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Geoff Andrew's Player+ playlist

BFI's Senior Film Programmer and regular Sight & Sound contributor Geoff Andrew chooses some of his favourite films from BFI Player+.

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Geoff Andrew's Player+ playlist
View A Cottage on Dartmoor
A Cottage on Dartmoor

A Cottage on Dartmoor 1929 PG

Anthony Asquith (Underground) directs this embroiled melodrama, a tale of love and revenge, shot on location on the bleak landscape of Dartmoor.

88 mins United Kingdom Director. Anthony Asquith

"Seeing this for the first time was something of a revelation for me."

Seeing this for the first time was something of a revelation for me, familiar as I was with director Anthony Asquith only through staid later works like The Importance of Being Earnest and The VIPs. This melodrama-cum-thriller made at the end of the silent era could not be more different: visually striking with its dark expressionism, pacy and tense in its storytelling, and fuelled by a keen sense of cinema's potential as an innovative art form.

"Retains the capacity to surprise with its fertile inventiveness."

Co-written by Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel’s follow-up to Un Chien andalou may have nothing quite as viscerally shocking as that film’s (in)famous eye-opener beginning, but it’s no less subversive in its fascination with irrepressible sexual fervour at odds with the forces of 'civilisation'. Gloriously taking in toe-sucking, de Sade and the unwelcome burden of the Church, it even now retains the capacity to surprise with its fertile inventiveness and its wickedly mischievous wit.

View The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps 1935 U

Sublime and suspenseful version of the popular John Buchan spy thriller from the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock.

86 mins United Kingdom Director. Alfred Hitchcock

"The Hitchcock title I return to most frequently."

Many deem Vertigo Hitchcock’s finest; not me. Of his Hollywood period I prefer Psycho and The Birds, but the Hitch title I return to most frequently is this British chase-thriller made in the 30s. It’s fast, funny and genuinely fond of its characters; the warmth extended to its fugitive hero (Robert Donat), to a beauty he falls in with (Madeleine Carroll) and, most memorably, to a young crofter’s wife who helps him (a heartbreaking Peggy Ashcroft) is rare indeed in his work. Utterly wonderful.

View Partie de Campagne
Partie de Campagne

Partie de Campagne 1936 PG

On a country picnic, a young girl leaves her family for a while and succumbs to an all-too-brief romance in Jean Renoir's sensuous tribute to the countryside.

40 mins France Director. Jean Renoir

"Its witty but poignant reflections on life and love will probably resonate with you as richly as they have with me."

Jean Renoir – son of painter Auguste – was one of the true greats, and while this adaptation of a Maupassant short story runs only 45 minutes, it’s as big-hearted, worldly-wise and emotionally complex as any full-length feature. It simply chronicles the encounter between a Parisian family out for a picnic and two young men in search of sexual adventures, but its witty but poignant reflections on life and love will probably resonate with you as richly as they have with me (and a great many others).

View The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943 U

Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece follows the rise and fall of a career soldier, from dashing and brave young officer in the Boer War to a pompous and old-fashioned Colonel by the time of World War Two.

163 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

"Quietly stirring stuff."

I abhor jingoism and have little interest in military matters, but Powell and Pressburger’s account of the events, forces and values that shaped supposedly fuddy-duddy Major General Clive Wynne-Candy (the superb Roger Livesey) always gets to me; it seems to touch on so much of what was meant – at least as the term was understood half a century ago – by 'Englishness', for better or worse. Quietly stirring stuff.

View Journey to Italy
Journey to Italy

Journey to Italy 1954 PG

Roberto Rossellini's acerbic but finally very moving masterpiece about marital crisis boasts great performances from Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders

106 mins Italy

"One of the great films about love."

One of the great films about love – ironically so, because it focuses on a middle-aged, middle-class, none-too-sympathetic English couple who make no secret of the fact that they’re bored stiff with one another. Were there autobiographical elements in Roberto Rossellini’s story, given his relationship with Ingrid Bergman, here playing opposite George Sanders? Who cares? The film argues – indeed, it insists – that love is essentially something both mysterious and miraculous.

View Seven Samurai
Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai 1954 PG

Farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

200 mins Japan Director. Akira Kurosawa

"A rare and fine achievement."

When I first saw Akira Kurosawa’s samurai movie – famously remade as a western as The Magnificent Seven, and inspired by oaters by the likes of John Ford – I was reminded not of other Japanese or American movies but of a literary landmark from somewhere else entirely: Homer’s Iliad. For Kurosawa’s warriors – embodied by the likes of Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura – have the clean, clear lines, both morally and dramatically, one finds in the heroes of the ancient epic poems. To translate that into cinema is, for me, a rare and fine achievement. Oh yes, and it’s a great action movie, too.

View Land of Silence and Darkness
Land of Silence and Darkness

Land of Silence and Darkness 1971 U

Werner Herzog’s profound and deeply moving documentary about the experiences of a community of deaf-blind people.

Federal Republic of Germany Director. Werner Herzog

"For me, one of the most extraordinary films of the last 50 years."

Werner Herzog’s masterpiece is, for me, one of the most extraordinary films of the last 50 years, and should be recommended to all those who like to feel sorry for themselves. A documentary about the lives of the deaf-blind (and others still more isolated from the world around them), it is tender, respectful, non-exploitative and philosophically profound: few films deal more astutely (yet unsentimentally) with issues of what it means to be human and, indeed, to live with other humans. It’s hard to imagine a more heart-rending piece of cinema.

View Opening Night
Opening Night

Opening Night 1977 15

John Cassavetes’s emotionally charged film stands as one of the great American movies about theatre and the art of performance.

144 mins USA Director. John Cassavetes

"The to-die-for cast is uniformly superb"

John Cassavetes, a giant of American independent filmmaking, is best known for his groundbreaking debut Shadows, but he made many terrific movies, and for me this study of a troubled actress (played by the magnificent Gena Rowlands) probably steals the laurels – not least because its story, centred on the relationship between performance and real life, had a lot to do with Cassavetes’ own methodology. Unsurprisingly, the to-die-for cast is uniformly superb, while the film shifts seamlessly between painful character study and deft comedy. (No wonder Almodóvar paid tribute to it in All About My Mother.)

View Children

Children 1976 15

The first part of Terence Davies' formidable Trilogy explores the effects of violence on a Liverpool schoolboy, told in a series of flashbacks.

46 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Davies

"Remarkable for its unflinching honesty."

A kind of bold autobiographical fantasy that takes in past, present and future, memories, desires, dreams and dreary reality, Terence Davies’ first three films (Children, followed by Madonna and Child and Death and Transfiguration) announced the arrival of a major filmmaker. There are things here we’d never really seen or heard in British cinema before: audaciously long takes, even more daring juxtapositions of the sacred and the profane, and a depiction of life’s end – enacted by Wilfrid Brambell of 'Steptoe and Son' TV fame – that’s still remarkable for its unflinching honesty.

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