His penultimate film, The End of Summer (1961), is as good as they come, telling the story of an aging patriarch and owner of a sake brewery, his two daughters, and a widowed daughter-in-law. Characters attempt to fix each other up with partners, confront each other, and generally try to get through the days (with death lurking just around the corner). There's something peaceful about Ozu's films, as if the master discovered some kind of tranquility in his acceptance of life. Ozu's frequent leading lady, the sublime Setsuko Hara, stars, in her last film with him.
One of the greatest living filmmakers, Canada's David Cronenberg can never escape his origins as a horror director. But what sets him apart is that his films are not afraid to explore the nature of human flesh and all the ways it can be altered, experimented on, or mutated--themes that are relevant to every single viewer.
Scanners (1981) is one of his earlier efforts, probably more regularly seen at drive-ins and grindhouses, but it's a masterpiece nonetheless. As it begins, a weird, lost man, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), wanders into a shopping mall and accidentally gives a woman a seizure just by looking at her. Some men come after him, and he awakens in a strange lab. He's told that he is a "scanner," with the ability to either read or destroy people's minds, and he is enlisted to help defeat an evil scanner, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), who is apparently trying to build an army. This is the movie known for the gory exploding head sequence early on, but seen today, Scanners mainly shows Cronenberg's clinical, curious style already in place, and despite the psychotronic material, it's a brilliant movie that retains its ability to shock.
Made when he was 60, Viridiana (1961) was a comeback of sorts for the great Spanish Director Luis Buñuel. The government attempted to ban it, but it was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival (it won the Palme d'Or). Playful, irreverent, prickly, funny, and strange, the movie tells the story of a nun, Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), who visits her uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), prior to taking her vows. Reminding him of his dead wife, he drugs her, claims to have taken her virginity, and hangs himself. She takes over his estate, inviting a band of beggars to stay. In one outrageous scene, the beggars break into the main house, have a feast, and pose in a twisted version of "The Last Supper."
A student of surrealism, Buñuel was attuned to the rhythms of dreams and somehow managed to instill haunting--or darkly funny--images within his story. In one of these, a man buys a dog to rescue it from its miserable life of being tied to the back of a carriage. As he walks away, another carriage rolls by with another dog tied to the back. This movie began a nearly unbroken string of late masterpieces for Buñuel, who worked up until 1977--his last film was That Obscure Object of Desire--and died in 1983.
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