This is a chic list. This means that all the movies cited are must-watch films: they will make you feel cool, increase your erudition, and give you the chance of making a good impression in those challenging conversations radical chic people really love to be involved in. This is also a radical list. The films I have chosen are safe bets: they are all masterpieces in their own kind, without being too renowned blockbuster. Moreover, the vision of some of them can be a little bit demanding. Finally, this is a list. Therefore, I was forced to choose an easy and captivating number: 4 is not cool, 16 is not chic, 389 is too challenging for a limited-space webpage. So, I decided to take 5, like Chanel no.5. That said, it is time to start. I apologize to my American friends: no Marvel-heroes movies in the list.
1- Twelve Angry Men
This is a 1957 movie, a fact which should already make you feel a boss, since you know at least an old-fashioned masterpiece you can mention to your friends. Based on a play written by Reginald Rose, the plot was firstly designed for a television show, then for a theatrical play and finally for a drama film. Directed by Sidney Lumet (yeah, the crazy genius who also directed “Dog Day Afternoon”, another must-watch), this movie is famous because of the almost exclusive use of a single set: apart for the very first scene, all the scenes (96 minutes) take place in a jury room. Inside this jury room, there are 12 jurors who have to decide whether a 18-year boy, suspected of having stabbed his father to death, is guilty or not. A guilty verdict would imply a death sentence. All the jurors seem to agree for the guilt, with the sole exception of Henry Fonda, who will have to convince all the others that the guy is indeed innocent…The movie has been widely homaged, and has continued to be represented in theaters. It analyses the art of negotiation and consensus-building, as well as some of the deepest aspects of the forensic activity. The 12-jurors negotiation scheme is so famous that it has become a Harvard case study, and is mandatory to Kennedy School law students to take part to a simulation.
The French allure of the title (it means “Butterfly”, for inelegant and non-polyglot readers), is a good way of expressing the required chicness. Moreover, the plot is quite engaged, which does not hurt at all. It is the story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière, a safecracker unjustly convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the French penal colony of Devil’s Island , French Guyana. He will then have to find a way to escape, and to prove to the world that he is innocent, and that the inhuman prison he is locked in is fallible. A tattooed butterfly on his breast will remind him that hope and freedom never die. The stellar cast – Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman at their best- coupled with the relevance of the issues discussed assures the centrality of this masterpiece.
3- Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
The title is very long, one of the longest in the history of cinema. Apart from gratifying your mnemonic skills, it basically tells everything about the movie’s plot: an Italian top police officer commits a homicide just to test whether the police would charge him for his crime. However, as the officer will soon experiment, having to deal with the Italian investigative system is not that easy, and he will have to do as much as he can to prove his guilt…There are several good reasons to watch this film: the officer is performed by an amazing Gian Maria Volonté, a never too much celebrated actor; the girl being killed, i.e. the officer’s mistress, is performed by Florinda Bolkan, who is by herself a good reason to watch the movie; the music is by Ennio Morricone. Even if not all of you will be able to watch it in Italian (and therefore you will already lose a lot of the content..), Investigation depicts a cross-section of the corrupted Italian public system, a much better description than those offered nowadays by the international media, which seem more and more unable to understand what is going on in Italy (don’t read them, you will save time).
This one can be considered as the first environmental, anti-growth, anti-progressive movie of all times. Again, the title has its role to play: “Koyaanisqatsi” in the Hopi language means “unbalanced life”, referring to human beings’ current lifestyle, characterised by consumerist pulses, post-modern social attitudes and a pervasive loss of the foundative values which should govern our lives. The movie has no dialogue nor vocal narration: it consists of 86 minutes of images and music (composed by the 20th century music genius Philip Glass) showing first scenes of wild nature, and then, progressively, the advent of human beings and the evolution towards the actual society. The movie is a triumph of cinematographic techniques: close-ups, time-lapses, and a wonderful photography accompany us in this surreal journey where humans are transfigured in an ubiquitous, devastating virus, unconsciously following predetermined paths and ignoring their impact on the surroundings. Only clouds seem to remain in a detached position, continuing to twirl on skyscrapers and ignoring the human ants which overpopulate Earth’s surface. An intense reflection on the meaning of our lives, and the sustainability of our behavior.
5- Inside Chanel Campaign
Yes, you’re right, this is not a movie. However, since I have said that this list would have comprised 5 masterpieces, I’ll take the licence of adding this recent advertising campaign. Composed of ten short films, the campaign celebrates the history of the Chanel fashion house and its founder, “Mademoiselle” Gabrielle Chanel, and can be easily considered a Bible of Marketing. Every episode is iconic, vibrant, passionately narrated, seductive and fascinating. Every artistic form, from collage to balck and white photography is represented and taken to excess: the result is an aesthetic trip into style. Enjoy it!