Viridiana (1961, Directed by Luis Buñuel) Spanish 8

Starring Silvia Pinal, Fernando Rey, Francisco Rabal, Margarita Lozano, Lola Gaos

Subversive drama about an aspiring nun, Viridiana, on a final familial visit before she takes her vows. A tragedy follows, and Viridiana responds by becoming nearly a saint figure. She takes in a group of vagrants, as her proud and handsome cousin moves in. Subtly transgressive, striking in its imagery (the beautiful Pinal, the repulsive vagrants), provocative, funny, bleak. There’s much left to interpretation, but this was the first Buñuel film that’s iconoclastic imagery mixed with what I found to be a compelling narrative.

Simon of the Desert (1965, Directed by Luis Bunuel) Spanish 5

Starring Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Álvarez Félix

The least inflammatory of Bunuel’s trilogy, Simon of the Desert follows Viridiana (1961) and The Exterminating Angel (1962) in its illusory approach to religious themes. In this one, a devout figure named Simon spends his days and nights atop a pillar in the desert besieged by onlookers and frequent visits from Satan, here in the form of an attractive woman. Bunuel, an acclaimed surrealist, uses the premise for a series of unspectacular imagery to my mind. The proceedings, while mercifully short, are too austere and uninspired. There’s no new approach to the material. It mostly symbols we’ve seen before. That is, until the ending, which I won’t ruin, but salvages the film to a degree with its strangeness.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996, Directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale) English 10

Voices of Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Tony Jay, Jason Alexander, David Ogden Stiers

Victor Hugo’s classic novel about hypocrisy, lust, sin, guilt, good versus evil, superficiality, mob mentality, and God makes for odd source material for an animated Disney flick. Quasimoto, born deformed and orphaned by the cruel Judge Claude Frollo, lives atop the famed Parisian cathedral, out of sight of fellow Parisians, but not left out of rumors. He, along with two other men-Captain Phoebus and Frollo-fall in love with a travelling Gypsy, Esmerelda, and the plot is set in motion that leads to Disney’s most thematic film ever. Naturally there had to be many changes and compromises from the original text, but Disney’s Hunchback remains remarkably dark; a powerful film with great music from Alan Menken and beautiful traditional animation.

The Conjuring 2 (2016, Directed by James Wan) English 6

Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney

Ed and Lorraine Warren return to help a working class British family against a real or created demonic presence, mid ’70s. Not as surprising or inspired as its predecessor, this horror sequel nonetheless delivers on thrills and expert filmmaking, from the acting to the careful pacing or the modest use of jump scares; it’s all very well-executed.

 

Black Narcissus (1947, Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) 10

Starring Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, and Jean Simmons

A group of nuns led by the young sister superior, Clodagh (Kerr), set up camp in the Himalayas and find the locale has a strange effect on them. Seen by some as a reflection of Britain’s relationship with colonized India, this glorious technicolor masterpiece with incredible set designs and subtly passionate performances is among the directing duo’s best.