Film_661w_marketalazarova_original

12 Films all should know, but few do.

by un_samourai

Created 11/23/12

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These are 12 pictures that I don't hear getting their fair share of praise, considering how truly great they are. To me, all of these films are just as important and as recommendable as any film ever made.

How did I originally come across this dreamy dozen? I did have a friend highly recommend Gomorrah, but the others were simply seen because they were part of the Criterion catalogue, and/or were made by directors I already knew of (Melville, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, Polanski, Gosha).

So here's to start upping the conversation on these amazing, undersung films. I can tell you that in my day to day life, I prosthelytize about these films all the time.

  • Oh the cinematography from bow to stern! Vlacil liked to storyboard, and came up with many truly jaw-dropping shots. In fact, this film simply has it all, and is an art-house must see if ever there was one.
    Releasing beautiful restorations of films as great as this is Criterion at it's best. The fact that it's the film's north american DVD/Blu-ray debut adds to it being a total treasure. Now they need to bring us a blu-ray of Vlacil's only slightly lesser film "Valley of the Bees".

  • He's been called the french John Cassavetes, and he may well be. I love Pialat's work, but I just don't groove on Cassavetes at all.

    There are excellent supplements on the disc, and they sing the praises of Pialat's oeuvre better than I could. I'm sad that Pialat at one time regarded himself as a horsefly on the tail of French cinema, which he regarded as a small industry to begin with. He did win the Palme D'Or for "Sous Le Soleil De Satan" which I have yet to see.
    I did notice this film did go from nowhere, to right into the middle of the latest top 1000 films list at theyshootpictures.com (highly recommended read BTW). that does my heart good.

    This is the work of an under appreciated modern master. If you like the Dardennes brand of very real feeling films that aren't overly polished, or slick, you should see this film, and investigate Pialat's work.

  • There are so many things one could say to praise this film. I'll simply say that it is one of the most beautifully framed films I've seen. The dream sequences are just fantastic. The way this film is greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts is proof that Tarkovsky was a master right out of the gate (as opposed to my beloved Ingmar Bergman, who took 10 films to get to the highest level of cinema).

  • Not at all a second rate Melville, but one of his best. For me it's right there with "Army of Shadows" at the top of Melville's work (I've yet to see "Le Silence De La Mer" which sounds very promising). One could also ask, was there anyone as tough/cool as Ventura in his prime?

  • For me, this is much better than the more celebrated spanish film 'Spirit of the Beehive' featuring the same child actor Ana Torrent . It's up there with 'The White Ribbon' and 'Forbidden Games' for having so much subtext. I don't understand why more people aren't knocked out by this deep, but also charming film.

  • The first film Claude Sautet directed from start to finish. His 'first' film "Bonjour Sourire!" being the taking over another director's ailing project. This is one of the best noirs of all time. Make it a top priority.

  • An incredibly realistic crime film. I simply couldn't have liked it more. When I watched it for the second time two years later, I was surprised that I remembered every scene, almost every shot! It was that impactful on me.
    Looking forward to seeing his other Grand Prix award winner "Reality".

  • This film is the best of the 7 Hideo Gosha films I've seen by a fair clip. It's a pop 'chanbara' film but it becomes quite deep towards the end. Being that my film collection skews towards serious fare, I'm always on the lookout for quality, non-intelligence insulting entertainment to broaden my viewing choices (BTW, the Zatoichi box set is lighter fare, but fits that criterion very nicely as well). This film is a perfect example of that type of picture.

  • This is THE Kurosawa drama. Most of his other fussed about dramas (Ikiru, Ran, etc.) in my opinion, are very heavy-handed with their message, and I often find they drag in length. This is a long film, but not a single frame is superfluous. This is a top ten of all time film for me.

  • Subversive and singular, this film is a must. I give Criterion full credit. I'd never heard of it before their release. As I understand the followup work by Belloccio was not at all well received, and hence he's not terribly well known. Belloccio has had a few recent films praised. I've seen "My Mother's Smile", and it's an interesting film, but not of the calibre of FITP.

  • A top notch noir that transcends the genre. There's a terrific stillness to the camera work. It's an excellent example of how good some european films are these days, and I believe shows an influence of an understated naturalism that the likes of Bresson, Pialat, Haneke, and the Dardennes do.

  • Probably the best psych-horror ever. I don't ever hear it talked about. What a shame. Maybe it's the fact that Polanski has so many other successful pictures that got much more exposure than Repulsion. Perhaps people think they've seen it, but are mixing it up with films of a similar name like Compulsion, or Suspicion?
    I also wondered as I watched it if Cronenberg and Lynch were influenced by this picture. At times I feel it presages elements of both directors.

40 comments

  • By Craig J. Clark
    May 12, 2013
    02:08 PM

    Having just watched Fists in the Pocket (for Mother's Day, naturally), I agree that this is one that has slipped under the wire. As for Repulsion, it's well-regarded in horror circles. And I really hope Criterion has a Blu-ray upgrade of Red Beard in the works. That's a film that could definitely use it.
    Reply
  • By un_samourai
    May 28, 2013
    07:46 PM

    Thanks for the comment. As I'm not a horror specialist, I hadn't heard anyone extoll the virtues of Repulsion, so it really floored me how terrific the picture was. I hope you are correct that many people are talking about what could be the best psych-horror film out there. BTW, I would say Brad Anderson's Session 9 is top notch (in the same vein), and certainly remains under-known.
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    • By FisherKing
      June 02, 2014
      01:13 AM

      I can...third(?) that Repulsion is extremely well-known amongst horror aficionados. It's typically touted as one of the best the genre has to offer and is held in the same esteem as fellow Criterion releases Peeping Tom and Eyes Without a Face.
  • By oz-rob
    January 10, 2014
    06:45 PM

    Great list, I will be adding a couple of these to my wish list & check them out, I just saw The WHITE DOVE 1960 from Vlacil,his debut feature, it has, just came out on DVD, beautiful striking,imagery is an understatement,a master filmmaker..
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    • By un_samourai
      January 12, 2014
      08:51 PM

      I couldn't agree more with you on Vlacil. Having seen "The White Dove" and "Valley of the Bees" both within the last couple of months, I'm sure enthused on this director's work. He's so visual! "Marketa Lazarova" is in my personal top twenty of all time.
  • By Peter_Wilson
    January 10, 2014
    06:47 PM

    Love it! I'd recommend "Dodes'Ka-Den". BTW I've made a list, Your Favorite Criterion Edition, With which I'm trying to do a compilation of members single favorite edition with there comment of the film.
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    • By un_samourai
      January 12, 2014
      08:54 PM

      Yeah, that's a great pick. I'm not an unconditional Kurosawa fan, but "Dodes'Ka-Den" should get way more heat than it does. Oh, and I'll check out your list.
  • By Sidney
    January 10, 2014
    09:18 PM

    Awesome list. I totally agree with you on Cria Cuervos, it's an extraordinary work of art, with Ana Torrent giving the one of the most chillingly stunning performances by child actor in film history. Also, Repulsion is another masterwork that deserves more attention.
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    • By un_samourai
      January 12, 2014
      09:03 PM

      Thanks for commenting. I sure love reading other peoples film lists. If one agrees with some of the persons inclusions, It's a pretty good way to find new films to check out that maybe to our taste as well.
  • By Mylomook
    January 14, 2014
    11:47 AM

    Great list, glad you included Le Deuxième Souffle. You are going to love Le Silence De La Mer, it is one of my favorite war films.
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    • By un_samourai
      January 14, 2014
      10:45 PM

      That's very exciting to hear. I hope it pops up in the Criterion catalogue one of these days.
  • By Andrew_Boone
    January 17, 2014
    05:25 AM

    "Repulsion" -- a claustrophobic, neurotic (psychotic, actually) nightmare. Great film by a director that most people are familiar with for the likes of "Chinatown" and "The Pianist", but this film is better than either. What Polanski achieves here with this art house style film that at times feels reminiscent of Godard or Rohmer (stylistically) is really noteworthy. Every cinephile should see this one. "Revanche" -- this was a complete wonderful surprise. Having never heard of Spielmann, I watched this movie as a loan from a friend strictly because it was a Criterion, and wow, what a movie. You could call it a neonoir -- it certainly shares some similarities with the film noir genre -- but it's more than that. This film was beautiful. "Ivan's Childhood" -- some will like this more than others. Like many Tarkovsky films, it's formalistic, oneirogenic style and mood is truly stunning, and for those who are satisfied by that alone, this movie is bound to please, but it also lacks the substance to anchor that stylistic brilliance to any deeper truths, which has always been the primary complaint of most Tarkovsky detractors. No doubt Tarkovsky was a master -- maybe the best ever -- when it comes to evoking the quality of the dream in cinema, and for those who don't mind watching cinema the way you would read a poem (swimming around in it, living in it, experiencing it, without ever trying to overtly analyze it or derive deeper meaning from it), Tarkovsky is going to be a favorite every time. But for those who like a film to rely on thematic depth and subtext, offering a more intellectual and a less visceral type of attraction, Tarkovsky falls short where someone like Bergman or Teshigahara or Buñuel reigns supreme (although Tarkovsky was Bergman's favorite filmmaker). One thing is indisputable, though: Tarkovksy was a master in his own right, and this film, his debut, is a perfect exemplum of his style. It deserves to be seen. "Marketa Lazarová" -- what a movie. An artistic tour de force. Speaking of Tarkovsky, this film calls to mind the likes of "Andrei Rublev". It is a beautiful and cinematographically flawless, and as such, it could very easily be compared to Tarkovsky's films. True cinematic poetry. Those are the only four on this list that I've seen, but I'm familiar with some of the others and am definitely looking forward to exploring them if they're all as good as these four.
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    • By un_samourai
      January 18, 2014
      03:18 AM

      Well, what a wonderfully composed comment. Odds are good that we have some common taste in films, and you'll like a few on the list that you have yet to get to. I often say to people when I'm fervently recommending a film to them "If you like it HALF as much as I do, it will still be worth your while to see it." I like to always remember that no matter what the critical bona fides of a film or a director, watching a picture is, and should be an individual experience. It certainly helps to have a well rounded exposure to the medium to appreciate a wider swath of styles, but none the less, we see films through a mixture of our innate character, our subjective experience of the world, and the cultural baggage that we are aware of surrounding any given film. Nothing's for everyone, nor should it be. Imagine for a second, the horror of art being objective rather than subjective. There would simply be an inarguable master list of best to worst that would be inarguable. Quelle Horreur! I'd like to share a thought with my fellow Criterion comment readers: I've had the thought lately while viewing a new film by a director who's work is very familiar to me that I should strive to see the film with fresh eyes, as if it was made by a filmmaker I've never heard of. That way I'm releasing that film from the baggage of being gauged within that director's oeuvre. Imagine, for instance that "The Passion of Anna" by Bergman, for example was made by a little known director called 'Bergmar Von Ingman'. No longer burdened by comparison to the "important" Bergman works, I think it would shine brighter, be better known, and hence, better appreciated.
  • By Emma
    January 22, 2014
    02:49 AM

    Really? I'm kind of surprised you included Repulsion, as I don't know any horror fans who haven't heard of it, if not seen it. People are always recommending it to me whenever I mention I'm looking for good horror films. I've never seen it and never will, as I don't support Roman Polanski and think he should be jailed and boycotted, but I've heard nothing but good things about it. It seems to be a pretty famous classic to me.
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    • By un_samourai
      January 22, 2014
      09:26 PM

      All I can say is as a film fan with art house leanings (and no special interest in the horror genre per se), I'd never heard anyone mention it. When Criterion put it out, I blind bought the Blu-ray because a) it sounded promising b) I loved "Chinatown" and c) I love Catherine Deneuve.
  • By buckwheat TornadoTop
    January 25, 2014
    10:29 PM

    Spirit of the Beehive tremendous
    Reply
  • By Shon
    January 28, 2014
    09:20 PM

    I've never heard of or seen any of these films! Ironic?
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    • By un_samourai
      January 31, 2014
      02:18 AM

      Well hell, that pleases me very much to hear. On the positive tip, a full dozen new titles for you to learn a bit more about, and see what sounds good/intriguing. On the negative tip, unless you know some of the directors discussed, who's to say how much overlapping taste we have in films? You might want to look at my "my collection" to see if we have some common ground. Thanks so much for the comment.
  • By Robert Orlowski
    February 01, 2014
    06:57 PM

    Marketa Lazarova absolutely.
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    • By un_samourai
      February 01, 2014
      09:44 PM

      I'm glad to hear that there are a few of us out there who are raving about this amazing film. These days, if anyone asks me for a film recommendation, Marketa Lazarova is usually my go-to film to tell them about. The odds (sadly) are so good that they've never heard of it, let alone seen it. Viewing it will probably floor them, as it did me.
  • By Barry Moore
    February 04, 2014
    10:07 PM

    This is such an interesting list, and I'm disheartened to acknowledge that I've only seen one of the cited titles, namely 'Repulsion', which proved a much more interesting and affecting film than I expected when I finally saw it in a repertory screening. I felt I could discern some foreshadowing of Lynch's 'Eraserhead' in the decomposing rabbit carcass, and in the general ambience of subjective psychological deterioration. Polanski, about whom I have mixed feelings as an artist, has clearly demonstrated himself to be a master of horror with this striking work and 'Rosemary's Baby'.
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    • By un_samourai
      February 05, 2014
      12:55 AM

      Thank you very much for commenting. Although I haven't seen 'Eraserhead', I also was reminded of Lynch's work from time to time while watching 'Repulsion'. I wonder if you've seen Polanski's 'The Tenant'? For me, it's a very interesting film that's well worth seeing, though not of the amazing impact and near perfection of 'Repulsion'.
    • By Barry Moore
      February 05, 2014
      09:36 AM

      This is in reply to un_samourai's response to my own post from February 4, 2014: It's interesting that you mention 'The Tenant', as that was the film that my father once cited as the strangest he had ever seen...until he saw 'Eraserhead'. I haven't seen 'The Tenant' myself, and my exposure to Polanski's oeuvre remains spotty overall.
  • By beep
    February 05, 2014
    03:58 AM

    Well :) {or is it :0?} Going to have to go back a peruse the comments more closely. The only one on the list that I am in any way familiar with is Repulsion. This was something given to me via something called CinemaTexas back in the 70's when I was in college at UT. This was an awesome program, an adjunct to the UT film school which showed films 4 nites a week during the semester, each nite usually being part of a genre being taught at the time. OH JOY!!! Lookee:) http://www.cinematexasnotes.com/ This was literally IMDb for me at the time. Hell, it's still better. You know these people. They went on to create things like The Austin Chronicle and SXSW But as much as I loved Repulsion (and its very peculiar companion piece, The Tenant), well, Chinatown is the one that will and forevermore rank up there as near perfect (and there's 5 or less films that rank there) I generally tend not to rank film, but in one case, I cannot help it. I accidentally saw this film in the short version on Cinemax thinking, well, because they said so, it was the long version. It wasn't. And...then I saw the long version. Oh. My. God. Forever and always...Once Upon A Time In America is the best goddam fuckin film evah, EVAAHHH. Everything else sort of falls into the top 10 or 20. I have to say that the short version did actually help me understand the full film, so it wasn't at all useless.
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    • By Barry Moore
      February 05, 2014
      09:51 AM

      CinemaTexas was a fine program and an inestimable cultural asset for Austin, as was the film program sponsored annually by the Texas Union. Both, sadly, are now in the past, but while I was fortunate enough to be able to partake of them, I was exposed to many of the classics of world cinema, including Pudovkin's 'Mother', Pabst's 'Pandora's Box', and the delightful Harold Lloyd feature 'The Freshman'. I actually think it shameful that the Radio-Television-Film department of The University of Texas at Austin, which sponsored CinemaTexas, has abandoned its mission to expose its students to films (as opposed to video and digital transfers of those films).
  • By beep
    February 05, 2014
    01:59 PM

    Hum. I fear it was simply technology that killed killed CinemaTexas. It is still around, in name at least:) At the time there was NO where to go if you wanted movies. Well, older movies; anything past.say, a few months. Unless you were glued to the tube. I was. I HAD to have horror flicks. Hell, I remember my fight with my sister about 'House on Haunted Hill' vs 'Citizen Kane' I won... Kinda.... Sorta. :) Oh.. I have stories...
    Reply
  • By G Wilson
    February 16, 2014
    01:35 AM

    I commend your tarkovsky choice. For me, Ivan's Childhood is grossly overlooked by people who like Tarkovsky as much as it is by people who dislike Tarkovsky and think "why the hell would I want to watch another" and never give it a shot. I remember watching it after seeing some of his other longer films criterion had put out, along with viewing Stalker. What strikes me is while the Tarkovsky themes and strengths found in later films are there, the dream sequences, the mood, so on, it's how amazingly accessible Ivan's Childhood is that gets me. The opening scene is wonderful, the pacing is brisk compared to some of the later films, concise editing and length, the ending is emotionally powerful, not at all what I think many people would expect based on his reputation and later films, though it's total Tarkovsky in technique and atmosphere.
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    • By Barry Moore
      February 17, 2014
      06:38 PM

      John Powers once wrote that he had a special fondness for early efforts by great filmmakers that perhaps were not quite masterpieces but retained a freshness of vision that might be absent from those artists' later canonized masterworks, and cited 'Ivan's Childhood' in this context. (Other films he cited as examples included 'Les dames du Bois de Boulogne' for Robert Bresson, 'Reconstruction' for Theo Angelopoulos, and 'Mean Streets' for Martin Scorsese.)
    • By un_samourai
      February 19, 2014
      12:26 AM

      Very well expressed. I couldn't agree more.
  • By Ron Scerbo
    February 20, 2014
    01:59 PM

    Actually Mario Bellocchio's second film "China is Near" is also great. It is a withering and very funny political satire. His 1974 film " In the name of the Father" is also a major film. Unfortunately, these two films seem to be unavailable in the U.S.
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    • By un_samourai
      February 24, 2014
      10:03 PM

      I will look out for those two. It's always nice to get recommendations from a fellow film lover.
  • By uridon
    February 27, 2014
    01:40 AM

    why isn't Freddy got Fingered on the list
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    • By ALVideoholic
      March 19, 2014
      01:12 PM

      First, it isn't a Criterion. And, Second, are you kidding???
  • By ALVideoholic
    March 19, 2014
    01:14 PM

    A great list with some very helpful information. Thanks.
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    • By un_samourai
      March 19, 2014
      04:54 PM

      That's very nice to hear. Thank you for saying so.
  • By Peter_Wilson
    May 10, 2014
    12:24 PM

    un_samourai did you ever give Your Favorite Criterion Edition any thought?
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    • By un_samourai
      May 14, 2014
      12:40 AM

      I have thought about it from time to time. It's such a hard Question to answer! Frankly it will change rather often. I may have to choose a box set! I'm going to try to contribute to your list though. Where should I leave my comment/answer?
    • By Peter_Wilson
      May 14, 2014
      07:25 PM

      That's perfectly understood. I also had to debate between a few films. And whenever your ready you just leave your comment on the list. And I love this, and your IMDB list so much!
  • By GravyFudge
    July 12, 2014
    04:47 PM

    Love the inclusion of Marketa Lazarova. Vlacil is a criminally underrated director.
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    • By un_samourai
      July 16, 2014
      12:24 AM

      It's really nice to hear that several people here in the comments love his work. Here's hoping the Criterion folks can get the rights to Valley of the Bees.

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