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The Official Reference Guide for Actors

by eleven

Created 09/09/13

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The following is a list of what I believe to be the 10 greatest performances in Criterion films

  • Best remembered as "Reek, Reeeek!" Ugarte in Casablanca, Peter Lorre unleashed a whole new side to sliminess the world had never seen before in Fritz Lang's M. Creepily putting the viewers inside the shoes of a child murderer, Lorre absolutely solidifies himself in the position of cinema's greatest weirdo.

  • Delphine Seyrig's performance as the title character in Chantal Akerman's masterpiece is one of extreme subtlety and patience. She induces something of a trance as you helplessly watch her sanity slowly deteriorate. While this film is certainly not for everyone, it is definitely worth giving a chance.

  • Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura's resume is a grab-bag of great performances, but Ikiru is his movie. His tragic performance as an aging bureaucrat trying to find meaning in his life is as graceful as it is heartbreaking. It is factors like these that make a performance truly iconic.

  • In a film that is chock-full of great supporting roles, it is difficult to pin point one single performance as the best. But in the case of The Last Picture Show, I believe Ben Johnson takes the cake. Playing Sam the Lion, a father figure and friend to the lead characters, Johnson gives an unforgettable, and Oscar-winning, performance.

  • Thanks to Gena Rowlands, marital dysfunction has never seemed so real.

  • Harold Lloyd provides an effortless charm that hides the fact that his performance required immense athleticism and precision. This accuracy helps create some of the most iconic images in all of silent cinema. Viewing this film again leads me to believe that Harold Lloyd is the overlooked master of silent film.

  • The Criterion Collection is home to many subgenres, namely prostitution dramas. So naturally the competition gets pretty thick when it comes to down-on-their-luck whores. In my honest opinion, the most deserving of these scandalous performances is Anna Magnani's turn as the title role in this Italian drama. With a powerhouse star like Magnani running the show, it is a shame this film is so overlooked.

  • Was Bud Cort born to play Harold? I think yes.

  • Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wide-eyed wife and muse is a show stopper in the simple and beautiful La Strada. As a naive and innocent witness to the horrors of the world, Masina truly holds her own against heavyweight Anthony Quinn. The haunting melody played by Gelsomina on her trumpet gives me goosebumps every time.

  • When dealing with a child actor, things can get screwed up very easily. But with Jean-Pierre Leaud, that is hardly the case. In Francois Truffaut's breakout hit The 400 Blows, Leaud manages to give a performance pumped with both innocence and maturity (if that is even possible) all at the young age of 14. Altogether it is a wonderful film.

6 comments

  • By Eric Levy
    September 20, 2013
    11:50 AM

    Terrific list! I've seen 7 of your ten and agree with all of them. With so many amazing performances spread across the Collection, it's difficult to narrow down, but a few additional favorites of mine (in no particular order) include: Robert Mitchum in THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Brad Dourif in WISE BLOOD, Jack Nicholson in FIVE EASY PIECES, Michel SImon in L'ATALANTE, Marlon Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT, Emil Jannings in THE LAST COMMAND, David Thewlis in NAKED, Toshiro Mifune in THRONE OF BLOOD, Genvieve Lemon in SWEETIE, Constance Towers in THE NAKED KISS, Richard E. Grant in HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING, James Mason in BIGGER THAN LIFE, and please click on my name to check out my lists devoted to two other favorite actors: Harry Dean Stanton and Timothy Carey.
    Reply
    • By eleven
      October 02, 2013
      09:38 PM

      Great suggestions! I greatly considered Marlon Brando and. Harry dean Stanton's performances. By the way your lists are incredible, keep it up!
  • By Brock Pace
    September 21, 2013
    11:52 PM

    Great list, I'll keep an eye out for these titles on my next Criterion raid. I've always loved Ingmar Bergman's performance in AUTUMN SONATA.
    Reply
  • By Zach S
    October 02, 2013
    10:48 AM

    Bud Court over RUTH GORDON!!!?!
    Reply
  • By Dave S.
    October 15, 2013
    01:08 AM

    Great list, yet I do have some suggestions..... Malcolm McDowell's performance in If... was the reason why Stanley Kubrick chose him to play Alex in A Clockwork Orange; charming, vicious, and rebellious in his subtlety. Willem Defoe managed to give a phenomenal performance as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ, just the ending always gives me shivers as he begs to his father for redemption. Richard Grant's flamboyance and off-the-wall performance in Withnail and I is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Before they became iconic for their performances in Carrie and Apocalypse Now, Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen give superb and earthy performances in Badlands. Sheen captured the suaveness and darkness of Starkweather which balanced brilliantly with Spacek's naivety and desire for living outside of th econfines of normalcy.
    Reply
  • By un_samourai
    October 27, 2013
    10:07 PM

    Having watched Maurice Ronet in Plein Soleil, and then watching him in Le Feu Follet a few weeks later, I was knocked out by the extreme difference in his performance, and the perfection of his interpretation in the Malle film. Yet another candidate for your list.
    Reply