Best Films of 1970
Best Films of 1971
Best Films of 1972
Best Films of 1973
Best Films of 1974

Best Films of 1975
Best Films of 1976
Best Films of 1977
Best Films of 1978
Best Films of 1979

Mean Streets
Spirit of the Beehive
Edvard Munch
Desert of the Tartars

Minnie and Moskowitz
That Obscure Object of Desire
Nosferatu the Vampire

BEST FILMS OF 1975 - List in Progress
by Mike Lorefice

Dersu Uzala
Akira Kurosawa

Early 20th century explorer Vladimir Arseniev's memoirs are the basis for Akira Kurosawa's lone Russian language film. The basic not so original premise is city man can't live in nature, and nature man can't live in the city. As Kurosawa sides with the noble savage, the film shows the decline of the world do to civilization. Kurosawa's pro nature message always contains a great deal to admire, but here it's much too black and white and more or less as naive as the main character. The first half of the film where the titled nomadic Mongolian frontiersman guides the green Soviet surveying crew through the wilderness of Siberia, regularly saving the lives of men who initially considered him a semiliterate dinosaur good for little more than comic relief, is by far the stronger half. This portion of the deeply human work reminds us to pay attention to our surroundings, use common sense, and value the life of others, with beast being as important as man. The film should be commended for rising above the urge to turn the material into a thrilling action film. Though the first half tries to do too little - the weather is the story with the people simply reacting to it - it is certainly effective. The main fault is what we already expect from Kurosawa, the main character is all too heroic. The second half tries to do too much, using Dersu's deterioration to depict the decline of both the wilderness man and the wilderness itself. Even though there's a lot of truth to the basic message that modern man has no respect for nature and takes and takes but refuses to give anything back, the way it's put across winds up making it seem silly and dishonest. The other important aspect of the film is the friendship between Soviet captain Arseniev and ingenious Dersu. This is the type of friendship everyone would like to have, where both parties do their best to help each other and for the most part are just doing it because it's the right way to treat someone. Arseniev does everything he can to be the hero of the second half, taking an aging Dersu into his home after his vision fails. The film is always interesting and benefits greatly from location shooting in the Siberian wilderness. It is well rendered with the elements perpetually present, the lingering wide angle shots simply absorbing the surroundings, though things are curiously cramped despite the high (2.20: 1) aspect ratio. There's so much to admire about Dersu it's hard not to feel like it should have been a great film. Unfortunately, it doesn't ask anything of the audience, so it's basically a kid's film that is only viewed by adults because we wouldn't want our children to actually do some reading. [9/6/06] ***


Fear of Fear
Rainer Werner Fassbinder


Full Movie Review


Grey Gardens
Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, & Muffie Meyer

Your opinion of this famous cinema-verite work will probably come down to whether you believe the Maysles Brothers are espousing no point of view whatsoever or condescending to their subjects. Beyond the decision of which footage to include there's little in the way of form, direction, shaping, and framing. The camera simply witnesses the two subjects - Big and Little Edie Beale who happen to be aunt and cousin to Jackie Onassis - as they go about their daily activities. We get two very different perspectives of one history, Big Edie dropping out of high society after her husband abandoned her and asking her supposedly promising daughter Little Edie to come home for a little while to take care of her, ultimately resulting in the duo living reclusive lives in their decaying East Hampton mansion. Though relics of another era living in squalor on what's left of their old money, they have a strong if difficult and often unhealthy codependent relationship and maintain their dignity the despite public embarrassment and attempted eviction over their Miss Havishamesque living conditions. This profound portrait of regret is disturbing because it cuts to the bone. Little Edie, who sometimes seem like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard if Swanson's character never actually made a movie, is profoundly unhappy with the way her life turned out, lamenting missed opportunities to become a dancing star, get married, and generally have fun. Everything she didn't do would always have been right and she blames most of her failures on her mother, who she wound up spending most of her life with. Big Edie is supposedly content with her decisions, though all she talks about is decades removed from her present conditions, and refuses to take the blame for things Little Edie chose not to do at the time. They air loads of dirty laundry in this collection of friendly and sometimes not so disagreements. Beyond that, what seems to make people uncomfortable is this is documentary as voyeur, though maybe they fear their best days are also long gone. If Tennessee Williams wrote Grey Gardens it would be lauded as an incisive classic of passionate delusion, but because it's so real people tend to recoil. You can choose to see it as a freak show, but despite certain wants and longings they are more successful than most at living the way they decide to, at being free. [10/22/06] ***

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The Yakuza
Sydney Pollack


Full Movie Review

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