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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: 1 October 2012
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.
"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.
It's every coming of age story ever told, but taken to the kind of intense extreme few dare to follow. It's absolutely heartbreaking to watch Monika gnawing at the stolen roast, having devolved into a feral state scarcely resembling the young woman she's supposed to be. For a while, we live vicariously the endless summer we never got to experience...and then we are compelled to bear witness to its ugly conclusion. There's a wistfulness to the film all the same, like listening to the Beach Boys in winter, that balances things.
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.
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?"
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.
If "Law & Order: SVU" had a cinematic grandparent, it would be this film. I desperately wanted to see the criminals be the ones to catch up to the killer, and I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I needed the very chastising that Lang delivers in the film's final scenes. It's a powerful reminder of the need for an impartial justice system, rather than a court system that operates as our instrument of blood soaked revenge.
Louise Brooks absolutely drips with sex throughout this film, demonstrating the kind of power unique to women. I couldn't take my eyes off her, to the point I'm certain I missed a lot of what else may have been in any given frame.