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For a while I've fantasized about what films I would put in my own top ten Criterion list. Now that I'm actually making one, my fantasies are running wild like marbles on a wood floor!
I've come to these films because they've clung to me and I can't shake them off. I think about them often, and some even clog my dreams. Great cinema always gives us something, it never takes away.
The greatest achievement in film art. Tarkovsky takes us through the plight of the spirit. I can't say anything more, this is one you absolutely need to experience to understand.
Pure filmmaking at its zenith. Dreyer is the master of constructing art that captures the fear of damnation and losing God. The Passion of Joan of Arc is probably the greatest constructed narrative film with one of the greatest performances by Maria Falconetti. The use of "Voices of Light" is the greatest post-film score ever put to a film.
Another Dreyer masterpiece. This one haunts in a similar and yet different way than Joan. More about the shadows and the unexplained, but still with the fear of damnation. The fluidity of the camera, combined with his effortless blocking and subjective pov's, make it another master class in how to tell a story. The shot when Allan first sees a shadow skipping across the opposite bank of a river gives me a sense of imagination that can't be matched.
Very possibly Bergman's best. I know this can be strongly contested by The Seventh Seal, Winter Light, Wild Strawberries, etc. But I think this is his most personal film. It matched how he felt being old, with the memories and impressions that formed him as a child. When Alexander thinks God is behind the door, I thought God was really behind the projection screen.
This is one of the greatest American films ever made. I saw it for the first time when I was 14 and knew I had watched something great; something that had a rite of passage; what I wanted. I saw it again the other day on the big screen, and knew I had watched something so deeply imbued with the history of cinema and the discerning eye to hold back and be true instead of embellish, that I found myself looking at the world as I know it. A real film.
Ford will always be the best. The Last Picture Show owes much to Ford, as do, many, many other films. Ford could tell a story better than anyone. He could grip you with a film like Stagecoach by using his stoic humanist characters and a hard-nosed poetry that hasn't come close to being duplicated, and never will.
The most important war film ever made. Another tough statement, but in it's cruelty, it shows the reality of man and his ways. It's history without a grimace.
If The Ascent is the most important, I'll give this film the title of most effective war film. In showing the warped WWII ideology and its effect on man, this film has no battles, only people and the ways they treat each other. The ending is the most tragic of all endings, because in theory it could exist, but man is the reason it will never happen.
A fabulous documentary, where at one point, the crew was shot at trying to film a Kentucky coal miner's strike! This film gives credit to the courage of it's subjects and the filmmakers, and shows how hard it is to stand up and fight for justice in corporate America.
I tied this with Harlan County USA because it's based on the true story of Louis Malle's childhood. I think of it as a documentary of memory, as well as the most unguarded, heartbreaking autobiographical film to date.
Wenders just breaks all the rules, and shows us film is never one thing to be made one way. If your life doesn't feel affirmed after watching this, then you know that you have to go out and reclaim it once the credits role.
Comedy often has the most truth in it, and this film is no exception. It's the role Don Ameche was born to play. I think every man's eternal struggle is between the love of his life, and the sea of beautiful women who will beckon.
David Gordon Green is my favorite director on the Criterion list. This film proved that art cinema in America was still alive and thriving on the rundown atmospheres of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and what these local kids had to say.
Cinema magic at its finest. Fantasy as pure as the original tales from The Thousand And One Nights. This film captures the wonderment of storytelling, and takes you on a journey so mythic, and so grand, that when you're done watching, you feel reality has slighted you somehow.
The most expressive film in its form. So personal and subjective, it's hard to understand how we've come to accept anything less from our current storytellers. It solidified for me that Binoche is the greatest living actress, and Kieslowski was a true genius. They both understood pain and personified it in a poignant, abstract delirium that never stops begging the questions of life.