Now is the time to delve deep into the movie archives and watch all the films you’ve never seen before or haven’t watched since your teens. Here are 8 of the best classic American, French or Italian movies that are worth watching over and again. You’ll be hooked by the beautiful scenes, the captivating scripts of the film noir genre, or simply the fabulous costumes.
Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder (1950)
Billy Wilder’s masterpiece is often referred to as the essential film noir. It’s all there: the solitary hero, the dame, the twisted plot… All of which related by a narrator back from the dead as he tells a tale of horror. Set in a tyrannical Hollywood where talking movies have become all the trend, William Holden plays penniless screenwriter Joe Gillis who sneaks into a derelict mansion on Sunset Boulevard. The house, as if frozen in time, actually belongs to long-forgotten silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swandon). Her delusions will lead to Joe’s untimely death. Wilder explores the depths of Hollywood and its broken souls, using real-life elements such as the Paramount’s actual film sets and a cameo from producer Cecil B. DeMille as himself. An extremely visual story shot in shadowy black and white to enhance the film noir genre.
The Women by George Cukor (1939)
A must-watch even if it is only for the all-female cast. Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine are simply remarkable. The movie, filmed in the 1930s, is clearly dated but you can’t help loving the cardboard cut-out sets and the fabulous Elsa Schiaparelli-like costumes conceived by Adrian, the iconic costume designer of the great Hollywood era. The fashion-show scene, the only one filmed in color, is a pure delight. It’ll make you forget the misogynistic clichés that depict women spending their days at the beauty salon gossiping and reflecting on love, marriage, and infidelity. Men are clearly “off the hook” when it comes to infidelity and women fight for men’s affection. So, yes, the notions are obsolete, but the dialogues and acting are fantastic.
Diabolique by Henri-Georges Clouzot (1955)
Freely adapted from the novel She was no more by Boileau-Narcejac, Diaboliques is a classic French movie starring Simone Signoret and Vera Clouzot. At first enemies, Christina Delassalle (Clouzot) and Nicole Horner (Signoret) end up forming a strong duo to crush the awful Michel Delassalle, husband to the former, lover to the latter. The plot takes place in a private school – one of the students is French singer-actor Johnny Hallyday – where the characters work. Filming was complicated for the actors as Henri-Georges Clouzot, known as an obsessive perfectionist, he was particularly demanding, You can feel the tension is in every scene.