1940s

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Michael Powell’s fatalistic contemplations are lifted to metaphysical levels in A Matter of Life and Death where one man who cheats death must argue his case to keep living, his soul hanging in a precarious balance between two worlds – one dominated by surreal black-and-white set pieces, the other a Technicolor assertion of life’s spectacular beauty.

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Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Preston Sturges’ confrontation of early Hollywood “message” movies in Sullivan’s Travels is a complex balancing act of conflicting tones, playing in the realms of slapstick, irony, and meta-humour to craft a screwball comedy unlike any that has come before.

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Jour de Fête (1949)

Though Jour de Fête feels slightly limited without Jacques Tati’s bizarre displays of architecture to bounce his physical comedy off, he is still as resourceful as ever in both his acting and direction, whimsically sending up modern ideals of efficiency and progress when they begin to invade a tiny French village amid Bastille Day celebrations.

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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The Magnificent Ambersons floats along like a whispered echo of a bygone era, recounting the downfall of an entire family brought about by one man’s resistance to progress and standing as a powerful elegy from Orson Welles to those forgotten dynasties of American history, despite his artistic compromises.

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Laura (1944)

“Authentic magnetism” are the words used to describe the late Laura Hunt, the target of a tragic murder, and even in death they remain truer than ever, as Otto Preminger’s methodical camerawork and staging continues to raise her up as the beguiling source of our utter fascination.

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Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Even while considering the wretched corners of the human psyche that Alfred Hitchcock has probed all through his career, perhaps the intensive character study of Shadow of a Doubt is his most disturbing, as he paints a twisted portrait of two Charlies, uncle and niece, locked in a deadly secret seeping with subtext of incest, grooming, and sexual abuse. 

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