The Battle of Algiers
I remember it as a strong anticolonialist film, with parallels with the American civil rights movement. In fact, a scene you won’t see in Medium Cool, of black militants going into a theater where The Battle of Algiers was playing, was deleted as a concession to Paramount’s concerns that it would provoke violence against Paramount executives. Paramount argued that if audience members came out of Medium Cool and committed a violent act, Paramount would be liable.
The Cranes Are Flying
A Soviet film, it came out when the Cold War was going full blast. American films celebrated victory without displaying the true extent of the cruelty of warfare, and the damages it inflicts on our humanity. Of particular technical interest to me was a combination handheld crane shot, which I duplicated in Bound for Glory with a new device called the Steadicam.
I remember the story of Lacombe, Lucien, who was seduced by the German occupiers to be a quisling. They made him feel he was “somebody.” The film, being after the war, dealt with his psychic examination of who he was; many of his contemporaries would not forgive him. I knew director Louis Malle personally, and I know that attracted me to see his film, which was somewhat autobiographical.
Long, long takes of traffic accidents. Fascinating characters along the way. Many frustrated drivers and passengers unable to deal with matters of a complex world. The film delves into their personal dramas, and how the delay affects their plans. Cameraman Raoul Coutard is a friend of mine, and the long takes were considered a tour de force.
Early on, surprisingly enough, Italian cinema broke the Hollywood barrier by making simple, down-to-earth stories. Most of the films were made without live sound but dubbed later by experts. It meant that noisy, unblimped cameras would give flexibility to image-making. Stories like Bicycle Thieves, Rome Open City, and Paisan all fell into that category.
Jonathan Lethem’s Top 10
Winner of a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program genius grant, Jonathan Lethem is one of America's premier contemporary writers. His works include the novels The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn.
Jon Dieringer’s Top 10
The founder of the website Screen Slate picks a selection of favorites, including an ’80s indie gem, shockers ranging from Eraserhead to Canoa, and two films that capture the “twilit feeling of childhood.”
John Bailey’s Top 10
About selecting his favorites from the collection, world-class cinematographer John Bailey (Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters) says, “One of the greatest challenges in trying to compile a list like this is to separate the objectively ‘great’ fil…
Hossein Amini’s Top 10
The Iranian-British Hossein Amini received an Academy Award nomination for his 1997 screenplay adaptation of Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove and wrote the screenplays for Jude (1995), The Four Feathers (2002), and Drive (2011).
Jane Campion’s Top 10
In honor of her introduction to the collection, with An Angel at My Table, we asked director Jane Campion to contribute a list of Criterion films that are on her mind at the moment. Campion’s debut feature, Sweetie, is also available from Criterion…