A-Z Film Challenge: Day Thirteen

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! πŸ™‚

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.

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104 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Thirteen

  1. I check into your world last week on ‘L’ and here i am 4 or 5 takes behind. Your are very proficient Pete! Just revisited ‘Mean Streets’ well worth it. ‘M’ with Peter Lorre is always worth a watch. Have ‘Man Bites Dog’ on the list but still haven’t got to it. ‘Mesrine sounds like a possibility. Seen ‘Memories of Murder’ and enjoyed it. Just to keep things interesting I will drop one title on each letter, not easy to do. ‘Manhunter’. Oh yeah, good stuff Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Manhunter’ is my favourite film version of the Harris books, and I was hoping someone would mention it. I think you will enjoy ‘Man Bites Dog’, and I am glad you agree about those others.
      Thanks as always for your comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My Goodness there is Much to choose from so here I write..

    Firstly I’m glad you mentioned Magic. It’s an underrated movie but one worth a watch for it’s eerie but intriguing take on a pyschological thriller or horror for some..and then there are my favourites..

    Mad Max series, (The) Maltese Falcon, Mama, Mary and Max, Mary Poppins, Matilda, (A) Matter of Life and Death, Meet Joe Black, Memento, (The) Martian, Monsters Inc, Mrs Doubtfire, and Mullholland Drive. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I saw ‘Mary and Max’ on Film 4, on TV. I have watched it twice. I saw ‘Magic’ on release at the cinema, then bought the VHS tape as soon as it came out. My admiration for the older Ann-Margaret knows no bounds!
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Martyrs was an interesting choice, Pete. A difficult watch, but well worth the effort.

    I was surprised by the omission of Modern Times. I’ve been waiting for M to turn up to hear your thoughts on it, as it deals with the financial and employment challenges faced by workers in the great depression. I would have thought it would be right up your street. Definitely my favourite Chaplin film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the scenes in ‘Modern Times’ were undoubtedly inspired by ‘Metropolis’, and it is certainly one of the more interesting Chaplin films, I agree. Although I admire the talent of Chaplin as a writer, actor, and songwriter too, I confess that I have always found him very annoying to watch. Because of that, his films are unlikely to ever be on any of my lists, but you are right to praise this one.
      As for ‘Martyrs’, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that it is a misunderstood work of real genius.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. Cindy named a few great ones, as did you, and then V stormed in with Mad Max which I have to say filled many a late night trilogy viewing with my nephews when they were younger.
    I’ll never forget the cigarette ash in The Man Who Wasn’t There.
    Talking to a student earlier (English conversation lessons) I was reminded of Memphis Bell, maybe not the best movie, but much enjoyed at the time, the based on a true story thing always gets me, with any film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good call with ‘Memphis Belle’, Eddy. Nice tribute to those boys in the Flying Fortresses, and a great cast. Nice to hear that you liked Billy Bob, and though I am not a huge fan of ‘Mad Max’ I enjoyed the original, at the time.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

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  5. Oh, my gosh, Pete, I was SO sure you were going to pick “Myra Breckenridge” (1970).

    But, seriously, there are so many “M” films. A few of the ones in my collection: “The Most
    Dangerous Game” (1932) [King Kong sets!], “The Misfits” (1961) [Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in Nevada!], “Much Ado About Nothing” (1993) [sheer delight!], “The Matrix” (1999) [phenomenal!], “Mulholland Drive” (2001) [mind twisting!], “Moulin Rouge” (2001) [acquired taste!].

    Two “M” films that I want to see, and which could possibly make my short list are: “Monsieur Hire” (1990) and “Miller’s Crossing” (1990).

    My one guilty pleasure? “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (2005).

    There are two films that compete for the #1 spot: “My Fair Lady” (1964), which I can only describe as loverly, and “Midnight Express” (1978), which sort of fits your description for “Martyrs” (“Abduction, imprisonment, physical abuse…”). I know you don’t care for Prof. Higgins & Co., but I absolutely adore this musical that pays tribute to Pygmalion. As for “Midnight Express,” I’ve read the book by Billy Hayes (in French translation) on which Alan Parker based his film, and although the film’s climax has nothing to do with what actually happened, it is far more dramatic and serves the story well. The soundtrack is one of the bestβ€”I have it on CD. At the time this film came out, Brad Davis was an unknown actor. He later starred in “Chariots of Fire” (1981), but his limited filmography is such that while watching “Midnight Express,” it’s easy to believe Davis, whose acting is nothing less than a gut wrenching tour de force, really is Billy Hayes. My number one pick? “MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Monsieur Hire’ is in my DVD collection, as is ‘Miller’s Crossing’. Both are outstanding films, and I have previously recommended them. ‘Monsieur Hire’ is a tour-de-force of acting ability, and ‘Miller’s Crossing’ is an homage to gangster films that is a joy. ‘Midnight Express’ was powerful stuff, which I watched at the cinema, and I do know your love for it. ‘Mulholland Drive’ is an amazing mind-bender from Lynch, and I thought it might get more mentions, as I love it.
      You have hit on one of my most-hated films, the modern version of ‘Moulin Rouge’, which ranks among my all-time worst films ever made. (And near the top) A matter of taste, obviously, but not to mine. As for ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’, I will leave it at that title. Happily. I find ‘My Fair Lady’ insufferably class-ridden, and nothing at all like ‘Pygmalion’. As for anything starring Kenneth Branagh in a Shakespearean role, I prefer almost anyone else but him. He is a ‘luvvie’ personified.
      Thanks for your much-appreciated suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As you can tell from my comment, I obviously kept your opinion in mind when mentioning “Moulin Rouge” and “My Fair Lady.” I wasn’t aware of your feelings towards Kenneth Branagh, but I like him in “Much Ado About Nothing” and in “Dead Again,” the only other film in which he stars that I have on my shelf. Like you, I am a big fan of “Mulholland Drive,” and have not only watched it multiple times but have also studied it intently and read up on it. I’m sure I would agree with you that “Miller’s Crossing” and “Monsieur Hire” are excellent films. I’ll get around to viewing them one of these days…

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        1. I must watch ‘Mulholland Drive’ again soon, and make yet another attempt to get past just enjoying the visuals, and try to work out what is going on. πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. Our second favourite movie of all time (although we sometimes consider it to be equal to Local Hero that I mentioned under the “L”s because they’re a similar type of story) is “Mediterraneo” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102426/?ref_=nv_sr_2 And another recent Swedish movie we discovered is as brilliant as the novel upon which it’s based – “A Man Called Ove” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4080728/?ref_=nv_sr_1 We’ve only watched it once so far, but it’s already on our favourite list – and we’ve read everything by Fredrik Backman, the author of “Ove” – am currently reading and loving his latest just released in English, “Beartown”, and thinking it would also make a great movie. I highly recommend this Swedish author as well as the movie.

    Again, it’s all about the story telling and character development.

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    1. I have just finished read in A Man Called ove. It is perhaps one of the most Bittersweet, Tear Jerking novels I have come across in a long time. It almost gave me a panic attack notably because I could imagine all the emotions felt through the pages. It’s so well written but was a very difficult process to get through at times due to connecting on a level that was too close for comfort.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I haven’t seen the movie yet but after my experience with the novel I must take a break from the emotional strain it put me through heh. I rarely cry with novels as much as this had left me in a pool of but it’s greatly written and I’m sure the movie is well directed. ☺

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! I think that the brilliance in his writing is that Backman seems to tell the story so simply, yet it’s far from being a simple story. And what I really love is that he writes like this in Swedish yet it all translates so well into English so it’s hard for me, as an English-only reader and writer, to believe that it wasn’t originally written in English. (That speaks volumes to me about the excellent abilities of the translator.) I am just about finished reading Backman’s 4th novel (5th publication in English) just released last week, and I can tell you already that this is even better, more powerful, and bittersweet than Ove or any of his other books – each one of which was excellent, as far as I was concerned. Please do not give up on Backman because his writing made you uncomfortable, because that is, after all, what a good writer should do – make you feel, affect you in some way, so you really have lived the book and the lives of the characters while you have read. There are very few authors who are capable of doing that to me, but Backman is definitely one of them!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It’s wonderful to hear you’ve been reading his other novels and i’m surprised at how much more it can bear.

          Yes I very much agree , it’s wonderfully translated Into English and the dry seen of humour is what made it the more appealing for moi.
          Do not worry I have not been discouraged to read any of this other work..and I trust your judgment on such a matter ☺ it was more the situation that left me tearful and uncomfortable because one could say I connect on a personal level much like Sonya had.. (ironically my name also happens to be sonea). But you’re quite right..a novel that can easily pierce your heart and mind, is great writing. I do normally tend to read more crime and murder mystery novels of a different kind but I l’m glad Ove found a way to my bookshelf. ☺

          Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘Memento’ is one I left off. I love that film, even if I still find it a brain-teaser after three viewings!
      ‘Martyrs’ is on Amazon.com, but the uncut version is stupidly expensive. Perhaps you could get it from Canada, where the price is realistic?
      Thanks as always for your suggestions, Kim.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It has to be Man of Steel, rebooting the Superman series, Henry Cavill replacing Christopher Reeve, with a great cast including Amy Adams,Kevin Costner,Diane Lane,Laurence Fishburne,and Russell Crowe to name a few. Mixed reception from ‘critics’ but I really like the revamp.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve noticed your comment string has never been longer! It’s a huge success, Pete.
    Nice shout out for ‘Metropolis’. Here are my M’s: The Machinist, The Magdalene Sisters, the original Magnificent 7, the Manchurian Candidate, the Matrix, Midnight in Paris, Million Dollar Baby, Mission Impossible, Minority Report, Moonstruck.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You hit a few that I deliberately omitted, Cindy. ‘The Matrix’ of course, and ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ too. Good call with ‘The Machinist’. I had forgotten that one.
      Glad you are enjoying this series. You are right about the comments, which I always enjoy.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a warning is in order for Martyrs, though I am concerned that people may think it’s an exploitation film, when it clearly is something rather magical as film-making. Thanks for the link, John, I will check out your post.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Three years and counting, John. One of my enduring and much appreciated blogging friends, It’s been a great ride. Long may it continue!! I am tempted to buy a copy now, just to add to the debate…
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Martyrs sounds a bit horrific for me – I’m not generally a fan of horror, except for some old black-and-white. Fritz Lang is more my cup of meat, and of course Manhattan!

    Can I suggest Il Mare, a Korean romance about a time-travelling letter (which Hollywood ruined as The Lake House)? (Strange to have an Italian name for a Korean film, but …)

    There are many more M’s I’d usually thrust forward, but I’ll only add My Beautiful Laundrette, Stephen Frear’s portrait of multicultural England in the Thatcher years.

    On to Z, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, ozflicks. ‘Martyrs’ is hard to describe. It’s not really a horror film, but can be horrible in places. I would urge any serious film fan to watch it. I will look for the Korean version of ‘The Lake House.’ It just has to be better than that! I saw ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ on release, and thought Day-Lewis was impressive. But he usually is.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There are two versions, GP, both by Hitchcock. The later film with James Stewart is better known than the Peter Lorre original. They are different in many respects, so both worth watching.
      Thanks for the suggestion.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. “metropolis” was an excellent choice….since I like bad SciFi and mysteries….Burgess Meredith in “Man On The Eiffel Tower”…..”Murder At Midnight” with Aileen Pringle…..bad SciFi….”Manster”……”Morons From Space” with Jimmy Nail…..and finally the new “Man From U.N.C.L.E.”…..shot my wad…coffee time…LOL chuq

    Liked by 1 person

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