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