What fun it is to recall some of the most memorable movies I have seen over the years! As teenagers, my sister, our best friend, and I faithfully attended a different movie every weekend. Any new film by Alfred Hitchcock was at the top of our list. Three that we saw are still considered among the best films ever. “Rear Window”, which came out in 1954, featured two all-time favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart and the beautiful Grace Kelly as they sought to figure out what crime they might have observed out of Jimmy’s rear window. We were as thrilled by Grace Kelly’s glamorous clothes as we were by the riveting story. Another hugely successful film by Hitchcock was “Vertigo”, released in 1958. Again starring Jimmy Stewart, this time with Kim Novak as his co-star, this psychological thriller set in San Francisco kept us on the edge of our seat from start to finish. And who can ever forget the murder in the shower in “Psycho”? Produced in 1960 and starting Anthony Perkins, a lonely, dark country setting sets the stage for what is probably Hitchcock’s most powerful psychological thriller.
Another highly dramatic film, “The Three Faces of Eve”, was released in 1957 and recounts the life experience of Chris Costner Sizemore who suffered from multiple personality disorder. It is only when the shocking source of her psychological trauma is uncovered that she is able to regain mental health.
Some movies leave an indelible memory because of the powerful emotional impact they convey. One of the most beautiful movies that I have ever seen was West Side Story. This musical, released in 1961, was based on William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”, and featured the music of Leonard Bernstein. We are charmed by the timeless story of two young lovers and their delightful singing and dancing until the tragedy of Tony’s death unfolds before us. “Schindler’s List” also focused on tragedy and told the story of one man’s heroic efforts to do his part to save lives during the Holocaust of World War II. We watch the bon vivant, playboy, Oskar Schindler, a factory owner producing goods for the Nazi war effort, as he observes with growing alarm the cruelty being carried out around him and is transformed into a driven man consumed by the need to save as many Jewish lives as possible. The movie concludes with a stream of survivors and actors from the film respectfully laying stones on his grave. Another compelling film for me was “Farewell My Concubine”. Released in 1993, “Farewell My Concubine” reflects both the politically tumultuous times of the 20th century in the Republic of China and the complicated relationship between two male opera stars. We are treated to lavishly beautiful scenes of Peking opera performances even as we watch the emotional struggles of the performers. Another most memorable film whose story was told with great sensitivity was “Departures”. This Japanese movie released in 2008 recounts the experiences of a professional musician who has lost his job and inadvertently interviews for work as a mortician. Overcoming his initial reluctance, he takes the job and over time develops a deep appreciation for the dignity and meaningfulness of his work as he prepares bodies for cremation.
Another category of films I have really enjoyed are lighthearted and savor the joy of life. A quadriplegic, someone who is paralyzed from the neck down, is the main character in the film, “The Intouchables”, released in France in 2011. The title is in fact the French word for untouchables, and Philippe, the severely handicapped main character, and Driss, his caregiver, might both be considered outcasts, one for his paralysis and the other for his low status as a poor man who has served time in jail. Philippe was accustomed to a life of adventure until a terrible accident caused his injury. As he interviews men who would be his caregiver, he makes an unconventional choice, hiring someone with no training or background in such service but who doesn’t regard him with pity. As their shared adventures unfold on the screen, we are by turns laughing and then moved to tears as Driss finds ways to return excitement and joy to Philippe’s life. This film is based on true events, and the men in real life continue to be friends to this day. The delightful Indian film, “Monsoon Wedding”, released in 2001 and set in New Delhi, was co-produced by companies in India, the United States, Italy, France, and Germany. The story revolves around a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding with lots of family complications, but in the meantime it’s full of good humor and we get to enjoy seeing all the beautiful costumes and dances by the guests. The Japanese film, “Tampopo”, released in 1985 in Japan, features the art of making ramen noodle soup. It’s silly, lots of fun, and full of vignettes about preparing food.
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane of favorite movies. Please do write and tell us about your most loved films.