Cinema 88, first part

French audio version, music: Kaneda (from "AKIRA Symphonic Suite") by Geinoh Yamashirogumi

1988 was the year of the first steps of the World Wide Web, the World Expo in Brisbane, the unique time the male football team of The Netherlands has been champion and, closer to me, French president François Mitterrand was reelected.
But more importantely I also came to this world.
So, for no more reason, I decided a few months ago to watch as many films from 88 as possible.

Let’s start with the films I already saw:

The Obvious Ones

Die Hard

by John McTiernan - Disney+

screenshot of Die Hard
screenshot of Die Hard
screenshot of Die Hard
screenshot of Die Hard

Bruce Willis was the action hero of my childhood with The Fifth Element. He was like Son Goku: he saves the day without coming out unscathed.
I saw the film a long time ago and thought I remembered it well but after watching it again, I only had in mind the more than iconic moments, and they are plenty: the fire hose, the ventilation ducts, the duct tape in the back, Hans’ fall, etc.

But the film is so generous, it’s a non-stop ride. The intricate villain’s plan is slowly unfolding while actions sequences go on. John McClain is smart but not smarter than the bad guys. The German gymnasts are hilarious, Alan Rickman's performance is insane.
The cinematography of Jan de Bont starts in warm Los Angeles sunshine before quickly dives into dark night and high lights.
The directing of McTiernan is only at its best in motion.
I totally forgot that the Christmas music is used all along the movie, it’s fun and revelling.
The exposition is smart: the first dialogue in the plane introduces the protagonist and is the cause of him being bare feet during the rest of his suffering. The touchscreen at the entrance of the building is a proof of its high technology but also shows to John that his wife changed name. Examples are numerous.

I’m sure that, as a kid, I also loved the mocking tone. The film is sparing no one: the greedy journalists, the frat boys FBI agents Johnson and Johnson (haha), the imbecile chief of police, the businessman full of coke.


「アキラ」 by Katsuhiro Otomo

screenshot of Die Hard

It’s still one of the best animated films of all time. I love other works from Otomo in animation or manga. It's a cornerstone of the animation history and a huge influence in cyberpunk aesthetic. We should watch and rewatch it, no doubt.

My Neighbor Totoro

「となりのトトロ」 by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

The career of Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t contain any mistakes, in my opinion, and the character of Totoro is more than iconic so, obviously, I recommend you to see it. It’s, first of all a film for children and I would have loved to see it earlier, maybe that’s why Totoro is not in my favourites Miyazaki.

Grave of the Fireflies

「火垂るの墓」 by Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli

It was not a bad year for animation, clearly. I understand the praise for Grave of the Fireflies and it was for a long time in my watch list but it’s a bit too much tearjerker for my taste. Anecdote: I watched it for the first time in 2018, in a cinema, during a strange screening with technical difficulties and a neighbour eating tacos, so appropriate.

And The First Surprises

They Live

by John Carpenter

screenshot of They Live
screenshot of They Live
screenshot of They Live
screenshot of They Live

So badass and stupid at the same time, it has a real punk feeling. I love Carpenter and am slowly catching up on his films. I was surprised by the groom beginning, I was expecting a more fun satire. They Live is a great melting pot of political critic, cartoonish scenes and a pulp story.

Working Girl

by Mike Nichols - Disney+

screenshot of Working Girl
screenshot of Working Girl
screenshot of Working Girl
screenshot of Working Girl

I only knew Mike Nichols for The Graduate so I was prepared for some darkness but it’s well hidden behind a joyful romantic comedy.
Harisson Ford and Sigourney Weaver are having a ball and Kevin Spacey plays an asshole, as always. Melanie Griffith is even more annoying than in Body Double but we could say its naïveté helps the story.
The boss, Katharine, is smartly portrayed: she knows the tricks, even if younger, to stay at this position of power.
The last scene shows how ecstatic Tess is by her new position, but then the camera slowly backtracks, revealing a different view: she is just another small gear in the machine.
This last shot leaving the city also reflects the nice first shot.

Police Story

《警察故事》 with Jackie Chan

screenshot of Police Story

Released in 1985 in Hong Kong, but in 1987 in France and 1988 in USA.

Wow! I love Jacky Chan and I was a big fan as a kid but I wasn’t aware of this saga until late. I finally catch up and, clearly, I’m not used (yet) to the HK cinema. It’s almost just a suite of stunt scenes but the other scenes are surprisingly telling a coherent story. It’s simple and goofy but you can feel the rage. The sequel has been originally released in 1988 so I’m looking forward to include it in my next list.

Tucker, the man and his dream

by Francis Ford Coppola - Netflix

First time watching a Coppola film after Apocalypse Now. I didn't expect this over-the-top, joyful, car ride. I liked the too-big-for-life character. Always smiling but also too aggressive with his team.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

by David Zucker

Not the best from the series but still love it, way too salacious.
Some lines are still great ("A parachute not opening…that's a way to die." :D)

The Bear

L’Ours by Jean Jacques Annaud

Except some trippy nightmare scenes that don’t fit with the rest of the film, I enjoyed a lot the cinematography and the journey. The animals are very beautifully filmed. The story is more engaging than I expected. Peculiar shots (close-ups, first person, distorted) are cleverly flavouring the direction.

Dead Ringers

by David Cronenberg

screenshot of Dead Ringers
screenshot of Dead Ringers

So weird. Adapted from a true story, which makes it even weirder. It’s touching many topics, from science, gynaecology, fecundity, drugs, identity, links. It's convincing, good performance from Irons but I don’t grasp the story.
Nice decorum, this late 80s black marble and red surgeon tunics are amazing.
Seeing again a lonely crazy Iron eating birthday cake after the Watchmen TV show was a pleasure.
Pretty subtle for a Cronenberg after all.

Mississippi Burning

by Alan Parker

Some nice dynamic shots. Reminds me of Spielberg. Lots of extras. Army of feds.
Frances McDormand plays a brave, cute and smart character. Gene Hackman is a player, real fun, playing dumber than he is.
Willem Dafoe is so young, he looks almost trustable.
Too bad, the black character with the most lines is a buccaneer from the cop but it’s a really good scene.
The film takes the time to show that the lawless actions at the end are understandable.
The interviews of the locals are chilling and all the KKK’s arguments are still in the air today. It’s revolting.

Red Heat

by Walter Hill

screenshot of Red Heat
screenshot of Red Heat
screenshot of Red Heat
screenshot of Red Heat

An average 80s buddy movie despite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Almost nothing memorable but some good supporting actors. Laurence Fishburne has a minor role but Gina Gershon is stunning, as always.
It begins with a fight in a hammam and finishes with a bus chase, it could sound hot but it’s not.
The duo Schwarzy forms with Jim Belushi reminded me the one he has with Tom Arnold in True Lies but Red Heat pales in comparison with James Cameron’s piece of art.

The Big Blue

Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson

screenshot of The Big Blue
screenshot of The Big Blue
screenshot of The Big Blue
screenshot of The Big Blue

I like the pace of the movie, even with this length and the narrow main topic.
Jean Reno playing in the Mediterranean reminds me so much Porco Rosso (he did the French dub and I love it), therefore I’m not objective.
Weird love scene, some stereotypical scenes (thanks Luc!) and wide shots are overused.
The theme can be annoying but the rest of the soundtrack is good, but it's super funky cheesy.

The Little Thief

La Petite Voleuse by Claude Miller

I don't have the context and it’s not my cinema so I'm not comfortable criticising it. But I felt uncomfortable, to say the least, seeing a 16- or 17-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character sex stories.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

by Robert Zemeckis - Disney+

I love Zemeckis’ works but I avoided this film for a long time because I simply can't stand the Toons: Roger rabbit, Donald duck, Tom & Jerry, etc. they all cringe my gears.
So the movie is a real tour de force and withstands the test of time incredibly well but I'm not a fan of the universe so it was a bit painful to watch.
I will remember the introduction, it’s a scene for the in-universe cartoon so it's 2D animation but some shots are so dynamic I'm wondering if they used 3D modelling. The fact that I can't see if it's 2D or 3D alone is pretty rare but from a 1988 movie, it’s impressive.

That’s all for now,
my watch list of 1988 films is already long and I’m excited to see some of them but I’ll try to diversify more the genres and explore my discomfort zone.
Feel free to recommend me your favourites ones.

See you next time.