regarding artist credit so sadly I don’t have much to offer on that front.

So let’s start with posters for lost films. In culling together a watchlist for 1925, there were numerous posters I’d see that would have me longing to see a film right away. And of course it was often accompanied by discovering that the film was not available and considered lost. But at least we can still ogle at the advertisements and use them as a romanticized launching pad for our idealized versions of what might have been.

All survival statuses provided by the Progressive Silent Film List.

Swedish poster for Madame Sans-Gêne (lost)
Swedish poster for Madame Sans-Gêne (presumed lost). I get such a Shelley Duvall vibe from this illustration.
Danish poster for Madame Sans-Gêne (lost)
Danish poster for Madame Sans-Gêne (presumed lost). Whereas this is reading as 100% Gloria, sultry sneer and all.
Swedish poster for New Lives for Old (lost)
Swedish poster for New Lives for Old (status unknown)

The Morgan Lithograph Company was one of the top poster lithographers in the early years of cinema. Here are three Paramount posters handled by them.

Poster for the short Cupid's Victory (to my knowledge, lost)
Poster for the short Cupid’s Victory (to my knowledge, lost). Made by the Morgan Litho Company. Such an atypical color scheme for a poster!
Poster for Miss Bluebeard (print exists; 16mm). Made by the Morgan Litho Company
Poster for Miss Bluebeard (print exists; 16mm)
Poster for Wild, Wild Susan (status; unknown).
Poster for Wild, Wild Susan (status; unknown). Made by the Morgan Litho Company

Almost all of Bebe Daniels’s silent films are considered lost, which is such a shame because look at this!”Susan’s mania was speed”?!?! She looks completely indifferent as she whizzes down a big yellow arrow. She’s so over the adrenaline. There’s no way the film would live up to this image, but every Bebe Daniels poster I see makes me mourn the fact that I can’t experience most of her filmography.

Poster for The Half-Way Girl (status unknown)
Poster for The Masked Bride
Poster for The Masked Bride (status unknown). What a striking shade of red, not to mention Murray’s editorial look. Girl’s checking to see if her nails have dried.


Poster for The Scarlet Saint (status unknown). This is like a romantically luscious Christmas card.
Poster for The Scarlet Saint (status unknown). This is like a romantically luscious Christmas card.

Here’s a few featuring the work of Boris Bilinsky! If you want to read more about him or see more of his work, here’s a great article on MUBI for you.

Le prince charmant (status unknown). Artist: Boris Bilinsky
The Telephone Operator (Das Fräulein vom Amt) (status unknown). Artist: Boris Bilinsky
French poster for The Telephone Operator (Das Fräulein vom Amt) (status unknown). Artist: Boris Bilinsky
French poster for Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse). Artist: Boris Bilinsky
French poster for Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse). Artist: Boris Bilinsky

Speaking of Joyless Street, here are two other posters for Pabst’s film:

US poster for Joyless Street (artist unknown)
US poster for Joyless Street (artist unknown)
Russian poster for Joyless Street (artist unknown)
Russian poster for Joyless Street (artist unknown)

Renowned and versatile artist Alexander Rodchenko created some masterworks of graphic designs with his movie posters. Here are a few for 1925 films:

Poster for –õ—É—á —Ā–ľ–Ķ—Ä—ā–ł (US title; The Death Ray). Artist: Alexander Rodchenko
Poster for –õ—É—á —Ā–ľ–Ķ—Ä—ā–ł (US title; The Death Ray). Artist: Alexander Rodchenko
Poster for –õ—É—á —Ā–ľ–Ķ—Ä—ā–ł (US title; The Death Ray) Artist: Alexander Rodchenko
Poster for –õ—É—á —Ā–ľ–Ķ—Ä—ā–ł (US title; The Death Ray) Artist: Alexander Rodchenko
Poster for Battleship Potemkin. Artist: Alexander Rodchenko
Poster for Battleship Potemkin. Artist: Alexander Rodchenko

Here is another amazing poster for Battleship Potemkin. This one by the Sternberg brothers. Another MUBI article for your pleasure.

Poster for Battleship Potemkin. Artist; the Sternberg brothers
Poster for Battleship Potemkin. Artist; the Sternberg brothers

The last two posters may be my favorites because I can never get enough of illustrations of dark-lipped sexy women framed by a pop color.

Swedish poster for A Woman of the World. Artist unknown
Swedish poster for A Woman of the World. Artist unknown
lady of the night
Swedish poster for Lady of the Night. Artist: Eric Rohman


Top Ten By Year: 1978

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I pick weak years for me re: quantity of films seen and/or quality of films seen in comparison to other years from said decade. I use list-making to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-driven way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on personal ‚Äėfavorites‚Äô not any notion of an objective ‚Äėbest‚Äô. I‚Äôve completed 1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, and now 1978. Next I‚Äôll be doing 1925.

So, we’re finally at the end. 1978 contained my longest watchlist and the longest time spent on an individual year in the Top Ten By Year project. I was reminded just how much I love 70’s cinema. That it’s not just about New Hollywood and the force of macho film-school bred auteurists. 1978 catches us between two worlds in American cinema. On the one end is the reign of the thinking man’s picture, mid-scale character dramas, revisionist genre play, and expansive rule-breaking. On the other end, this is three years after Jaws and a mere year after surprise phenomenon Star Wars; studios are quickly realizing that youth is the most potentially profitable demographic. Superman is about to become the first film deliberately constructed blockbuster, with the now ubiquitous strategic ad campaign and excessive merchandising. Though we now recognize the overlap between the two, the modestly scaled and heavily auteur-driven genre play of the 70’s will soon give way to the big-scale classic pop genre play of the 80’s. With Vietnam three years in the past, filmmakers are beginning to investigate the country’s very messy recent history. And while we somewhat rightfully refer to the nostalgia drenched culture of today as a poisonous succubus that has only recently swallowed up pop culture, looking at some of the top films of 1978 such as Grease, Superman, National Lampoon’s Animal House and Heaven Can Wait, demonstrates this as an age-old custom.

All Top Ten By Year: 1978 posts:
Poll Results
Movie Poster Highlights 
1978 Movie Music Mix
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1978: A Love Letter (includes Suggested Double Features and Favorite Shots)
10 Honorable Mentions plus Grease

Biggest Disappointments:
California Suite
Same Time, Next Year
Capricorn One
Empire of Passion
Five Deadly Venoms

Some Blind Spots:
Gates of Heaven, ¬†Perceval le Gallois, La Cage aux Folles, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Who‚Äôll Stop the Rain, The Boys from Brazil, Big Wednesday, The Green Room, Fingers, Graduate First (so sad I couldn’t find this), Lord of the Rings, Snake in the Eagle‚Äôs Shadow, Every Which Way But Loose, The Big Fix, Convoy, My Way Home, Crippled Avengers, American Boy: A Profile of Stephen¬†Prince, Don, Nighthawks, China 9, Liberty 37, The Buddy Holly Story, The Shooting Party, The Scenic Route

I had seen 16 films prior to this. I’ve now seen 64 films from 1978.

TOTAL LIST OF FILMS SEEN IN 1978: (bold indicates first-time viewings during research, italics indicates re-watches during research):
Alucarda, Always for Pleasure, Autumn Sonata, Avalanche, Blue Collar, Blue Sunshine, California Suite, Capricorn One, The Cheap Detective, Coma, Coming Home, Dawn of the Dead, Days of Heaven, Death on the Nile, The Deer Hunter, The Demon, Despair, Drunken Master, Empire of Passion,¬†Du er ikke alene (You Are Not Alone), Eyes of Laura Mars, Fedora, Five Deadly Venoms, Foul Play, The Fury, Girlfriends, Grease, Halloween, Heaven Can Wait, Heroes of the East, Interiors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, In a Year of 13 Moons, Jubilee, Killer of Sheep, Krabat (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), The Last Waltz, Long Weekend, The Mafu Cage, Magic, The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (short), Midnight Express, Mongoloid (short), National Lampoon’s Animal House, Panna a Netvor (Beauty and the Beast), Pretty Baby, Remember My Name, Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (The Meetings of Anna), Same Time Next Year, Satiemania (short), The Shout, The Silent Partner, Straight Time, Superman, Thank God It’s Friday, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, An Unmarried Woman, Up in Smoke, Violette Noziere, Watership Down, A Wedding, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, The Wiz

FTV = First-Time Viewing
RW = Re-watch
LTF = Long Time Favorite

Mafu Cage 110. The Mafu Cage (US, Arthur) (FTV)
Top Ten By Year: 1978 is bookended with¬†films directed by women. I couldn’t really say whether The Mafu Cage is well-regarded or not because it’s not regarded, period. Hell, it doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. In one¬†way this makes sense; the¬†majority of people are likely to be turned off by this claustrophobic and perverse story. In another way, it makes no sense whatsoever; just where oh where is the cult following for The Mafu Cage??? Come out from behind those bushes, people! There are so few of us (thank you author Kier-La Janisse, whose essential book House of Psychotic Women brought the film’s existence to my attention)! It’s massively fucked up and pretty tasteless, but surprisingly stirring,¬†very intimate, and so very very¬†loaded. It’s also one of the more bizarre and discomfiting fictional¬†realms¬†I’ve ever been invited to participate in. This is really uncomfortable stuff, people (extended appropriation of African culture as characterization and monkeys that no doubt felt some level of trauma in real life from the filming of this);¬†familial support gone horribly horribly wrong.¬†

Where does The Mafu Cage fit within female-driven horror? Is it horror? Absolutely, (although it’s equal parts psychological chamber drama), especially its¬†incorporation of¬†taboo subjects and the way narrative plays out in regards to Cissy’s¬†victims. It could easily be a companion to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?¬†and other psycho-biddy films. Just take out the aging camp legends and insert the apocalyptic¬†Carol Kane.

I’ve always loved Carol Kane but this is a whole other can of worms; she is absolutely¬†unapologetic here. What’s wrong with Cissy? Well, what isn’t wrong with her? She lives in self-imposed seclusion with her sister in a Los Angeles home that recreates the African jungle of her youth.¬†She’s like a child, living off delusions and whims. She says “DUMBSHIT” when provoked, which is often. She screeches and yells a lot. She is possessive,¬†entirely irrational, and in no way equipped to be functional within anything resembling reality. Capable of momentary self-reflection, it’s only a matter of time before she¬† inverses self-awareness.¬†Kane plays Cissy as someone trapped in her own patterns of behavior, which are unfortunately¬†defined by the death of people and animals alike. She is a tantrum-led woman suffering from severe unchecked mental illness. Her sister¬†Ellen (Lee Grant) means well but is ultimately an enabler, keeping a promise to their father to protect her, shielding her instead of getting her the help she so clearly needs.

Karen Arthur was the first woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (for a 1985 episode of “Cagney and Lacey”). She was the second female member of the DGA. Arthur does a beautiful job with this material, and it’s a shame the film mostly exists at a¬†video quality level. The film is filled with strangely bewitching images. She confronts Cissy even though we and those around her walk on eggshells in her presence. Montages cement her behavior as part of a cycle. The Mafu Cage played at Cannes, received a good reception and then a weak independent release only to disappear. I’m hoping at least a few people seek it out because of this post.

i wanna hold your hand9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (US, Zemeckis) (FTV)
From time to time Robert Zemeckis¬†marries¬†touchstone history to the lives of his characters. His success rate varies but his first film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, is scaled to chaotic perfection. This isn’t Forrest Gump haplessly stumbling through hallmark events like a walking gimmick; this is a dogged unshakable group of fanatical girls who very much want to shove their way into a national moment; by gaining access to The Beatles on the day they’re set to perform on the Ed Sullivan show (February 9th, 1964).

In my Honorable Mentions post, in reference to Thank God It’s Friday,¬†I mentioned my love¬†for One Crazy Day/Night films (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Modern Girls, Adventures in Babysitting, After Hours, Magnolia, ParaNorman; the list goes on and on). I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a lesser known treasure of the subgenre. It starts at the eventual final destination, with Ed Sullivan’s rehearsal session, and quickly branches out to our core group, made up of obsessives and reluctant and/or opposed tagalongs. When our characters¬†enter the abyss of countless fanatics on the same quest, they quickly find themselves splintering off, and soon the characters are having their own individual adventures.

The most entertaining of these is the soon-to-be-married Pam (Nancy Allen) who at one point finds herself alone in The Beatles hotel room. I’ve grown so fond of Nancy Allen’s bright-eyed cherubic quality over the years, and seeing her lust over leftovers, instruments, and whatever else she can get her hands has become an instantly iconic movie moment for me.

Zemeckis’s debut¬†doesn’t look down on or solely gawk at the devotion of fanaticism; it just hops on the insanity train. Regarding the tone it could have employed, I’m reminded¬†of the recent snarky reactions from people, largely men, towards the collective mourning from One Direction’s largely female fan base¬†over Zayn Malik’s recent departure. I Wanna Hold Your Hand playfully looks at Beatlemania as a phenomenon of ‘hell hath no fury’ fans, but also recognizes that fan bases are¬†made up of individually felt emotional extremes,¬†a very authentic¬†loyalty, and sincere commitment.


The Shout8. The Shout (UK, Skolimowski) (FTV)
The only comparison I have for the cryptic and unknowable experience of The Shout are the films of director Nicolas Roeg and¬†The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The ‘unknown’ at the center of The Shout, made up of aboriginal mysticism and an unreliable narrative, makes for a disturbing nucleus that resides¬†underneath consciousness. Even the¬†credits are hazy and out of reach.

Like our next film, sound is central to The Shout, employing¬†an innovative Dolby mix to disorient. Alan Bates, who disrupts the lives of a young couple in the countryside (John Hurt and Suzannah York), claims to have attained occult powers, specifically ‘The Shout’, which apparently has the power to kill anyone who hears it. John Hurt plays an experimental electronic musician, and¬†several scenes take place in his home studio as he records various noises. To him, ‘The Shout’ becomes the¬†holy grail of sounds; something he, at least initially, denounces as hogwash. And finally, the score by Tony Bates and Michael Rutherford of Genesis, is an ambient soundscape that further dislodges the viewer. But then, everything about The Shout dislodges the viewer.

This is a world where everything may be a lie, or worse, everything may be true. A world where people can be controlled as long as you have their belt buckle. The cricket game in the framing device carries a waiting room kind of menace, as if this world will end as soon as one team wins. Films like The Shout are the kind I wait and hope for. These mind-fuck movies that are legitimate and hypnotic, fueled by rhythms that defy standard logic and are populated by mysteries that defiantly refuse to be solved.

invasion of the body snatchers7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (US, Kaufman) (RW)
Philip Kaufman spends the first half of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a remake of Don Siegel’s 1956¬†film,¬†establishing a paranoid mood piece where the threat¬†infiltrates safe spaces before we’ve even¬†had time to settle into the picture. They may just look like plants, but fuck do they move fast. Everything is in plain sight right from the beginning, covering both the corners and foreground of the frame, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Kaufman secretly plans to have it both ways¬†by filling in the¬†run-run-run second half with¬†some startling¬†practical effects sequences, allowing mutating slime and atmospheric¬†smoke-screens to¬†give way to each other.

I can’t think of a cooler ensemble than this; Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and the recently departed Leonard Nimoy who uses his soothing demeanor to chilling effect. Donald Sutherland in particular is in peak form doing his baritone Chia Pet thing.

Layers and layers of heartbeats, electronic white noise and throbs, rain sticks, and clanging and banging push in on us; a contemporary comparison for the cumulative impact of Denny Zeitlin’s score is¬†Brian Reitzell’s ingenious work on “Hannibal”.

My first time seeing Invasion, I was totally unprepared to discover it’s the kind of slick and smart artful mainstream horror that doesn’t come around too often. Full of applicable social commentary, a¬†genuinely rattling air you desperately want to shimmy off, and filled with fodder to dissect every which way you turn.

The Fury6. The Fury (US, De Palma) (FTV)
Pauline Kael’s review of The Fury¬†is one of her most famous because it’s an anomalous hyperbolic rave, a viewing experience that sounds like it amounted to something like an orgasm. Much of the review’s notoriety stems from the generally lackluster reaction people tend to have to Brian De Palma’s follow-up to Carrie. De Palma devotees drool over it, and most others either casually dismiss or actively deride the film. But I’m with you Pauline. I’m with you.

On its face The Fury has¬†a lot in common with Carrie. It’s also¬†based on a novel. It’s also about a girl with telekinesis. It also¬†features Amy Irving. But this one has conspiracies, chases, a father trying to find his son, an Xavier Institute equivalent. It’s a strange brew of¬†supernatural spy thriller! Sound overcrowded? It is; but I love the hell out of The Fury‘s bloated convolution.

Even through its slower section The Fury is blisteringly alive. I can’t explain why, especially because John Ferris’s script (adapting his novel) is kind of a hacky mess, but it all felt like it mattered. Being thrown into the preposterous story, you either submit to it or scoff through it. Sure, the¬†Kirk Douglas material is initially less interesting, but come on, who doesn’t want to see Kirk Douglas vs. John Cassavetes? How can one deny watching the star in his sixties, running around shirtless with a machine gun, and disguising himself¬†to make him look, wait for it, old! And besides, this slowly but surely becomes Gillian’s (Irving) film. There’s also weird pockets of humor. De Palma often opens scenes by zeroing in on peripheral characters, whether it’s the cop who just got a brand new car, the little old lady who delights in helping out a trespasser, or the two security guards who like to trade Hershey bars for coffee.

It’s trademark¬†De Palma to toy¬†around with the nature of cinema, and The Fury is constantly interacting with itself. Gillian’s telekinetic link¬†to the missing Robin (Andrew Stevens who is terrible, but I love sociopathic brat characters like this) is depicted visually, so the intimate and exclusive¬†link between them also includes us.¬†Since¬†Gillian’s visions strike¬†through sight (what else?), she acquires¬†information by watching scenes play out in front of her eyes. She learns, and we learn through her. Gillian becomes, in her way, an¬†audience member. This is cinema¬†as the ultimate form¬†of communication and information (surveillance is a recurring theme here too), something that can transcend the confines of the screen. At one point, Robin is even shown the first five minutes of the film!¬†De Palma’s¬†stylized techniques drive it all home; editing and rear-screen projection are¬†used to emphasize and encompass, and characters are brought together by overlapping spaces and sounds.¬†The camera often tracks conversations by moving around characters,¬†covering all bases.

There’s a bravura four minute slow-motion sequence that turns the notion of the escape scene on its head. It isn’t until the end when we realize the slow-motion is in fact stretching out a character’s final moments. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better send-off to any movie; I’m serious. It cannot be beat. Don’t even try to tell me it can. It’s the money shot to end all money shots, but shown¬†from every possible angle. But it’s¬†not just showstopper sequences like these that I fell in love with; it’s the whole damn film.

(There is a scene in which a horrified Gillian sees Robin, her face directed straight at the camera, horrified. This is exactly what Stanley Kubrick would do with Danny Torrance in The Shining a mere two years later.)

coming-home5. Coming Home (US, Ashby) (FTV)
Three years after the Fall of Saigon there were two Best Picture nominees that directly dealt with Vietnam. One was the wholly masculine collapse-of-camaraderie film The Deer Hunter. The other was the far more liberal-minded¬†Coming Home, about tormented veterans and a woman who comes into her own¬†politically and sexually following her husband’s departure for Vietnam. People tend to knock¬†Coming Home¬†for¬†being a war film that ‘descends’ into something¬†as¬†‘cliche’ as a love triangle.¬†Is there any easier way to dismiss a film for daring to be about the female experience of wartime?¬†These are three people (Jon Voight and Bruce Dern are the paraplegic lover and husband respectively) whose lives become inextricably linked through their traumas, their evolution, their bodies, and their love.

The film materialized through Jane Fonda’s tenacity, and her¬†outspoken anti-Vietnam activism prohibits us from buying into the place her traditional sheltered wife character begins. But that doesn’t last for long. Everyone involved, not just Fonda, from Jon Voight to Hal Ashby to producer Jerome Hellman, were heavily concerned with post-war realities. Coming Home is a best case scenario message picture in the guise of an achingly human love story.

This was not a film I expected to have this kind of response to. Perhaps most of all, I had an all-in investment in¬†the pairing¬†of Jane Fonda and Jon Voight. Their relationship, which begins with, of all things, a broken pissbag, makes Coming Home one of the most erotic¬†films I’ve ever seen. The two actors share a vitality that¬†is not only palpable, but supports the¬†core of the film; the basic necessity for people to connect with each other¬†in times of strife,¬†immeasurable hardship, and an unknown future.

Days of Heaven4. Days of Heaven (US, Malick) (RW)
Already with his sophomore feature, Terrence Malick brings his storytelling into the ether, the outer zones. The characters and their drama are contained in something bigger than themselves; the¬†cornfields and the magic hour, and the narration of a child (Linda Manz), mumbling and halting. Her perception is¬†omniscient if not all-knowing. It begins as a romanticized snapshot, not of Depression-era workers, but of what surrounds them. It gradually¬†transforms into something else altogether, a kind of¬†melodrama hiding in plain sight. The central house is like a mirage, and¬†Days of Heaven is¬†triangular, made up of people, land, and machinery, each interacting and needing the other. Like Badlands, there is a honeymoon period for these characters, the makeshift family, isolated but not wanting for anything. “I think the devil was on the farm” is just one of many Biblical allusions. Days of Heaven is as immense¬†as the universe and as microscopic¬†as a single house in the middle of a wheat field.

Satiemania3. Satiemania (short) (Yugoslavia,¬†GaŇ°parovińá) (FTV)
Visualizing the music of Eric Satie, Satiemania alternates between the¬†mocking¬†hustle-bustle of city life, where outsized caricatures fill the streets, and the melancholy hours where women drink and undress, their bodies of various shapes and sizes, eternally¬†longing for something more.¬†Not only do I love Satie’s “Gnossienne” pieces, but GaŇ°parovińá’s animation style is exactly the kind of aesthetic I tend to respond to; messy and sketchy, action shown through ever-morphing dissolves as if the nights are forever slipping away; moments are lost even as they happen.¬†The illustrations are exclusively about people, whether singled out in a crowd, pushed together in a bar, or by themselves in their most private moments.

Blue-Collar2. Blue Collar (US, Schrader) (FTV)
Blue Collar is probably the best working mans drama I’ve ever seen. Systematically shattering, from the bowels of an incensed and very hungry monster. These are people at their wit’s end, backed into a corner by corrupt unions, with no exit strategy. Blue Collar is frighteningly relevant in its portrayal of corruption as a trap that sees working class solidarity as just another thing to be exploited, suppressed and dismantled. Paul Schrader, in his debut film, is on the front line with them, never taking the easy way out. It’s direct and didactic and illuminating.

There is the scene where our three characters, played by Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, strategize about the stolen ledger. They talk about their options and each guy has a different idea. Three options are presented, yet it feels like they have none. These men aren’t stupid. They see through it all and make a concerted effort to exploit the exploiters. And it backfires. Big time.

The three main actors apparently all hated each other in real life, and it’s one of those things that results in a live-wire chemistry and onscreen camaraderie that authentically sings to the tune of empathetic disgruntlement. We become so attached to them and what they are to each other, whether together in the thick of it or blowing off steam. I sat at the edge of my seat sensing the trajectory of the film and wishing so badly to be proven wrong. Richard Pryor in particular is electric, by turns exhausted and exhausting. So earnest is he in his desire for change, a naive hope that he can make the system better if only he comes at it from the right angle.

girlfriends_sc1. Girlfriends (US, Weill) (FTV)
Let’s be honest, Frances Ha is an uncanny reworking of Girlfriends; narratively, structurally, thematically. Except this is way better (sorry ’bout it). There are hardly any films about women made by women from this¬†era.¬†Nowadays the fumbling twenty-something trying to figure it all out in NYC is an indie cliche. But in 1978?

This is a film to be cherished by everyone who sees it. No lie, my life can now be split into Before Girlfriends and After Girlfriends. Claudia Weill and screenwriter Vicki Polon have created something truly disarming here; an open and honest work about female friendships rightfully treated as life-defining, where change equals tailspin, resentment, and adjustment. It is equally about being comfortable with living alone, being comfortable with not living alone, and trying to build a creative career in a tough racket. The film is unstudied and charmingly choppy, primarily homegrown in its form. And at the same time, it’s entirely assured; the film and Susan (Melanie Mayron) are uniformly comfortable in their own skin, even when on the surface they doubt and fret. There is a painfully sincere and recognizable quintessential harmony at work with no affectation in sight.

The film admires Susan, loves Susan, but isn’t bewitched by her in that familiar way (you know what I’m talking about) where we shake our heads and coo ‘oh you’ at her. The film would be great regardless, but Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt cements this as an all-time top 100 film of mine. I cannot even begin to do her justice. Drowning in hair with second grade glasses and a goofy and frumpy demeanor, she is completely laid-back in her neurosis, and somehow not awkward despite all this. A genuine character, and a special performance in a truly special film.