1957 Ten Best Movies

Here they come, those subtitled masters of the Golden Age of the imported foreign film: Fellini and Bergman, and Kurosawa and Antonioni too, although the year was strong enough in bold American films that the latter boys didn’t get Top-Ten this time. #1 slot finds the nuzzly Mediterranean humanist Fellini outpointing his severe Scandinavian colleague Bergman by a neck, but it’s close.

cabiria3

Masina/Cabiria

Nights of Cabiria, my Best for 1957, is buoyed up by the irrepressibly “on” performance by Giulietta Masina, her character — a prostitute in Rome’s night world — always plugging away for an unseen audience, hoping that at some point, someone will finally notice her glory. Of course, we do. Which is how the movie forges one of the great connections between audience and protagonist, maintained through the classic final shot.

If Bergman’s scoring two titles on the list is an impressive achievement, how about Samuel Fuller? Here’s the ten best accounting for 1957:

1. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)

2. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)

3. The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean)

4. Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick)

5. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)

6. The Tall T (Budd Boetticher)

7. Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)

8. Run of the Arrow and Forty Guns (Samuel Fuller)

9. Men in War (Anthony Mann)

10. A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan)

Kwai I find haunting beyond its adventure-movie appeal (some reasons are explained in a Lean piece here); Men in War is a much lesser-known title, but equally forceful on the subject — and just as existentially somber as The Seventh Seal (a much-lampooned movie that holds up really well these days, by the way). Boetticher and Fuller provide two very different approaches to the Western, but both feel new. I left off some good ones: Love in the Afternoon (Billy Wilder) — a somewhat problematic but still scrumptious film — 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet), Kanal (Andrzej Wajda), The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov); Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa). Plus fine genre work in Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold).

Next week: 1939.

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