Hmm, I thought instead of writing several individual reviews, I'd condense them all into this one entry.
Doubt (2008) -- one of those great thinking movies. Not a lot of action happens, but there is great moments of acting, namely by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film takes place in a 1960s school run by nuns where one of the sisters (Streep) is accusing a priest (Hoffman) of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. There's something shifty about Hoffman's character, but there's also something desperate about Streep's character too, and the truth is never actually revealed. That can be frustrating but it also makes you go over the film and actively think about it, which wouldn't have been the case otherwise.
The Trial (1962) -- Between this film, Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil lies (in my opinion) Orson Welles' best direction, but I can't decide which is the best. Needless to say, I'd say The Trial is Welles' most surreal film and most heavily influenced by European cinema (well it was made in France if that counts). It's based on Franz Kafka's novel of the same name and it's about a world in which people don't have a say in what happens to them. For Joseph K. (Anthony Perkins in a role every bit as good as his Norman Bates), this means not having a fair trial for a crime (which is never named) that he is adamant he didn't commit. As a result you can feel his suffocation and oppression as you go through his rollercoaster ride with him.
Mulholland Drive (2001) -- The dvd inset of the film prepares you somewhat for the weird, incomprehensible atmosphere you're about to enter. There's 10 clues, that David Lynch apparently wrote himself, to unlocking the film. I quite liked the idea of putting in clues because it somewhat made me look closer at the film's little details; it almost feels like you're invited to peek into the construction of the film. Well, Lynch's Mulholland Drive is itself a film about the processes of film and fame themselves, morseo to the darker, possessive side of these things. Naomi Watts is stellar, but that only becomes apparent when you reach two-thirds of the film (enough said there). A great, eerie experience, sort of reminescent for me of my first viewing of Vertigo.
Replusion (1965) -- A film that delves into isolation and mental instability promises to make one uneasy and this film delivers. It's set in the be-bop London of the 60s and centres around a young woman named Carole (Catherine Deneuve) who withdraws around men and lapses into deep thinking quite a lot. So when her sister, whom she lives with, jetsets off to Rome with her boyfriend for a week or so, well you can already tell this isn't such a good idea. And so begins the nightmarish, somewhat muted manifestations of Carole's paranoia. She imagines herself to be assaulted by men in her bedroom and slowly she stops coming into work and barricades herself in her room, as she becomes increasingly unstable. Polanski's direction and Deneuve's performance really drive this film along.
(500) Days of Summer (2009) -- Though I haven't seen that many films of this year, this one for me is so far the highlight. It's a rom com that isn't routine and doesn't just rehash all the elements of the rule book. It shows that relationships and love are not simple; it doesn't necessarily happen that both parties feel the same for each other, or that being in love equals enjoying one's company. It explores this complexity quite well through the out of order scenes that both show the high and the low of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who's great in this) and Summer's relationship. And through it all it remains entertaining and inventive.
Love Letters (1945) -- This film is somewhat implausible. To elaborate, the plot goes as follows: A world war two soldier, Allen, (Joseph Cotten) has been writing his friend's love letters to his girlfriend Victoria for him. It just so happens that he's has fallen more in love with Victoria than his actual friend. Then after the war Allen finds out that his friend has been killed, and by Victoria herself. He goes searching for the clues to what happens, and through circumstances, comes across a curious girl who goes by the name Singleton (Jennifer Jones). Before long it becomes clear that Singleton is Victoria, except that she has gotten amnesia from the murdering of her husband. The plot sounds a little tangled, but it actually works pretty well. Cotten and Jones have an easy chemistry and their first kiss in this film is a swoon-worthy moment. Overall it's an interesting film with interesting themes, but perhaps the happily-ever-after ending feels a little abrupt after all the drama before it.
Portrait of Jennie (1948) -- This was the final screen pairing of Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten and it's a pretty good swan-song. It's similar to Love Letters in that it has an extraordinary premise. This time Cotten plays Eben, a struggling painter who just can't seem to find inspiration for a good painting. Then it comes at Central Park in the form of a young girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones) , who seems like she's from another time. He meets her several times more and each time she grows up a little. As he begins to find out, she is from another time, and yet she is real to him as she exists now. It's a story of impossible love and has a dreamy-like atmosphere that is helped by the somewhat foggy cinematography. Like with Love Letters, the themes of this film are pretty thought-provoking and the easy-going chemistry between Jennifer and Joseph makes for a compelling story.