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. It is widely considered the best Czechoslovakian film ever made. I'd up that to one of the finest films ever made period!
    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.

  • 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.

57 comments

  • By Robert Orlowski
    February 01, 2014
    06:57 PM

    Marketa Lazarova absolutely.
    Reply
    • 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'.
    Reply
    • 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.
    Reply
    • 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.
    Reply
    • 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.
    Reply
    • 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
    Reply
    • 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.
    Reply
    • 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?
    Reply
    • 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 Owen Schalk
    July 12, 2014
    04:47 PM

    Love the inclusion of Marketa Lazarova. Vlacil is a criminally underrated director.
    Reply
    • 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.
  • By Eric Levy
    September 15, 2014
    04:31 AM

    Another wonderful list Samurai--and very astute. I blush to admit that of your 12, I've only seen IVAN'S CHILDHOOD. As I love that film so much, I trust your taste and will make a point to see more. MARKETA and REPULSION are certainly high priorities. By the way, have you seen SANS SOLEIL? I'd wager you would love it.
    Reply
    • By un_samourai
      October 19, 2014
      05:56 PM

      Hi Eric. MARKETA and REPULSION are both so great. Certainly must see's in my books. I have seen SANS SOLEIL, and I must say, it didn't do too much for me. It sure is loved by most film heads, maybe I'll try it again one day, but you know how it is, nothing's for everyone. Even if people are quite like-minded, they will totally disagree on films from time to time.
  • By Yojimbe
    October 07, 2014
    10:52 PM

    @ un_samourai. Love your lists and your posts here in Criterion. How do you feel about Antonioni? I didn't see too many of his Criterion titles on your list. I am eagerly awaiting the blu-ray release of L'Avventura next month and the commentary by Nicholson (if the same one from the Criterion dvd is priceless). I am also counting the days at the end of this month for the blu-ray of La Dolce Vita by Fellini. IMO one of the top ten films of all time. I liked the introduction to the Koch Lorber dvd edition of that film by Alexander Payne but I don't know that Criterion is including that on this new blu-ray release. I'm on a mission lately to catch up on some of these Criterion releases of all the Fassbinder films. There are a bunch of them on Hulu Plus but I have to be in the right frame of mind to immerse myself in his work. Also another film I would love to see Criterion release is Wender's Kings of the Road. I saw that at the Nuart in L.A. years ago and it's right up there with Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas. Sorry to ramble but like I say your posts knocked me out. Stay in touch and best wishes!!!
    Reply
    • By un_samourai
      October 19, 2014
      05:51 PM

      I feel really great after reading your post, so big thanks for that! Antonioni, (aside from Zabriskie Point which I thought was junk) is quite high in my ranking of all time great directors, and Red Desert is my favorite of his. I also really liked the Payne intro. on the "La Dolce Vita" Koch DVD. You know, I haven't managed to see "King of the Road" yet. I'm very much looking forward to it.
  • By Stephanie
    October 16, 2014
    02:02 PM

    A great list with fantastic choices! Because of the review I bought Fists in the Pockets.
    Reply
    • By un_samourai
      October 19, 2014
      05:43 PM

      Very cool. You know, I often think that Criterion does a great job with covers/packaging, but I think "Fists..." missed the mark. It could have been my lack of diligence, but I thought the cover suggested a very different kind of film. I happened to take "Fists..." out of the public library simply being a CC film, and it knocked the piss out of me! I hope you enjoy it close to as much as I do.
  • By SamWizeGanji
    November 23, 2014
    12:25 PM

    From your taste, you'd love La Notte. It's an incredible film, and I blind bought the bluray. It's an urban gangsta film focuses on all the Hate
    Reply
    • By SamWizeGanji
      November 24, 2014
      12:39 AM

      La haine, hahaha oooops
    • By un_samourai
      November 24, 2014
      09:56 PM

      You're right, I own and love La Haine. La Notte is not my favorite Antonioni, but still a very good film. I'll probably get it for my collection at some point.
  • By Adam Joseph Cloutier
    March 06, 2015
    03:49 PM

    All of the films that I have not seen on this list shoot to the top of my "Criterion to buy when I am financially able to" list, thank you very much for the recommendations which I can especially trust given how I feel about the fimls here I have seen. I'm definitely going to have to agree on Repulsion, I've never seen or heard it mentioned anywhere (other than Wikipedia or other cataloguing sites) - even when speaking with people about Polanski's films! Something I regard as highly as Repulsion and seems to be spoken of even less is Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), one of Polanski's silent short films (which he makes an homage to at the end of The Ninth Gate). This may seem outlandish, but I don't really think Cronenberg has any influence from other filmmakers (other than perhaps Peter Greenaway, but if that is the case I don't think the influence is visual). Also, Marco Bellocchio's Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina (Slap the Monster on Page One) (1972) is a great film, starring Gian Maria Volonté, though it can be tough to find.
    Reply
  • By un_samourai
    March 07, 2015
    10:41 PM

    Thank you for the nice comment Adam. I appreciate it. I've never even noticed "Two Men and a Wardrobe". My knowledge of short films is not good. I'll look out for that, and the Belloccio film (great title). Nice to hear that I wasn't the only one who hadn't heard "Repulsion" talked about.
    Reply
  • By Scott B.
    March 25, 2015
    12:56 AM

    I have been trying to watch Marketa Lazarova for weeks.I can tell it is a major work,but I keep falling asleep.You have to admit that it is hard to follow,with the weird way they talk,and other confusing aspects of the film.Most people will not have the patience for this.I wish you all would realize that not everyone is a film scholar and cinephile.I have really been educating my self feverously to get my self up to speed on The Criterion Collection.But talk plain speak to get across your opinions,and be sensive to stupid American film goers like myself.I am born and raised in Tennessee in the United States,so please have a heart.I loved Repulsion but I do not care for A Brief History of Time.I also did not care for Gomorrah,but loved La Haine.I have about one-hundred and fifty Criterion movies.At this point in my life,I would have to say the Japanese movies are my favorite.They mess with your head,make you think,and they stay with you long after you have seen one.And my number one thing to determine a great film,does it have a good story.The Japanese movies sure have that.The main reason I am giving this information,is to get advice from all of you Criterion lovers.To educate myself,and most of all,finding which Criterion Collection movies are the absolute must own.Sansho the Baliff is my new favorite movie.
    Reply
  • By un_samourai
    March 25, 2015
    10:20 PM

    Nothing is for everyone Scott. We all have our biases and different life experiences and sensibilities. It would be a duller world if it were not so. I do not believe in feeling you must love/respect all films with an abundance of critical bona fides. Almost all poetry goes over like a lead balloon for me. Prose rules the roost. That's what's right for me. Keep exposing yourself to celebrated films (where else is one to start?), but follow your taste and interests. My viewing goal is threefold, 1) to find as many films that float my boat as possible, 2) to, from time to time push my boundaries here and there (to know what the medium offers and is capable of) and inevitably find films that one might not have predicted one would like, 3) I personally like to have an opinion on all the big celebrated films, You just can't know until you see them what they might (or might not) offer you.
    Reply
  • By Larry
    April 24, 2015
    01:41 PM

    I really like IVAN's CHILDHOOD and has always been surprised how most feel that this is a lesser Tarkovsky. It could be really due to the fact that this film is so different from those later Tarkovsky films, especially his work after MIRROR. Talking about Russian war films, I actually prefer Larisa Sheptko's ASCENT more which haunted me for weeks after watching it. The other one that left a long lasting impression on me was Stanislav Rostotsky's THE DAWNS HERE ARE QUIET.
    Reply
  • By un_samourai
    April 26, 2015
    07:54 PM

    I've yet to see THE DAWNS HERE ARE QUIET (I'll look for it), and I agree that ASCENT is quite good, but IVAN's CHILDHOOD, for me, is in another league, touching perfection...
    Reply