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The Third Man DVD cover

Here’s a selection of Elect Resource and Serials Access Coordinator Shawn Biegen’s favorite narrative films. Shawn says, “In order to avoid my legal responsibility, as a former film student, to list Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca in any top film list, the following is a completely random selection of five films that I enjoy…”

The Third Man (1949)

While investigating the suspicious death of his childhood friend, an American pulp novelist becomes entangled in the seedy underworld of post-war Europe. The fact that this film was largely shot on location in the ruins of war-ravaged Vienna, gives it a haunting quality unique even among the best film noirs. Add to this Graham Greene’s screenplay, Carol Reed’s directing, and the acting of Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, and you have as close to a perfect film as there is.

Watch the trailer for The Third Man:

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Relates the sordid life of its title character, an 18th century rogue intent on ascending to the peak of 18th century European society by any means necessary. This is my personal favorite out of all of Stanley Kubrick’s films. However, be forewarned that it is definitely a heavyweight, at a full 185 minutes long. So set aside an entire evening, and enjoy.

Watch the trailer for Barry Lyndon:

Brazil – 1985

Follows the life of a mid-level bureaucrat within an absurdly Orwellian society, as he becomes increasingly compromised by his search for a mysterious woman that haunts his dreams. There are actually two versions of this film available in our collection, as this film was famously taken away from its director, Terry Gilliam, and re-edited by the film’s concerned financiers. I strongly recommend watching the director’s cut.

Watch the trailer for Brazil:

The Prestige – 2006

Two rival late 19th century magicians, with a tragic personal connection, vie with each other to create the world’s most astonishing illusion in an era when scientific innovation makes anything seem possible. This excellent film was the victim of unfortunate timing, as it came out virtually simultaneously with The Illusionist, which proved to be too much magic for the general public, and split these films’ modest target audience in half.

Watch the trailer for The Prestige:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – 2007

This is a film I recommend very cautiously, for the following reason. I really like westerns. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t make westerns anymore because apparently nobody else goes to see them. If by some miracle a western is released, I will happily sit in my seat devouring my popcorn long after the two other people in the theater have left in disgust. So, it is possible that my bias may have blinded me to the fact that this film is truly bad. With that being said, I consider this film a flawed masterpiece that inverts the clichés of its genre by examining the consequences of the celebrity status attained by western icons like Jesse James, as well as the glorification of violence often associated with their fame. I am unbiased enough to concede that the film’s often rambling narrative should have been tightened up considerably, but I think it’s still well worth seeing. At the very least, please consider watching this film (or the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Open Range, etc.) as an altruistic act, to help save the western genre from total extinction.

Watch the trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:

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