Punk rock began in 1929/30, when Luis Buñuel caused riots with these erotic howls of protest, urging the human race to place love and lust above civic duty. Visually he broke the mould, with a little help from Salvador Dalí. The 17-minute Un Chien is a hymn to desire; the 63-minute L'Age D'Or is shocking and beautifully immortal.
Cocteau's dissection of the decadence of youth may be an acquired taste, but in 1949 it must have been quite a shocker. Callow siblings Nicole Stéphane and Edouard Dhermithe sow emotional havoc with their quasi-incestuous games, and reap tragedy with the help of Cocteau's narrator. An atypical first film from director Jean-Pierre Melville.
This dark treasure from 1945 was Robert Bresson's second feature. Scripted by Cocteau, it's erotic longing and revenge, as spurned spider woman Maria Casares seeks the downfall of her ex and his lover. In contrast with the grey, static textures of Bresson's celebrated work, there's near-noirish lustre, but the intriguing, deceptive narrative bareness, the sense of forces moving beneath the surface, are his alone.
Shot in 1929 by German émigré EA Dupont, this sinuous, shimmering melodrama centres on a London nightclub where the sensuous table-top shimmy of scullery girl Sho-Sho (Anna May Wong) catches her boss' eye. Under his patronage, she's toast of the town, but stirs murderous passions. Flitting between glittering Jazz Age highlife and foul Limehouse backstreets, it exudes an atmosphere of almost illicit potency.
Reuniting Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney from his glossily perverse Laura, and adding uncharacteristic grit to compositional elegance, the great Otto Preminger delivered this noir about a violently ambiguous cop two decades before Dirty Harry appeared. Andrews is the splintering anti-hero, a brutal Manhattan detective coming apart while trying to cover up his killing of a suspect. Two more of Preminger's most neglected crime movies—superbly seedy small-town murder Fallen Angel and psychodrama Whirlpool—are also making (overdue) DVD debuts.
Early Peter Greenaway movie ('85), from when his undeniable visual genius wasn't yet smothered by pretentiousness. Zoologist twin widowers (!) mourn their wives but begin an affair with a survivor of the crash which killed them, whose leg's been amputated. And set the animals free from the zoo. Homages to Vermeer, a Michael Nyman score, and relentless perversity with a point. Exhilarating!
This storm-tossed 1937 gem was the first flowering of Michael Powell's nearmystical vision of the British landscape. It tells of the death of one tiny, remote Scottish island, as young folk abandon old ways for the mainland, but Powell's cinematic treatment of the scudding light and shade of nature—part raw, heroic documentary, part mythic poem—raises the stakes to infinity and beyond. Magic realism, indeed.
Roberto Rossellini's small-scale but infinitely moving 1953 masterwork plucks two stars from Hollywood—Rossellini's wife Ingrid Bergman and the magnificent George Sanders—and smashes them down on the road as a crisis-hit couple coming apart during a trip in Italy. Rossellini gave his actors the bare bones of a situation, then left them to improvise; they stumble beautifully, trying to discover their own story. The random feel anticipates the French new wave.
Director Peter Watkins' mid-1960s work for the BBC still shines. Culloden recreated the famous battle as if covered by a modern news team—a radical approach for the time. More controversially, The War Game showed that nuclear war was an unwinnable nightmare, and was consequently banned by the Beeb, though it picked up an Oscar when released theatrically in 1966.
Clive Donner's 1963 version of Harold Pinter's debut is a faithful, relatively unaltered record of a trio of stunning stage performances from Alan Bates, Robert Shaw and particularly Donald Pleasence (as the splenetic tramp who takes advantage of the mentally crippled Shaw). Four decades on, you can see Mamet's starting point in the furious inarticulateness of Pinter's characters, each trapped in an unobtainable dream.