The letter ‘M’, and halfway through. Time for some thoughts about spending thirteen days coming up with a post on the same subject. They are nearly all positive, you might be surprised to hear. By my standards, views of the posts have been spectacular, averaging well over 200 a day. Visitors have also increased by around 20%, and many new followers have arrived too. After spending so much time on this project, that level of interest is rewarding indeed. I have greatly enjoyed the numerous comments that this topic has generated too.
I might never do another challenge though! 🙂
On to the films, and my choices for ‘M’. Once again, I have already decided well in advance which one is deserving of my top pick, so it’s up to you to add your own choices. ‘M’ films are numerous indeed, and many popular ones will be glaringly obvious. So, I have missed those out completely, and tried for the more obscure this time.
I am starting with Martin Scorsese once more, and two stars who looked remarkably young, back in 1973. A return also to the theme of organised crime, and small-time gangsters on the streets of New York City. Seventeen years before ‘Goodfellas’, Scorsese explored similar themes in ‘Mean Streets’, starring Harvey Keitel, and Robert De Niro. Loan-sharks, Mafia families, and the overwhelming guilt associated with the Catholic faith. It’s all here, and played to perfection.
The cracking French crime thriller, ‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’ (2008) rarely gets a mention. This two-part biopic of a real criminal, starring Vincent Cassel and Gerard Depardieu, is gripping from the start, and never lets go. Exciting set pieces and fully-wound tension make this film one of my favourites in the genre.
Next is the marvellous Korean film, ‘Memories of Murder’ (2003). Based on the actual events surrounding Korea’s first ever serial killer, in 1986, this is a fascinatingly detailed look at the long police investigation into those murders, and the two detectives who devote their lives to solving the case. Dealing with a time period from 1986 until 2003, the film covers every aspect of the investigation, and remains riveting until the last frame.
One of the most surreal films I have ever seen, the Belgian black comedy, ‘Man Bites Dog’ (1992) is definitely a one-off. Taking the idea of ‘Reality TV’ to a new extreme, a film crew follow the daily activities of a serial-killer, as he dispatches his victims. Although they start off filming his activities in a dispassionate way, they eventually become drawn into a reluctant collaboration in his crimes. Its subject matter is very dark, and sometimes disturbing too. But there are also moments when you will find yourself laughing out loud. You won’t see another film like this, I assure you.
I could not cover ‘M’ without mentioning ‘Magic’ (1978). Anthony Hopkins excels as the ventriloquist slowly losing his mind, becoming obsessed with ‘Fats’, his scary-looking stage dummy. Unable to separate the two personalities, the dummy soon starts to control both his mind, and his actions. It’s a solid thriller, with good support from Burgess Meredith, and Ed Lauter. But it’s not a great film, so why am I including it? Simply because of Ann-Margaret. She was 31 years old when she co-starred in this film, and she has never looked better. I could watch her standing still.
Two films from the master film-maker, Fritz Lang. ‘Metropolis’ (1927) is the science fiction epic that started it all. Undeniably inspiring every dystopian thriller and futuristic film since, it does’t get better than this visually stunning original. Peter Lorre got to star in a film for once, when Lang cast him as the reviled child-killer in ‘M’ (1931). (That’s the title) Lang considered this to be his best work, and Lorre is superb as the creepy killer, with the police procedures behind the hunt for him providing a fascinating look at the new science of forensics at the time. Despite its age, and all that has come since, this remains a gripping example of a crime story.
I would love to have had the space to include so many more. ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ (2001), Billy Bob Thornton on his best form, in a Coen brothers classic. ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence’ (1983) with a haunting performance from David Bowie, as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. And Woody Allen’s warm and witty tribute to New York City, ‘Manhattan’ (1979).
But on to my choice for today.
Sometimes, you expect a film to be one thing, and it tuns out to be something very different indeed. Then things happen in that film that leave lifelong impressions on your mind. You watch it to the end, feeling almost guilty at being a witness to the events portrayed, but unable to turn away, fascinated by things you never imagined you would see. Some films you can only ever watch once, and this is such a film. Abduction, imprisonment, physical abuse, a strange and sinister organisation, and the terrible fate awaiting the victims. Sounds like a horror film, doesn’t it? And you would be almost right, as it is not only sold as such, but it is genuinely horrific. I doubt I have ever been so affected by a film that did not tell a true story, but instead a fictional tale that felt all too plausible.
Incredible acting from a cast who will not be known to most viewers, ideas and themes bordering on a vision of Hell, and some incredible film-making into the bargain. If you think you can possibly stand it, then I unreservedly recommend the French-Canadian film, ‘Martyrs’ (2008). It has since been remade in America, but just forget that. Watch the original, and be amazed. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.