Late silent expressionist German potboiler with great acting, photography and editing.
Pre-Code drama starring Barbra Stanwyck as an ambitious beauty who after a rough start in life followed by a rousing lecture on Nietzche "sleeps" her way to the top. Loved it!
Nicholas Ray's film noir starts as a gritty police procedural and evolves out of the darkness into the end of the film noir era. Tough characters, hard boiled dialogue, and great performances by Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino. Short, tight, moving.
Probably the greatest Japanese screenwriter, Shinobu Hashimoto, contributes to a brilliant anti-authoritarian, anti-samurai masterpiece. If there's room for only one subversive samurai movie in your library, make it Harakiri.
Official Site: http://www.criterion.com/films/743-harakiri
Jean Renoir's french poetic realism "film noir" about love, madness and locomotives adapted from Émile Zola's novel. Tragic. Suspenseful. Magnificent trains. Don't be put-off by the opening title roll-up: this is a master work!
Official Site: http://www.criterion.com/films/773-la-bete-humaine
Italian neorealist Vittorio De Sica defines the genre with a story of two young shoeshine boys working the streets of postwar Rome, hoodwinked into committing a crime and sent to prison where their friendship is tested. Heartbreaking and beautiful.
La Haine, or in English, Hate, is the most Hollywood style French film about French culture that I've ever seen. Vincent Cassel establishes himself in his film debut as a BadAssMofo. The film is technically strong, the characters engrossing, but the overall theme is so brutally bleak, it's hard to take... Spike Lee & Martin Scorsese fans will enjoy.
Official Site: http://www.criterion.com/films/216-la-haine
Jazz, and black and white cinematography are not enough. Without characters, chemistry between those characters, and story structure, it's hard to care. If you're going to indulge in extreme close-ups, please make sure your subjects are beautiful, or at least interesting.
Official Site: http://www.guyandmadeline.com/