Top 30 Best Non-2015 Films I Saw for the First Time in 2015

Posted: January 7, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

I’m probably living in a golden age of my own film viewing. Going into 2015, I had already seen dozens of major classics as well as some less appreciated gems which I found to be tremendous works all the same. At the same time, there was enough awesome stuff that I hadn’t seen, to the point where I can compile a list of 30 great films watched for the first time last year and still have to make some hard cuts. Like the last list I posted, the list will not consider films released in 2015, nor will it consider 2014 films I only caught in their theatrical run in 2015. So, without further ado, my top 30 films viewed for the first time in 2015 that were not released in 2015.

30. A Tale of Two Cities (1935) (Watched September 27th)A_Tale_of_Two_Cities_1935_film

I’ve made it a personal goal to see every film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and it’s been something of a mixed journey. The 1930s in particular feature nominees of varying quality, but every so often I’ll come across something special. This adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities is certainly among the better nominees of the decade. The film has a really epic scope, large production value, some great scenes, and it actually handles it’s themes with surprising maturity and grace. It’s not exactly a perfect film, the ending doesn’t quite hit the tone as well as it could have for example, but for the most part this is a fine example of Hollywood production standards being applied to a story with genuine weight.

“It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

29. Chimes at Midnight (Watched May 18th)51xSUCON3xL._SY300_

In the summer, TCM ran a monthly spotlight on the work of Orson Welles and I was able to catch on some of the man’s less famous directorial efforts. I saw some cool stuff, but Chimes at Midnight was far and away the best of all the films I saw. The film actually borrows from five different Shakespeare plays, but instead focuses on minor character John Falstaff. Welles himself stars as Falstaff, and he excels in the role of the overweight and crude knight. As a director, Welles really skillfully works around the budgetary limitations, creating a film which has a suitably epic scale, but also a very gritty feel. This is best emphasized in the film’s most famous scene; a large scale battle with effectively portrays brutal violence. It’s certainly a dramatic film, but it can also be highly comedic and is in fact the funniest Shakespeare film I’ve seen.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

28. All That Heaven Allows (Watched November 9th)ATHA01

All That Heaven Allows would be a good film with just its surface details. It’s an engaging melodrama with some strong acting (particularly from Jane Wyman), beautiful music, and really vivid colour cinematography. But what propels the film to greatness is the subtext. The film is not just a doomed romance, but really about 50s suburbia and sexism. The conflicts which befall Jane Wyman’s character all tie into societal pressures and expectations, some explicitly said (i.e. a middle-aged widow shouldn’t marry a younger man), and some merely implied (i.e. a woman’s place is in the home). Douglas Sirk does an excellent job incorporating these elements into the film and it’s sad just how many of these pressures and sexist thoughts still prevail in modern society. I do think the film leans a bit close to Hollywood conventions in the third act and away from the thematic resonance, but the film remains an accomplishment.

“No, Cary, you’re the one who made it a question of choosing, and now you’ll have to choose.”

27. Umberto D. (Watched January 1st)201_box_348x490_original

Umberto D. was one of the first films I watched in 2015 and it has stuck with me since. I think the secret to Vittorio De Sica’s success is his use of relatable micro stories to address macro problems and Umberto D. is a fine example of this. Through the film, De Sica tackles social and political strife in the Italy of the early 1950s through the experiences of a middle-aged man struggling in poverty. The film uses the same neo-realist visual aesthetic De Sica made famous with The Bicycle Thieves and it lends a lot to the setting and themes. The non-actor performances are naturalistic and effective, particularly the lead turn from Carlo Battisti in the titular role. Indeed, Umberto himself is really the highlight of the film and his struggle is palpable. The third act in particular is really powerful. The more I think about this film the more I wanna see it again.

“Everyone takes advantage of the ignorant.”

26. East of Eden (Watched December 27th)east2

This was actually the last non-theatrical film I saw in 2015 and the fact that it was able to lock a spot on this list so quickly is itself impressive. Based on the John Steinbeck novel, East of Eden looks at a dysfunctional family in the California of the early 20th century. The key to the drama is how well-drawn all of the characters are. Everyone has relatable motives and feelings, even when they’re on opposing sides. Elia Kazan draws great performances out of his cast and James Dean in particular gives one of his most amazing turns. The cinematography is also excellent. Like All That Heaven Allows, I do think the film leans into its melodrama a bit much in the end, but also like that Sirk film, this is one of the best examples of what 1950s Hollywood cinema could be with skill and ambition.

“I don’t want any kind of love anymore. It doesn’t pay off.”

25. The Hidden Fortress (Watched September 30th)hidden fortress

The Hidden Fortress was meant to be a more light hearted and fun film after Kurosawa had dealt with such heavy themes in previous films. The film is certainly lighter than something like Throne of Blood, but this isn’t empty escapism either. In fact the film is a prime example of Kurosawa’s ability to mix adventure stories with greater thematic resonance. The core story involves some peasants, a princess and her bodyguard, and an adventure as the four venture through enemy infested territory. It’s an engaging tale with an adventurous tone, some fun battles, and great cinematography. However the film also looks at class conflict, particularly the relationship of common people to royalty. It may not be quite as deep as some of Kurosawa’s top pictures, but there’s still thematic material to latch onto and the film on the whole is very entertaining.

“Hide a stone among stones, and a man among men.”

24. My Man Godfrey (Watched June 10th)myman

Though regarded as something of a classic, My Man Godfrey isn’t really placed in the pantheon of great slapstick comedies. It definitely should be though because this film is hilarious, very fun, and maybe my favourite of the genre. The story involves a hobo who is made the butler of a rich and dysfunctional family. The film has the great dialogue one expects from slapstick comedy and its brought to life by a hell of a cast. William Powell is one of the great comedic actors of the 1930s and he and Carole Lombard really are great together. I also love Eugene Pallette’s performance as the fed up patriarch of the family and he’s counter-acted greatly by Alice Brady’s turn as a ditsy mother. Gail Patrick also creates a surprisingly effective villain and the film as a whole moves with a tremendous energy. And again, I must restate that this is a very funny film.

“All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people.”

23. Peeping Tom (Watched April 2nd)peeping-tom-poster-1

In 1960, two renowned British filmmakers each made a boundary pushing horror movie about a disturbed and violent murderer. One of these filmmakers was Alfred Hitchcock, whose Psycho became one of the most popular films of all-time and is probably the most iconic of the director’s career. The other filmmaker was Michael Powell, whose Peeping Tom all about destroyed the legendary auteur’s career. The film is an extremely effective work of horror filmmaking. An air of tension and dread pervades over the film and Powell, a known master of technicolour, uses colour in a very unsettling way here. They’re a lot darker than his films are known for. Beyond that though, its themes of voyeurism and sexual violence are well-explored and the film also works as a fascinating metaphor for the dark side of filmmaking. It may have halted the work of a great filmmaker, but at least critics and audiences have come to see the value in this horror gem.

“Whatever I photograph I always lose.”

22. Smiles of a Summer Night (Watched September 7th)smiles

This is not one of Ingmar Bergman’s most talked about films. Perhaps it’s because it came a little to late in his filmography to be lumped into the “early” period, but also predates Bergman’s breakthrough in 1957 with The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. The film is an examination of adultery, but rather than study these themes in a very somber and serious manner, Bergman takes a highly comedic approach. The dialogue is very witty and there are even some physical gags too. This approach proves effective as it underlines the absurdity of these people and their affairs. Also, the film is actually pretty funny too. The film is also really well-shot. The visuals may lack the same power that Bergman and cinematographer Gunnar Fischer would accomplish two years later with The Seventh Seal, but the signs of their brilliance can be found in Smiles of a Summer Night.

“I can tolerate my wife’s infidelity, but if anyone touches my mistress, I become a tiger.”

21. Judgement at Nuremberg (Watched February 16th)Judgment-at-Nuremberg_poster_goldposter_com_4-400x300

Stanley Kramer was a pretty diverse filmmaker, but the man is probably most known for his socially conscious dramas like The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Dealing with the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, Judgement at Nuremberg is among Kramer’s heaviest works. Essentially, the film boils down to a series of conversations (in and out of the courtroom) which deal with themes of war, responsibility, and guilt. The film has an all-star cast which includes the likes of Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Maximilian Schell, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland, among many others. All of these actors give exceptionally strong performances the bit players work is also strong. This isn’t exactly the most fun film to watch, but Kramer’s deadly serious tone is really appropriate and the film on the whole is really gripping.

“We must forget if we want to go on living.”

20. Caché (Watched March 5th)cache

Though not technically a thriller, Caché sure feels like one while watching it. A middle-aged couple begins having threatening tapes sent to them from an unknown couple and it is later revealed the motive may be routed in a dark secret from the husband’s past. The film is shot with a detached dread and also features an extremely intense moment of violence. However what really stands out is the way Michael Haneke uses the central mystery to explore issues of guilt and racism.

“Are you less lonely because you can sit in the garden? Do you feel less lonely in the metro than at home? Well then! Anyway, I have my family friend… with remote control. Whenever they annoy me, I just shut them up.”

19. The Phantom Carriage (Watched June 9th)579_BD_box_348x490_original

The last person to die on New Year’s Eve must take over the job of the Grim Reaper for a year. The Phantom Carriage focuses on one such individual. It’s hard not to be intrigued by a premise like that, and this film loves up to it. The very myth the film lays out is really cool and the film uses it to great effect, where an alcoholic must look back on his own life of violence and cruelty. The real highlight though are the visuals, which are haunting and awesome. I was particularly impressed by the special effects, which still look good, and I can only imagine how mind blowing they were in 1921. A mesmerizing film well ahead of its time.

“Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped.”

18. Short Cuts (Watched September 8th)348full-short-cuts-poster

I’m a huge admirer of the film Magnolia and it was fascinating to finally see its main inspiration; Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. There are ensemble casts, and ensemble casts, and then there’s Short Cuts, which straight up as 20 main characters, many of which played by prominent actors and celebrities. In spite of the stacked cast, really everyone here is in top form and blends nicely. I can’t highlight everyone’s work, but I do wanna single out Tim Robbins, Andie McDowell, Julianne Moore, and Jack Lemmon. Outstanding stuff. The real miracle though is the way Altman is able to balance so many storylines into one cohesive whole. It’s a film that can be both very funny and very sad, as well as being one of Altman’s best pictures.

“I hate L.A. All they do is snort coke and talk.”

17. The Bad Sleep Well (Watched July 14th)the bad sleep well 2

With a lot of really prolific directors, I often begin to worry that I’ve exhausted all of their great films and all I have left to see are efforts ranging from good, to average, to poor. I keep worrying I’ve hit that point with Akira Kurosawa, but every year I see new great works from the legendary Japanese filmmaker. Telling the story of Kōichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune), a young man seeking vengeance on the corporation which led to his father’s death, the film is another fine example of Kurosawa’s ability to blend entertainment with socially conscious messages. Nishi’s process of vengeance is really well-written and visualized in really exciting ways by Kurosawa, but beneath that lies a pointed attack on corporate culture in Japan, particularly in a post-war society. The film also presents a unique viewpoint on revenge, has surprisingly deep relationships, and features another great turn from Toshiro Mifune.

“They starved you and my father with scraps from their table, killed you as scapegoats, and still you can’t hate them.”

16. Hard Boiled (Watched January 7th)Hard-boiled-film-poster

On a script level, Hard Boiled is really outclassed by the rest of the list. There isn’t much in the way of themes, deep characters, or an involved plot to be found in Hard Boiled, what matters here is the execution, and the action scenes in particular. It isn’t just that the action here is good, or even great, but is straight up some of the greatest action scenes ever filmed. These shootouts are straight up staggering, both in how exciting they are and how much work clearly went into them. The long take scenes in the Hospital during the third act are especially amazing. John Woo also shoots the film with a ton of style and the editing is sharp too.

“Give a guy a gun, he thinks he’s Superman. Give him two and he thinks he’s God.”

15. Melancholia (Watched April 12th)Melancholia-poster-008

Another planet is on a collision course with Earth and will wipe out all life on the planet. There are dozens of stories one can tell with that premise, but Lars Von Trier’s approach is perhaps the most unique. Though the coming destruction is a reality within the film, it’s also a manifestation of Justine’s (Kirsten Dunst) depression. The film is a smart exploration of depression and its effects which feels authentic. Kirsten Dunst in particular gives an amazing performance as a woman struggling with hers, and Charlotte Gainsbourg is equally strong as Justine’s caring but frustrated sister. The film is also full of beautiful imagery and a stunning ending. The secret to Melancholia’s success is the amount of layers it works on. It’s a great character study, a great story, a great metaphor, and a great showcase for amazing cinematography.

“Life is only on earth, and not for long.”

14. Faust (Watched January 19th)Faust_1926_MGM_poster_US_Release

If Metropolis is the most visually realized science-fiction film of the silent era than Faust (made by Fritz Lang’s counter-part F.W. Murnau) is the most visually realized fantasy film. The tale is the classic one of a man who sells his soul to the devil, and the consequences of said action. Murnau brings concepts of Hell and Mephisto to the screen in a frighteningly effective manner. The German expressionist style is perfectly suited for this kind of story and the special effects are astounding. The story itself maybe isn’t perfect, but it remains a dark rumination on the nature of humanity and there are some very cynically disturbing undercurrents to the seemingly positive ending.

“A knave like all others. He preaches good and does evil. He seeks to turn base metal into gold.”

13. Boyz N the Hood (Watched March 18th)Boyz_n_the_hood_poster

Boyz N the Hood is probably one of the most important movies of the 1990s. The film helped solidify the New Black Cinema, launched the career of director John Singleton (even if his work since as yet to live up to his freshman effort), and most importantly, helped bring awareness to the issues faced by young black men in inner cities. Clearly, the film deals with a serious subject matter and Singleton faces it with conviction, but this isn’t a miserablist depressing watch. The film is actually full of life, humour, and character. This isn’t really a crime movie so much as it is a coming of age film, albeit one set in a more dangerous setting than films like this usually are. The other reason the film works so well is the nuance in characters. These are not simple good guys and bad guys, but complicated people brought to life by strong performances.

“Something wrong? Yeah. It’s just too bad you don’t know what it is…Brother.”

12. Rififi (Watched April 13th)rififi

I love me a good heist film, and Rififi is the one of the gold standards of the genre. The basic premise involves four cons who come together and meticulously plan a caper. This premise has been done many times after, and even before in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle (which almost made the list), but Rififi is elevated by the amazing execution. The heist itself is an amazing set-piece, a twenty minute long scene with no music or dialogue, merely the diegetic sound within the room. The scene is gripping throughout, in fact even the slightest sound effect is tense. The film’s third act is also fantastic, where we see everything collapse for this thieves. Jules Dassin was working with a lower budget, but he uses that limitation to give the sense a real sense of grit.

“For a job with you he’ll come. Cesar! There’s not a safe that can resist Cesar and not a woman that Cesar can resist.”

11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Watched September 8th)alfredo garcia

With The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah explored the death of the Wild West. With Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Peckinpah presents the possibility that the west never really went away. The land is still ruled by violence, intimidation, and corruption. Even the basic plot of the film, a criminal seeking the head of the titular character as proof of his death, sounds like it could be taken from a western. Instead, the film is set in the 1970s and follows Bennie (Warren Oates), a former soldier who attempts to find the head of Mr. Garcia for the cash promised. The film is as violent as one would expect from Peckinpah, with brutal shootouts often played out in slow motion to really emphasize the loss of life. The third act in particular is amazing, as Bennie undergoes a violent quest in a search for meaning in a meaningless world.

“There ain’t nothing sacred about a hole in the ground or the man that’s in it. Or you. Or me.”

10. Day of Wrath (Watched July 7th)day of wrath

Day of Wrath was Carl Theodor Dreyer’s first film in eleven years, and yet is made with total mastery. The film’s cinematography is very rich, the music powerful, and the editing patient as the tension slowly builds. The story deals with the relationship dynamics of a family in Denmark during the 1600s, specifically involving a man, his stern mother, much younger wife, and son from a previous marriage. It’s a really gripping story with some fascinating characters and relationships, but the subtext is even greater. The film is set during the witch hunts of the time and the film builds of this to become an examination of hatred, ideology, and religious guilt. There are also a lot of parallels one can draw between the film and Nazi Germany, which is pretty bold given the film was made in 1943. Day of Wrath is a slow burn, but it is a very powerful and thoughtful film which resonates long after it’s over.

“There is nothing so quiet as a heart that has ceased to beat.”

9. Persona (Watched June 3rd)Persona_Poster

I liked Persona a lot when I watched it back in June, but I’ve only come to love it more and more as time has gone by (and might even love it more on a rewatch). Ingmar Bergman is known for his amazing visuals and that is certainly true of Persona. What’s really impressive is that many of the film’s most haunting visuals stem from simply how Bergman blocks his actors in the scene. His use of faces, in particular the faces of his lead actresses, is especially striking. The film also features two amazing performances from Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann, as well as some really bold choices from Bergman that pay off in a big way. As for what the film is about…I’m not entirely sure. It’s clear to me that Bergman is exploring issues of identity, love, performance, truth, and existence, but the exact point of it all is unknown to me at this point. I do find myself compelled to see the film many times more though and think on these ideas. I may not know exactly what Persona is saying on a single viewing, but I do know that I am in the hands of a master.

“He’s calling again. I’ll find out what he wants from us. Out here, far away in our loneliness.”

8. The Wages of Fear (Watched April 28th)wages_of_fear_poster

The Wages of Fear is a thriller where four men from a rundown Mexican village are tasked with escorting some oil from one location to another. The catch is the trucks these men are using have not been fit with the appropriate safety precautions. The film is similar to Gravity in that both are thrillers defined by life or death set-pieces. The set-pieces here are truly incredible and it’s really gripping to watch these guys figure out the best way to go about their job. Beyond that, while the characterization is minimal, I did bond with these guys after going through so much with them and the film also serves as a nice metaphor for the exploitation of under-privileged companies by the U.S. for their oil.

“You don’t know what fear is. But you’ll see. It’s catching, it’s catching like small pox! And once you get it, it’s for life!”

7. Grand Illusion (Watched June 8th)grand illusion

Along with his The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is considered among the greatest film of all-time and it’s easy to see why. The film is an extremely well-made prison escape film that creates genuine sympathy and interest in its characters, features some memorable set-pieces, and has an amazing performance from Erich Von Stroheim. All of this would be enough to make Grand Illusion a classic, but the film goes further. Renoir is really looking at the pointlessness of war, as well as observing the dark path the world was heading towards. In many ways, the film is a plea to the countries of the world to avoid the violence and destruction of war. Obviously, things didn’t work out that way, but Renoir deserves credit for his efforts.

“For me it’s simple. A golf course is for golf. A tennis court is for tennis. A prison camp is for escaping.”

6. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Watched March 24th)man who shot liberty valance

John Ford was one of the titans of classic Hollywood, but as the industry began to change in the 1960s, the man gradually faded away. I still put out some good stuff though, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, though technically not his last film, it may well be his swan song. The film stars John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart as two men who represent different ideals. Wayne represents the old school law of the land types which dominate Western myth, while Stewart represents the civilization and law that would eventually prevail. It’s interesting to watch this tug of war between ideologies and it isn’t as simple as one might think. The film also works as a straight-forward Western which is well-shot, with a memorable villain and exciting action. It isn’t a perfect film mind you. The fact that Stewart is playing a young hot shot lawyer is a bit ridiculous, but the character and themes match Stewart’s on-screen persona perfectly, so I can’t complain too much.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

5. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Watched October 20th)nosferatu 2

Today, remakes are generally viewed with disdain by film buffs, and for good reason. However some filmmakers have used remakes as a means of further artistic expression. Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu is one of the best examples of this. Herzog is clearly drawing on the visual aesthetic of F.W. Murnau’s classic, but Herzog also brings his own visual sensibilities to the film. The cinematography is a mix of realism and stylization, and the film also features a haunting score. This approach is wholly appropriate as it legitimizes vampire lore while still maintaining an other worldliness. The visualization of Dracula in Murnau’s film is also perfect for Herzog’s interpretation of character, which sees the Prince of Darkness not as a sexy or mysterious villain, but as a wretched, creepy, and pathetic creature who wants to die. He’s still threatening and scary, but in a different way. Credit is also due to Klaus Kinski for his frightening and complex portrayal of Dracula, and to Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz who also do strong work.

“Time is an abyss… profound as a thousand nights… Centuries come and go… To be unable to grow old is terrible… Death is not the worst… Can you imagine enduring centuries, experiencing each day the same futilities…”

4. Z (Watched April 30th)z

Costa-Gavras’ Z comes barrelling at you like a stampede. The film has a tremendous energy, due in large part to the editing, which is very aggressive and intense. There are some really intense set-pieces here, particularly an assassination scene, but the film is much more than just a thriller. In fact, Gavras is just as interested in the investigation carried out by the magistrate as it is the assassination itself. Gavras does not spend too much time spelling out the conflict for the uninitiated, but enough is known to make this story gripping. In fact, the film’s power comes from how universal it is. Themes of political discontent, confusion, and bitterness can be seen in every country and as such this resonates quite strongly. The downbeat ending in particular is brilliantly executed and is exceptionally relevant in an area where so many powerful people seem to get away with their crimes. Even without its political content, Z still excels as a thriller and procedural made with considerable skill and confidence.

“Want to tell them the truth? They’ll live the truth later.”

3. To Be or Not To Be (Watched March 21st)to be or not to be

Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator is the most famous film to lampoon the Nazis and is also probably the most daring, but for my money, To Be or Not To Be is the greater work. The film is set in Poland right around the time of Nazi invasion, and focuses on a troupe of actors who become entangled in a thriller plot against the Nazis. That may seem a fairly absurd premise, but it’s to the Ernst Lubitsch’s credit that he makes the story seem fairly possible. I’m not sure if this story would have played straight, but there’s more thought put into the plot than really necessary. The film’s goal isn’t necessarily to deliver social messages, but to ridicule the Nazis as much as possible. Lubitsch makes a total mockery of the Third Riech and those who carried out its goals, while simultaneously maintaining the serious threat the Nazis were. The sheer courage to reduce the Nazi soldiers and generals to a punchline is itself worthy of acclaim, and as an added bonus, the film is genuinely really funny. The cast is great, the wit sharp, and the whole thing just as a comedic energy that really moves.

“I don’t know, it’s not convincing. To me, he’s just a little man with a mustache.”

“But so is Hitler.”

2. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Watched March 20th)aguirre

Before 2015, Werner Herzog was one of my most major cinematic blind spots and it felt good to finally rectify that. Aguirre, the Wrath of God is perhaps the man’s most famous film and it is worthy of its lofty reputation. The film follows a Spanish expedition in 1560 to discover the city of El Dorado and the gradual madness as the characters realize the hopelessness of their journey. Herzog shoots the film in a way which feels brutal and real, but also dream-like and abstract. This is the perfect way to shoot a film like this as the setting and conditions are very realistic, even as the men begin to drift further in sanity. Popol Vuh’s score is incredibly haunting and matches the visuals perfectly. The film is also an effective examination of how greed and blind ambition can lead to a fall, embodied perfectly in Klaus Kinski’s striking and surprisingly subtle performance.

“If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees… then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of God. The earth I pass will see me and tremble.”

1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Watched May 15th)the life and death of colonel blimp

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are famous for their lavish Technicolor productions which also dealt in serious thematic ideas and characters. The Red Shoes is their most famous work, but The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is just as emblematic of those trends. The colour cinematography is rich and vibrant, but that isn’t where the visual splendor ends. The costumes and production value where the visual splendor ends. The costumes and production value are period appropriate, and the camera movements are graceful. Despite the lengthy runtime, Colonel Blimp moves forward with tremendous energy. Additionally, the film proves a very deep examination on warfare, ageing, and changing times. All of these ideals are reflected in lead character Clive Candy (Roger Livesey), a British soldier who starts the film as a young man in 1902, and ends it as an old one in 1943. Through it all, Candy remains the embodiment of the gentleman soldier, even as those ideals are gradually lost with the looming threat of the Nazis. Is Candy right to stand by his principles, or is he being an outdated and irrelevant relic? The film wrestles with these ideas, but never fully makes a stand; it merely presents the man as is. That sort of honest complexity can also be observed in the film’s treatment of German soldier Theo (Anton Walbrook). At a time where most German characters were moustache twirling villains, Woolbrook is complex, sympathetic, and pivotal to one of the film’s most emotional scenes. Massive credit is due to Livesey, Walbrook, and Deborah Kerr for their nuanced performances.

More than any other film I saw in 2015, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp feels complete. It is a film which encompasses the wide range of the human condition; at times dramatic, at times comedic, sometimes even both. The film depicts love and joy to sorrow and loss, and everything in between. By film’s end, one really has the sense of a full life and everything which comes with it. However if I had to pick one emotion that encapsulates the work, it would be passion. The passion that these characters have for their lives, for each other, and the passion Powell and Pressburger show for their craft in every scene.

“I often thought, a fellow like me dies – special knowledge, all to waste. Well, am I dead? Does my knowledge count for nothing, eh?”

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