“I have chosen ten titles from the Criterion Collection not because they are my favorites or necessarily the most important, but because they mean a lot to me personally and bear some relationship to my filmmaking career and the making of Overlord. My list is in no particular order,” says British filmmaker Stuart Cooper.
. . . because I started out as a documentary filmmaker and looked at all of Robert Flaherty’s films, including Louisiana Story, while I was preparing Overlord. Also because The Innocent Eye: The Life of Robert J. Flaherty is a must-read for anyone interested in the birth of documentary filmmaking.
. . . because in 1959 it showed the power of visual narrative. It exploded across the screen and was an international success. I liked the originality of setting this legend against the Rio Carnival.
. . . because it was so disturbing and beautiful at the same moment. Photographed by Sven Nykvist, whose work came the closest to John Alcott’s brilliant use of available light. Alcott photographed my films Overlord, Little Malcolm, and The Disappearance.
. . . because I’ve seldom laughed so hard in a film and because I got to know Jacques Tati in the late sixties, around the time he was making Playtime and I was just beginning to direct.
. . . because it’s Don Siegel and film noir at its best. And because Lee Marvin is outstanding in it. Marvin became a friend after The Dirty Dozen [in which Cooper was one of the dozen]. Sadly, I failed to make a political thriller that Lee and I wanted to do, which had been coscripted by Christopher Hudson, with whom I co-wrote Overlord.
. . . which I first viewed at the Imperial War Museum while ensconced in the film archive researching for Overlord. It had a huge effect on me at the time, and I still regard it as one of the most profound films about the holocaust. Particularly in light of the fact that it was made so soon after World War II and was hauntingly structured by Resnais as a documentary.
In 1974, when I was at the Berlin International Film Festival with Little Malcolm, I met Fassbinder. He was then making Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, which I think is one of his best films. It’s a wonderful observation of social and racial prejudice, and of youth and age.
. . . because it’s Visconti, one of my favorite directors and one I wish I had met. Brilliantly acted by Burt Lancaster, who modeled his performance on his nobleman director, Visconti.
. . . for its originality, objectivity, and political power. I studied it while I was preparing Overlord. I admired a quote of Pontecorvo’s: “Technically U.S. directors keep improving. But this technical expertise hides an emptiness that keeps getting bigger. They’re very good at saying nothing.”
Andrzej Wajda’s films had an enormous influence on me as I began writing and directing. I had lunch with him at the National Film Theatre in London, after he had just made Everything for Sale, a film I loved. It was Wajda’s tribute to Zbigniew Cybulski, his friend and the star of Ashes and Diamonds, who died young. In Ashes, Cybulski plays a resistance fighter stranded by a sellout peace. His broodiness and manner seemed to mourn James Dean.