Even leaving off ‘The’, there is still a large number of films beginning with ‘T’. My top choice was once again exactly what you might expect from me, and I make no apologies for that. As usual, I have tried to leave out the better known films, including that one about a New York cab driver. I will concentrate on the more unusual ones, and leave the field wide open for comments.
Starting with a film I rarely see discussed. Eric Bogosian is the epitome of the fast-talking opinionated character seen in many American films. He was never better than as the obnoxious radio talk-show host Barry Champlain, in Oliver Stone’s film ‘Talk Radio’ (1988). Bogosian is just incredible as the outspoken radio presenter who specialises in putting down the callers, and cutting them dead with sarcasm and rudeness. Events take a dark turn when he upsets someone too much, little realising the consequences. This is based on a real incident, and there is strong support from Alec Baldwin and Ellen Greene too.
Back to 1936, and the screen adaptation from Alexander Korda of the H.G. Wells novel, ‘Things To Come’. Despite its age, this prescient film has great effects, as we see a world ravaged by war into a bleak future, with the only option left for mankind to start a new colony in outer space. Solid performances from Raymond Massey and Ralph Richardson help to make this one of the original ‘Dystopian’ thrillers.
Some World Cinema picks have to include the sheer brilliance of ‘The Tin Drum’ (1979), with a mesmerising performance from David Bennent as Oskar, in this German film. The tale of a boy who decides never to grow up set in the time of the rise of the Nazis, is simply unforgettable, and a faithful adaptation of the Gunter Grass novel. (“Wo ist mein blechtrommel?”)
Almodovar’s ‘Talk to Her’ (2002) examines communication and obsession, with an unusual look at the relationship of two men, both caring for women who are in a coma. Complex and very different, this is unlike many of Almodovar’s madcap farces.
Spain again, and one of my favourite films dealing with the complexities of time travel. ‘Timecrimes’ (2007) is a sci-fi horror with a real diference. With many versions of the same character on screen at the same time, this inventive thriller never fails to fascinate, and it has a great twist too.
Now to a war film, and one that deals with war from another viewpoint. Despite magnificent battle scenes, and some stunning cinematography, Terence Malick’s 1998 film, ‘The Thin Red Line’, is a war epic like few others. Exploring the reluctance to fight, and the fears of the soldiers involved, this recreation of the fighting on Guadalcanal in WW2 is breathtaking to behold. The cast is too long to list here, but there are standout performances from Jim Calveizal, Nick Nolte, and Elias Koteas. Others include Sean Penn, and John Cusack, with a cameo from John Travolta too. The ‘other side’ are also featured, with an examination of the Japanese defenders that looks at them like human beings, with the same hopes and fears. Marvellous.
I could not leave out another of my all-time favourites. Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, and one of the best opening sequences ever filmed. Yes, ‘Touch of Evil’ (1958). This film gets better every time I watch it, with Welles nothing short of magnificent as the bloated and corrupt has-been cop, Quinlan. Lovingly filmed in black and white, with every element necessary for a compelling thriller, you can even forget a woefully miscast Charlton Heston, as a Mexican federal officer. This is film-making at its finest, and one of Welles’ best offerings.
I come to my final choice. Having left out so many ‘T’ films, it is wide open for you to comment.
A Japanese historical epic again. (No apologies) Kurosawa again. (No apologies) and Toshiro Mifune again. (Still no apologies.) I went to see this film as a teenager, and it has stayed with me for the fifty years since. Kurosawa used the plot of ‘Macbeth’, transporting the action to feudal Japan, and changing the names and locations. But he left in all the well known parts of the famous ‘Scottish play’, and presented us with an unforgettable version. ‘Throne of Blood’ (1957) might well be one of the best films ever made. Kurosawa’s vision is brought to the screen with amazing performances from Mifune as the Macbeth character, and Isuzu Yamada as a chilling Lady Macbeth, dominating every scene she is in.
The final battle at Spider’s Web Castle is a brilliantly choreographed set piece, as Mifune’s character is hunted down by his own soldiers.