Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1952: Casque d’or (Jacques Becker)
What a treat to find a place on this list for Jacques Becker! For almost the first ten years of his career, Becker worked as an Assistant Director to Jean Renoir, and it’s not hard to see Renoir’s influence on his work.
Like Renoir, Becker was an extraordinary humanist, incredible with actors and had a certain amount of interest in crime films. I haven’t seen all of Becker’s work, as some of it is still hard to find in the States. Among those I’ve seen are Touchez pas au grisbi, which is very possibly my favorite French crime film of all time, Le Trou and Modigliani of Montparnasse. I can’t recommend them enough.
Casque d’or absolutely swoons with romanticism and tragedy, and it has as much feeling as any film I can think of from this period. The relationship Becker creates between two of France’s greatest actors (Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani) is so real, so painful and so right that Becker makes you feel every second of it. This one easily has a place alongside my other favorite love stories: Letter from an Unknown Woman, Splendor in the Grass, The Shop Around the Corner, Gertrud, Holiday and A Place in the Sun.
Feel like your film-watching has become too cerebral? Need an emotional experience that doesn’t feel like it cheats or cheaply manipulates? Give this one a whirl. It has a great feel for period, but much more important than that, it has great feel for the human heart.
What moviemakers can learn: People go to the movies for the most part to have an emotional experience. This movie, without resorting to easy sentimentality, provides an emotional experience about as well as any I have ever seen.
Other contenders for 1952: As with other years, I still have some things I need to see. These include Howard Hawks’ The Big Sky, Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu, Samuel Fuller’s Park Row, Georges Franju’s Hôtel des Invalides and Leo McCarey’s My Son John. The films from this year that I really like are: Max Ophüls’ Le Plaisir, René Clément’s Forbidden Games, Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River, Stanley Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain (yes, Mom, that pick’s for you) and Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon. The films that I love are Roberto Rossellini’s Europe ’51 and Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Meanwhile, my four closest runners-up are The Lusty Men and On Dangerous Ground, both by Nicholas Ray, Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. and Orson Welles’ Othello.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.