best film: The Earrings of Madame de… is ophuls at his best with his floating camera. It is the greatest use of cinematography to date in 1953 pure and simple.

most underrated:   pickup on south street is rated #874 by the TSPDT consensus and I have it as Samuel Fuller’s best film. I have fuller as a top 100 auteur/director of all-time so needless to say I’m quite a ways away from this ranking. It’s a gritty and atmospheric noir/crime film made by the king of unpretentious films with perhaps a career-high performance by Richard Widmark.

most overrated:. Ugetsu is ranked #47 by the consensus and I like the film, but at #47 I’d have to love it. I was late to the game studying Mizoguchi but thus far into it and after watching this twice I have this as his 3rd ranked film- not his best.

gem I want to spotlight: the naked spur. It’s not often I dip outside of the top 10 for my gem to spotlight but 1953 is such a deep year that I can’t find a spot for this film that is very close to a top 5 of the year quality evaluation grade.  The film is filled with gorgeous color photography, Mann’s terse direction, a new psychological approach to the genre, and jimmy stewart showing a darker side he hadn’t done before. I’m disappointed I couldn’t find a spot for it in my top 10.

trends and notables:  1953 is most noteworthy, outside of the quality of the films and auteurs, as the advent of cinemascope. This is a key technological progression for cinema which would give directors a larger tableau whilst also differentiating cinema from the ever-growing audience for television. It’s also is a year driven by auteurs which is great- it’s a key reason why I had to dip so far on my rankings for some of the best performances of the year below. Tati and Fellini are coming into their own with not their first archiveable films (they’d already done that), but perhaps their first distinctive footprint and top 5 of the year quality film (not a coincidence those coincide). 1953 gives us Fritz Lang and Samuel Fuller gloriously slumming it (ok Fuller never really left the gutter) in b-picture noir and Fred Zinneman giving us amazing efforts in back to back years with high noon in 1952 and from here to eternity in 1953. We have Billy Wilder giving us the last leg of his dark early 1950’s cynical unofficial trilogy with sunset boulevard in 1950, ace in the hole in 1951, and here with stalag 17. For new faces in acting we have Richard Burton with his first archivceable film in the robe

best performance male:  I do not like dipping outside of my top 10 films of the year for my performances of the year but I’m doing it in this case with really all of my mentions (aside from widmark who is remarkable in my #4 film of the year- pickup on south street). Forced to pick one, I’m going to go with Montgomery Clift in from here to eternity as my best male performance of the year. I really could have picked clift in 1948 with red river and again in 1951 with a place in the sun but here I think the competition is a little weaker and his restrained brilliance really shines through. Sinatra won the Oscar for supporting in the film and Lancaster is deserving of mention here as well. William Holden continues his hot streak with stalag 17 (for which he won the Oscar) and I’ve already mentioned Jimmy Stewart’s revelation in perhaps Mann’s best film which still somehow couldn’t find its way into my top 10.

best performance female: I think there are 5 female performance from 1953 worth noting but the strongest is Deborah Kerr is from here to eternity. Her iconic scene on the beach with Lancaster is what the film is famous for but her performance is outstanding for her showcase of pain and vulnerability. Audrey Hepburn is a standout for her work with Gregory peck in roman holiday as is the work of Danielle darrieux in the best film of the year: earrings of madame de…. Harriet Andersson in bergman’s summer with monika is very solid as is Jean Arthur in Shane. I think it’s the best performance in the film.

top 10

  1. The Earrings of Madame de…
  2. Tokyo Story
  3. I Vitelloni
  4. Pickup on South Street
  5. Shane
  6. El
  7. Ugetsu
  8. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
  9. The Big Heat
  10. The Wages of Fear

Archives, Directors, and Grades

Beat the Devil- J. Huston R
Bread, Love, and Dreams
El- Bunuel MS
From Here To Eternity- Zinneman HR
Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Hawks R
How To Marry a Millionaire R
I Confess- Hitchcock R
I Vitelloni- Fellini MS
I, the Jury
Julius Caesar- Manzewitz HR
Mogambo- Ford R
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday- Tati MS
Niagara – Hathaway R
Peter Pan R
Pickup on South Street- Fuller MS
Roman Holiday- Wyler HR
Sawdust and Tinsel- Bergman HR
Shane- Stevens MS
Stalag 17- Wilder HR
Summer With Monika- Bergman R
The Band Wagon- Minelli HR
The Big Heat- Lang MS
The Blue Gardenia- Lang R
The Cry of the Hunted- Joe Lewis
The Earrings of Madame de…… Ophuls MP
The Man From the Alamo- Boetticher
The Naked Spur- A. Mann HR/MS
The Robe R
The Wages of Fear- Clouzot MS
The Wild One R
Thunder Bay- A. Mann
Tokyo Story- Ozu MP
Ugetsu- Mizoguchi MS

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives