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Best Classic Short films ever made (10+1list)

Best Classic Short films ever made.

written by Souranath Banerjee

Best Classic Short films ever made: According to many acclaimed filmmakers and critics short films are not merely the base of learning the grammars of filmmaking, but also a craft in itself!

It’s a challenge even for the most reputed directors to get the specific desired impact within the brief time limit; a short film has to be compact, gripping and yet meaningful.

And this list of classic shorts are probably the most innovative and thought provoking, undoubtedly the Best Classic Short films ever made in the history of Cinema!

10. The Red Balloon (1956)

The only colored short in this list, and also the only short film to win an Academy Award (for Best Screenplay) outside of the short film categories!

Directed by Albert Lamorisse, this magical short is about a little boy (Pascal Lamorisse, son of director Albert Lamorisse) and his unusual pet – a bright red-balloon!

The ballon of course has been interpreted in many symbolic ways but the sheer beauty of a red balloon floating around the beautiful streets of Paris is enough reason to watch this 34 min classic. 

9. One Week (1920)

A newly married couple (Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely) plans to built their own high-tech home but then someone must have played around with the how-to-built instructions. Hmmm ….

The house gets made but of course don’t expect any regular house for this couple.

Directed by Edward F. Cline and  Buster Keaton, this is a power pack 25 min dose of pure laughter and historic gags/stunts that surely will entertain us much more than just ‘one week’!

8. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962) 

Directed by Robert Enrico, this one is a period short film with the backdrop of Civil war, situated (as the name suggests) at the Owl Creek Bridge where a man is going to be hanged for mutiny.

Just as the execution was about to take place the rope breaks and the man escapes for his life, a desperate attempt to get reunited with his beloved wife. Will he be able to make it?  

This 28 min short without a single dialogue says a lot more than you can ever imagine!

7. Easy Street (1917) 

Directed and acted by Charles Chaplin, this one is an epic short film, probably one of Chaplin’s earliest short that did predict his potential to become one of the most successful man ever in the history of Film making! 

A tramp becomes a police officer and now he must fight it out with the biggest bully on the street! 

Along with Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell this 24min slap-stick comedy is as hilarious as it can get. 

6. Entr’acte (1924)

Intriguing is the word that directly comes to our mind as soon as we start watching this bizarre 22 min short film.

The innovative juxtaposition of images, the transitions, the brilliant camera angles (much ahead of it’s time) and overlaps, the element of speed incorporated along with the eccentric soundtrack in the background – directed by René Clair the film though difficult to interpret is still an enigma, a masterpiece, a rule-breaker.

One of the best classic surrealist short film ever made!

5. The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923)

An intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage, an irritating husband and then we have a revolver that may not be empty anymore!

Directed by Germaine Dulac, this silent 26 min short is regarded as one of the first feminist movies ever made!

4. La Jetée (1962)

Paris in the aftermath of WWII, a montage of pictures that takes us through the unknown passages of time, memories that combines the past, the present and somehow the future as well.

Directed by Chris Marker, this film is an absolute beauty, and probably the best example of how still images along with a voiceover can tell a powerful story on it’s own.

A true classic!

(I couldn’t find the whole film in youtube. This is just the starting bit of the 28 min film)

3. A Trip to the Moon (1902)

One of the earliest known science fiction and also the first animated film ever attempted!

Taking Jules Verne‘s novel, “From the Earth to the Moon” as the source material, director by Georges Méliès made this unique short featuring a group of astronomers going on an expedition to the Moon!
This 13 min stylised classic will always be on every must watch short film list. 

Another short from the same directot Georges Méliès that is worth your time – The Voyage Across the Impossible (1904).

2. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Talking about surreality; eccentric, bizarre and often grotesque imagery – well, you have come to the right place.

A unique collaboration between Luis Buñuel (director) and Salvador Dalí (writer) which resulted to this short 16min classic that tops the list when it comes to the most disturbing shots ever compiled together to provoke the audience.

Another brilliant short that is a must watch from the same director Simon of the Desert (1965).

  1. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, this film is one of the most stylish classic short that portrays the possible dreams of a woman, a surreal look into her thoughts, her desires, her subconscious mind.  

Repetitive images, playing with shadows, jump cuts, experimental camera tricks and the eerie soundtrack – 14min of all these give enough scope for multiple interpretations, symbolisms and certain cryptic significances throughout the film.

Two other classic short films also from Director Maya Deren that are totally worth your time At Land (1944) and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946).

and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most innovative one. A must watch)

+1. The Arrival of a Train (1896) 

Although considered to be among the first motion pictures in modern history but actually it was the first major public display of the ‘invention’ of film.

Directed by Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière (the Lumière Brothers), this 1 min historic film when exhibited for the first time at a Parisian café (Grand Café) on 28th December 1895, it is said that the first-night audience literally ran out of the café in fear of being run over by the “approaching” train!

Such is the power of Cinema!

Similar Interest: Best Hollywood Classic Romantic Films

Similar Interest: Best Classic Silent Films – the power of visuals

Similar Interest: Best Classic Christmas Films of all time

Similar Interest: Best Bollywood Classics

Similar Interest: Best of Film Noir

Poster courtesy: www.imdb.com

Jalsaghar aka The music room (1958)

The Music Room review.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

My Ratings: 4.9/5.

The original negative of the 1958 classic film Jalsaghar (The Music Room) was destroyed in a fire. Coincidentally the film was also about destruction!

Universally acclaimed director Satyajit Ray‘s forth feature, based on a popular short story by famous writer Tarashankar Bandopadhyay.

jalshaghar-poster1A tragic drama, Jalsaghar is a brutal tale of a man’s struggle against time; his desperate attempt to cease the inevitable degradation, a futile battle against the humiliation of an inescapable extinction.

Huzur Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas).

A feudal landlord with a remarkably fine taste in classical music and an illusion of misguided grandeur.

Set in the pre-independence era, Huzur Biswambhar Roy is the perfect portrait of an affluent egoistic zaminder from Bengal who is too shortsighted to see the decline of his own zamindari.

Huge family portraits hung from the walls of his palatial ancestral home. Accompanied by his loving wife Mahamaya (Padmadevi) and his adorable young son Bireswar aka Khoka (Pinaki Sengupta), served by the manager of the estate (Tulsi Lahiri) and his loyal servant (Kali Sarkar) among many others and entertained by the performances of the best classical musicians of that time in his own music room (jalsaghar) – Huzur Biswambhar Roy was habituated to such blissful life of royal luxury. 

He even owned a horse named ‘Tufan’ and an elephant named ‘Moti’!

The-Music-Room-posterA pompous man too engrossed in his passion/addiction for music, too drunk in his own pride to notice that his so-called aristocracy and traditional authority is crumbing down to pieces.

With his insatiable urge of parading his supremacy over the new-age wealthy men like Mahim Ganguly (Gangapada Basu) Biswambhar Roy started draining all his family-wealth to arrange unique musical performances and extravagant family functions.

And then with the sudden tragic loss of his family Huzur is left alone – a grief-stricken aging man whose royalty seems to be fading away along with his wealth.

But does that mean he has also lost his zeal for music? His drive to show off his peerage by arranging yet another musical event in his favorite jalsaghar – may be for one last time!

‘To you my noble ancestors – to you!’ and Huzur Biswambhar Roy raises his wine glass as a toast to the portraits of his ancestors.

the-music-room-jalsagar

Chhabi Biswas brilliantly portrays the degradation of Huzur Biswambhar Roy’s character. He manages to capture the insanity that lurks in the shadowy corners of that once opulent ancestral house, the character’s frantic struggle to resist the changes of time, his disturbing denial of accepting the reality.

Huzur’s pet elephant ‘Moti’ (the ancient way of transport) is cleverly compared to Mahim Ganguly’s loud-honking car in one single shot; even the glowing candles at the Zaminder’s palace become a direct contrast to the monotonous sound of the electric generator from neighbour Mahim Ganguly’s place – Satyajit Ray perfectly establishes these conflicts between the old and the new without the need of many dialogues!

With the slow yet engaging narration Ray masterfully captures the mood of that period. He manages to control his audience in a subconscious level; it feels like the film seeps in and creates it’s own hypnotic spell. (More like the mild flavor of ‘muchkundo phul-er papdi’ in Huzur’s favorite sherbet).

The shooting was done at Nimtita Raajbari, in Nimtita village, 10 kms from Murshidabad.

jalsaghar-poster3In Jalsaghar the isolated palace becomes a symbol of Huzur’s loneliness.

The huge mirrors, the life size human paintings, the swinging chandeliers, the trapped insect in the wine glass, the crawling spider on Huzur’s portrait – master director Satyajit Ray with these amazing visuals managed to evoke a certain sense of danger and uneasiness throughout the film.

Special credit goes to Bansi Chandragupta for his brilliant art direction and production designing in the film.

Subrata Mitra’s smooth camera movements and Dulal Dutta‘s editing give Jalsaghar the tranquility it deserves.

Among many famous shots in the film – the one with the reflection of the bright chandelier on Biswambhar Roy’s wine glass can be also interpreted as the fading reflection (remembrance) of his good times, his lost days of happiness, glory and wealth.

Music for Jalsaghar is given by Ustad Vilayat Khan and Robin Majumdar.

jalshaghar-posterThe film has some of the best Hindustani classical musicians performing. On-screen performances by legends like Begum Akhtar, a duet by Roshan Kumari (dancing) and Ustad Waheed Khan (singing) and famous Tansen’s ‘Miya ki malhar’ performed by  Salamat Ali Khan.

Satyajit Ray’s style of introducing Indian classical music to such an extent challenged the general norm of songs and dance sequences in Indian films of that time.

For me Jalsaghar is primarily a psychological drama where Huzur Biswambhar Roy actually fights a battle with himself (his Ego to be more specific); he refuses to open his eyes to the evolving world around him.

Jalsaghar when released though didn’t work at the Indian box-office but received both critical and financial success in Europe and US and helped Ray earn huge international reputation. According to many Critics Jalsaghar is his best film.

Watch it in a relaxed mind (if you already haven’t) … such films are rare to find.

Additional read: The Music Room: Distant Music by Philip Kemp.