A-Z Film Challenge: Day Eighteen

So many films begin with ‘R’ that I could easily have written three posts on this one letter. This will leave you a lot of scope, as I am determined to leave out the films from Tarantino, Scorsese, and many others who have chosen ‘R’ titles. In fact, I will limit my choices to only World Cinema films this time. So, no mention of ‘Ride With The Devil’, ‘Right At Your Door’, ‘Ronin’, or many other favourites. (Oops…)
My top choice was always going to be a Japanese film anyway, so here are some more foreign language choices to lead you up to it.

Two Chinese films to start with. Both historical dramas, and equally ravishing to behold. They are also both directed by Zhang Yimou, and star the same female lead actress, the wonderful Gong Li. ‘Red Sorghum’ (1987) was the film that introduced us to both director and star. The story is told in flashback, to a China in the 1930s, during the war with Japan. Arriving as the arranged-marriage wife of a distillery owner, a young woman is shocked to find her husband dead, and she has no alternative but to take over the running of the business. This simple tale of peasants, murder, and foreign invasion is elevated by the outstanding performance from Gong Li, and the wonderful cinematography.
Four years later, and another sumptuous production, close to taking my top spot, ‘Raise The Red Lantern’ (1991). This film is set a little earlier, in the 1920s, with China still ravaged by opposing warlords. It tells the enchanting story of a young concubine (Gong Li). This educated woman is forced by the poverty of her family to become the fourth wife of the elderly Master Chen, a wealthy and influential man. The sets and costume are both superb, and the claustrophobic confines of her life inside the house are nicely rendered too. In the bitchy atmosphere of a house full of women, we see the 19 year-old attempt to move up the social ladder of her new family, and to gain the attention of Master Chen. Outstanding.

Even though it makes this post a little long, I could not leave out ‘Rome, Open City’ (1945). Rossellini’s stark wartime drama has a documentary feel, and unforgettable set pieces. The central performance from Anna Magnani is heartbreakingly good, and the rest of the cast members deliver too. With the SS searching for resistance fighters near the end of the war, the tension mounts, and the fugitives fear betrayal. This film is considered to be a classic of neo-realist cinema, and you will see why.

A Spanish zombie film might seem to be an unusual choice here, but ‘.rec’ (2007) is a real thriller. A TV crew are set to accompany a fire crew for a night shift in Barcelona. They intend to make a conventional fly on the wall documentary, following the firemen as they attend emergency calls. When they are called to an old apartment block to help police officers rescue a trapped old lady, all hell breaks loose. Soon, all those inside are quarantined, and suspicions are that the government knows all too well what has happened, and why. This is exciting, edge of the seat stuff. Full of unexpected shocks, realistic and gritty location filming, and mostly seen through a shaky newsman’s camera, as events unfold. I loved it, though the three sequels might well be considered unnecessary.

Another horror, this time from Japan. One of the few horror films to really creep me out, in adult life at least, the overwhelming ‘Ringu’ (1998) is Asian horror at its best. Menacing, unnerving, and genuinely scary, this tale of what happens to those who view a mysterious video tape had me watching with the lights on. It spawned some sequels, and a rather good American remake too, but the original is still the best. Don’t watch it alone!

A modern Indonesian film, ‘The Raid’ (2011) combines oriental martial arts with heavily armed gangsters, as a police SWAT team assault a tower block that has been taken over by a large criminal organisation. This is a non-stop action masterpiece, and just never lets up. Betrayal, extreme violence, and protracted shoot-outs guarantee to leave you feeling drained after watching it. The body count is enormous, and the pace unrelenting. And there is actually a story behind it all too. Police corruption, the breakdown of society in Jakarta, and the bravery of individual officers. I have yet to see the sequel, but this one was good enough for me.

Another Japanese film, and one more from Akira Kurosawa. Slightly changing the story of King Lear, and setting it in 16th century Japan, Kurosawa spared no expense for his final epic, ‘Ran’, (1985)  Using countless extras to recreate the battles between feuding clan warlords, amazing location filming, and elaborate sets including specially built castles, this was the most expensive film ever made in Japan up to that time. And you will see why. This magnificent film is worth every penny, from the masterful battle scenes, to the detailed interiors, the historical accuracy is second to none. Compelling visuals of castles burning in the distance, and colourful flags merging on battlefields, this film is such a treat, I could watch it without subtitles.

To the top pick, and it will be no surprise to anyone that it is another Kurosawa film, this time in black and white and from 1950. These days, we are used to seeing films that take a single event, then show it from the point of view of different characters involved in it. It has become a familiar theme, and one we have all seen, in some form. But this was one of the earliest treatments of that idea, and to my mind, still the best. Starring the stalwart and always convincing Toshiro Mifune, ‘Rashomon’ is widely acclaimed to be an important film, and has been preserved by the Academy Film Archive. The story is set in the 12th Century, and deals with the murder of a samurai warrior, and the rape of his wife.
This event has been witnessed by various people, and they tell their story to the local court. In four segments, we hear different versions of what happened, even using a medium to relay the story of the dead man, from beyond the grave. Hard to describe, it just has to be seen.

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96 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Eighteen

    1. I hope that you enjoy all the posts in this A-Z film series. I am currently doing something similar with music.
      Thanks for taking time to read and comment. It is much appreciated.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  1. I do not know how I missed an entire day. However, I found it. I am Retired and Extremely Dangerous (or is that Dudeness?) and silly so I vote for RED. If forced to be serious, I would vote for REDS.
    Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I quite liked ‘The Nun’s Story’, and I liked her in ‘Robin and Marian’, but I usually find her irritating, to be honest. (Especially in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, a film I really cannot stand.) Gregory Peck is a rather wooden actor who seems to always be playing much the same role. (To me at least)
          I know that they are both loved and adored, so maybe it’s just me. Not unlike that Julia Roberts situation, I suppose! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot of very good films, including some of my favorites (e.g., “Ronin” [1999]) and guilty pleasures (e.g., “Road House” [1989]), have been mentioned here. So I’m just going to provide my short list: “Roman Holiday” (1953), “River of No Return”:(1954), “Rear Window” (1954), “RoboCop” (1987), “Red Planet” (2000), and “Requiem for a Dream” (2000). It’s hard to choose from my short list, as they are all excellent films, but I’ll toss a coin and go with Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop,” which is a true sci-fi classic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know your love for Verhoeven, David, so anticipated that.
      I actually really like ‘Rear Window’, despite its stagey set, and obvious plot.
      Thanks for all the rest of your suggestions too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading the comments I’m reminded of so many good films and reading your post I’m astounded that you have watched so many. One that stands out for me would be Rabbit Proof Fence, but then I’m a sucker for films based on truth especially when it deals with what is fairly recent Australian history.
    Now to hunt down some of your recommendations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Eddy. ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ is a powerful film, and lovingly made too.
      As for how many films I have watched, those mentioned on these posts are only a part of a very large cinematic iceberg, I have to say. For every film I included, I left off around five others, just from the recommendations. Each post would have been like a short novel otherwise.
      Cheers, Pete.

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    1. I thought ‘Rocky’ might get more mentions, Kim, so thanks for that, and the others too. I may have watched too many films in my life, I know. At least it’s good that I know something about one subject at least! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a treasure trove of great cinema! I enjoy the “foreign film only” approach, as you have highlighted so many great films…for anyone who hasn’t seen “The Raid”, it is for me the greatest action movie ever made!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some rather great picks by you and everyone. I have both Rec and Rec 2 on DVD and they are both superb and well made movies of a found footage genre. The dialogue is wonderful and it makes you panic stricken when you are running through the narrow and spiral stairs whilst a hoard of zombies are right on your heels.

    My other favourites are..
    Raiders of the Lost Ark, Rat Race, Rear Window, Rosemarys Baby, Rescue Dawn, Reservoir Dogs, Return to Oz, Rebel without a Cause, Robocop and (The) Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The River Wild for me this time, Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon white water rafting, there’s a couple of plot gaffes but you don’t notice them amongst the incredible scenery and the acting chops of Streep & Bacon. Would have mentioned Raising Arizona but a few here already have 🙂 but am shocked that Ratatouille hasn’t’t been mentioned 😀 one of the best of the Disney-Pixars, I laughed the whole way through it was great fun 😀

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    1. I enjoyed ‘The River Wild’, FR. It has a real sense of menace, and great location filming too.
      Thanks for mentioning ‘Ratatouille’ by the way. I must have overlooked that one… 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m a bit put out with Meryl Streep these days due to her political rants, but I will continue to watch “Death Becomes Her” (1992), which is a guilty pleasure, and “The River Wild” (1994). I grew up canoeing in the Midwest, and also once canoed the Tarn in France. Both “The River Wild” and “Deliverance” (1972) are favorite films of mine.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. If I ever gave you some of my favourites in comments with each of the letters, I’d be here all day, every day! Having said that, you so often choose films I would have chosen, and when it’s a film I haven’t seen, I know from your recommendation that I’ll enjoy it. Talking of which, I watched Woman in Gold a few months ago, though I know they showed it on the box the other day. Not great but certainly worth watching and with another subtly marvellous performance from Mirren. There’s only one more thing to say – I adore Kurosawa and Magnani. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s no secret that Kurosawa is my all-time favourite director, Sarah. And I don’t think Magnani was capable of a bad performance. I spotted ‘Woman In Gold’ was being shown on Film 4, but forgot to tape it. No doubt it will be on again soon.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a well scripted movie. They made an American version called Quarantine but I have not seen it and it’s best to watch the original version. It’s more than a zombie type of movie and a lot of the unexpected and then do watch the second. The other two final ones were quite terrible. But the first two are great.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Excellent choices and great comments from your posse.
    “Ran” is like a series of spectacular posters.
    I’m not a big Merchant-Ivory guy, too much like visiting a slightly animated Madame Tussaud’s waxworks, but “Room with a View” was charming and really felt like a neat bit of time travel. Fantastic cast. Helena Bonham Carter is pretty neat when she’s not doing the insane witch thing, and a huge fan of Maggie Smith.
    “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was actually a blast, you’ve gotta like an over-the-top pastiche of Nazis, ancient Egypt, Biblical, slitherly things, bogus rituals, more Nazis, etc.
    “Reservoir Dogs” was tough for someone like me, not a fan of having blood dripping into the front rows, and who has to have steaks served well-done, but every actor in that was absolutely on his game and conveyed real character and distinct personality, and the nonlinear thing was perfectly done, without causing a trace of confusion
    “Return of Martin Guerre” was neat – – and I liked it even better, after seeing the inevitable American remake “Sommersby” which had Jodie Foster in it, but still stunk.
    Here’s a movie that’s not great, but still a keeper. I like a lot of Woody Allen’s little movies, and “Radio Days” is actually pretty fun. And another “little” movie “Raising Arizona” ahead of it’s time, made when Nicholas Cage still had himself under control.
    “Runaway Train” is intense, just ignore Eric Roberts of course, but Jon Voight is just great. And when I looked it up, to see who else was in it, it turns out to be a Kurosawa screenplay! Regards, RPT

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Robert. I knew that ‘Runaway Train’ was by Kurosawa, with a Russian director. I liked it a lot, except for Eric Roberts. he reminds me so much of a puppet, I just can’t take him seriously. ‘Radio Days’ is a lovely nostalgic film from Allen, though I was not so taken with ‘Raising Arizona’, despite the input from the Coens.
      I mentioned in another comment that I have both ‘Marin Guerre’ and ‘Sommersby’ on DVD. Obviously the remake is inferior, but I just wanted to be sure…
      I really don’t enjoy the ‘Raiders’ series at all. I find them too comic-book, and I lack the child-like inner man necessary to enjoy such films.
      Your suggestions and comments are always much appreciated.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Robert, I borrowed “Risky Business” (1983) from the library not long ago. It’s definitely a fun movie. I haven’t seen “Trip to Bountiful.” You can catch Rebecca De Mornay in “Backdraft” (1991), “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” (1992) and “Identity” (2003). Two guilty pleasures (but not actually good films) are: “And God Created Woman” (1988) and “Guilty as Sin” (1993).

          Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting post, Pete. Other than Ringu (the Hollywood remake I bet you disapprove of and it was freaky to me, no thanks to horror! I’m a scaredy cat) I sure need to explore Kurosawa. My Asian film watching is pitiful. The letter R has some fine classics. I’ve been entertained by these films: Rainman, Raising Arizona, The Razor’s Edge, Rear Window, Rebecca, The Red Shoes, The Remains of the Day, Rio Bravo, Road to Perdition….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did say in the text that there was a ‘rather good American remake’ of ‘Ringu’, Cindy. It wasn’t that bad, just unnecessary. As most are. Had I been mentioning mainstream films, no doubt the wonderful ‘Rebecca’ would have featured, and possibly ‘The Red Shoes’ too. That’s a visual treat.
      Thanks for playing along, and for your valued suggestions too.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  10. A great selection of movies today, none of which I’ve seen before, so I look forward to searching them out! ozflicks has kindly reminded me of “Run Lola Run” which I should have remembered on my own as I have the DVD and have watched many times. But that’s in Bequia, so … Another “R” DVD that I do have with me at the trailer though is a Wes Anderson movie from 1998, staring what has become some of Anderson’s repertoire group of actors and behind-the-scenes friends, “Rushmore”. Plus it has a great soundtrack that I also own on CD. Featuring some old Kinks, Chad & Jeremy, Cat Stevens and John Lennon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like Rushmore and another R, The Royal Tenenbaums (as well as Anderson’s more recent work as well – they have a joyful naivety, and playful artiness that makes me smile all day).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I haven’t seen “The Royal Teenbaums” yet, but I think that’s his only movie I have not seen. You absolutely captured what it is about his movies that I like. The score also always emphasizes that feeling perfectly.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I do not seem to have the ‘Wes Anderson Gene’, ozflicks. I haven’t seen ‘Rushmore’, but really didn’t get ‘The Royal Tannenbaums’ at all. And the same with ‘The Life Aquatic’, and ‘Darjeeling Limited’. Maybe I am missing the required section of the funny bone? I do have ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ recorded, so will try that, and see if it cures my dislike of his films.
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Some great choices. I thought you’d either go for RAN or Rashomon. They’re both worthy choices.

    Also you covered my top choices, Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern (my favourites along with Judou).

    So my job here is done, apparently.

    But, just to throw in a couple of others from further down my list. I enjoyed the Euro filmsThe Return of Martin Guerre (with a younger, rakish Gerard Depardieu) and Run Lola Run (with a couple of my favourite German/Austrian actors Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu); and the popular US films Rear Window, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Reality Bites.
    Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, ozflicks. I have ‘Martin Guerre’ on DVD’, also the US remake, ‘Sommersby’. ‘Run Lola Run’ too, as I like Potente a lot. I am not a fan of the ‘Raiders’ series, but I would have loved to have been able to include a lot more foreign language films on today’s list.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Pete. A couple of minor things – I think the name Ran is missing from your post above.
        And I’ll be away for a few days so I’ll have to post my suggestions for S, T and maybe U (bound to both be huge) later in the series (including some more old Italian, Swedish and Australian films).
        Keep up the good work!

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Pete – Raise the Red Lantern is simply superb. Your selections all make for great evenings. I would also mention Raging Bull and Rosemary’s Baby. And anything with Anna Magnani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot, Frank. I would have included ‘Raging Bull’ if I had been doing mainstream films. One of the greats, in my opinion. Glad to hear that you are also a fan of ‘Raise The Red Lantern’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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        1. I saw ‘Raging Bull’ at the cinema. I thought the boxing scenes were well done, and De Niro’s transition into La Motta was fascinating. ‘Red Lantern’ was almost my top pick.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Great selection, Pete. Of course, you’ve left out Tarantino (I already said how much I like Reservoir Dogs). I haven’t watched the Raid, but love the rest and visually the Chinese and Japanese films are an absolute treat (of course Kurosawa trained as a painter and Ran is breathtaking. I’m a great fan of Toshiro Mifune, and therefore I’d include the Rickshaw Man that it is as touching a movie as I ever remember watching). I agree with REC that is a really scary movie made on a shoestring. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Olga. I don’t think I ever saw Mifune give a bad performance. There are a lot of great English language films I would have included of course, and you mention Tarantino’s exciting reworking of the film ‘City On Fire’ (1987) into ‘Reservoir Dogs’, with all that added ‘cool’.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  14. Of course the first one I thought of was Rambo – the original and all the sequels play constantly on TV. But then, there’s Road House, great team-up effort there and in staying with my old-movie theme, I’ll add in Rosemary’s Baby~~~~~eek!

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    1. I have seen Swayze in ‘Road House’, GP, and I didn’t mind the original ‘Rambo’ at the time. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was an effective chiller in its day too, with some great lead performances.
      Thanks for your suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. GP, I remember seeing “Rosemary’s Baby” when it first came out – once! I read the book in one night, as well, under the covers in my bed with a flashlight at the cottage. Both scared me half to death … until MAD Magazine came out with their movie spoof, “Rose-Mia’s Boo-boo”, and kind of deflated the whole thing with laughter.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Rashomon is a good choice as well as YoYimbo…..I have a couple..RED 1&2 with Bruce Willis and REDS with Warren Beatty the story of Jack Reed the Formula one flick Rush and now for my usual “B” movies…..Rocket Attack with Monica Davis…..Robo Vampire with Robin MacKay and finally a Brit one I think…Reptilicus…..I recommend REDS and Rush both were excellent…..have a day my friend….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, chuq. ‘Reds’ would have been high on my list (for obvious reasons) if I had included mainstream films. I am not a fan of motor racing, so still haven’t seen ‘Rush’. I haven’t got to ‘Y’ yet, so you are getting ahead of the game with the marvellous ‘Yojimbo’, Eastwood’s inspiration for those ‘dollar’ films.
      RED 1 and 2 are enjoyably silly caper films, but I only watched them for the divine Mirren!
      Sad to say I haven’t seen any of your sci-fi choices so far!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. REDS is excellent….long but a good look at the life of reed, the only American buried in Red Square….I have several collections of “B” SciFi so I watch them often…..what no Reptilicus? LOL chuq

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