Top Ten Visual Masterpieces (Day Two)

#7
Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Available on HuluPlus

No this isn’t the Disney animation. Sure, that’s a beautiful movie too, but it isn’t streaming. This one is an older, darker, Frenchier take on the classic story, and it is filled with such opulent oddities that you can’t look away. There are elements here that are not OK for the kids. While it does maintain its fairy tale feel there is also something scary and erotic about it (watch the way Belle plays with the knife). Directed by Jean Cocteau, another surrealist wizard, Beauty and the Beast is a festival of images that engages our emotions at a subconscious level.

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#6
The Last Emperor (1987)

Available on Netflix

Sometimes a setting is so beautiful that one can hardly photograph it poorly. Such is the case for The Last Emperor, which was shot on location in the palaces and courtyards of China, including some scenes in the Forbidden City. Any filmmaker could have made this look good, but Bernardo Bertolucci and master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro have made this a visual spectacle that fully captures all the beauty and sadness of the story. I forget some elements of the story, but I will never forget the way the images made me feel.

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#5
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Available on HuluPlus

I said before that a scene is worth a million words even without sound. This film proves it. In fact some of the shots in The Passion of Joan of Arc are worth a million words on their own. The film seems to be a bare bones production. There is no scenery, no synched sound, and in some versions no music. But it doesn’t matter. The film is all about human emotion, and the story works best during the close-ups of the characters. There is such raw human feeling in the images that for a while, you can almost believe this a documentation of the real thing.

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