(Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1952): The death of a bureaucrat: foretold by an x-ray; preceded by reckoning; mocked at the dead man's own wake. Life coming and going: only as meaningful as we make it, and that's all that matters. In the end, people will make of you what they...

(Satyajit Ray, India, 1955): The child Apu (Subir Banjeree) is introduced as pair of eyelids playfully opened by his older sister Durgha (Uma Das Gupta), and we are reminded to see the world as he does: without judgement, prepared for wonder, and finding drama and fascination...

(Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1955): Much more than the plot is twisted in Diabolique. Famous as it might be for a standard-setting curveball ending that so impressed Alfred Hitchcock he wished he'd made the movie -- but instead made Vertigo from the next novel Diabolique's literary creators wrote -- the truly impressive...

(Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1950): In which one of John Ford's biggest fans anticipates printing the legend by a full decade and modernism emerges as the art house's defining architecture. Something happened in the forest that day. That much we know. There was clearly a death, but from murder or...

(Jean Cocteau, France, 1950): A key instigator of the mid-century European art house phenomenon, Jean Cocteau's contemporary retelling of the Orpheus myth is considerably more eccentric and fun than a lot of the movies it would help inspire -- Bergman anyone? Tarkovsky? -- while remaining firmly...

(Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1952): Italian neorealism's last gasp, Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. is charged with both marking the termination of the great postwar cinematic movement and hastening its decline. The first claim is credible: after this, it would be Fellini who would grasp the torch, and...

(Don Siegel, USA, 1956): Talk about fierce economy: in Don Siegel's seminal parable of a conformist pandemic, the world goes completely grey flannel in eighty minutes. While some of this can be chalked up to sheer B-movie efficiency, it's also critical to the movie's diabolical...

(Robert Aldrich, USA, 1955): Tough as nails and then some, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) pounds his way through Robert Aldrich's bughouse crazy Kiss Me Deadly like a pit bull pumped on cortisone. Less panicked than put out that the 'Great Whatzit' he's been tracking for a big payday turns...

(Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1956): The passively mortified face of Henry Fonda anchors Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man as a kind of screen within a screen. It becomes not only the compositional focal point around which the director arranges some of his simplest but bluntly forceful images of desperation and...

(George Stevens, USA, 1951): Justly celebrated for a close-up kiss between Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift that feels like celestial bodies in collision, George Stevens' adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's 850-page 1925 novel An American Tragedy is one of those rare acts of Hollywood bowdlerization that makes something ravishingly...