FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

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Brothers Grimm, The

By BrianOrndorf

August 26th, 2005

As much as I respect Terry Gilliam and downright love some of his movies, he isn’t the first name that pops into mind when the term “consistent tone” is used. “Brothers Grimm” is the latest Gilliam carnival ride, and, while carefully made, the film crumbles quickly, dissolving into a noisy, overblown fantasy/comedy experience not even the glorious Monica Bellucci can save.


Brothers Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger) Grimm are two traveling 19th century con men, roaming the German countryside claiming wild abilities to defeat demons and witches of all sorts. When the French government (led by Jonathan Pryce), captures the brothers, they send to them a desolate village where the children are mysteriously disappearing at a rapid rate. In way over their heads, the siblings attempt fake their way around the situation, but when it is revealed an evil queen (Monica Bellucci, not in the film nearly enough) is at the heart of the problem, the brothers need more than their wits to survive.

Though he’s tried mightily over the years, “Brothers Grimm” marks Terry Gilliam’s first film in seven years to hit the big screen. The former Monty Python visual wizard has always believed that more is more, and “Grimm” plays right into his arms. A noisy, tonally berserk fantasy horror film, “Grimm” quickly reminds the viewer why is it’s so hard for Gilliam to find funding for his visions these days.

I don’t mean that as a slam on Gilliam – any man who could make something as poignant and delightful as “The Fisher King” is a friend of mine. “Grimm” just indulges the director in the most unfortunate ways. Built upon the themes of fairy tales and a fictional look at the birth of the Grimm writing career, the picture tries to style itself a comic fantasy, with heavy dark undertones of witchcraft and danger. Right from the outset, Gilliam is encouraging his actors to silly it up in an effort to stave off the rowdy nature of the visuals and the story, and in the hands of Damon and Ledger, the jokes wilt right away. While both are talented actors, they can’t breathe under the weight of Gilliam’s frantic camerawork and special effects. This leaves all the attention on the artifice of “Grimm.”

This being Gilliam, a man known for his meticulous production designs, “Grimm” is an eye-popping visual extravaganza encrusted in the director’s favorite substance: mud. From the sinking roads to the actors’ faces, everything is covered with mud. Mud even plays a character in the film, in a scene where a sludge monster rises from a well, steals a little girl’s face, and chases her around. Shot on mammoth soundstages, Gilliam does his best to liven up the space with period ornaments, a large assortment of bugs and creepy-crawlies, and distorted camera lenses. Yet the film feels claustrophobic, and with the lion’s share of the action taking place at the Queen’s foreboding tower, the epic scope that Gilliam is trying to achieve is constrained by the single locale. “Grimm” is another visual exercise for Gilliam, along the lines of “Time Bandits” or “Brazil,” but it lacks the exhilaration and ingenuity of the earlier pictures. It feels like the filmmaker is spinning his wheels with this misguided attempt at fantasy, fumbling to relight the fire that once propelled his vision so effortlessly.

If Gilliam can be counted on for optical lavishness, he can also be counted on for chaos. “Grimm” maintains the Gilliam streak of motion pictures that just don’t know when to quit. Because “Grimm” is such a high-maintenance production, Gilliam overcompensates in the action department, staging scene after scene of screaming terror and confusion. It adds up quickly, and grows tiresome immediately. Panic isn’t a sword Gilliam has ever wielded with ease, and he frequently infuses “Grimm” with a madcap, berserk spirit that the screenplay isn’t prepared to support. If “Grimm” were a marathon runner, it would be heaving at the side of the road within the first mile. I doubt any potential audience members have the kind of stamina Gilliam is looking for to enjoy this wild, wacky look at the birth of fairy tales.

My rating: C-