Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fave Films of the 80s

It's been a year since my last Fave Films post. So in a week of film-watching and -thinking, let's pick up the thread. The 80s, and my 20s. The decade in which a former film star became President of the United States, money talked, and movies went mega-mainstream. I was at college in Brighton and then living in London, so there would have been plenty of trips to the Duke of York and Scala, and recording stuff on chunky VHS tapes off TV. But enough preamble - here's a Top 15:

The Elephant Man 
Hannah and her Sisters 
Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources 
Paris, Texas 
The Meaning of Life 
Spinal Tap
The Killing Fields 
The Last Emperor
The Decalogue
Santa Sangre 

Well, what can I say? They're all brilliant. Ridley Scott's Bladerunner is a no-brainer: the perfect mix of detective story in a sci-fi genre which looked and sounded fantastic. As did Reggio, Frick & Glass's Koyanisqaatsi (easily the best of the three). The more obvious Lynch choice would have been Blue Velvet but I prefer the monochrome Elephant ManWoody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters is an easy Top 15, but it was tempting to add another, say Radio Days or Crimes and Misdemeanours or The Purple Rose of Cairo. Incredible to think that he made 10 films that decade. 
Python's The Meaning of Life wasn't as good as The Life of Brian, but it was still exceptionally funny / bitingly satirical. As was Gilliam's Brazil, though the laughs were buried beneath pipes, plastic surgery and nightmarish officialdom. More overtly comic were Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker's two Airplane! films (or could have been Naked Gun) but I'll go for the first one. Just deliriously stupid. As was This is Spinal Tap, which has now become rock vocabulary: 'How very Spinal Tap'.
Completely the opposite...  Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields set in Pol Pot's 70s Cambodia; Jodorowsky's surreal Santa Sangre set in Mexico; and Krzysztof Kieslowski The Decalogue, which is a bit of a cheat since it was a 10-part TV series, but two of them - probably the best two (A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love) - were also turned into features. And finally, Bertolucci's classic biopic of The Last Emperor set in tumultuous imperial, republican and communist era China; Wenders' melancholic Paris, Texas has to be in there, and Claude Berri's two-part Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources

Of the rest of Hollywood, respect to Cronenberg's Videodrome, The Fly and Dead Ringers and John Carpenter's Escape from New York and TheThing and Kubrick's The Shining. Plus the Coen Brothers' first film, Blood Simple... Repo Man, Wise Blood, Raging Bull, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Body Heat, Missing, One From the Heart, Sophie's Choice, Tootsie, King of Comedy, Trading Places, The Right Stuff, Rumble Fish, Scarface, Silkwood, Aliens, After Hours...  Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train... Sex Lies and Videotape, The Right Thing,  Hairspray, Wall Street, The Accused, Rain Man, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dangerous Liaisons, Heathers, and Robocop. Yes Robocop - if only for the fact that it cast two relatively unglamorous unknowns as leads. 
It was a poor decade for animated films. Disney really lost their way. I can only think of The Little Mermaid which was 'alright', but mention must be made of Tron and the half-real-half-animation Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And a so-so decade for Bond films as the ageing Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill) made way for Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and A License to Kill.
The decade started well for UK films with Chariots of Fire and Gandhi sweeping the Oscars in '81 & '82, though Colin Welland's infamous rallying call, "The Brits are coming" turned out to be wishful thinking. Still, there was plenty that was good: The Long Good Friday, Terry Gilliam's all-over-the place Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; Michael Pailin in The Missionary and A Private Function; Cleese and Palin in A Fish Called Wanda; Peter Greenaway's equal measures absorbing/infuriating The Draughtsman's Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, Drowning by Numbers, The Belly of an Architect and The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover;  Derek Jarman's equally hard-going The Angelic Conversation, Caravaggio, The Last of England and War Requiem... Nic Roeg's Eureka and Insignificance; Local Hero, The Company of Wolves, The Emerald Forest, My Beautiful Laundrette, A Room with a View, The Hit, Mona Lisa,  A Letter to Brezhnev, Withnail and I, Wish You Were Here, The Mission, A World Apart, My Left Foot, Distant Voices Still Lives, Scandal. 
France had its stylish hits: particularly Diva, Subway and Betty Blue, but I also liked One Deadly Summer, Camille Claudel (basically anything with Isabelle Adjani in it), Chocolat,  and Truffaut's swansong, The Last Metro. Oh, and Sans Soleil and Shoah.
As for Germany, aside from Fitzcarraldo, it wasn't a great decade for Werner Herzog. But there was still Fassbender's Lili Marleen, Lola and Verokina Voss (before he topped himself) and Wim Wenders' other big hit, Wings of Desire; plus Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot; the German-Hungarian Mephisto; and Baghdad Cafe. Were there others?
And without wishing to be disparaging to the scores of other countries making perfectly good films, I enjoyed (from Sweden) Fanny and Alexander; (Italy) Cinema Paradiso; (Denmark) Babette's Feast; (Spain) Almodovar's Dark Habits, Law of Desire and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; (Turkey) Yol; (Holland) the very disturbing The Vanishing; (USSR, as it was then): Tarkovsky's Nostalgia and The Sacrifice...
Further afield... (Japan) Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Tampopo, Akira, Black Rain (Imamura's, not the totally unconnected Hollywood crime one which came out the same year) and the re-make of The Ballad of Narayama (India) Salaam Bombay; (China) The Legend of Taiyuan Mountain, Rickshaw Boy, Yellow Earth and Red Sorghum; and (Australia) Gallipoli, Mad Max 2 and The Year of Living Dangerously... but not Crocodile Dundee. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, 2 of your 15 I've never seem - you may be surprised to learn.
    I know it goes against most people, but I found Bladerunner overrated!!
    4 of your list however I rate very highly indeed; Brazil, Fitzcarraldo, Koyanisqaatsi & Paris, Texas.