best film:  Ossessione from Luchino Visconti

  • An important film in the history of film noir, Italian neorealism (even if it doesn’t fit most of the characteristics of the movement), and Italian cinema in general
  • The beginning of Luchino Visconti’s distinguished career as auteur- and despite fitting into (or starting) these genres and movements, it is his fully his film—a Visconti film—and has much in common with Senso and Death in Venice for example.
  • Visconti seems to have arrived as a fully formed mature voice as an artist- this is an accomplished work and one of cinema’s great debut films. Visconti did work as an apprentice under Jean Renoir in the 1930’s (on the underrated Toni in 1935 for sure)—and this film has as much in common with Renoir’s La Chienne (1931) as anything else
  • Visconti is graceful in his camera movements, gliding to catch the unspoken flirtation (which quickly turns to lust between the two).

Ossessione – an important film in the history of film noir, Italian neorealism (even if it doesn’t fit most of the characteristics of the movement), and Italian cinema in general

most underrated:   Ossessione from Visconti—I hate to pick it again but it cannot be the 787th best film of all time as the TSPDT consensus would have you believe.

  • There’s an entire paper to be written here on whether this is neorealism or not. It is about the desperation of the poor like Bicycle Thieves. But this isn’t overtly (or overly) sociopolitical. This could be set anywhere at any time (this is an authorized adaptation of James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice in the US). This is before De Sica’s masterpiece (1948) and before Rossellini’s war trilogy (1945, 46, 48) though both had directed films before. It is the first great Italian film of the 1940’s and Visconti’s next film is neorealism—so I think it gets lumped it.
  • It is much closer to film noir—and I think another paper could be written here. Obviously this film (with Cain’s title sticking) is done again with Lana Turner and John Garfield (and years later with Nicholson) but this is very close to Wilder’s Double Indemnity (which would come in 1944- the following year).

 

most overrated:  Nothing here- there are only five fiction feature films total from 1943 in the TSPDT top 1000 and they are my same top five films- clearly the best films of the year.

gem I want to spotlight:  Shadow of a Doubt from Hitchcock. It is brilliant and it’s worthy of noting here because it’s Hitchcock’s best film to date. This would only last until Notorious in 1946 but it’s an essential film from him. He would continue to hone his skills and do this absolute best work in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s with that ridiculous 1958-1960 run of Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho.

Hitchcock’s best film to date

there’s a masterful opening from Hitchcock where he tells you everything about Cotton’s Uncle Charlie without a single word of dialogue

it is then repeated later with Wright, again and again Hitchcock visually points out the disturbing connection between the two

trends and notables:

  • It’s a down year in many ways. We’re four years removed from Hollywood’s golden year, production in Germany, Japan, France, and the UK is down (for obviously reasons—these four countries along with the US are far and away the best five countries at the time for making great films at the time…Italy (obviously at war) is about to explode with vital works of cinema- starting with Visconti here) – but we don’t really have a Ambersons, Casablanca or Citizen Kane to buoy us in 1943
  • To that end mainstays during this era like John Ford, Frank Capra, William Wyler and John Huston are making war documentaries and don’t have an archiveable film in 1943- there’s 6 or so missing archiveable films right there alone
  • Any year Dreyer makes a film is worthy of mention. This is eleven (11) years after Vampyr and after this, we’d have to wait until 1955 for another one (Ordet)

minimal yet still baroque design in Dreyer’s Days of Wrath

Any year Dreyer makes a film is worthy of mention. This is eleven (11) years after Vampyr and after this, we’d have to wait until 1955 for another one (Ordet)

  • Noir would come along fully in 1944 (I mean you can debate other films but Double Indemnity is as noir as it gets) but as I said above there is an interesting relation to both noir and neorealism for Ossessione
  • Even on the sheer volume of the archives it’s a really down year. There are a total (as of writing this) 18 archiveable films from 1943.  This is the first time we’d dip below 20 in any given year since 1930.
  • Akira Kurosawa’s archiveable debut is extremely noteworthy – the first of 27 archiveable films for the great master. With him comes the first archiveable film for actor Takashi Shimura
  • Visconti’s debut was a knockout of course (and he lands more fully arrived than Kurosawa) but Vincente Minnelli would also give us his first archiveable film here in 1943 with Cabin in the Sky.
  • 1943 would give us the debut of a very young (age 11) of Elizabeth Taylor.
  • For The Archers- Powell and Pressburger—this is also their finest film to date—they are really the Renoir of the 1940’s—every year they deliver—this is the third top ten of the year film they’ve made already (missing only 1942 from the decade thus far) and there was much more to come including multiple masterpieces and 4-5 additional top ten of the year films

 

best performance male:   Roger Livesey as Clive Candy is a complex and genius character and performance. Livesey would be great again in I Know Where I’m Going from Powell and Pressburger (along with his supporting work in The Entertainer in 1960 alongside Olivier) but he’d never top this career high-water mark. Massimo Girotti as Gino Costa in Ossessione is a very close runner-up as his Joseph Cotton yet again- this time for his disturbing turn as Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.

Robert Livesey here as the titular Colonel– for The Archers- Powell and Pressburger—this is also their finest film to date—they are really the Renoir of the 1940’s—every year they deliver—this is the third top ten of the year film they’ve made already (missing only 1942 from the decade thus far) and there was much more to come including multiple masterpieces and 4-5 additional top ten of the year films

 

best performance female:  Here I’m going with Teresa Wright for Shadow a Doubt by an eyelash over Clara Calamai in Ossessione. Wright won an Oscar for Mrs. Miniver the year prior and would be great in 1946 in The Best Years of Our Lives but this is her best work, and she, along with Cotton, are perfect vehicles for what Hitchcock is trying to do. You also couldn’t go wrong with singling out Deborah Kerr in Colonel Blimp either.  

 

top 10

  1. Ossessione
  2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  3. Shadow of a Doubt
  4. Day of Wrath
  5. I Walked With a Zombie
  6. Sanshiro Sugata
  7. Sahara
  8. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  9. Air Force
  10. Heaven Can Wait

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Guy Named Joe- Fleming R
Air Force- Hawks R
Cabin In the Sky- Minnelli R
Day of Wrath– Dreyer MS
For Whom the Bell Tolls- S. Wood R
Heaven Can Wait- Lubitsch R
I Walked With a Zombie- Tourneur HR
Lassie Come Home- Wilcox R
Madame Curie- LeRoy R
No Time For Love- Leisen
Ossessione- Visconti MP
Sahara- Zoltan Korda R
Sanshiro Sugata – Kurosawa R/HR
Shadow of a Doubt- Hitchcock MS
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp- Powell & Pressburger MP
The Song of Bernadette- King R
Watch on the Rhine- Shumlin R

 

 

*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