Top 10s

Aki Kaurismäki’s Top 10

Aki Kaurismäki’s Top 10

Our favorite Finn didn’t have an easy time picking his ten favorite titles in the Criterion Collection. On the eve of Janus Films’ 2011 release of his Le Havre, Aki Kaurismäki had this to say: “I didn’t really concentrate for this selection, since all my energy from now on will be solely used for suing Criterion, accusation being torture. It can’t be anything less when a disoriented young mind is put in a situation where he has to leave Chaplin, Renoir, Tati, Clouzot, Malle, Truffaut, Godard . . . outside of a minimal-sized list, the size controlled by these Janus-faced Criterion people, who don’t seem to understand the laws of any reason.”

  • Casque d’or

    1.
    Casque d’or

    Jacques Becker

    Here we find two versions of the same story, both unique.

  • Au hasard Balthazar

    (tie)
    Au hasard Balthazar

    Robert Bresson

  • Tokyo Story

    2.
    Tokyo Story

    Yasujiro Ozu

    It is almost impossible to find sharp prints of these films. But your tears are the ones to blame.

  • Late Spring

    (tie)
    Late Spring

    Yasujiro Ozu

  • An Autumn Afternoon

    (tie)
    An Autumn Afternoon

    Yasujiro Ozu

  • Ikiru

    3.
    Ikiru

    Akira Kurosawa

    This double bill gives an excellent chance to compare the acting of Takeshi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune. Neither is anything but perfect. It is a mystery how Kurosawa, who always refused to make a film without a social statement, manages at the same time to be one of the most entertaining of all filmmakers.

  • Red Beard

    (tie)
    Red Beard

    Akira Kurosawa

  • Written on the Wind

    4.
    Written on the Wind

    Douglas Sirk

    The shot with Dorothy Malone walking down the stairs makes all rock videos ever after resemble forgotten, anemic nuns.



    With his small masterpiece, Fassbinder shows us the basic tenderness of his heart, this time not hidden behind his cinematic skills.

  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

    (tie)
    Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

  • Shadows

    5.
    Shadows

    John Cassavetes

    There would be no sense in trying to select one of John Cassavetes’ films, since they are all one expression of a genial and exceptionally generous mind.

  • Faces

    (tie)
    Faces

    John Cassavetes

  • A Woman Under the Influence

    (tie)
    A Woman Under the Influence

    John Cassavetes

  • The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

    (tie)
    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

    John Cassavetes

  • Opening Night

    (tie)
    Opening Night

    John Cassavetes

  • À propos de Nice

    6.
    À propos de Nice

    Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman

    I have always considered Jean Vigo and Robert Flaherty close relatives. Between Nanook and L’Atalante, you can place practically all cinema except Bunuel’s L’age d’or.

  • Zéro de conduite

    (tie)
    Zéro de conduite

    Jean Vigo

  • L’Atalante

    (tie)
    L’Atalante

    Jean Vigo

  • Nanook of the North

    (tie)
    Nanook of the North

    Robert Flaherty

  • 49th Parallel

    7.
    49th Parallel

    Michael Powell

    Both of these films can be considered B movies in the standards of Powell and Pressburger, but maybe partly because of that they seem to remain extraordinarily fresh, even if the first one (made in 1941) is clearly made partly for war propaganda reasons. All films made by the Archers are among the most beautiful.

  • The Small Back Room

    (tie)
    The Small Back Room

    Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

  • Army of Shadows

    8.
    Army of Shadows

    Jean-Pierre Melville

    Jean-Pierre Melville is once more a director from whom one could pick any film for this kind (cruelly controlled by the Criterion criminals) of list. With this double bill there comes a chance to study twice the work of two great actors, Lino Ventura and Paul Meurisse.

  • Le deuxième souffle

    (tie)
    Le deuxième souffle

    Jean-Pierre Melville

  • Port of Shadows

    9.
    Port of Shadows

    Marcel Carné

    As clearly as there is only one Lino Ventura, there is a sole Jean Gabin. Neither have I seen a replica of Michèle Morgan nor Michel Simon (one of the reasons why Renoir’s Boudu should be in this list, but . . .). Port of Shadows is a pure actor-based melodrama full of prewar pessimism.



    Bicycle Thieves proves that even the tiniest dreams can be torn to pieces. Never in the history of cinema has hope been served in so minimalistic but heartbreaking a way as in the last shot of this masterpiece.

  • Bicycle Thieves

    (tie)
    Bicycle Thieves

    Vittorio De Sica

  • The Night of the Hunter

    10.
    The Night of the Hunter

    Charles Laughton

    These wonderful films are tied together in thousands of hardly visible ways.

  • Ace in the Hole

    (tie)
    Ace in the Hole

    Billy Wilder

  • Simon of the Desert

    (tie)
    Simon of the Desert

    Luis Buñuel

  • Jimi Plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey

    (tie)
    Jimi Plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey

    D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

  • This Is Spinal Tap

    11.
    This Is Spinal Tap

    Rob Reiner

    Bonus!