Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Agnès Varda’s most provocative films, LE BONHEUR examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.
In the midst of his remarkable 1970s creative run, Robert Altman made one of his boldest and most unique films. Susannah York won the best actress award at Cannes for her edgy performance as a pregnant children’s author whose husband (Rene Auberjonois) may or may not be having an affair. While holidaying in Ireland, her mental state becomes increasingly unstable, resulting in paranoia, visions of a doppelgänger, and violence. Strikingly shot by the great Vilmos Zsigmond and scored by John Williams (with “sounds” by prog experimentalist Stomu Yamash’ta), IMAGES is a hallucinatory and unnerving immersion into a woman’s fractured psyche.
This legendary cult favorite was released to relatively little fanfare but has gone on to be regarded as one of the most disturbing and audacious horror films of all time. A young girl’s disappearance brings police sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) to a remote Scottish island, where he finds himself plunged into a sinister society of pagan pageantry and nature worship presided over by the menacing Lord Summerisle (British horror icon Christopher Lee). Set to an influential psychedelic-folk soundtrack (cue the creepy panpipes), THE WICKER MAN is a one-of-a-kind occult classic that retains its power to fascinate and shock.
Tired of churning out lightweight comedies, Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) decides to make O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?—a serious, socially responsible film about human suffering. After his producers point out that he knows nothing of hardship, Sullivan hits the road disguised as a hobo. En route to enlightenment, he encounters a lovely but no-nonsense young woman (Veronica Lake)—and more trouble than he ever dreamed of. This comic masterpiece by Preston Sturges is among the finest Hollywood satires and a high-water mark in the career of one of the industry’s most revered funnymen.
The first of the celebrated noirs made by genre master Robert Siodmak puts an intriguing, protofeminist spin on the hard-boiled detective genre. Based on a novel by pulp existentialist Cornell Woolrich, PHANTOM LADY stars Ella Raines as a secretary who descends into the seedy underbelly of the New York City night world in order to track down a mysterious woman, the only witness who she believes can help clear her boss of a murder rap. Elisha Cook Jr.’s frenzied, sexually charged drum solo is one of the indelible highlights of this descent into dreamlike dread.
A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, the eerily effective B-movie classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and, with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it succeeds. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late-night television and continues to inspire filmmakers today.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s brooding late masterpiece, the first of his features to be made outside of Russia, is a darkly poetic vision of exile. The director poured his feelings of homesickness into this hushed and hypnotic portrait of Andrei (Oleg Yankovsky), a Russian intellectual doing research in Italy, who becomes obsessed with the Botticelli-like beauty of his translator (Domiziana Giordano) as well as with the apocalyptic ramblings of a self-destructive wanderer (Erland Josephson). Written with frequent Michelangelo Antonioni collaborator Tonino Guerra, NOSTALGHIA is a mystical and mysterious collision of East and West.
François Truffaut’s first feature is also his most personal. Told through the eyes of Truffaut’s cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), THE 400 BLOWS sensitively re-creates the trials of Truffaut’s own childhood, unsentimentally portraying aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and petty crime. The film marked Truffaut’s passage from leading critic to trailblazing auteur of the French New Wave.
Orson Welles’ first color film and final completed fictional feature, THE IMMORTAL STORY is a moving and wistful adaptation of a tale by Isak Dinesen. Welles stars as a wealthy merchant in nineteenth-century Macao, who becomes obsessed with bringing to life an oft-related anecdote about a rich man who gives a poor sailor a small sum of money to impregnate his wife. Also starring an ethereal Jeanne Moreau, this jewel-like film, dreamily shot by Willy Kurant and suffused with the music of Erik Satie, is a brooding, evocative distillation of Welles’ artistic interests, a story about the nature of storytelling and the fine line between illusion and reality.
Jean-Luc Godard’s subversive foray into commercial filmmaking is a star-studded Cinemascope epic. CONTEMPT stars Michel Piccoli as a screenwriter torn between the demands of a proud European director (played by legendary director Fritz Lang), a crude and arrogant American producer (Jack Palance), and his disillusioned wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot), as he attempts to doctor the script for a new film version of “The Odyssey.”