Whether you like consistency, appreciate narrative similarity, or just adhere mostly to one particular genre, these articles can act as your guide to discovering something new. For decades there has been an influx of remakes, sequels and franchise films that have such distinct similarities in story and formula, so it’s not exactly hard nowadays to find films to watch together. But, that’s not always a bad thing. Some of the very best films have an undiscovered sibling out there just waiting to be heard. So we wanted to give those films a nod, and in the process rejoice, not just in films of similar story, but the welcoming contrast films have with each other as well.
City of God (2002) / Elite Squad (2007)
Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 classic is still one of the most recognisable films outside of the English language, in fact it launched world cinema into mainstream eye putting it into an elite group with likes of work from Godard and Truffaut 40 years earlier. It takes place in the favela’s of Rio De Janeiro over a number of years and follows the trials of individuals taking different paths into work and crime. With it’s outrageous balance of slick editing and direction accompanied by it gritty and unflinching violence, City of God oozes quality from beginning to end. Not just that though, the experience you feel is that of the a sun-kissed Brazil, along with all it’s fractured flaws and deepest details.
Where the first is a focus on the inhabitants of the favelas, Elite Squad focuses on the other side of the violence. It follows the elite team ordered to serve and protect within the confines of the busy favelas not only to ensure the safety of the community but also to stop the crime that plagues it. What Elite Squad does so well is to highlight the problem of it’s surroundings and focus in using the brutality of it’s police force. As a film it’s far more bothered with bringing it’s characters in and the political strain of police hatred. But it doesn’t glorify it’s main characters either, it happily sits on the fence and allows the audience to form it’s own opinions while also using the gritty side of City of God to entertain as well.
Side by side these films seem the same, but in reality they are merely two sides to the same coin (or Centavos if you will). One has much more mainstream appeal through the use of it’s editing and storytelling, and the other feels much more authentic in the way it visualises both it’s characters and the violence that ensues. But while they differ in style they both capture the heart and soul of a damaged place in their own way, and in doing so have become a staple of Brazilian cinema in the process. It’s really a matter of opinion of what order to watch them in, but you’ll be both terrified and intrigued by the spirit of Rio de Janeiro.
It Happened One Night (1934) / When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
During the golden-age of Hollywood there was a slew of romantic comedies that were given the title ‘Screwball Comedies’, more to do with the time they were from, but it’s a fitting description of the cartoonish performances and quick witted back and forth between the two leading characters. The classics include Bringing Up Baby (1938), Lady Eve (1941) and Some Like It Hot (1959), but the epitome really is Frank Capra’s charming and funny It Happened One Night. The truth is for the majority of the time this film coast solely and what makes such a perfect romantic comedy, the chemistry and charisma of it’s leading pair and also the charm and simplicity in it’s story. It perfectly sums up everything to love about the particular era it’s in, and showcases and delicate balance of romantic build and ‘tomfoolery’.
55 years later Rob Reiner redefined what a Romantic Comedy should look like a really gave birth to the idea that we take for granted today, the ‘rom-com’. When Harry Met Sally is structured to perfection and chooses to take the route of showcasing friendship before romance, it’s that balance and complication that brings it to a modern audience and really makes you appreciate just how on point Nora Ephron can be when she’s at the top of her game. It’s really easy to brush off just how good this film is, as pretty much every rom-com since owes it’s entire existence to the simplicity of Reiner’s romantic classic. It may not feel new to anyone but it certainly was a fresh reminder that romantic comedy done well is to die for.
Both these films are the same genre, but represent such a different time period that they are an expression of progression. Not just in romance but in societal norms as a whole. Capra defines the era he is from with his feel good attitude and witty writing, and Ephron does exactly the same from a contemporary 1980s relationship, it doesn’t have the same clean-cut approach as Capra’s classic and therefore maybe lacks some of it’s charm, but the truth is romance is never as simple as the movies make it, and at least with When Harry Met Sally you get a mixture of the complicated relationships we endure in life but also keeps it’s movie magic sweet and tender using the ‘basic’ tropes found in romantic movies. But this is not a comparison, it’s honestly more enjoyable to watch the two films together and watch the progression of a genre, and the societal acceptabilities of sex, friendship and relationships, and when enough time passes When Harry Met Sally will have a film that shares the same structure but differs in it’s ideas and representation.