The good old days

Contributor; Antwerp, Belgium
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The good old days
As you might be aware, ScreenAnarchy is a site that specializes in the weird and obscure, with a firm focus on modern films. We use ScreenAnarchy to write about what we love, but not all we love is deemed ScreenAnarchy-worthy (if such a thing actually exists). At least for some of us you'll only get to see a small part of our passion for film, the part we think is interesting to the ones who love ScreenAnarchy for what it is. But behind the selected reviews on this site most of us have another film identity, one we don't share too often around these part.

By now you are probably thinking I'm going to hijack this week's ToM to share an undiscovered part of my passion for film, but that's not the case, at least not entirely. See, no matter how hard I try or how many films I see, I can't seem to grow a liking to classic films. Genres I don't really care about, countries neither, but time often presents itself as a hurdle when I'm watching a film.

That doesn't really stop me from watching the classics though. Using sites like (tons of lists from critics and important/massive film sites like IMDb) I keep to a healthy diet of 1 classic a week. Usually I don't really like what I see, but there are a few notable exceptions. I vowed to keep myself to positive reviews when I joined the ScreenAnarchy team and so I won't be presenting a list of overrated classics or similar, but a list of classics I do believe are worth checking out. It might prove to be an interesting list coming from a guy who doesn't really care about the greats of yonder.

As a simple rule, I see classics as everything older that 1970 (so no THX 1138, Suspiria or Stalker). Also 1 film/director (so no Alphaville, Running In Madness - Dying In Love or Ecstasy Of The Angels). Here goes:

tom-classics-5.jpg 05. Kaidan Yuki Jorou

A rather typical classical Japanese tale of horror, but executed with lots of style and a great sense of atmopshere. If you've seen films like Onibaba or Kaidan you probably know what to expect. Sure there is a  supernatural theme to this film, it even becomes a little eerie at times, but at its core lies a layer of drama that runs through its every pore. These films are not about gore, blood or scares, they are about the drama behind the supernatural. The drama feels a little light, but the ghost scenes are particularly atmospheric and well executed. Thanks to the rather lovely photography, the superb setting and the short running time this film is definitely worth checking out.

tom-classics-4.jpg04. Mépris, Le

Back in the 60s, they didn't have guys like Miike to challenge the boundaries of conventional cinema, but they did have Jean-Luc Godard. He broke through the barriers of cinema and challenged just about anything he could. Watching a Godard film, even today, is still somewhat of an adventure. From spoken intro credits to theatrical scene setups and humoristic and retro-futuristic computer AIs, nothing was too weird for this man. Le Mépris is one his most famous and lauded films, deservedly so. A good entry point for anyone interested in this director, but scared of his political outbursts.

tom-classics-3.jpg03. Sleeping Beauty

I'm not a big fan of mainstream American animation, but this old Disney classic really surprised me. It deviates from typical Disney-fare quite heavily and even though it's still just a tale of princesses and magic, there's an interesting dark edge to its presentation. More detailed and stylized backgrounds and toned down animation (maybe not as fluid, but definitely more striking) make this film an interesting departure from the typical Disney style. Add to that an impressive ending (loved the dragon there) and what you have is one of the biggest cinematic surprises I've ever encountered.

tom-classics-2.jpg02. The Cranes Are Flying

Mikhail Kalatozov is best known for Soy Cuba (still need to see that one), but from what I've seen so far The Cranes Are Flying is probably a bit more targeted at my own taste. Kalatozov obliterated my prejudice towards the beauty of old black and white films. There are a few scenes here that would still feel relevant in an advanced Tsukamoto film today, using rapid editing, abstract imagery and beautiful contrasts. The film dips a couple of times and the best scenes are definitely found near the beginning of the film, but Kalatozov goes far beyond what could be expected from a director in the 50s. Excellent stuff.

tom-classics-1.jpg01. Go, Go Second Time Virgin

Koji Wakamatsu is awesome, no doubt about it. He makes film far outside the realm of other filmmakers, mixing political messages with semi-documentary elements and then some. His style is so unique that even his older films don't feel outdated, simply because there is so little to compare them to. Go, Go Second Time Virgin is a bleak, stylized Japanese drama that packs quite a punch, leaving you quite perplexed when the end credits start rolling. It's short but powerful, beautiful yet disgusting. If I could ever recommend one classic you should see, this is definitely my number one pick.

That's the list. Should you have any other tips based on the films listed above, they're always welcome of course.

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Ben UmsteadFebruary 28, 2011 2:10 PM

This is an interesting and appreciated approach, Niels. Glad you were willing to share another avenue of cinema as how you travel it. These are all certainly regarded as classics on some level of exposure etc. but it is a unique list too that definitely shows your taste. Back when I was a teenager and watching a lot of "classic cinema", Mépris, Le was essentially the only Goddard film I liked. Still stands that way.

Dustin ChangMarch 1, 2011 11:05 AM

Good list of films but everything older than 1970 as classics? My oh my, I feel so very old.

Niels MatthijsMarch 2, 2011 6:51 AM

Hmmm, my first gut feeling was to take anything older than 1980, glad I narrowed it down a little :p

Ben: yeah, most films in the list are known classics, I do believe you're right that this particular combination says a lot about my personal preference in movies though. Notable exception is Kaidan Yuki Jorou, with only 58 votes on IMDb this film definitely deserves a bigger audience.

Peter CornelissenMarch 3, 2011 7:06 AM

although I am known to disagree with your reviews often and do here again with your view on "classics", I do want to reccomend something and see how it works out, a real classic:

Menschen am Sonntag

I feel this one is at the basis of a lot of modern movie currents like neo-realism, the nouvelle vague and through that also American independent cinema and a whole bunch of Asian movies that you specialize in... so it might just be your cup of tea, would be interesting to read your opinion on that one!

James MarshMarch 4, 2011 10:28 PM

Thought I recognised that photo - caught a screening of GO GO SECOND TIME VIRGIN a couple of years ago & it rarely leaves the back of my mind, not to mention I've been unable to listen to Nina Simone's "Black Is The Colour..." without thinking of scared Japanese girls running along windswept beaches.

magiclandofjordanApril 14, 2011 5:27 PM

Sleepy Beauty is the cumulation – though not the apex, that would be Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom – of the modern movement at Disney led by such people as art and colour director Eyvind Earle, character designer Tom Oreb, animator and director Ward Kimball and later Bill Justice and Xavier Atencio. The "Disney Rarities" DVD has most or at least several of the short films of this, though pretty horribly interlaced and letterboxed. And that's not even to go back as far as the influence of UPA, some of the defining films of which one can see some videos of if you can get one of the original 2-disc DVD editions of Hellboy. I'd recommend at least seeing Gerald McBoing Boing and How Now Boing Boing, Rooty Toot Toot, the two Adventures in Music, Moonbird and just other Earle paintings such as that here.