A-Z Film Challenge: Day 22

I was looking forward to ‘V’, as I had a top pick chosen well in advance. Quite a lot to choose from here, so there should be plenty left for you to comment on.

David Cronenberg has made some very unusual films in his career. They can be visually challenging, and often contain a message about society too. James Woods is a competent actor who has also played some controversial roles, and is known for giving 100% to every part he plays, however small. Put these two together, and you get the fascinating ‘Videodrome’ (1983). This is a comment on modern television, and the potential excesses it can sink to. Add some stunning ‘body horror’ effects, and you are left with a unique and unforgettable film, in an uncertain genre. And Debby Harry is in it too!

Vampire horror is a subject that film makers keep returning to. There have been some outstanding examples made, as far back as the days of silent films. ‘Nosferatu’ (1922) is arguably the best of them all, with the creepiest Dracula I have ever seen. But Carl Dreyer’s 1932 film ‘Vampyr’ deserves a mention. Despite its uneven soundtrack, the surreal imagery and dream-like production make this a memorable addition to the genre.

Two very different French films next. ‘Les Visiteurs’ (1993) was a huge comedy hit in Europe. The hilarious antics of a time travelling medieval knight and his grubby servant are simply delightful. They are transported into the future, where he attacks cars with his sword, and believes a toilet bowl is a magical water fountain. Jean Reno triumphs as the fish out of water knight, with a deliciously dotty performance from Valerie Lemercier as his distant relative. I loved this one.
There is no doubt that Marion Cotillard is a great actress, and she was never better than when she starred as Edith Piaf in the 2007 biopic, ‘La Vie En Rose’. This Oscar-winning film is a complete triumph, covering almost the whole life and career of Edith Piaf, the one-time darling of the French musical scene. With a strong supporting cast including Gerard Depardieu, flawless costume and historical detail, this is one to remember, believe me.

A very different historical drama next, featuring a powerful leading performance from Mads Mikkelsen. ‘Valhalla Rising’ (2009) is a bleak look back to the early days of Christianity in Europe. Mikklesen’s character One-Eye is held captive by a Norse chieftain, and forced to fight others to the death, while his master gambles on the outcome. He escapes in the company of a young boy, and they join a ragtag band of Crusaders, men intent on going to the Holy Land to fight. After a difficult journey, they believe they have reached their goal, only to discover that it is not at all what it seems. This is filmed in breathtaking locations in Scotland, and contains some brutal fight scenes too. But the solid cast delivers a memorable film, one that is stunning to behold.

Before my top choice for ‘V’, another Spanish film from the prolific Pedro Almodovar. ‘Volver’ (2006) stars the wonderful Carmen Maura, an Almodovar favourite, alongside the lovely Penelope Cruz. This delightful family drama also has moments of real comedy, and assured performances from the mainly female cast. There are some twists and turns in the plot, and you can also feel the personal touch from Almodovar’s own life experiences too. You may see this film described as a film about death. To a large extent it is, but it is also so much more, so don’t be put off. It was nominated for both Oscars and Baftas, and should have won at least one, in my opinion.

Please do not mistake the awful American remake for my top choice today. If you decide to see it, be certain that you are watching the original foreign language film, and not that terrible corruption.

Many European films do not settle for happy endings just to please audiences, and this is one of them.
I cannot praise this film highly enough. Rarely have I left a cinema being drained by a viewing experience in the same way, and impressed by the performances of actors I hardly knew. Perhaps because it is a scenario we can all identify with, it makes you aware of how it could happen to almost anyone. You are on holiday abroad, driving in the car. You stop for fuel at a busy French service station. Your wife goes inside, to buy drinks and snacks. She doesn’t return.
What happens next in ‘The Vanishing’ (1998), is a chilling story with real drama, and edge of the seat tension. Incredible performances, tragedy and despair, and a simply unforgettable ending. One of the best ever.

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74 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day 22

  1. A wonderful choice regarding The Vanishing. I enjoyed it too. At the Very least I shall go with some of these I enjoyed watching such as.. V (1983). Techinically it’s a sci- fi mini series with only two episodes but it felt like a little movie. Vacancy (2007), Vampire Hunter D (1985), an animated movie from a manga series, Vanishing Point (1971), Vertigo (1958), Volver (2006) and Venus in Fur (2013) directed by Roman Polanski.

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      1. I’m starting an older classics movie of someofmy favourite movies before the 1980s if that also interests you. The challenge on this post was highly enjoyable. I may have missed a few as I am not always on to check. But it was lovely to be able to participate. Hope you have a good weekend Pete.

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  2. I will take up your advice to watch the original Vanishing. V is hard. There are so few! The only one I can add to the list that’s somewhat entertaining is Valkyrie (2008). I find it more annoying than satisfying. Not a good letter today for me.

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    1. Thanks, Lara. Those two are not on my own list of favourites, but both are very popular indeed.
      I really hope that you are able to see some of these world cinema selections.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Phew – just managed to catch up on your last few entries after some days offline. A lot of food for thought there.

    I have heard of The Vanishing but never managed to see it. Yet.
    I enjoyed both Les Visiteurs and La Vie En Rose (despite my initial qualms she really won me over), but Volver left me cold.

    I also enjoyed the already mentioned Virgin Suicides and Vertigo, but, despite my Oz movies bent, wouldn’t recommend Van Dieman’s Land to anyone unless they enjoy watching period cannibal hikes in the rain.

    So my only V for recommendation is The Virgin Spring by Ingmar Bergman about the perils for young girls in medieval Sweden.

    Glad to be back with the pack and thanks for replying to my belated comments on S, T and U.

    Can’t wait for W (which includes a couple of oldish films by a Brit and Canadian in Australia of course).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, ozflicks. I haven’t seen that Bergman film since I was in my teens. Sorry you didn’t feel the same about ‘Volver’, but that’s the way of personal tastes. My ‘W’ top pick will not surprise anyone with your name…
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. “les Visiteurs” was a real kick. Normally I don’t like seeing cars getting trashed, but in this movie, it was just a very funny scene. Usually in my house, the phrase “French Comedy” is only used ironically, but this movie was hysterical and Jean Reno and his squire were great.
    Not one vote for “The Verdict” with Paul Newman?? A lot of people may hate “courtroom dramas” but this one is excellent and impossible to not get pulled in emotionally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love courtroom films, and enjoyed ‘The Verdict’. Maybe not enough for it to make the cut, but it’s a very good watch. French comedy is very different, but I can also recommend ‘The Closet’ (2001), with Depardieu and crew on good form. Thanks as always for your thoughts.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Damn…all the good ones gave been printed…….only 2 I have is “Vampire Dairies” and the made for TV movie “V” that started a series…..and now for the bad SciFi…””Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women: with Mamie van Doren and “Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet” with Basil Rathbone…….I’m tapped….have a good day my friend….chuq

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  6. I regret not not knowing most of the movies mentioned by you or your readers today. I could only come up with ‘Vertigo’. I suppose Hitchcock leaves an impression, especially with James Stewart in it!

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  7. Some good ones here already, today I’m going for a subsidiary division of DC comics Vertigo which DC invented to publish their more graphic comics, one of which was a short series called V for Vendetta, the movie based on the series was written by The Wachowski Brothers and starred Hugo Weaving in a Guy Fawkes mask, and Natalie Portman. Lots of political allegories in the movie and the acting great, well worth a viewing as it’s still relevant today, as is the mask which is still used in protests against tyranny.

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  8. I’m missing on a few here, Pete. Although I do watch a fair amount of French films (I tend to catch up when I visit my friends in France but I hadn’t visited them for a while until this February), I prefer their crime movies to their comedies (that sometimes don’t do it for me, although I like Jean Reno). I love Volver and I’ll have to watch The Vanishing, because I’m not sure I’ve ever watched the original. I’m sure I’m missing quite a few but I can only think of films already mentioned…

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  9. Pete, I haven’t seen “Vampyr,” but I do have a couple of V films in the same genre: “Vampyres” (1974), starring Anulka, and “Vamp” (1986), which stars Grace Jones. Both of these are cult films—and guilty pleasures.

    Despite the French language title, “La Vie en Rose” is not the original title of Edith Piaf’s biopic. Rather, it’s “La Môme,” after her nickname, La Môme Piaf—or “little sparrow” (Edith’s last name was actually Gassion). “La Vie en Rose” was borrowed from the title of Piaf’s signature song, which became popular in the States in the early 1950’s. I have the film on DVD. Because of my French speaking background, I consider it an M film.

    I’ve seen “The Vanishing,” and agree that its story is chilling. I don’t want to give anything way to those who haven’t seen it, but I think Quentin Tarantino was inspired by this film when writing the screenplay for “Kill Bill.” I haven’t seen the 1993 remake.

    Although I won’t choose it as my number one pick, I do have a sentimental favorite in my collection: “Vagabond” (1985), a French film about a wandering girl played by Sandrine Bonnaire. Years ago, I met and talked at length with the director, Agnès Varda. She’s the 89-year-old widow of Jacques Demy, who directed many well-known films, including “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.” A few months earlier, I had suggested that the French film club in Kansas City arrange a special event—a movie première and a live discussion of the effect of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) on the international movie industry. The event was held in a movie theater, and it was packed. Participants in the GATT discussion included at least one professor from UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City). I was the guest of honor, and—apart from being asked to stand and take a bow—was recognized as such on the official program, which announced the American première of “Jacquot de Nantes” (1991), a film by Agnès Varda about the early life of her husband. I kept a copy of the program, took it to France with me in January 1994, and presented it to Agnès Varda at the Salon du Livre (she was there to promote a book she’d written), located at the Porte de Versailles in Paris.

    In my DVD collection, I have four favorite V films: “The Vikings” (1958) [in which Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis clash atop Fort la Latte], “Vertigo” (1958) [in which James Stewart, playing a retired police detective, suffers from acrophobia], “Viva Maria!” (1965) [in which Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau join revolutionary forces in Central America], and “Von Ryan’s Express” (1965) [in which Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard hijack a freight train to escape German-occupied Italy]. I’ve watched these films more times than I can count. So which one? I think you already know that I’m going to give the nod to Hitchcock’s classic, “VERTIGO.” It…towers…above the others!

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    1. Thanks for your recollections, David, and your choices too. I had thought that you might battle between ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Vikings’. My main issue with ‘Vertigo’ is that it is a misnomer. Vertigo is a medical condition affecting balance, something I suffer from. Hitchcock’s film is about fear of heights. The name for that is Acrophobia, which doesn’t look quite the same on a film poster!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My understanding is that Stewart’s character suffers from “height vertigo,” where height triggers a sensation of vertigo. He suffers from more than just fear of heights.

        Wikipedia: “Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty has caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of rotational movement).”

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  10. Pete, your choice is terrific…”The Vanishing” is powerful – but anyone reading this, do NOT NOT NOT see the horrible american remake! The only other “V” I will offer up is the great 1971 counter-culture classic “Vanishing Point”!

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    1. Thanks for mentioning ‘Vanishing Point’, John. I loved that film, but had insufficient space to include it. I watched that in a cinema about six miles from where I lived at the time. When I came out, I drove home really fast, and broke every motoring law in the book. My then girlfriend was gripping her seat! Mind you, I was only 19!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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