Burn! Gillo Pontecorvo

First thing's first: this is not the 20-minutes-longer restored version that toured the continent earlier this year, and MGM should be rapped for failing to make that cut available. But it's a testament to the power of the film that it stands without the missing footage. Set in a Portuguese sugar colony in the 19th century, it has Marlon Brando as a professional instigator who foments a revolution so that the British might take the island over. Unfortunately for the British, the man of the people invented by Brando refuses to lie down after his betrayal, and the island is engulfed in a bloody civil war. It's a shattering display of colonial arrogance at work, and though director Gillo Pontecorvo has his problems (such as his constant leering close-ups of the natives' naked breasts) he still manages to deftly sketch the system by which slavery was replaced by other forms of exploitation. Though he's not terribly good at suggesting the culture of the people on his fictional island, he compensates by giving us a parade of irredeemable western scum, with Brando leading the charge with a deliciously oily performance. Even his 11th-hour pangs of conscience don't add up to much more than self-pity and aggrandisement, though despite being a spectacularly manipulative bastard he winds up, through honesty alone, the most sympathetic white in the piece (not that he's at all sympathetic). Like Pontecorvo's classic The Battle of Algiers, this is incendiary filmmaking, with a cruel, ironic twist that makes it hurt that much more, and the skill with which it's made makes it well worth the blind purchase (especially at MGM's bargain prices). (MGM/Sony)