Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1955: Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
I’ve only seen this once, but it finds its way on the list for the same reason as my final three picks: L’enfant (2006), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) and Tulpan (2008). Ordet is an absolute technical marvel with perfectly choreographed (and incredibly long) takes. As with Tulpan, I’m not referring to fixed frame long takes like those found in the movies of Hou Hsiao-hsien. Dreyer’s camera and characters are almost always moving, with the director hardly ever cutting to break up the action. It’s one of those films where, as I watch it, almost every five minutes can hear myself say “I can’t believe he just did that!” The lack of cuts definitely gives Ordet a pace that not everyone will like, but for me it’s cinema of the highest order, and one of the five or so most perfectly made movies I’ve ever seen. The acting and cinematography are also in another stratosphere, but it’s the directing that makes it the most humbling and impressive. The other thing that struck me is that although a good amount of the action takes place in one location, Dreyer never makes us feel like we’re at the theater. There’s no mistaking that his approach is cinematic and his talent masterly. Lastly, as an incredibly tiny tribute to Dreyer and his extraordinary accomplishment with Ordet, I’ve decided to refrain from any paragraph breaks in my short review.
What moviemakers can learn: So much of moviemaking is preparation. Watch how Dreyer maps out his scene coverage and accomplishes so much through blocking and camera movement.
Other contenders for 1955: This is a year where I have quite a few gaps. These include: Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Jean Rouch’s The Mad Masters, Vincente Minnelli’s The Cobweb, Frank Tashlin’s Artists and Models, Max Ophüls’ Lola Montès and Kenji Mizoguchi’s New Tales of the Taira Clan. I need to revisit the following four films as it’s simply been too long since I’ve seen them to know where they would place on this list: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les diaboliques, Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden. Even with all these gaps there are still a number of favorites from this year. I really like Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie, Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet and Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm. I love Orson Welles’ Mr. Arkadin, Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog and Jules Dassin’s Rififi, though my closest runner-up is Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly.
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.