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Ten Films I Love

by Adrien

Created 07/06/12

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It's hard to narrow my favourite Criterion titles down to a measly ten, but I stuck to the ones that had the biggest impact on me over the years. These movies are all too good to rank from one to ten, so I've presented them in alphabetical order.

  • I first saw this, totally on a whim, in 1997 on Sundance Channel, and was instantly entranced by Wong Kar-Wai's charming little tale of several lost souls in crowded Hong Kong. Who could not love Tony Leung imploring his sliver of soap to have more confidence in itself? And "California Dreamin'" takes on a whole new meaning after you see this film; years later when I hear the song I can only think of kooky, flaky Faye.

  • I don't think you will ever see a more beautifully photographed film, not to mention one that's more thoughtful and quietly hypnotic. Kieślowski's ambitious tale of duality is told masterfully, and the beautiful Irène Jacob brings such charm and grace to Weronika and Véronique, two young women who, despite being complete strangers living far away from each other, share an indescribable spiritual bond.

  • This remains the single most life-affirming movie I have ever seen, but one of the most gut-wrenching and darkly funny too. Underneath the gimmick premise of a 20 year-old kid falling in love with a 79 year-old lady is the story of how a sad, alienated boy was transformed by a vivacious free spirit. The way Harold's hilarious "suicides" are offset by Cat Stevens' hopeful songs like "Don't Be Shy" and "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" further add to this film's enormous affability.

  • It's ironic how as I've drifted further from a Catholic upbringing towards atheism I've become drawn more and more towards Scorsese's film about the life of Christ, filtered through the imagination of Nikos Kazantzakis. It's one of the greatest stories imagined in human history, and the way Scorsese portrays the characters - having the actors speak in their normal accents was an inspired idea - and brings Kazantzakis's smart and apt coda to life remains a daring and intensely personal statement. I'd even call this his greatest achievement on film.

  • David Thewlis's Johnny is a character that sticks with you. Angry, misanthropic, incredibly well-read, and masking crippling self-loathing behind an abrasive, confrontational attitude, his grim journey over the course of a few days in London is enthralling as he interacts with other nocturnal denizens. His rant towards Brian the security guard is devastating. "You can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. And humanity is just a cracked egg. And the omelet...stinks."

  • Is there a movie that has as much fun being pretentious as 'Pierrot le fou' does? Godard's post-modern commentary is countered by such playfulness in the writing, the gorgeous, pop-art colour schemes, and especially the winsome personalities of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina. Especially Karina, she is an absolute wonder in this film. Her ebullient performance of "Jamais je ne t'ai dit que je t'aimerai toujours" in the flat with Belmondo, with a dead gangster in the next room, remains one of my favourite movie moments, ever.

  • Confession: I hadn't read Raymond Carver until I bought the 'Short Cuts' tie-in book in 1993, six months before I saw Altman's film. Not only was I immediately drawn to Carver's succinct writing style, but Altman was so attuned to Carver's oeuvre that even when he was writing his own little additions to the script he absolutely nailed that tone perfectly, capturing the sadness and wry humour of so many characters. "Here's to lemonade."

  • If I was to name a #1 in this list, 'Three Colors' would be it. Seeing them for the first time in 1996 was the most profound movie-watching experience of my life. Three beautfully written and photographed films, each inspired by a colour in the French flag - Liberté ('Blue'), Égalité ('White'), Fraternité ('Red') - and featuring incredible performances by Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Kieślowski's greatest muse, Irène Jacob. Each is powerful on its own, but 'Red' ties it all together with its meditation on chance and fate, capped off by a spellbinding final half hour.

  • This one is my most recent choice, having just seen it this past year, and I was left blindsided. At the beginning a young woman is found dead in a ditch, and for the rest of the film Agnès Varda slowly and compassionately pieces together the events that led to the tragedy. Sandrine Bonnaire bravely portrays Mona, a non-conformist with the courage to set out and live her life on her own terms, only to have the world crush her time and again. An unforgettable character.

  • One of the funniest movies I have ever seen, featuring one of the greatest male leads ever in Richard E. Grant's Wthnail. A simple premise, in which two slovenly actors head up from London to a cottage in the Lake District, where hijinks ensue, but thanks to Bruce Robinson, so witty and so quotable. This movie has stuck with me so much that when strolling the Cumbrian countryside a couple years ago, I kept wanting to ask the first local I saw, "We've gone on holiday by mistake. Are you the farmer?"

13 comments

  • By Roy Harris
    July 12, 2012
    01:50 AM

    Great list Adrien! I know what you are saying about how hard it is to narrow down to ten films. I made a 20 favorites list and had a hard time not cutting it down to that.
    Reply
  • By futurestar
    December 22, 2012
    06:27 PM

    great list for starters. every title you picked is awesome in its own way, unique and individually independent statements on the chaos, confusion, and beauty of the life experience. well done. post another list sometime.
    Reply
  • By M_Mayer
    December 23, 2012
    11:30 AM

    "Pierrot le Fou" is the only Godard film I love. He really hasn't amazed me.
    Reply
  • By Richard Trondsen
    December 23, 2012
    11:53 AM

    Excellent list, Adrien! Good to see the amazing Chungking Express at the top.
    Reply
  • By motown_missile
    December 25, 2012
    08:10 PM

    Anyone who watched the movies on this list would come away with a much greater appreciation for the art of cinema,...you've created an excellent list Adrien.
    Reply
  • By MrDude_o_o
    December 26, 2012
    03:09 PM

    Great picks. Short Cuts... I love how it "ends." :0] And Kiewslovski's films, they are like therapy!
    Reply
  • By Megi
    December 27, 2012
    07:57 AM

    I have also seen Vagabond recently and I was quite impressed. The first movie that I've seen from Agnes Varda. In a way it might seem similar to Sean Penn's Into the wild but it's way better. Better character of the protagonist, better conceptualization and even more realistic.
    Reply
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    • By Jon
      December 27, 2012
      04:49 PM

      That's a interesting & useful comparison. I wouldn't have thought of Into the Wild's relation to the older Vagabond. Thanks!
  • By JNagarya
    December 29, 2012
    07:57 AM

    Faye Wong is utterly delightful in "Chungking Exrepess". And the Chinese-lyric song is her singing (she was a singer before making her several films -- see her in "2046," which demands a blu-ray!). And Tony Leung is my favorite actor, for more reasons than I can fit in here. And there are "clues" to watch for: in the Kaneshiro segment, if you watch closely, you'll see the airline hostess standing at a curb, looking in the direction of the camera, as iflooking for a cab. A uniformed cop on an overhead walkway is Tony Leung. And Faye Wong comes out of a store with a huge "Garfield" stuffed animal -- which is later seen in the Tony Leung/Faye Wong segment. And in the first, look over Kaneshiro's right shoulder while he's talking on the phone for the first time, and one will see a poster, apparently for a film, titled "Animal Farm". The only film of that title I find that was made before "Express" was made in 1954-55 (the next was made in 1999). The person Kaneshiro chases is not the woman in the blonde wig: it is a man with a paper bag over his head. The first time the woman in the blonde wig is in the bar, she looks at a can of Portugese sardines with an expiration date of "May 1 1994". That has no relation to the scene in the Tony/Faye segment where she removes all the "fried fish" labels on the cans and replaces them with "Del Monte" sardine labels. And near the end, when the white man (who has sex standing up with a Chinese woman, but only after she puts on a blonde wig) finds the kittens, and is shot by the woman in the blonde wig, the camera does a close-up on what the cats were eating: sardines from an opened Portugese sardine can with expiration date "May 1 1994". "Chungking Express" is a favorite; but so is "2046" -- which begs for a blu-ray.
    Reply
  • By James Joseph Pennington
    February 05, 2013
    07:57 PM

    Yes, to everything you said about "The Last Temptation of Christ". Being a follower of Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre; the prophets that have guided me on life's journey, this experience is much more than the typical story. Nikos's book was a way for almost everyone of modern-day times to appreciate an imaginative rewrite of the greatest story ever told. Even with the controversial ideas; the ending, still stays true to raw honest faith. Side-note: it's still one of the only movies that I enjoy by Scorsese.
    Reply
  • By Tea_Bag_Ur_Mom
    February 27, 2013
    01:01 AM

    Great top ten! I gotta say mine would be: 1. Harold and Maude 2. Rushmore 3. Royal Tenenbuams 4. Diabolique 5. Crumb 6. Le Haine 7. Blow out 8. Beauty & The Beast 9. Being John Malkovich 10. Eyes Without A Face
    Reply
  • By Jennifer B.
    March 06, 2013
    06:49 AM

    I love crumb and greys garden
    Reply
  • By Sam Rasnake
    March 06, 2013
    10:35 AM

    This is a good list - especially the works by Kieślowski, Wong Kar-wai, and Godard.
    Reply

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