Beyond the Rocks
Dir. Sam Wood. 1921. N/R. 81mins. Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson.
Long thought to be lost, this silent romantic drama was the only film to pair Swanson and Valentino, two of the biggest stars of silent cinema. Valentino plays a charming playboy who rescues pretty young thing Swanson from drowning, then meets her again after she’s been married off to a wealthy man to save her impoverished family. Needless to say, sparks fly. The script is unexpectedly even-handed, making the fat, old husband a figure of sympathy when you least expect it. If you’re a fan of silent film, consider this required viewing. —Hank Sartin
Dir. David Lynch. 1986. R. 120mins. Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell.
Twenty years later, this lush fever dream of a movie retains its power to both freak us out and crack us up. MacLachlan plays a nice small-town kid whose discovery of a severed human ear in the grass plunges him into a nightmare realm of voyeurism, torture, rape and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Professional nutcase Hopper has never been put to better use, and Roy Orbison will never sound the same once you’ve seen Stockwell’s creepily hilarious lip-synching routine. —Cliff Doerksen
Dir. Jeff Stanzler. 2005. N/R. 83mins. Robin Wright Penn, Abdellatif Kechiche, Sandra Oh, Elodie Bouchez.
Collateral meets Play Misty for Me in post–September 11 New York in this batshit-crazy psycho-thriller. A pious Muslim cabbie is desperate to rescue his brother, who’s been sent to a Syrian prison as part of America’s War on Terror. But things get a whole lot worse for him when a crazy-evil TV executive (the brilliant Wright Penn) enters his cab and offers her help, which he needs like a broken kneecap. It’s utterly toxic but—until the daffy final reel—excruciatingly effective.—Cliff Doerksen