“It’s not TV, it’s HBO”. The famous slogan of the American platform, halfway between credibility and arrogance, was all the rage describing a style of making series. And yet, regardless of its spectacular catalog of audiovisual stories by chapters, HBO also has a wide inventory of cinema. Of course, not too well structured and with an algorithm and a search engine that are at least debatable, either to find certain styles or periods.
In that sense, HBO is close to resembling Amazon, with its abundant package of films selected without much criteria, in which genius and garbage come together. Now, even without reaching the huge offer of Prime Video, and where therefore there is much more to choose from, you can select at least three dozen incontestable works. Few surprises, because on the platform there are usually famous works, although at least they are of great quality. With equal excellence, in this fifth part of the journey through the best cinema on platforms, which we have been developing for a few months, we have prioritized the titles that are enjoyed exclusively. The vast majority of these 10 can only be found on HBO.
‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (1967), by Arthur Penn
With The graduate, by Mike Nichols, the film that began to turn the tables on the mediocre panorama of Hollywood in the sixties. The outpost of calm bikers and wild bulls, of the best cinema in history, the one that died in 1980 to become something else. Such a change, but different, would be welcome today. Just watch the first five minutes of Bonnie and Clyde to realize that there wasn’t a cold draftsman making movies there: there was an ardent butcher, and one of the good ones, cutting each shot, from unexpected perspectives and framing, with an unusual expressiveness. Amoral and sexyFunny and disconcerting, Penn’s work is also critical and social, in that way that only directors who do not look from their moral vantage point manage to work. His look at poverty and homelessness in the Great Depression era is bleak and revolutionary.
‘Wow, what a night!’ (1985), by Martin Scorsese
Award for best direction at the Cannes festival, afterhours (a much more attractive title than the delirious title for its premiere in Spain) is one of the most perfect waking nightmares that cinema has given. A flirtation in a coffee shop ends with a phone number written down, but the ensuing date in search of a simple sexual adventure degenerates into an absurd and maddening night in which it seems impossible to return home. With an effusive staging and some traveling so fast they look like cartoons, Scorsese connect a series of dazzling and dangerous characters, who move through the darkness with a smile. Neither Scorsese nor the screenwriter, Joseph Minion, had a clear idea of how to end their creature’s comedic nocturnal odyssey. The solution was given by the elderly British director Michael Powell, friend of Scorsese, husband of the editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, and personal adviser: circularity; the end, right where the beginning. Perfect.
‘Blade Runner’ (1982), by Ridley Scott
Few characters are more tragic than the replicants: robots indistinguishable from human beings, with memories, emotions and the intelligence of their creators, but with a vital expiration date of four years, and who are also used as slaves on other planets. The powerful Tyrrell Corporation, with the best genetic engineers, failed to calculate that this was the beginning of the end, the call to an inevitable revolution: do androids dream of electric sheep? The visual and sound density of Scott, sponsored by the genius of all its collaborators, the Greek myth of Prometheus, the Freudian metaphor of killing the father, as well as references as different as Moebius and The Arnolfini Marriage end up forming a masterpiece of science fiction that, with characters and fatalistic pessimism of neonoir, is acquiring a deep romanticism. “I have seen C-beams glow in the dark near Tannhäuser’s gate.” The hour of death, the hour of art.
‘Like in a mirror’ (1961), directed by Ingmar Bergman
First member of the call trilogy of silence, also formed by arrogance The communicants and The silence, As in a mirror It is a chamber work with just four characters, beings between passion and pain who, although they are family, suffer from an inexhaustible lack of communication: a writer, haughty, selfish father with a stomach ulcer; a daughter with mental problems; her husband, eaten away by her anguish, and a second teenage son, in whom confusion reigns. Perverse and suffocating, despite being set in a house by the sea, the film cries out for the power of art, drawn on the hard face of the writer, rigid, egotistical and with a strange ability to humiliate. Once they asked bergman Who was he thinking of when writing these characters, and he answered without hesitation: “In myself”. In the background, the cello music of Bach and the splendid black and white photography of Sven Nykvist.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) Directed by Clint Eastwood
“That is Gone with the wind took away with mescaline. These are the words of one of its protagonists, the journalist played by John Cusack, who arrives in the city to write a 500-word article and leaves with a novel. But the concept of the atmosphere of the placid and tragic Savannah, in Georgia, also serves to define the film: the story of a beautiful and decadent place, full of traditionalism, homophobia and good words, through which they circulate, more or less hidden , working-class hustlers, newly rich homosexuals, extravagant and even insane black and white transsexuals, in the midst of a crime to be judged. In a time when, from no forgiveness (1992), to Eastwood movies sprang up almost without intending to, his adaptation of John Berendt’s novel lives up to his last lines: “The resistance to change that Savannah stubbornly displayed was her salvation and her charm.”
‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ (1966), by Mike Nichols
A couple destroying each other. So painful in life, so attractive in the movies. And not just any one: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, married and divorced twice, love and hate in real life, playing a university professor of History, a failure who has not passed adjunct professor “in 500 years” and failed aspiring writer, and the exhausted daughter of the dean of the University. They break apart in a night of alcohol, bitterness, lust and humiliation, with two other accomplice witnesses: a young Biology professor and his “narrow-hipped” wife, newcomers to campus. The twisting and vileness shown both has its origins in Edward Albee’s magnificent play, which Nichols, in his prodigious directorial debut, shoots with a wide depth of field that allows for multiple focuses on their psychological interaction. The key: the son of the mature couple, who does not know if he is completely dead or dead only to them.
‘Before Dawn’ (1995), by Richard Linklater
The dream of any young person: before, now and after. Take a trip through distant and beautiful places, meet a soulmate and share the most beautiful hours of a life. The complicity, the tenderness, the attraction. A caress, a song, a book, maybe a powder. Jesse, young American hair grungy and spurious spontaneity, and Céline, a French student and cultured as only the French know how to be, eat each other with their eyes and words with Vienna as their witness. The best of encounters, the most fantastic of dates: in the same place, at the same time, six months later. But is that possible, to maintain love and ardor for so many days without seeing each other? Linklater, an analyst of time, relationships and emotions, began with this generational film a sensational trilogy successively elusive, hopeless and bitter. Life and love are just like that. before dawn, Before sunset, Before sunset. And the one that comes.
‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ (1951), by Elia Kazan
The desire, the decay of the body and the spirit, the madness, the contempt and the suffocating heat of New Orleans. According to kazan, forged in the theater, which had already directed Tennessee Williams’ play on Broadway four years earlier, with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy as protagonists, the mythical character of Blanche Dubois (who ended up playing Vivien Leigh) is inspired by the playwright himself, who was practically kicked out of his town because of his homosexuality, having to take refuge in New York. And he dodged the censorship of the Hays code with various symbolisms, presided over by that hose that waters the streets immediately after the elided rape of Stanley Kowalski, a shirt bathed in the sweat of degradation, to his sister-in-law, with a bitter past and an uncertain future. . Brando’s physicality and poetry, and Leigh’s vulnerability and helplessness went down in history.
‘Magnolia’ (1999), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
A place, the San Fernando Valley, and perhaps a world too, ravaged by sin and guilt. A biblical plague in the form of rain of frogs, fallen from the sky for the particular redemption of each of its protagonists. A sick society, under the compassionate gaze of Andersonwhich portrays its characters through the perpetual movement of an agile and elegant camera, with the sound intensity of the music of Jon Brion and the songs of Aimee Mann: “There is a cure / and you have finally found it”. Magnolia it is at the same time epic and intimate, spectacular and subdued, bleak and kind, and the director, with his usual visual writing, sublimates the choral films of crossed lives of one of his teachers: Robert Altman. The chance in our lives, the oppression of the father towards the son, the tragedy of our days. Anderson simply gave us the best of epics set in the contemporaneity of modern cinema.
Barry Lyndon (1975), directed by Stanley Kubrick
Spanish picaresque has little to do with British ingenuity, and yet few characters as roguish as Barry Lyndon in the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray and the film by kubrick. An insolent and shy young man, a whippersnapper with a hell of a lot of luck, condemned to flee, to wander and survive as a mixture of Don Juan, a playboy and a rabble of confusion. Deserter, fornicator, spy, gambler. A guy condemned to successive duels: shots of manhood and dignity, sometimes almost laughable, that the American director films like paintings by William Hogarth and Thomas Gainsborough. Meanwhile, John Alcott’s photography, only with the help of candles, and thanks to a lens developed by NASA that allowed filming in such dim light, refers to the light portraits of George de la Tour and Joseph Wright of Derby. “Is it true that Stanley did 25 shots of some shot?” Ryan O’Neal, the protagonist, was once asked. “Of all”, replied the actor.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
The literary news analyzed by our best critics in our weekly newsletter
We would like to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this awesome material
Ten great movies for moviegoers on HBO, the corner of the series