A to Z of Films Meme (U)

The list of rec­om­mend­ed films com­bin­ing my posts and your com­ments (exclud­ing this post), now totals 216 films. I wrote about 5 ways to cat­a­log movies online at MakeUseOf.com. If you have any pref­er­ences, do let me know. We can always get a spread­sheet down­load from any of those sites.

U

UnforgivenUnforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s homage to Ser­gio Leone and Don Siegel, Unfor­giv­en is an eth­i­cal­ly com­plex movie that is con­sid­ered by some to be the last word on West­erns. It is also an anti-West­ern, in that it debunks the myths and reveals the ugly real­i­ties behind the genre.

William Munny (East­wood) is a farmer with two kids who was once a pro­fes­sion­al killer. For mon­ey, he finds his old part­ner Ned (Free­man) to team up with a new kid on the block for boun­ty killing. The boun­ty is offered by a group of pros­ti­tutes in a town whose Sher­iff is Lit­tle Bill, a man who lives the law, but is obscene­ly bru­tal in dis­pens­ing jus­tice. Lit­tle Bill will not allow any­one to claim a reward for killing. In a nut­shell, this is the plot set­up that leads to an explo­sive cli­max. But it is an injus­tice to the movie to put it in a nut­shell.

The tra­di­tion­al vil­lain is turned into a sym­pa­thet­ic hero, the harsh and bru­tal uphold­er of the law becomes the vil­lain. The char­ac­ter­i­za­tions are com­plex, and the first-rate act­ing per­for­mances deliv­er on Eastwood’s vision. Munny walks away unharmed in the end, and he is the one we root for the most, but we are not entire­ly com­fort­able doing so. This is not a feel-good movie, rather it’s a med­i­ta­tion on age, courage, cow­ardice, shame, guilt, and the price of vio­lence.

East­wood is a remark­ably ver­sa­tile direc­tor. Here he was pro­duc­er, direc­tor, and star. Unfor­giv­en is con­sid­ered as his dis­tanc­ing him­self from his ‘Dirty Har­ry’ per­sona. Unfor­giv­en, one of the great­est West­erns, was iron­i­cal­ly made at a time when West­erns reached their low­est lev­el of pop­u­lar­i­ty. East­wood uses the genre not to make anoth­er West­ern, but to study human nature. In my opin­ion, it is the per­fect ele­gy to the genre.

Runner Up

The Untouchables 

The UntouchablesBri­an De Palma’s The Untouch­ables is a thor­ough­ly enjoy­able Chica­go mob crime thriller. Robert De Niro’s over-the-top per­for­mance as Al Capone shines, Kevin Cost­ner is low-key as the lead cop, Sean Con­nery is bril­liant as Jim­my Mal­one.

The pro­duc­tion design is top-notch, recre­at­ing 1930s Chica­go replete with peri­od cos­tumes, vin­tage auto­mo­biles, great sets and roy­al bor­der police on horse­back. Art direc­tion is clever, with lux­u­ri­ant red ambi­ent in all of Capone’s scenes and drea­ry in oth­ers. Mamet’s screen­play pro­vides every ingre­di­ent for a sump­tu­ous adven­ture recipe with a delight­ful gar­nish­ing of excel­lent dia­logue, while Ennio Morricone’s score pro­vides the per­fect back­drop.

A breath­tak­ing sequence on the steps of Chicago’s rail­way sta­tion is inspired by Eisenstein’s Bat­tle­ship Potemkin, beau­ti­ful­ly framed with some POV shots, woven togeth­er in De Palma’s unmis­tak­able style. The only weak points are the shal­low char­ac­ter of the hero and the over-empha­sis on his home life, apart from which, this is a exhil­a­rat­ing thriller movie.

Noteworthy Mentions

I did not like The Usu­al Sus­pects, a very pop­u­lar film, and I have not seen and have no idea about Umraao Jaan. My note­wor­thy men­tions are:

  • The Unbear­able Light­ness of Being, expect­ing com­ments stat­ing that the book is bet­ter than the movie, I still rec­om­mend Kaufmann’s adap­ta­tion of Kundera’s ‘unfilmable’ nov­el. Mas­ter cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Sven Nykvist pro­vides Bergman’s eyes to Kaufman’s visu­als of sen­su­al­i­ty. A fas­ci­nat­ing emo­tion­al roller-coast­er of a film that is provoca­tive and intel­lec­tu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing.
  • Umbartha (Thresh­old): Vijay Ten­dulkar + Jab­bar Patel + Smi­ta Patil = a troi­ka of immense tal­ent that is sure to exude pow­er­ful cin­e­ma. A study of the famil­ial and social roles a woman has to play and how she deals with the con­flicts aris­ing out of them. An appar­ent­ly lib­er­al and pro­gres­sive fam­i­ly nonethe­less lim­its a woman’s indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, and Umbartha shows one woman’s steady pro­gres­sion towards cross­ing that thresh­old.
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  • good morn­ing 🙂
    love the selec­tion .
    you didn’t miss much with Umrao Jaan — it is Rekha look­ing very pret­ty whilst being shot with lots of dif­fusers and very soft light. the movie is sooooooooooo slow. i much pre­ferred Chowrajgee Lane — which was released in the same year.

    Umbartha was bril­liant — i often won­der what hap­pened to that kind of cin­e­ma …

  • Unbe­liev­able, but I haven’t still watched unfor­giv­en. Yeah, I’m col­lect­ing spoons. Thank­ful­ly there is a water short­age in pune.

    But it’s on my list for a while. Untouch­ables, I liked more for the styl­ized per­for­mances. A good enter­tain­ment.

    Unbear­able light­ness… frankly, I don’t have the guts. Maybe some day, I just might gath­er the courage. The book is, of course, amaz­ing.

    My U movie (until I watch Unfor­giv­en, that is), is Uzak (Dis­tant). Inti­mate­ly per­son­al, ago­niz­ing­ly slow, with not much hap­pen­ing, besides you get­ting into the character’s mind. Strong­ly rec­om­mend.

    regards,
    asuph

  • Not a sin­gle one watched from the list you have men­tioned here. Lot to catch up with. 🙂

  • Usu­al Sus­pects is main­ly good because of the twist at the end. Can­not call it awe­some through out. But that end does make want to rewind and check out things again 🙂

    Arun

  • Thank­ful­ly, I have watched Unfor­giv­en. Real­ly liked it.
    Have to catch up with the rest of them.

  • Dev

    Mahen­dra, again good choic­es. The Untouch­ables was a very unique film and Niro real­ly excelled in this one..I would say his best per­for­mance I have seen after ofcourse Taxi Dri­ver.
    Talk­ing of East­wood, I have to still see some of his well known films. I loved his Mys­tic Riv­er.
    You men­tioned Vijay Ten­dulkar again..I think he was a bril­liant writer and a thinker. Though apart from the movies based on his plays and writ­ings, I havent seen any of his work. Any Eng­lish trans­la­tions of his works you wan­na sug­gest?

  • Unfor­tu­nate­ly I’m not well-versed with Tendulkar’s works either. If I come across any Eng­lish trans­la­tions, I’ll be sure you let you guys know.

    g