So, a couple months ago, I decided I’d like to do a list of favorite movies from a random 1980s year, and I ended up picking 1986. I ended staying much of the last couple of months watching/rewatching movies for the list below. It is rather long but I would not call it either exhaustive or objective and I think all of them are Worth seeing if They sound interesting for you. As I always like to reinforce when I make one of those, the actual is very personal and random and I would say I prefer the 24th more than 48th and that one more than 72nd, but I would not be so sure if I compare them to movies listed 3 or 4 slots ahead or below.
My favorite shorts from the year are Inventário da Rapina (Aloysio Raulino) and Night Music (Stan Brakhage). A few others I like a lot include Alger la Blanche (Cyril Collard), L’Empire de Médor (Luc Moullet), Meeting’ WA (Jean-Luc Godard), New York, NY (Raymond Depardon) and T’as de Beaux Escaliers, tu Sais (Agnes Varda).
150) Born to Defend (Jet Li)
This list includes a lot of Hong Kong action films as 1986 is one of its peak years so I’m likely repeat the praise for choreography and the care with body movement throughout. This one was the only feature directed by Jet Li, imagining himself very to Bruce Lee as nationalistic Chinese hero and this musical quality is easier to spot.
149) Noir et Blanc (Claire Devers)
A perverse tale of seduction and masochism somewhere between Fassbinder and Jamursch.
148) The Night of the Pencils/La Noche de los Lapiches (Hector Olivera)
A movie about the Argentinean dictatorship politic of “disappearance” made just after its fall and made with an immediacy that gives it strength.
147) Rosa Luxemburg (Margarethe Von Trotta)
Politics as truth theatre. Sukowa’s performance is the movie’s meaning.
146) Witch from Nepal (Ching Siu-Tung)
Superhero film, supernatural romance, horror movie, exotic adventure. Witch from Nepal allows everything and there’s a great Chow Yun-Fat performance and as usual one can trust Ching Siu-Tung for expressive and hallucinatory images.
145) Big Joys, Small Sorrows (Keisuke Kinoshita)
Kinoshita at the end of his career in a family melodrama that exemplifies his humanist gaze.
144) Jazz Daimyo (Kihachi Okamoto)
Eastern and Western dichotomies as seen through Okamoto’s satiric lens.
143) Parting Glances (Bill Sherwood)
Things end but longing for more remains.
142) True Stories (David Byrne)
David Byrne at the peak of Talking Heads’ popularity used his clout to make this movie that shows his populist vein in what it has of more offbeat and warmth. Ed Lachman cinematography by itself justify its presence here.
141) The Devil’s Honey/Il Miele del Diavolo (Lucio Fulci)
It is pretty much what one might expect from a Fulci’s erotic drama, so, it is tortured and decadent far more than pleasurable. It would already be worth for the saxophone as vibrator scene.
140) A Hearty Response (Norman Law)
It is one of those Hong Kong movies with very disparate elements are well balanced. It starts as an almost light comedy and ends tragic and violent.
139) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes)
I’m far colder towards Hughes than most current critics, but this one is perfectly conceived and very funny.
138) Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker)
Surprisingly sad for such a pastiche.
137) Regalo di Natale (Pupi Avati)
The world at a poker table.
136) Acta General de Chile (Miguel Littin)
A process film about trying to take into a large full account the Chilean dictatorship.
135) Dangerous Close (Albert Pyun)
Pyun is a great post-apocalypse filmmaker even when his dystopia is the here and now.
134) Max mon Amour (Nagisa Oshima)
It is a conception more than a drama, but Oshima manages to find on it a surprising tender portrait.
133) Down by Law (Jim Jamursch)
Jamursch mediating three different ways to imagine and live in the world.
132) Armour of God (Jackie Chan)
Jackie nearly killed himself on the set for the pleasure of his fans so the least I can do is including it here. It is no Police Story, but the three main action scenes are physical exercises conceived and executed like few others could.
131) Last Song in Paris (Chor Yuen)
One of the best things about Hong Kong cinema in the 80s is that they had what felt like an infinite line of production of young stars, this one has Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui, Cecilia Yip and Joey Wong, all terrific, and moves with ease through romantic melodrama, comedy and musical numbers.
130) Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen)
One of Allen’s more accessible movies, the romantic roundabout around the sisters is very mechanic, but because it is also far less dependent on his personality, far more satisfactory as well.
129) Cabaret (Haruki Kadokawa)
Cinema disappearing into the night life. Kadokawa’s images mix up with the textures of the club at the film’s center.
128) Two Friends (Jane Campion)
Campion’s first film made for Australian TV and backtracking through the dissolution of two teenager’s friendship. Her talent to capture a carchyr wavelength is already firm in place.
127) Modern Girls (Larry Kramer)
So low key it is near experimental in its dedication for place and time.
126) Magic Crystal (Wong Jing)
Only Wong Jing could possibly made Indiana Jones and ET knock off at the same time and end up with a far more enjoyable film. The action choreography is fantastic and while nothing here makes any sense there is always something insane happening.
125) The Ladies Club (Janet Greek)
One of the more curious movies coming from the rape/revenge subgenre and it does more interesting things with it than many of the recent attempts at revisionism.
124) Brotherhood (Stephen Shin)
One of the fist films made after A Better Tomorrow success. It has its fair share of shootouts, but as the genre asks it is really about guys suffering about how they love other guys. And director Shin finds a good balance between loyalty and economy desperation leading into crime.
123) Happy Din Don (Michael Hui)
Michael Hui was already a major film star in Hong Kong for some 15 years when he did Happy Din Don, enough time for him to decide to whatever he wants including remaking Some Like It Hot because he is into it.
122) Le Paltoquet (Michel Deville)
Essentially an experiment for actors and Deville uses some of the very best performers available for a French filmmaker in the mid-80s.
121) Great Shanghai 1937 (Chang Cheh)
Chang Cheh after the Shaw Brothers. The mix of historical panorama and brotherhood tale that he always loved, but more raw and less seductive than in the 70s.
120) Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola)
One of Coppola’s better for hire projects. It would deserve to be here just by how Kathleen Turner shifts between playing a teenager and thirtysomething women just through body language.
119) Maximum Overdrive (Stephen King)
It is obviously an amateur film, but it does not lack in vision and as an image of society consuming itself it is a very strong horror allegory.
118) Scene of the Crime/Le Lieu du Crime (Andre Techiné)
It might not be quite as good as the two great films Techiné did just before it, but when Deneuve meets the young criminal, it finds incredible strength in their mutual despair.
117) 8 Million Ways to Die (Hal Ashby)
It is actually only one: allowing your addiction, whatever it might be, just consume you entirely. A film packed with flaws for sure, but in which Jeff Bridges’ presence, he is at his very best, as an alcoholic detective for whom the whole action serves as large mirror of temptations and failures everything is justified.
116) Ticket (Im Kwon-taek)
The list includes the two movies Im Kwon-taek made in 1986 and they both might be described as caustic satires about local society moved by the emotion of melodrama. This one about prostitution is very strong in how it deals with dissolution and exploitation of a group of women.
115) Knife Under Throat/Le Couteau Sous la Gorge (Claude Mulot)
French giallo made at the genre’s last grasp. Somewhere between Brian De Palma and Jesus Franco. Few genre entries gives such a strong impression that the filmmaker’s gaze is in such synchrony with the killer’s.
114) Polly Perverse Strikes Again (Dan Sallitt)
USA in the 80s getting out of order in way that complement its own raw video aesthetics.
113) From Beyond (Stuart Gordon)
Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna reuniting with Re-Animator’s main stars (Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton) for another HP Lovercraft adaptation what can be represented in horror and how our desires can open the most absurd of imaginations.
112) Handsworth Songs (John Akomfrah)
Historiography of the present, of the past, of a permanent ghost story.
111) Forest of Bliss (Robert Gardner)
Ethnography as cinema. The camera is a character. The audience’s gaze as part of the process.
110) Inspector Chocolate (Philip Chan)
This is the first Michael Hui movie he didn’t direct since 1974 qand it has a more basic premise than usual with its crime film satire, but the gags are very inspired, and his not very affable persona put to very good use.
109) One Crazy Summer (Savage Steve Holland)
From the art of being proudly stupid.
108) Martial Arts of Shaolin (Lau Kar-leung)
Likr most Lau Kar-leung movies, it has great fight choreography and deep respect for martial arts. It was one of the first Hong Kong films shot in China after the handover deal and the last movie produced by Shaws Brothers before they closed their film department.
107) Act of Vengeance (John Mackenzie)
A movie about labor union disputes with a great cast, directed with patience, a sense of inevitable doom and great eye for working class life by one of the most underrated British filmmakers.
106) Vicious Lips (Albert Pyun)
Pyun is a great formalist of pure cultural detritus. Thematic and materially.
105) Death Shadow (Hideo Gosha)
Gosha’s formalism perfect deployed so every shot is a trap in strong colors. And few directors film swordplay this well.
104) Le Passage (René Manzor)
Fictions of apocalypse. A fantasy about images we create, with the simplicity of a children film, art direction that would kill Tim Burton with envy and very specific morbidity.
103) 52 Pick-up (John Frankenheimer)
I suspect Frankenheimer had no idea he was filming a remarriage comedy. And that is probably for good as half of the fun in 52 Pick-up is in the disarrangement between the hyperreealistic sadism of his direction and Elmore Leonard’s ironies. The other half is the great cast.
102) Mix-Up ou Meli-melo (Françoise Romand)
On the pleasures of a good tale and hoe to find the right distance for better telling it.
101) Avenging Force (Sam Firstenberg)
From around a decade betweeb 1983 and 1992 Sam Firstenberg was one of the world’s best action directors with a facility to make good use of small budgets with creativity and a good eye for movement. Avenging Force is awfully close to Woo’s Hard Target but more punishing than exuberant.
100) A Promise (Yoshishige Yoshida)
Yoshishige Yoshida return to cinema after over a decade for this investigation about aging and death. It is a very tough movie about the law of men and society and how they can’t always be reconciled.
99) La Mansion de Aracuiama (Carlos Mayolo)
Author Álvaro Matis wrote the novel to show for his friend Luis Buñuel that there were such a thing that could be described as a “tropical gothic” and director Carlos Mayolo adapts it as a study on what “damned place” means around here.
98) Il Était une Fois la Télé (Marie Claude-Treilhou)
In a very specific place between documentary and fiction, an evocation of life on France provinces that mix curiosity and very controlled formalis, moving through contradictory impulses like they were continuous. Treilhou is a filmmaker who should be muvh better known.
97) House on Fire (Kinji Fukasaku)
Beyond his natural talent for anarchic mayhem, Kinji Fukasaku was a brilliant satirist and social observer, and this is one of his funniest films from what at first might sound the most noble and respectable material.
96) The Color of the Money (Martin Scorsese)
Paul Newman is so great on this one it is a shame the movie is not more memorable, but the first 70 minutes are terrific. A corrupt movie about how corruption is exciting.
95) Adjustment & Work (Frederick Wiseman)
Wiseman’s methodical eye applied to a school that helps bring handicapped people back into world of work. It is at the same time a movie about the idea of filming work and a thoughtful take on what it means to “socialize” people.
94) Malandro/Ópera do Malandro (Ruy Guerra)
Like most of Ruy Guerra’s late movies this adaptation of Chico Buarque’s musical (sort of Brazilian take on The Treepenny Opera) is very specific and personal above all in how it sets to stylize and establish its take on Rio bohemia. Guerra’s movies always have a feeling of unbelonging in its relationship to the country and this might be the one that brings this foreign gaze more upfront.
93) Round Midnight (Bertrand Tavernier)
A little more sentimental than ideal, but a must for jazz fans for its portrait of its world and Dexter Gordon’s performance.
92) To Sleep So as to Dream (Kaizô Hayashi)
Sort like a silent serial pastiche as detective movie. Cinema as much as collective memory and unconscious mirror.
91) Mon Cas (Manoel de Oliveira)
And Manoel has fun in his Bressane day.
90) Inspector Lavardin/Inspecteur Lavardin (Claude Chabrol)
The second of the four films Chabrol did starring Lavardin, gibing that he is closer to the center of this one it becomes more obvious how the game is about question if the classic detective story is not a way of masking a perverse desire of watching and using the people the main character get involved with.
89) Il Commissario Lo Gatto (Dino Risi)
How foolish are the Italian men – part I. Dino Risi having fun satirizing small town Italy his big town foolish detective, The big achievement is that while Lo Gatto stays more time distracted by the bikinis of the women around him, the intrigue he is involved is treated with deep respect.
88) La Machine au Decoudre (Jean-Pierre Mocky)
Cinema is a gun and a vector for an out-of-control libido. Mocky is great satirist having a wonderful time.
87) The Inquiry/L’Inchiesta (Damiano Damiani)
A materialist film about the origins of Catholicism by the communist Damiani structured like an existential detective story that traces how the teachings of Christ went from a practical and political matter of Palestine’s life to the basis of a faith.
86) Saving Grace (Robert M. Young)
In a certain way, a move that completes well Damiani’s. Among other things for also dealing with matters of Catholic faith from the perspective of the differences between action and symbol. It makes me think a lot about Leo McCarey’s humanist comedies. Tom Conti and Giancarlo Gianinni are great. Young is one of my favorite filmmakers on the fringes of New Hollywood.
84) Crawlspace (David Schmoeller) and Link (Richard Franklin)
Two great exercises on perverse horror made from possessed lead performances, Klaus Kinski as a nazi voyeur in Crawlspace and a jealous monkey in Link. They are both disturning films in how they observe their main relationships and very efficient in their creation of horror sequences. Schmoeller has openly acknowledge that he and his producer considered killing Kinski in an “accident” so in the case of Crawlspace the killing desires were really in the set.
83) Stammhein: The Baader-Meinhof Gang on Trial (Reinhard Hauff)
The trial of the terrorist group shown in the driest manner possible: the court and the behavior of all involved. A film about political performance through gesture and space, aboiy individual and state and what defines the idea of terror.
82) It’s Not All True/Nem Tudo é Verdade (Rógerio Sganzerla)
The origins of Brazilian cinema according to Rogério Sganzerla. A bitter comedy about failure.
81) Love Unto Waste (Stanley Kwan)
If Patrick Tam’s Love Massacre was a Taiwanese New Wave film. And there is a Chow Yun Fat in a state of grace, all of the movie feelings resting in his yearning eyes as he observe at distance the main characters.
80) Working Girls (Lizzie Borden)
Money and social performance. The images created to allocate capital. It is an intelligent and well observed film about a series of perverse processes.
79) Women Who Do Not Divorce (Tatsumi Kumashiro)
I consider Tatsumi Kumashiro the best Japanese filmmaker stablished in the period between the explosion of the Japanese New Wave and the arrival of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Takeshi Kitano at the start of the 90s. His best work was done in the 70s when he made desperate little erotic dramas for Nikkatsu, Women Who Do Not Divorce is from a later more affluent period, bit the feelings still suggest the same rawness. And the sisters Chieko and Mitsuko Baisho are wonderful on screen.
78) The Last Emperor (Li Han-Hsiang)
It is a little like the opposite of Bertolucci’s film, of a simplicity and austerity and a portrait noy of a man-symbol moving through roles, but his complete inadequacy.
77) Matador (Pedro Almodóvar)
Almodóvar‘s Jesus Franco film. It was made before he become a fashionable auteur and remains one of my favorites. A great comedy about the idea of murder as sexual release so recurring in horror movies.
76) Sarraounia (Med Hondo)
Perhaps one of the most radical ways of making an anti-colonialist cinema is to make a cinema about European barbarism. Med Hondo appropriate an idea of what would be a western epic to implode it under the African landscape.
75) Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast (Nobuhiko Obayashi)
Abour growing up in a psychotic Japan just before the Second War. The child can only watch in an anarchic way that sick adult world.
74) Let’s Hope It’s a Girl/Speriamo che sia femmina (Mario Monicelli)
How foolish are the Italian men – part II. Monicelli at his element. Bitter and very funny. And a great cast.
73) She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee)
A very refreshing debut as much in the way Lee’s images keep finding new things as the manner, he draws closer to each of the main character.
72) Royal Warriors (David Chung)
A sentimental favorite because it was the first Hong Kong movie I’ve seen. A very rich and varied work of action choreography, a scene leading to another always in different registers that adapt to the multiple spaces inhabit by the characters.
71) Havre (Juliet Berto)
One of the three features that Juliet Berto directed in the 80s. Very haunted by a ghost image of what might have remained of the New Wave at that moment, through a very personal reading. Berto starts from the harbor as space so often privileged in French cinema to rethink those images om her manner.
70) Man Facing Southeast/ Hombre Mirando al Sudeste (Eliseo Subiela)
A fantastic investigation about an impossible to describe malaise.
69) The Horse Thief (Tian Zhuangzhuang)
It is fascinating to observe the very controlled mannerism of the Chinese Fifth Generation applied to a landscape film so radically different from the studio dominated work that first made Kaige and Yimou’s names.
68) Highlander (Russell Mulcahy)
Can a romantic ideal survive in an MTV present? A film that exists in the contrast about an idea of mythic adventure of an epic and idealized past and a bleak present and how Mulcahy’s aesthetic options p-articular the constant mobile camera and the excessive art direction work to suggests a continuity between them. Mulcahy made better movies before and after, but it is this idealism that keeps it, his better known one.
67) Dust in the Wind (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Rewatching Dust in the Wind for this project it final down on me that one of the reasons I answer so strongly to Taiwanese New Wave movies is how their premises remain very close to a western: the constant conflict between the needs of individual and society and the sacrifices involved, the historiography gaze, the recurring presence of memory, the trauma and excitement of national formation. Dust in the Wind, the title could have been from a 1956 Universal western, has all of that and Hou usual formal control.
66) Sleepwalk (Sara Driver)
The city and the fantastic narratives that exist in it. A film about contemporary paranoia and the fictions that promise to accommodate it.
65) True Colours (Kirk Wong)
One of the many Heroic Bloodshed movies that come out in Hong Kong in 1986 and given this one leading man is also Ti Lung it is very easy to approximate it of A Better Tomorrow, but Kirk Wong is not John Woo, his take is more sensationalist and there’s no divine. If it also observes a passage of a way of seeing the world, it just let it disappear in a brute materialism
64) Shadows in Paradise (Aki Kaurismäki)
Garbagemen also dream. Kaurismäki has made this same film a bunch of times, but this one is one of the more romantic and the presence of death gives it even more feeling.
63) That’s Life! (Blake Edwards)
Speaking of filmmakers who made the same movie a dozen times, Edwards kept making variations on his phobias. This one about mortality isn’t one of the funniest, but it is of bitter despair. Jack Lemmon’s late night attack is one of the better scenes Edwards come up with between horrifying and hilarious. One of Julie Andrews’ better performances.
62) Ginger & Fred (Federico Fellini)
Time has been kind for this late Fellini because it just reinforced how its tiredness is central to what it is about and how its portrait of Italian society leads to Berlusconi. It is like the world has finally reach Fellini and he didn’t like what he sees.
61) Thérese (Alain Cavalier)
An immediate film without any distance about a woman who gives everything for her love that happens to be God. Cavalier finds a form of divine materialism.
60) Heartbreak Ridge (Clint Eastwood)
The closest Clint Eastwood came of making a John Wayne comedy, but like most Eastwoods pitched around this tone it is taken by a deep melancholia of someone who understands its own mortality.
59) À Titre Posthume (Paul Vecchiali)
Crime film pastiche made by Vecchiali for French TV. Old forms given new body through inventive staging, an inspired cast and a sense of tragedy.
58) Passion (Sylvia Chang)
Sylvia Chang’s first feature about the memories of two women about the dead husband of one of them and their love triangle and it is a fair though movie about friendship, desire andlives shared.
57) Talking Cinema/O Cinema Falado (Caetano Veloso)
Caetano Veloso tells in his 60s autobiography Tropical Truth mentions how when he moved to Rio he planned to be a filmmaker, but he ended directing just this one some 20 years after his first album. It is a little like Julio Bressane filmed Caetano’s own navel gazing, his detractors will find it just affected, but it is as maddening as it is beautiful in its dedication of going through its proposal until the end.
56) Mémoire des Apparences (Raul Ruiz)
Life is a fiction, it is a dream, it is death. Cinema is every one of those, but it is above all a hallucination, at least when Raul Ruiz set himself to express his faith.
55) The Big Easy (Jim McBride)
It is usually described as a neonoir, but it is much closer to a screwball comedy with Ellen Barkin as Cary Grant and Dennis Quaid as Katherine Hepburn. The stars are wonderful, and the movie is sexy, violent, amoral and absolutely nothing in it would get greenlight today.
54) La Puritaine (Jacques Doillon)
Doillon has always been closer to Pialat and La Puritaine suggests A Nous Amours returned as a farce about the theatrical games behind artistic amorality. Bonnaire and Piccoli are great.
53) Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki)
Castle in the Sky must be one of the more straightforward movies Studio Ghibli did as much in its narrative beats as the roles taken by its main characters, but if it is less radical the animation imagination is every bit as impressive as their other 80s films.
52) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton)
There is no possible nobility in a realist ideal on movies. Only new forms of violence and exploitation.
51) Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes (Piotr Szulkin)
Ga-ga is the fourth film in a tetralogy of dystopic and satirical science fictions that Piotr Szulkin made in the 80s. Of course, they are all about living in Poland in the last days of communist government and I love how they are of a piece, but different among themselves. I think I prefer the previous year Obi-Oba, but Ga-ga must be the funniest and because of that the most desperate. The word hero is repeated so many times it goes from joke to a form of aggression to joke again.
50) Tree Without Leaves (Kaneto Shindo)
I find it curious that there is not more writing about the parallels between Kaneto Shindo and Manoel de Oliveira. Shindo died in his centenary in 2012 and made his last feature at 98 and the last three decades of his life were dedicated to a series of introspective films with the distinct eye of someone who lived long and is revisiting images and ideas that left an impression. Tree Without Leaves is a very deliberate crafted film about autobiographical fiction and the weight certain images left in the memory.
49) Baixo Gávea (Haroldo Marinho Barbosa)
Nights of Disquiet in Rio at the late 80s. That defeated melancholia in which carnal desire and intellectual imagination make you expect something that never comes, but also the knowledge that there will be more bohemian nights, more bars, more beer, another asshole and those few moments that justify everything.
48) The Sidewalks of Saturn/Las Veredas de Saturno (Hugo Santiago)
Hugo Santiago had been living in France in exile for many years when he sit up with writers Juan José Saer and Jorge Semprún to imagine this fantasy about returning to a promised mythic Latin America in unreachable conditional future. Ricardo Aranovich’s wonderful location cinematography, lots of music and this impossible and eternal promise of Latin identity. It is an adventure of parallel realities, plenty of paranoia, almost two and half gours with few ways out, but very emotive.
47) Gombrowicz, o la Seducción (Representado por sus Discípulos) (Alberto Fischerman)
In some ways it complements Santiago’s film, as it does a good deal of Raul Ruiz European filmography. Only the exiled is the European artist – Polish writer Wiltold Gombrowicz who lived a quarter of century ostracized in Argentina – restored here through the memories of his so-called disciples who start in the bar until Fischerman fragments their recollections multiple representations that handle the many traces of this relationship with the old continent.
46) Gilsoddeum (Im Kwon-taek)
TV is at the start of this Im drama. The govern controlled images of families separate at the Korean War reunited in that moment just before the Seoul Olympics, with South Korea taking its place as proud new Asian tiger. Im’s film is a pure melodrama that tries to reckon with it, about a mother in search of her lost son and the abyss fiction can’t erase. A movie about a devasted and unforgiven landscape.
45) Gonza the Spearman (Masahiro Shinoda)
Another film by a Japanese master. This one is a late samurai film that exists at the opposite of the usual genre, at times of piece, with a lot of non-action and by consequence an ever-bigger dedication towards repression that the images bring into question. Desire, action, movement are all framed in fixed image ready to explode.
44) No More Comics! (Yojiro Takita)
A delicious satire of television sensationalism. Very inventive and packed with great moments of comedy of discomfort. It brings to mind some of Kitano’s work, and he has a cameo.
43) Routine Pleasures (Jean-Pierre Gorin)
Gorin is of course known almost exclusively for co-directing Jean Luc Godard’s maoist period. This is one of the essay films he did later after immigrating to US and becoming a college professor This one about collectors a miniature trains is very much about the fascination of Americana to foreign eyes.
41) At Close Range (James Foley) and River’s Edge (Tim Hunter)
This two movies share the same producers, a similar preoccupation with juvenile delinquency and the abyss between teenage and adult worlds, and the tribalism that structure them and the same firm eye to the poorest parts of 80s US ripped from the most grotesque and hard to represent crime headlines. They are also both movies haunted for a certain promise of post war American cinema (Elia Kazan’s son even wrote At Close Range although Nick Ray is closer to both) in moment it complete disappeared. River’s Edge is an autopsy and At Close Range an operatic melodrama, but both are movies about betrayal, about the complete absence of future in those communities even in face of supposed strongest bonds. And they both also share some wonderful acting, Crispin Glover and Dennis Hooper in River’s Edge and At Close Range there’s Sean Penn and Christopher Walken who might just play the greatest devil in all movies.
40) Double Messieurs (Jean-François Stévenin)
This is the second of the three features directed by Stévenin, one of those actors who pop upin minor roles in dozens of local movies, and who happens to be quite talented behind the camera. It is a series of fictional situations that seem proposed, so two middle aged men fixed in their teenage personas are forced to adapt themselves.
39) Soul (Shu Kei)
Cassavetes’ Gloria, but the role of motherhood is put in a secondary position for an idea of reinventing identity that exists exactly apart from family. It is one of the best roles played by Deanie Ip, who is always a positive presence in Hong Kong cinema, and it is directed by film critic Shu Kei as an almost musical. Much like Love Unto Waste, it is a film with a strong relationship with Taiwanese cinema from the period including a key support role for Hou Hsiao-hsien. It was also the first Hong Kong movie shot by Christopher Doyle.
38) A Girl in Summer/Uma Rapariga no Verão (Victor Gonçalves)
If there’s something Portuguese did wonderfully in those years, it was evocations of uncertainty of youth.
37) Golden Eighties (Chantal Akerman)
Chantal Akerman’s musical satire about the 80s set in a mall with a very good young cast and that taste for artificial construction that sometimes animate her movies. It is so well observed I sometimes think it is a period film.
36) Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter)
It is easy to imagine that at some point in the early 80s John Carpenter watched Tsui Hark’s Zu Warriors of the Magic Mountain and decided he wanted to do one of those, but his leading man would be John Wayne as played by Kurt Russell.
35) Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company /Grandeur et Décadence d’un Petit Commerce de Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard)
As much of Godard’s work from this period it is a twilight comedy as melancholic as it is funny. It is certainly one of the movies that best use Jean-Pierre Léaud neurotic persona. It is a little about the disappearance of what was left of the New Wave represented there by Godard himself, Léaud burt also by Jean-Pierre Mocky who was at the fringes of the movement and show up at the list earlier.
34) Bell Diamond (Jon Jost)
US, the 80s, small town Montana. The marriage ends, the mine closes, places agonize, but that idea of the frontier, of seeking for something remains, even more incomprehensible. Jon Jost’s movies are a little about that.
33) Mammame (Raul Ruiz)
Ruiz shoots a ballet, but more important Ruiz shoots the meeting between body and light, and by so cinema and the fictions it allows.
32) The Hitcher (Robert Harmon)
One of the more interesting among action/horror hybrids common in American cinma of the period because it is one who pushes the idea furthest. It is a western with cars in which the possibilities of the frontier are replaced by the sadism of the road and the meeting with the gunslinger with supernatural entity there to push that final duel to limit.
31) Above the Law (Corey Yuen)
At a certain point of Above the Law, Yuen Biao fights a group of cars and Corey Yuen stages everything in a manner that turn it into a dance between equals. One of the things that impress me the most about Above the Law is the mismatch between the exuberance that Yuen imagines the action sequences and the nihilism of the drama. It is like in a complete corrupt world, it was left for the artist to imagine incredible and dangerous feats to produce at least some moments that allow it a escape.
30) The Sea and the Poison (Kei Kumai)
An investigation about inhumanity through two institutions, medicine and war, that give men a lot of power over each other. Kumai goes to one of the hornet’s nest Japanese society often avoids, on this case the true case of a group of doctors who decided to dissect American prisoners because “they are going to be executed anyway”. Very disturbing.
29) I Love You (Marco Ferreri)
How foolish are the Italian men – part III. Christopher Lambert as a man who finds a head doll that says, “I love you” and becomes addicted to it. Desire in a mechanized world is an old Ferreri obsession and the movie never let one forgets that “I love you” is cinema’s eternal promise.
28) Mala Noche (Gus Van Sant)
Queer desire and its most obsessive and disturbing implications. This was Van Sant’s first feature and remains one of his best and most radical. Like a lot of his work, it is about setting one up at a place and look at everything good and bad one can take from it.
27) Kamikaze Hearts (Juliet Bashore)
A fair image. About the weight of the camera and every power relationship that comes from it. It is a movie that sets itself at an uncomfortable place between fiction and its characters’ lives. Because everything there is the same disarrangement, the same unsolved power struggle, filmmaker and characters, their performances in the sex industry, their relationship, their addictions. There’s no distance allowed, director Juliet Bashore isn’t worried about looking good, but only that her portrait remains fair about this power and all processes involved.
26) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper)
If the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre was as Robin Wood says a return of repressed violence with little mediation, pure id of American society spite back at the audience, this sequel made a dozen years later with much more money, a famous actor, elaborate sets and artificial staging that is remembered for far more explicit blood and guts, comes thought, formed and ugly the way Hooper wanted. The history of Hooper’s generation of horror filmmakers through the 80s is of a harsh negotiation with their own upward mobility in the industry, this is the movie that most direct confront it.
25) Faubourg St Martin (Jean-Claude Guiguet)
Evocation of a place. About how the camera moves through every inch of the hotel of the title, Paris night and the mysteries both countain.
24) Aliens (James Cameron)
I wrote earlier about the amount horror/action hybrids at the time and Aliens remains the greatest one. A visceral machine perfectly sustained and anchored by Weaver’s presence. This isn’t the most productive periods of Hollywood history, but Aliens show the illusion machinery working as great as possible in the mid-80s. It is also the best among all the alternate Vietnam scenarios recurring at the time.
23) Dream Lovers (Tony Au)
Tony Au, master of Hong Kong melodrama in a film that puts into question the romantic ideal that move those films. There’s beautiful and charismatic stars (Chow Yun-Fat and Brigitte Lin), dreams, loves that recur through time and fates long written and yet the film is as beautiful as it is sad and destructive animated by the certainty that the fiction of this dreamed love lefts a wreckage in its wake.
22) His Motorbike, Her Island (Nobuhiko Obayashi)
It is a road movie, a landscape film, about the attraction it produces, the romantic ideal on this one is always menaced by an idea of death rounding every turn (The Hitcher Brazilian title “Death Hitches a Ride” would be a less poetic rather blunt but apt title). The idea is to always fill the image and the places with a mix of desire and memory that remains impossible to contain.
21) Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax)
Much like Havre, it is a movie about the poetic possibilities of the New Wave in the very artificial 80s, but not from the point of view of someone who was active involved with its movies, bit by someone who watched them at the French Cinematheque between Chaplin and Murnau screenings.
20) I Love Dollars (Johan van der Keuken)
A film of the world, autopsy of our neoliberal nightmare, it is from 1986, but it is an origin story that could be about 2008, 2016, 2018, one can pick. Johan van der Jeuken visits four major economic hubs (New York, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Geneva), each one symbolic on its own manner and finds their multiple portraits about how one lives or don’t with a strong sense for all the other worlds that exists beyond them. It is travel diary made by a lonely man with a camera and this aesthetic choice is essential for its meanings. Curious, angry and incisive.
19) The Millionaire’s Express (Sammo Hung)
Sammo Hung’s great film orgy. Everything can fit in its celebration, from the most elaborate and varied action scenes to slapstick comedy, every star he manages to include, and it is organized as sort a foundational Chinese western. It is a pleasure and the kind of film only someone incredibly talented with a blank check from its local film industry can quite pull.
18) The Rose King/Der Rosenkönig (Werner Schroeter)
An operatic melodrama about how the world burns and cinema exists to give body to deliroys desire, to capture a world whose senses cannot quite exist in any other form of art.
17) Manhunter (Michael Mann)
On Mann’s cinema there’s usual a romantic and a pragmatic impulse, the desire of personal life and the work of man of action. But Manhunter is more horror than crime film even if it is structured as a police investigation, it is a hunting film as the title announces, the pure clinical gaze of psychologist cop (a kind of new mad doctor for a modern world) finds the visceral intensity of the movie’s image. It is a movie above all else about the act of seeing, but more precisely of seeing terrible things and the consequences left from such action.
16) The Fly (David Cronenberg)
Speaking about update the mad scientist figure, The Fly is Frankenstein if the good doctor and the creature become one and same and it is even more painful human the more grotesque the effects become. And thanks to Jeff Goldblum and Genna Davis it is strongly romantic.
15) Just Like Weather (Allen Fong)
Allen Fong was one of the key figures of Hong Kong New Wave, but his work almost never plays in the west because his cinema is far from our expectations about what is made there. His 80s films explore questions of self-fiction that would become far more popular years later. In Just Like Weather, a young couple restages the difficulties of their marriage for Fong himself who gets on screen as an instigator/manipulator, a movie about what cinema captures of a truth, but also the power it has over those people that subject themselves to it. It brings to mind some things Abbas Kiarostami would’ve do later.
14) He Stands in the Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (Jonas Mekas)
Like in every other Mekas diary films, one shares a life. On this one the emphasis is in the idea of meeting and portrait, a camera that breathes the people Mekas shared his time and all the events that allow it. A life shared in community, touching and political.
13) Fulaninha (David Neves)
In a Copacabana square one can find all of cinema and of world. The height of Rio chronicle, everything is filmed with no judgement, puts every power relationship, crooked action, every drop of beer and drunk self-justification. It is another movie about the gaze, but David Neves has no distance or dispositif to account for it, only a large generous passion for everything and everyone that crosses his camera.
12) Something Wild (Jonathan Demme)
Moving up all the time while reinventing oneself without even leaving the same place. That contradiction that Demme manages to give life to the abrasive farce, but at same time very tender in its portrait, above all those minor characters it keeps picking up and allowing privileged moments. Daniels, Griffith and Liotta are all great.
11) Maine Ocean (Jacques Rozier)
It is actually a very similar movie to Something Wild, but it is as French as the other is American. The adventure is experimental and not narrative, the game is made clear, and the main character remain behind the camera proposing and reacting to every new scenario. One can create a world out of a bunch of gringos trying to play Chico Buarque’s Meu Caro Amigo. If one can say that the New Wave origins can be traced to young post war French cinephiles appreciation of Howard Hawks movies, Maine Ocean is the closest a filmmaker linked to the movement come to reinvent his movies.
10) In a Glass Cage/Tras el Cristal (Agustí Villaronga)
A depraved fairy tale about cycles of abuse, power, fascism and Spain’s moral complicit on World War II as a series of baroque horror scenes.It is disturbing like few films. Beyond that, the main murder sequence midway through is one of high points of horror movies, so long and elaborate with an emphasis focusing fully on victim step by step understanding about the impossibility of coming out of it alive. Sick nightmare cinema passed through generations.
9) Terrorizers (Edward Yang)
Desolate city, every violence places contain and how people keep on living there.
8) A Better Tomorrow (John Woo)
John Woo was making movies for a decade when he did A Better Tomorrow, and it is one of those films that feel like discovery. It is certainly one of the most influence movies on this list with impact in most action cinema of the following decades even if it is really a melodrama about guys willing to go through bloody ballets for their love of other guys. One thing that always impresses me is how conscious everything in it is from casting on, it is a film that purposes to update the brotherhood movies that made Chang Cheh’s name, stylized period pieces about an idealized heroism in the basis Chinese masculine identity, to a new urban and hyper capitalist Hong Kong, predicted in the passage between generations from the criminal brother to the yuppie cop brother and how that passage exists in a troubled ambiguous space, that this better tomorrow is far from a factual given thing.
7) The Green Ray/Le Rayon Verte (Eric Rohmer)
If one seeks enough, cinema is able to produce miracles.
6) In The Shadow of the Blue Rascal/À l’Ombre de la Canaille Bleue (Pierre Clementi)
Post punk dystopia. It is an almost musical, almost crime film, almost science fiction. At a police state, the only possible form of resistance is the authenticity of the body, cinema as a way of existence.
5) Filme Demência (Carlos Reichenbach)
If Cabra Marcado para Morrer is the greatest Brazilian film of the 80s, Filme Demência is its biggest radiography (curiously they are both movies dependent on the twenty year interval of the military dictatorship, Cabra between the original shooting shutdown by the coup, Filme Demência for its constant dialogue with 1965 São Paulo S/A). It is a film on the ruins of Brazil’s so called lost decade. The Brazilian Faust is a bankrupt factory owner, castrated, tormented by the weight of recent past and dreaming of an impossible paradise that inside the movie’s logic can only exist in a return to film image.
4) Rosa la Rose, Public Girl/Rosa la Rose, Fille Publique (Paul Vecchiali)
To love is a terrible and without escape submission. If all Vecchiali’s movies are about recovering the power of drama, this is the one that pushes its idea to its bitter end. If The Green Ray highlight the complete synchrony between Eric Rohmer and Marie Rivére, Rosa la Rose does the same for Vecchiali and Marianne Basler, co-auteurship duets the films can only exist through their presences.
3) Hovering Over Water/À Flor do Mar (João César Monteiro)
On possible lives, those already lived and those that might be lived. It is another film to returning to a tradition of romantic fiction, but Monteiro’s emphasis is less in the film image than the gesture of telling stories. A romance between an Italian widow and an American terrorist pirate that could only happen by the Portuguese sea because certain types of mythic tales can only take place in Europe when they happen to be in Portugal.
2) Mélo (Alain Resnais)
From the art of filling a room with feeling. Every film from Resnais final 3 decades are born from Mélo: the deliberate theatrical staging, the musical rhythm (how can movies who are set so clear as literary adaptations always remain pieces of music?), the fidelity and absolute dedication of recurring cast (Azema, Arditi and Dussolier would still all be there on screen when Resnais, at 91, made his final film in 2013) and that emphasis in what was unsaid, unacted, what remains imagined.
1) Peking Opera Blues (Tsui Hark)
Politics as performance of social and gender roles. From Chinese opera to Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps, from west to east, women and men, from the comedy of changing sexual identities to complete suspension of gravity, everything is swallowed and reimagined. Revolutionary popular cinema as it was rarely made.