Luchino Visconti's three-hour epic is a complex family saga, with Burt Lancaster as an Italian nobleman in the Garibaldi era. The colour and detail is so rich it's almost fattening. Visconti, calling in favours back in '63, wanted Lancaster (who's great), but outside Italy no one knew how to sell it, so it was hacked and dubbed. Now its sumptuous again, with a Nino Rota score and both Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon in their prime.
Part of the BFI's intriguing "A History Of The Avant-Garde" series, this is 66 minutes of decaying, nitrate-film archive footage, an artful collage in which figures deteriorate as we watch. Obviously, it's heavily symbolic: nuns, children, boxers go about their endeavours unaware (or are they?) of the oblivion that looms. The dissonant score's a drag, but this is nothing if not haunting.
A superb lyrical antidote to the countless guns-and-gangs depictions of life in the black communities of LA, Charles Burnett directs Danny Glover as Harry Mention, a man who stirs up past tensions when he comes to visit old family friends. With an excellent blues, gospel and jazz soundtrack to boot.
The great French director Jean-Pierre Melville understood American movies better than the majority of Hollywood, and devoted himself to a remarkable series of terse tough-guy thrillers which claimed the term "noir" back for France. Shot on the streets of Paris dressed to look like Manhattan, this spare, razor-sharp 1962 affair has Jean-Paul Belmondo looking great as the doomed stool-pigeon at the centre of a web of deceit.
Jean-Pierre Melville's penultimate film, from 1970, is the crime movie's Once Upon A Time In The West, a dark meditation on the iconography of hats, trenchcoats, guns, and the rituals of the heist. Alain Delon is the glacial master thief planning to take down a Parisian jewellery store, though he knows the cops are closing in. A steely, moody piece.
Peter Greenaway's period piece concerns a 17th-century draughtsman (Anthony Higgins) who agrees to make a series of drawings of her country estate for an aristocrat's wife (Janet Suzman) in return for sexual favours. Part picture puzzle, part murder mystery, it's undeniably stylish and intriguing, but also totally unerotic and bleakly existential.
The James M Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (femme fatale seduces drifter into murdering her husband) has often been revisited: this 1942 Luchino Visconti version, a Scorsese favourite, was considered immoral and subversive on release, yet spawned the Italian neo-realist school. Noir to the core, it's long and fatalistic.
Stunningly beautiful and utterly bizarre Japanese fable about a medieval Kabuki actor (Kazuo Hasegawa), renowned as a female impersonator, who carries his on-stage portrayal of a woman out into the world in order to seduce and murder the noblemen responsible for his parents' death. The direction is haphazard, the imagery is amazing.
DVD EXTRAS: Director's biography, web link.