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The Philadelphia Story (1940)

It is remarkable on its own that George Cukor united Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart in one film and captured such fine performances from each, though The Philadelphia Story is also even more delightful for its marvellously constructed web of romantic entanglements, which its lively screenplay and stars pick apart with insurmountable charm and a quietly savage wit.

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The Departed (2006)

The Departed’s intricate construction of double-crosses and manipulations propels its gripping narrative forward with impeccable pacing, teasing out the parallels between an undercover cop and a criminal spy hellbent on uncovering each other’s identities, and yet in Martin Scorsese’s sly formal motifs there remains a nihilistic despair that these opposing forces may just cancel each other out.

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White Heat (1949)

As a crafter of truly stunning set pieces, Raoul Walsh expertly matches gangster Cody Jarrett’s huge emotions with kinetic, bombastic visuals in White Heat, but such slick direction is also perfectly suited to the Freudian bond he shares with his mother, exposing a pitiful underside to the tough, vicious persona he puts out into the world.

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Rebecca (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock’s eerie adaptation of Rebecca maintains the Gothic novel’s mysterious, lyrical quality, but it is especially through his floating camerawork and evocative expressionism that he conjures the memory of its unseen title character, psychologically haunting the new wife of a wealthy widower with the legacy she hangs over his estate.

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Rashomon (1950)

It is only with as daring a narrative structure as the one which Akira Kurosawa builds in Rashomon that its ruminations on subjectivity, truth, and storytelling find such peaceful resolve in a nihilistic world, as he skilfully navigates the conflicting perspectives of a single murder in classical Japan through dextrous, perspective-shifting camerawork and blocking.

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