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Rather than arbitrarily selecting my Top 10 Criterion titles, this list defers to my Flickchart rankings. As my Flickchart will grow as I add films, and evolve as I rank them, this list will not be static. I will endeavor to update regularly, but for up-to-the-minute accuracy (and for the entire list), here's the source:
Date of Most Recent Update: 3 October 2013
The detail that struck me most when I first saw this as an adolescent was the observation that the eyewitness had divots on her nose indicating that she regularly wore eyeglasses. For some reason, that was an epiphany for me. It never occurred to me to even notice such things, much less that noticing them could be of literal life-or-death importance. Sure, it's a powerful commentary on fairness versus prejudice, of diligence versus haste and it's gripping as can be with intense performances, etc. But for me, it's those divots that really blew my mind.
I'm almost certain that the circumstances of my first (and so far, only) viewing of this film were directly responsible for why it resonated with me as it did. It was the middle of the night and I was in just the right mood and state of mind to really connect with a film like this, and it held me rapt from start to finish. How strong of an impact did it make? It debuted on my Flickchart at #18/1565.
I was somewhat underwhelmed the first time I saw this, but on second viewing I found myself identifying with it in deeply personal ways. Both viewings took place during my Year of Hell, in which I struggled daily with severe, suicidal depression. The second viewing took place within weeks of what was nearly the end of my life, and I understood then just how frustrated Fellini had become with the pressure to answer the question, "What next?"
Everything I enjoy about Fellini's storytelling is here, only this time it's mostly a lark.
I dreaded this one, knowing ahead of time what it was about. It's gut-wrenching; one does not merely watch, but rather endure, this film. The fear, the disgust, the anguish...they're as visceral here as film is capable of producing.
It's the film's restraint that makes it so moving. Only once do we see Frédéric (Charles Berling) cry. Everyone else remains composed and stoic.The relationships between people and things, people and the past, and people with one another, are all universal themes and the meditation on them here is thoughtful.
"Love is humiliation" is as concise a thesis as can be identified for this one. It represents Bergman just before his big international breakout with "Smiles of a Summer Night," but for my money this is the best microcosm of his storied filmography. The richness of symbolism; the intimacy of relationships; the deft use of costumes, lighting and sets to create a world not quite our own...it's all here.
There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said, better, by others. I'll merely note that it's nice when a masterpiece actually lives up to its reputation, and this one does.
I've come to really enjoy and appreciate John le Carré's gritty, often amoral storytelling. The Tailor of Panama remains my favorite film version, in large part because the chemistry between Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush is so endearing, but The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is le Carré's masterpiece and Martin Ritt's film nailed it. The film doesn't get the recognition that the novel has enjoyed, but everything that there is to appreciate about le Carré's narrative is well handled on screen.
I'm not even sure I'm a Wes Anderson fan, but I'm entirely sure I love The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It's the perfect balance of surreal and accessible. Above all, it's stylish fun. I didn't realize until my second viewing of it that it's essentially The Wrath of Khan at sea, which is funny because only once I had that realization did it occur to me that it's also a retelling of Moby Dick. Yes, I know how embarrassing that is to confess.