Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 7, 2015

Neglected masterpieces of cinema

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 7:46 pm

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The latest issue of Class, Race and Corporate Power is now online. Founded by Ronald Cox, a professor at Florida International University, it is a bold attempt to create a unified voice for academics and non-academics on the left as an Open Access journal—in other words, one that does not make use of dead trees and that costs $35 per issue.

The journal includes peer-reviewed articles and non-peered as well, such as the one I have in the current issue titled “Neglected Masterpieces of Cinema”. A while ago Ronald asked to write something on the top radical films. My response was to adapt ten reviews that I had posted over the years that met two criteria:

  1. The films should be ones that the average leftist might not be familiar with, such as—for example—“Crimson Gold”, the 2003 Iranian film that is a lacerating critique of class inequalities and religious authoritarianism that was like others directed by Jafar Panahi almost certain to get him arrested and banned from making films.
  2. The films should also be available through online streaming, either for free on Youtube or at places like Fandor.com, one of the alternatives to Netflix that I have recommended to CounterPunch readers.

The abstract for the article is as follows:

This article will acquaint you with ten of the more important leftwing films I have reviewed over the past sixteen years as a member of New York Film Critics Online. You will not see listed familiar works such as “The Battle of Algiers” but instead those that deserve wider attention, the proverbial neglected masterpieces. They originate from different countries and are available through Internet streaming, either freely from Youtube or through Netflix or Amazon rental. In several instances you will be referred to film club websites that like the films under discussion deserve wider attention since they are the counterparts to the small, independent theaters where such films get premiered. The country of origin, date and director will be identified next to the title, followed by a summary of the film, and finally by its availability.

I would only add that I am currently in the process of expanding on this list by going systematically through the more than 900 film reviews I have written in the past 20 years or so and culling together all those that meet these criteria. As far as I know, there is not a resource on the Internet like this and it is high time that it be made available. Not only will I be listing films that I have reviewed but others that are available online. Also, those that require membership in Fandor.com or any other membership service will be excluded. The overwhelming majority of the films will be freely available on Youtube. Right now I am in the middle of ferreting out American films. This will give you a sense of where I am going with this. I’ll bet you haven’t seen half of these:

  1. Tell them Willie Boy is here
  2. Lonely are the Brave
  3. Bad Day at Black Rock*
  4. Our Daily Bread
  5. The Big Clock
  6. The Emerald Forest
  7. Metropolis
  8. Counsellor at Law
  9. Lion of the Desert


  1. Hi Lou,

    Just out of curiosity, have you seen /R//ocking the foundations/: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxPcqbTsNVk (http://bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/rocking-foundations.html)?

    You’re probably familiar with /Salt of the earth/: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9oY4rmDaWw

    In solidarity, Harry

    Comment by Harry Feldman — May 7, 2015 @ 10:24 pm

  2. Wow. Only one I’ve seen is Metropolis.

    Comment by srogouski — May 8, 2015 @ 4:18 am

  3. Louis,

    I have seen a few of the nine films you noted. I see that four of them are Western or “desert” films with “native” characters, and one a jungle film with “native” (non-gringo) characters. This leads me to point you to the following film, which I have yet to see but which I am planning to view soon; it was highly recommended to me by a friend here who is a Vietnam combat vet (of the peacenik variety):

    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0419294/

    One of the many supporting actors in this film is Levon Helm. I am attracted to stories of redemption, and it was in conversation about that with my pal that I learned about this film. Taglines for the movie are: “Nobody is beyond redemption” and “For justice. For loyalty. For friendship.”

    “Lonely Are The Brave” is incredible, one of the classics of the classic, and which electrified me when I first saw it in 1962 or 1963. Kirk Douglas said it was his favorite film (he produced it and starred in it). It is based on the novel “Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey (author of Desert Solitaire). One for the ages (the horse should have gotten an Oscar). “Right!”

    “Bad Day At Black Rock” is another classic, which I also first saw around 1961-1962 (maybe even earlier). It has quite a cast, which I didn’t really notice during the early years I would see this movie, because the cast all played their parts so well that the whole taut story just blended perfectly. Tracy and Ryan of course stood out, and then also Borgnine for playing the epitome of churlishness (also Marvin), and Ann Francis for the arresting blondness, vulnerability and ultimately the pity we feel for her.

    Redemption, honor, friendship and justice are all themes in these two films.

    Another film about redemption (and resurrection) out of the desert that I would suggest to you is:

    Paris, Texas http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087884/

    Perhaps “Three Burials” and “Paris, Texas” are too recent and/or successful to be considered “neglected masterpieces,” and I don’t think they can be found free on the Internet, but they seem worthy to me.

    In 1963, the year after David Miller directed “Lonely Are The Brave,” he directed a very good film called “Captain Newman, M.D.” This is about psychiatry and post traumatic stress in soldiers. This film has a excellent cast (Gregory Peck, Angie Dickinson, Tony Curtis, Eddie Albert; and Vito Scotti and Bobby Darin), and perhaps Bobby Darin’s best filmed performance, as a deeply stressed out combat veteran (Eddie Albert plays a character with similar troubles). Tony Curtis and Vito Scotti supply the comic elements in a fundamentally serious story. For me, this film took on greater significance when I would see it during the late ’60s – early ’70s, with the Vietnam War raging (and me being 1A for some of that time). Not an overtly “political” film (like Pontecorvo’s “Burn!” with Marlon Brando in 1969), but pretty clear about the basic point, on the individual human level. Gregory Peck had starred in “To Kill A Mockingbird” the year before (in 1962).

    A film about redemption (more desert!) that I think is a classic, and perhaps also neglected (and available on YouTube, for I saw it there a few months ago), and which stars Gregory Peck is the British film

    The Purple Plain http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047376/

    This is a 1954 color film (“Bad Day At Black Rock” is an 1955 color film). Right now I find at least four copies of the entire film at YouTube (search there for “The Purple Plain”). I find this movie very affecting, but it is not obvious even though its plot is quite simple. The setting is World War II in Burma, but it is not in actuality a war film. It is a film about character, what in philosophy is called “moral character.”

    I’m sure we will each think of many more as time goes on. Enjoy!

    Manuel Garcia, Jr. http://manuelgarciajr.com

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — May 8, 2015 @ 7:33 am

  4. May I try to throw light on this mystery, but I am only guessing here.

    I suspect ‘confused reader’ is the one and only ‘JSP’, so ‘JSP’, as a test of your claim that you delete all proxy site comments, decided to post a sickeningly sycophantic comment in order to test the theory and then posted as ‘confused reader’ to prove that you were bullshitting and that this really is all about your ego.

    But there is one way to clear this up, was JSP’s comment posted via a proxy?

    And if it is a proxy you may be assisting terrorists or something. Run for hills folks!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — May 10, 2015 @ 11:10 am

  5. I checked his IP address as I do with all new subscribers and it was legit. It did strike me as a bogus comment but I held out the possibility that the man was genuinely impressed with my reviews. But thanks for the input. I will be looking closely to see if the fellow begins stumping for glyphosate.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 10, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

  6. Watched Bad Day at Black Rock. High Noon with judo chops and racism. All in all a masterpiece.

    Comment by srogouski — May 12, 2015 @ 7:19 am

  7. I did a brief post on The Big Clock.


    Comment by srogouski — May 14, 2015 @ 3:44 am

  8. Wrote a brief post on Lonely are the Brave


    Comment by srogouski — May 15, 2015 @ 2:42 am

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