A-Z Film Challenge: Day Four

I have got as far as D without giving up, but that’s not even one quarter of the way yet.

Rather that confuse my choices with research, I have decided to go from the top of my head with today’s selections. Foreign language films are usually the first to spring to mind when I think about films, so I am straight in with the thrilling German submarine saga, ‘Das Boot’. (1981) This was actually better as a TV series, running to a length of almost five hours. That said, the film edit for cinema made it an easier watch, and it remains as the definitive film about submarine warfare. The little-known sci-fi wonder, ‘Dark City’ (1998) is better than the ‘Matrix’ films that followed, and were undoubtedly inspired by it, so it was always going to be in my D choices. As was ‘Dark Star’, John Carpenter’s 1974 comedy-drama set in space.

Fans of Spielberg epics might not even be aware of his debut film from 1971, ‘Duel’. This taut thriller stars Dennis Weaver as the hapless ‘everyman’ driver, terrorised on the road by a huge truck, the driver of which is never seen. Spike Lee has had something of a hit and miss career, but ‘Do The Right Thing’ (1989) remains as the seminal film about modern life on the streets of New York City. During a hot summer, racial tensions boil over, and performances from Danny Aiello, John Turturro, and Spike Lee himself raise this film to the status of a classic.

Back to World Cinema once again, with the role of a lifetime for Bruno Ganz, as Adolf Hitler, in the Oscar-nominated ‘Downfall’. (2004) It seems strange to write about the best portrayal of Hitler ever, but this was. Not only that, the film always feels 100% authentic, and the rest of the cast all deliver memorable performances too. It was a very close run thing for my top spot today. Kurosawa’s almost forgotten Japanese-Soviet film, ‘Dersu Uzala'(1975) has haunted me ever since I first watched it. This tale of fish out of water is not only touching, it is beautifully filmed, (in 70 mm) in some striking scenery too. Dersu is a native Goldi tribesman, guiding Army surveyors in their expedition to the far east of Russia, at the turn of the 20th century. They are the fish out of water in this wilderness, and when they take Dersu back with them to see the city, his confusion is a joy to behold. This film really should be better known.

Once again, Ridley Scott takes my prize, this time for ‘D’. Long before ‘Gladiator’, and a full two years before ‘Alien’, he made the wonderful film ‘The Duellists’, (1977) starring Harvey Keitel, and Keith Carradine. Set in the army of Napoleonic France, and covering a period of many years, rarely has an historical film looked and felt so completely authentic. From the duels of the two opposing officers, to the tragic retreat from Moscow in a harsh winter, everything is just so.
And just right too.

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70 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Four

  1. Just commented on day 18 when I remembered another film I saw about the same time as Rabbit Proof Fence and that was Dogville. Quite possibly a girlfriend of the time was into films, if so, thank you whoever you were! πŸ™‚ Two good films that I was able to add to Petes A-Z challenge πŸ™‚

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  2. In my collection, “D” movies run the gamut from “Dangerous Beauty” (1998) to “Deep Red” (1975) to “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997) to “Dark City” (1998). Those are all films I enjoy watching. But the “D” films that I watch more than any other are “Deliverance” (1972), “Dressed to Kill” (1980), and “Death Becomes Her” (1992). Having grown up canoeing in the Midwest, “Deliverance” has always been a top favorite of mine. I’ve also read the book twice in French translation. “Dressed to Kill” is my favorite Brian De Palma film. It has terrific cinematic sequences (most notably: the art museum; the elevator), unexpected plot developments (e.g., the death of the Angie Dickinson character), and great music by Pino Donaggio. I’ve read it in French translation, too! “Death Becomes Her” is perhaps a guilty pleasure, but I dearly love that film for reasons too many to list here! If I had to choose the #1 film from among those three, I guess I’d have to go with “Dressed to Kill.”

    I do have a question, though. You mentioned “Das Boot.” Wouldn’t that be considered a “B” film, since “das” is the equivalent of “the” in English? Of course, “Das Boot” kept its German title, but most foreign films have not. For the latter, how do you assign a letter to them? For example, one of my favorite films in any genre is the 1986 French blockbuster “Betty Blue.” I would have mentioned it in my Day Two comments, but I always think of it in terms of its French title: 37Β°2 le matin, which could either find itself in a numeric category of films, or else fall under the letter “T” (trente-sept…). With respect to the “D” listing here, notice that I mentioned that I have “Deep Red” (1975), a clever film by Dario Argento, in my DVD collection. Should I have waited for your discussion of “P” films? The Italian title is “Profondo rosso.”

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    1. Technically, you are of course correct, David, and I wondered if anyone would point out that grammatical error. I have left out ‘The’, and ‘A’ from the titles in alphabetical order. But as this was a foreign language film, and it is never referred to as ‘The Boat’, I decided to leave it in as a ‘D’.
      This will also happen with numerical titles, such as Bertolucci’s ‘1900’. This is ‘Novecento’ in Italian, so may well appear under ‘N’.
      With so many foreign films in consideration, correct listing can be problematical. For instance, should ‘The Conformist’ be under ‘C’, or under ‘I’, as the film is equally well known as ‘Il Conformisto’, in Italian. But ‘Il’ means ‘The’, so the dilemma continues…
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. You are man of varied tastes who has seen so many good films. Except for Dark City, that was shit. πŸ˜› But I saw it because somebody once said the exact same thing you did when discussing the Matrix so clearly you’re not alone in regarding it well. A few foreign films here I will have to check out and I hope to see The Duellists soon.

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    1. We cannot hope to agree on everything Lloyd, (like comic character films) and life would be dull if we did. I have a lot of love for Dark City, but I actually understand why some people cannot stand it.
      My own example of this might be ‘Moulin Rouge’ (2001). I think that this is one of the worst films ever made, and some of the biggest crap that I ever had to sit through. Yet many people adore it, even some whose opinions I respect.
      That’s Life!
      Thanks as always for your comment, and don’t die without seeing ‘The Duellists’. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete,.

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      1. I like both “Dark City” and “Moulin Rouge.” However, I must admit that the first time I watched “Moulin Rouge,” I hated it. The second time around, I warmed up to it. After the third viewing, I decided I liked it. Maybe it’s an acquired taste?

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  4. Isn’t this fun. I haven’t seen The Duellists unfortunately, but I’ll have to remedy that. Dersu Uzala was in my top ten for years. Duel, Downfall and Do The Right Thing were all gripping. Like Wiliam I also liked Donnie Darko. But my top would have been either Dr Strangelove or Down By Law (comedy-sucker that I am!)

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    1. It’s your time to see The Duellists, ozflicks!

      Thanks for reminding me about ‘Down By Law’. I have seen it, but had forgotten it completely. How could I forget Tom Waits?
      Glad to hear that you are enjoying this challenge. Perhaps you should take it on next?
      (Prepare for headaches though.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

          1. Jarmusch had another D film which I liked – Dead Man – not his usual but interesting, and good Neil Young fuzz guitar. There are so many good Ds: Draughtsman’s Contract, Death in Venice, Days of Heaven and Duck Soup, to name a few. Dizzying!

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  5. “The Duellists” has fantastic images, and is excellent even though Keith Carradine is kind of a cardboard figure, but maybe the movie worked so well, because he was kind of abstract. I kept finding myself frustrated with Keitel, the bad lieutenant, my gosh, how long can you hold a grudge, and wishing somebody would just shoot him already, or at least buy him a new hat. But he does a fantastic job conveying “brooding,” and the cinematography is amazing, scene after scene looks like old paintings.

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    1. Exactly, Robert. I confess that I would have preferred European actors, and Carradine’s character is too laid back for that era. But the cinematography and authenticity were both breathtaking, as well as refreshing to behold. I feel the same about The Girl With A Pearl Earring, so wait for ‘G’! Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. forgot to say, “Das Boot” is also excellent. They’ve got a U-boat in Chicago (not in active use) that you can walk through, and it’s even more claustrophobic than it looks in the movie. I loved it when they sang “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” or something like that.

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  6. I heartily agree with Duellists Pete, a beautiful film. BUT……

    Deadpool! πŸ™‚

    Not your bog standard Marvel superhero by any stretch, it stands apart.

    (Phil like you prefers serious war /foreign films as you know, but he ordered his own copy of this after I made him watch it πŸ™‚ )

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    1. I had a feeling that’s what you would choose…(When you said you were looking forward to ‘D’)
      To be honest, I have heard nothing but good things about that film. Some people absolutely rave about it. I will watch it, but will wait for a free showing on Film 4, I think. Shouldn’t be too long before it turns up on TV.
      …Holding my breath for ‘E’ tomorrow… πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  7. Das Boot was brilliant as a TV series…slow, measured and menacing…. Downfall was a brilliant film, marvellous acting and all too believable. Dersu Uzala sounds interesting, Pete

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  8. I had a feeling something by Ridley Scott would clinch it. D is a tough one for me. Doctor Zhivago springs to mind for epic film making, while The Descent would be my horror pick.

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      1. haha. It’ll be over before you know it! But just because I mention one – doesn’t necessarily mean it was good – just how my brain is working that time of the morning! πŸ™‚ Like with Damien: Omen II.

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  9. I watched the Duellists on your recommendation a few years ago now and really enjoyed it, an epic story indeed. I see William mentioned Donnie Darko, and this would certainly rate high for me.
    I’m on the hunt for a few others you mentioned.

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  10. Can I have a three way tie for D? I can’t pick out of Dark Knight (2008), Delicatessen (1991) and Donnie Darko (2001) which one is yours pick out of those then?
    You like a bit of Harvey Keitel and Ridley Scott? I haven’t seen The Duellists, I’ll have to check it out!
    Cheers πŸ™‚

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    1. I have both ‘Delicatessen’ and ‘Donnie Darko’ on DVD. Can’t stand comic-character films as a rule, so no ‘Batman’ in my collection.
      I would choose ‘Darko’.
      Thanks for keeping up the suggestions. It’s a long haul!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That movie really should have been called Joker because he’s the greatest but that’s a fair call. Donnie can be my pick for D, I can go with that!
        I really should add movies or at least my fave ones to my blog, maybe I will sooner or later?
        Cheers again.

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