Five Unofficial Trilogies From Five Filmmakers

Times are hard right now, but one of the things I do to alleviate myself is talk about movies. I know I’m probably one of the lucky ones who isn’t completely alone in isolation as I’m living with my girlfriend who shares the same love of movies as I do. If I get anxious or worried, usually movies help me through it. They just do that for me and I’m happy I have that to get me through the toughest days.That being said, I thought I would add some content to my blog which is just meant to be fun and a little bit interesting. I was inspired from a hashtag going along to give your top ten film trilogies. Certainly there would be a lot to choose from, and perhaps some day I will give my list of official trilogies, but for this post, I wanted to focus on what might be considered some unofficial trilogies. Outside of the film community, people usually don’t think of these following films as trilogies, however they do sometimes arise when one were to talk about the works of certain filmmakers. A lot of the times, directors consciously or uncosciously make different films which share certain thematic elements. It just so happens that some of these movies come in threes, and voila you have a nice trilogy of films.I decided to list some of these trilogies which I found to be interesting from five of my favourite filmmakers: Yasuiro Ozu, John Ford, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg. If you’re like me and you sometimes want to make a list of films to watch that complement each other, I recommend these trilogies as a good place to start.

Yasujiro Ozu’s Noriko Trilogy (Late Spring/Early Summer/Tokyo Story) Yasujiro Ozu’s series of films is merely linked by the name of a character played by Setsuko Hara. In each film, Hara plays Noriko, although they are never meant to be the same person. Late Spring is the first of these films where the Noriko is a young daughter who is pressured by her father to be married. The same theme is carried on in Early Summer, where Hara again plays a woman in the same predicament, only with a much bigger family. The trilogy ends with Tokyo Story, where Hara’s Noriko in this film is the daughter in law to an elderly couple who are neglected by their real children, only to be shown compassion by her. These films are all masterpieces of quiet observation, and gentle heartbreak. Setsuko Hara appeared in many of Ozu’s films, yet these three probably show off their strongest collaberation together. Thematically most of Ozu’s films carry the same theme of the dissolution of the family, yet with Hara/Noriko as a throughline, it’s almost as if he was trying to say something about a certain type of woman he wanted to depict in his films.

John Ford’s Calvery Trilogy (Fort Apache/She Wore a Yellow Ribbon/Rio Grande) John Ford’s unoffical western trilogy focused on the life of calvery officers, all of them starring John Wayne. Fort Apache is the first film where Henry Fonda plays a General Custer type of commander who is leading his troupe on a suicide mission. Wayne plays the level headed officer who tries to change his mind. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon features one of Wayne’s best performances as an aging commander who is on the brink of retirement while trying to stop a war with a tribe of First Nations. Rio Grande is a gentle film, featuring Wayne as a career calvery officer who’s son has joined his regiment. Maureen O’Hara plays Wayne’s estranged wife, and the romance between them make this quite memorable. With this series of films, it shows off Ford’s romantic take on the western genre and his deep admiration for soldiers and the male commeraderie shared among them. Although he isn’t above criticizing some of the choices made by the officers, such as the embodiment of tyranny in the persuit of glory of Fond’s character in Fort Apache which is definitely the darkest of the three films.

Orson Welles’ Shakespeare Trilogy (Macbeth/Othello/Chimes at Midnight) Orson Welles created three very memorable Shakespearan adaptation which could be ranked among his best. Although constrained by a relatively low budget, his Macbeth is quite innovative and clever using a minimal sets and hiding his restraints with wonderful camera and cinematography techniques. His Othello which he worked on and off for over four years trying to get financing is again a very contained film, yet Welles does the most with what he has making it dynamic setting it apart as a world of its own. Finally Chimes at Midnight is a masterpiece as he takes elements from the Henry IV plays to tell the story of Falstaff. It’s a monumental acheivement that should rank among Welles’ best films. Welles was an expert performer and director, and these three films again represent a genius who had to rely on his own source of improvisation and camera tricks to create fully monumental films. His use of experimentation is at play in all of these adaptions, and with his Falstaff, he probably creates a character that is the most himself as he has ever put on screen.

Martin Scorsese’s Spiritual Trilogy (The Last Temptation of Christ/Kundun/Silence) Martin Scorsese made a group of films that focus mostly on faith and religion. While most of his films do deal with similar subject matter these three films show Scorsese at his most explicit in depicting some sort of spirituality. Last Temptation deals with Jesus as if he were a real man, while Kundun is an expressionistic account of the life of the Dalai Llama. Silence is a modern masterpiece about the morality of faith as it pertains to introducing religion onto a culture, and how far should we be made to suffer for our faith. With these films, Scorsese asks many questions, and each one contains its own spiritual journey the characters must take. I like to think these are his most challenging films for his audience, which is probably why they are the ones which did not have much success. Still you can see when Scorsese works in films this way, he is perhaps trying to get at his own truth of his beliefs as he continues to challenge us.

Steven Spielberg’s Constitution Trilogy (Lincoln/Bridge of Spies/The Post) A series of films Spielberg made with a strong link to American politics. Each film is a period piece, though can be thought of as an allegory with what is going on in the world today. You could say they are all patriotic films, in that they show democracy done right, and what America should stand for when it isn’t being corrupted by big governments and corporations. Perhaps only Spielberg could make someone like Abraham Lincoln seem like an underdog, yet that’s exactly what he does. With Lincoln, it deals with the the great man’s struggle to pass the 13th amendment in order to abolish slavery. Bridge of Spies has Tom Hanks as a lawyer defending a Russian spy during the cold war when for the simple reason because he knows it’s right. While in The Post Hanks and Meryl Streep fight for the freedom of the press after the American people have been lied to. In each film, Spielberg shows an idealistic side of America, and one that feels refreshingly optimistic considering the times we are living in. Yet these films are also subversive, he is actually commenting on the current times, and in these films we can see them as triumphs of the human spirit, but also as moral compasses on how we should navigate towards the American dream.

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