K. K. Barrett’s Top 10

K. K. Barrett’s Top10

“These are ten films that tickle me in the right places,” says Academy Award–nominated production designer K. K. Barrett, who’s helped visualize the worlds of such films as Being John Malkovich, Lost in Translation, Where the Wild Things Are, and Her.

Jun 26, 2014
  • 1

    The Night of the Hunter

    Charles Laughton

    A very theatrical construct of noir. Black humor, nursery rhymes, expressionist lighting, a zoological boat ride, Shelly Winters underwater, and Robert Mitchum cackling when getting shot. I can hear Charles Laughton chuckling in every scene. Best use of frightening artifice. If Mitchum only acted in one movie, if Gish only appeared in one movie, they should be proud for this to be the one. As it is, Laughton only directed one.

  • 2

    Wise Blood

    John Huston

    John Huston had an incomparable late run—The Misfits, Fat City, Under the Volcano, Prizzi’s Honor—but Wise Blood is my favorite. William Hickey, Harry Dean Stanton, and Brad Dourif kill it with a baby Jesus; bent religious fervor second only to Ken Russell’s The Devils.

  • 3

    The Element of Crime

    Lars von Trier

    My introduction to Lars von Trier, a breath of stale, musky air when I found it in 1990. A circular story in a sodden netherworld. Before his naturalism period, Lars explores studio trickery, and, as always, with guilt and repression bubbling under the surface.

  • 4

    Mr. Freedom

    William Klein

    William Klein, an expat photographer, looks at what drives the USA, a cocky hubris. Delirious colors and comic realities of the American way. Serge Gainsbourg music! A riotous pop art telling of the George W. Bush era long before it came to be.

  • 5

    The Warped Ones

    Koreyoshi Kurahara

    Pure maniacal energy and hoodlum spunk with a spinning moral compass. Looks like it was shot in a day. Under-wrought in the best ways. Just keeps me laughing. Dumb swagger to spare. Godard dialed to eleven.

  • 6

    Red Desert

    Michelangelo Antonioni

    I love too many Antonioni films, but this is my favorite. La notte is second. The power of slow observation. Here he massages color, industry, and fog as antagonists to femme urban madness. My favorite use of Design by Location Curation. An opposite influence for me on Her. A companion piece to Todd Haynes’s Safe.

  • 7

    Pandora’s Box

    G. W. Pabst

    Louise Brooks defines screen presence. She is so mesmerizing, vulnerable, beautiful, and strong/silent that I had to seek out every one of her performances. There is no other like her, as there is no other Marcello Mastroianni. Diary of a Lost Girl may be even better. If you need to coax a friend to lose their dramatic silent film virginity, start with these . . . and then move to Greed.

  • 8

    Two-Lane Blacktop

    Monte Hellman

    Some films are peculiarly unique to their era. Where did actors like Warren Oates come from? Like with his solo burn in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, he conducts this symphony of a race to nowhere all by himself.

  • 9

    Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

    Paul Schrader

    I rarely single a film out solely for production design, but this is an exception. It influenced me before I worked in film. The stage sets by Eiko Ishioka of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion alone are striking. Inspired use of nonlinear storytelling and

    cinematic poetry.

  • 10 (tie)


    Lynne Ramsay

  • Daisies

    Věra Chytilová

  • Seconds

    John Frankenheimer

  • Mala Noche

    Gus Van Sant

  • Bottle Rocket

    Wes Anderson

  • Naked

    Mike Leigh

  • The Spirit of the Beehive

    Víctor Erice

    I’ve given all these films to friends for enlightenment.