It may be our birthday but we're giving out the gifts this year, with a special world cinema retrospective.
By
SBS Movies

25 Oct 2010 - 10:55 AM  UPDATED 25 Oct 2010 - 10:55 AM

The Special Broadcasting Service is turning 30, so to celebrate we're screening a retrospective of some of the best world cinema made during our lifetime.

Why? Because SBS has long been synonymous with cinema. In the early days we kicked things off with a Sunday night cinema special, Whole World of Movies, and since then, we've been dedicated to providing all Australians with the best films from around the world. We've exposed viewers to movies from more countries than any other network combined, showcasing the work of emerging stars, esteemed masters and everyone in between. From the early days of the The Movie Show to the launch of SBS Movies, viewers have had a home to adore, deplore and passionately debate their love of cinema.

The introduction of SBS TWO has doubled the number of primetime films each week (many of them Australian premieres). From fast-tracked screenings of international festival hits, to curated film seasons that incorporate the best of US and UK independent film, SBS continues to be the home for lovers of unique and challenging cinema. We've come a long way, and that's why we're looking back this November with a season of defining films from the '80s, '90s and '00s on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

1980s

RAN
SBS TWO, FRIDAY, 5 NOVEMBER @ 9:30PM

First up is Ran, from legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Made when he was 75, and arriving near the end of the one of the greatest careers in cinematic history, Kurosawa's last great medieval epic fuses 16th Century Japan with Shakespearean overtones. King Lear meets Mōri Motonari when the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) abdicates the throne to his three sons, making way for a power struggle between the troubled brood. Ran (meaning 'chaos') was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced up to that time, and it shows. From its Mounts Aso setting to the glorious costumes by Oscar winner Emi Wada, it's never short of spectacular.

(Watch trailer for RAN here)

(Read more about RAN here)

MEPHISTO
SBS TWO, FRIDAY, 5 NOVEMBER @ 12:20AM

Mephisto is István Szabó adaptation of Thomas Mann's 1936 novel, itself an appropriation of the classic German cautionary tale of Mephistopheles and Doctor Faustus. In a powerhouse performance, Klaus Maria Brandauer plays Hendrik Hoefgen, a needy, self-absorbed stage actor with malleable morals. Set in Hamburg and Berlin from the 1920s to '40s, and loosely based on the infamous German actor Gustaf Gründgens, Brandauer ingratiates himself with the newly empowered Nazi officials, selling his soul to the devil for glory on the stage, as friends and citizens endure the horrors of the ruling party. Despite winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, it's become something of a rarity, so don't miss it.

(Watch trailer for MEPHISTO here)

(Read more about MEPHISTO here)

WINGS OF DESIRE
SBS TWO, FRIDAY, 12 NOVEMBER @ 9:30PM

Cold War Germany sets the scene for Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, an ethereal, poetic account of two angels. Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Casseil (Otto Sander) fondly observe Berliners from afar as they go about their daily lives, often comforting lost souls, who are oblivious to the duo's presence. Lovelorn Damiel longs to become human so he can unveil himself to the real, living world, and more importantly, the object of his desire (a rather delightful circus acrobat, played by Solveig Dommartin). Wenders dedicates the project to his filmmaking heroes Francois Truffaut, Andrei Tarkovsky and Yasujiro Ozu, sweetly referring to them in the closing titles as “former angels”; he was awarded the Best Director prize at Cannes.

(Watch trailer for WINGS OF DESIRE here)

FANNY AND ALEXANDER
SBS TWO, FRIDAY, 19 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

Swedish heavyweight Ingmar Bergman's last theatrical film, Fanny and Alexander is a melancholy story about a bourgeois family at turn of the century, as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. The story takes hold when Alexander (Bertil Guve) and his sister, Fanny (Pernilla Allwin), move to an austere new abode after their widowed mother remarries. The despondent siblings resist the new family dynamic with all their might. The semi-autobiographical tale was initially developed for TV, and divided into five parts (and running 300-plus minutes). It was tweaked for the big screen, a very wise move in retrospect; it neatly tied a bow around Bergman's cinematic oeuvre, and won four Oscars, including Best Foreign film.

(Watch trailer for FANNY AND ALEXANDER here)


FITZCARRALDO

SBS TWO, FRIDAY, 26 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

It's remarkable the last film in our '80s season was made at all, let alone finished. Three actors left the production (Jack Nicolson, Jason Robards and Mick Jagger), and filmmaker Werner Herzog considered taking the lead role himself before settling on his contemptuous long-time collaborator, Klaus Kinski. Enduring horrendous conditions, Herzog produced a masterpiece of epic proportions with Fitzcarraldo, creating one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history – 320-tonne steamer dragged over a hill beside the Amazon River. Klaus plays a crazed, early 20th Century rubber baron hell bent on constructing an opera house deep within the Peruvian jungle. The production was so tortuous and Kinski's behavior so unbearable, the Peruvian natives offered to kill him on Herzog's behalf.

(Watch trailer for FITZCARRALDO here)

(Read more about FITZCARRALDO here)

1990s

CYRANO DE BERGERAC
SBS TWO, SATURDAY, 6 NOVEMBER @ 9:30PM


Jean-Paul Rappeneau's adaptation of Edmond Rosmand's play wasn't the first, but it may well be the best. In Cyrano de Bergerac, Gérard Depardieu plays the swashbuckling Parisian poet with a beak to rival the size of his sword. Since childhood, Cyrano's been head over heels for Roxanne (Anne Brochet), a stunning Mademoiselle blind to his devotion. He suffers from unavoidable shyness, believing his considerable nose will surely get in the way of his pursuit. He's right, and she falls for Christian, a handsome, though oafish, jitterbug incapable of engaging with beautiful women. Ever the hopeless romantic, Cyrano puts his heart on the line to help his rival, ghost writing poems and love letters, putting them both in an awkward predicament. The film romped through the festival circuit and scored a ton of awards, highlighted by Depardieu's prize for Best Actor at Cannes. It's a fun film (plus, Darryl Hannah is nowhere to be found).

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE
SBS TWO, SATURDAY, 6 NOVEMBER @ 11:55PM

One of the most revered directors of the last 20 years, the late Kyrsztof Kieslowski spent two decades examining Polish life under communism as part of the 'Cinema of Moral Anxiety' movement. Soon after the country installed a new regime, Kieslowski relocated to France where he produced one of his most successful works in The Double Life of Veronique. Made between the 10-hour TV mini-series Dekalog and his magnum opus Three Colours Blue, White and Red, Veronique studies the lives of two identical strangers (both played Irène Jacob) residing in France and Poland, respectively. Kieslowski divides the film into chapters and compares the doppelgangers as they navigate the path of their true identities. Jacob scored the Best Actress award at Cannes for nailing both parts, but only received one trophy.

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER
SBS TWO, SATURDAY, 13 NOVEMBER @ 10:05PM

Nobody mixes tragedy with comedy quite like Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. The master of melodrama has made a fine career out of balancing harsh realities with the joys of life, and All About My Mother is no different. This Oscar winner begins when the son (Eloy Azorín) of a nurse (Cecilia Roth) is struck down by a car after seeing a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. She heads off to Barcelona in search of the boy's father, a transvestite (Toni Cantó) unaware of his parenthood. Almodóvar's meditation on mothers was developed around the concept of the Tennessee Williams' line 'I always rely on the kindness of strangers,' telling The Movie Show in 1999 that “a desperate woman is the best engine for a plot.” In his inimitable style, it's vibrant, sharp and utterly affecting.

(Watch trailer for ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER here)

LA FEMME NIKITA
SBS TWO, SATURDAY, 20 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

Just as famous for its original concept as for its execution, La Femme Nikita inspired two television series and a terrible Hollywood remake (The Assassin aka Point of No Return, 1993). Anne Parillaud stars as a burnout junkie sent to prison for killing a cop. In a great twist, she's given a chance to choose her punishment: either serve a life sentence, or enlist in the French Secret Service and transform into an assassin. The Pygmalion scenario is infused with director Luc Besson's exceptional visual style; especially the blue neon hue which bathes the action, blending perfectly with Parillaud's little black dress. Incidentally, the character played by Jean Reno, a crime scene cleaner, inspired Quentin Tarantino's much-quoted Pulp Fiction character The Wolf.

(Watch trailer for LA FEMME NIKITA here)

DELICATESSEN
SBS TWO, SATURDAY, 27 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

Delicatessen was the first feature film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (The City of Lost Children), after making numerous shorts together since meeting at animation school in the '70s. In a post-apocalyptic landscape where food is scarce, a butcher/landlord stocks his delicatessen with meat sourced from the flesh of his own staff, which he on-sells to his tenants. Jeunet apparently came up with the set-up on a US trip, after consuming food so terrible he compared it to eating people. It's like a live-action black comedy cartoon, filled with too many quirks to count, and clever in ways that CGI rarely, if ever, is. Keep an eye out for 'The Australian,' too. He's a sharp little bugger.

(Watch trailer for DELICATESSEN here)


2000s

DOWNFALL
SBS TWO, SUNDAY, 7 NOVEMBER @ 9:30PM

Just when original ideas for WWII films seemed done and dusted, along came Downfall, a masterful depiction of the last 10 days of the Third Reich. With Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) holed up in the Führerbunker in Berlin as Russian forces make their way through the city, and his collaborators all too aware the war is lost and fleeing to save themselves, the Mein Fuhrer's secretary (Alexandra Maria Lara) quietly records the last days of a dying dream. It was partly based on the diary of Hitler's youngest secretary Traudl Junge (who later lived temporarily in Australia during the 1970s and '80s). Ganz's astounding performance is mesmerising; he's incredible in duplicating that furious bellow. It's a portrayal so chilling, no other actor in their right mind would dare try and top it. They'd fall off the edge.

(Watch trailer for DOWNFALL here)

AMELIE
SBS TWO, SUNDAY, 14 NOVEMBER @ 9:30PM

From darkness comes light and none so bright as the smile of one Amelie of Montmartre. An adorable girl with a passion for discovery, her imagination and infectious attitude prove your world can be as fantastical as you make it. When Amelie (Audrey Tautou) returns a box of childhood memories found hidden in her apartment, the owner's joy of her retrieval lights a spark, leading her to become a guardian angel of sorts. Her whimsical journey eventually leads her to love's front door, if only she would build up the courage to knock. Amelie was a worldwide smash and one of Australia's highest ever grossing foreign language films, making a star out of Tautou. It's a delight in every sense of the word.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON
SBS TWO, SUNDAY, 21 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

The impact of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Western audiences cannot be undersold. The Chinese-language film was a runaway hit in Australia and in the US, where it became the first foreign language movie to earn north of $100 million. Its 10 Oscar nominations is a record for an international film and it's still the only martial arts movie ever to be up for Best Picture. Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh play elder martial arts warriors. Prohibited from following through on their feelings to one another, they put their attraction aside to retrieve a stolen sword from a lady entangled in her own romantic dilemma. Ang Lee's 'Sense and Sensibility with martial arts' features such inspiring stunt work, you'll be bamboo dancin' in no time.

(Watch trailer for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON here)


PAN'S LABYRINTH
SBS TWO, SUNDAY, 28 NOVEMBER @
9:30PM

Seemingly determined in keeping the marketing phrase 'from the mind of…' from becoming a back-handed compliment, Guillermo del Toro has produced several unique projects, none more so than his surreal fantasy, Pan's Labyrinth. After a stint in Hollywood, del Toro gave up his entire salary, including back-end points, to see the film realised in Spain. Set during the Second World War, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a bookish young girl, moves to the mountains with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to live with her cruel new stepfather (Sergi López), a captain in the army of Francisco Franco. One night a fairy guides Ofelia to the underground home of a Faun, who gives her three tasks to complete. Del Toro was quoted as saying, “I think that it's a movie that is going to make people react emotionally.” It did. A singer was so moved she wrote a song soon afterwards. Her name? Björk.

(Watch trailer for PAN'S LABYRINTH here)

So there you have it. 14 films over 12 nights. It's one our best ever seasons and reflective of the cinema we've presented with pride since inception: major award winners, foreign blockbusters, rarities, and the culturally significant. With something for everyone, it's essential viewing for cinefiles, converts and the just plain curious. We'll keep up the good work and continue to broadcast and report on the best films from around the globe. Wherever you find world cinema, you'll find SBS.