My favorite among Antonioni’s trilogy of alienation (La notte and L’eclisse are the other two). For me, these films capture the slow and painful death of love with astonishing intuition and almost no dialogue. There is nothing to be said between lovers when they fall out of love, but the silent agony of their dying relationships is captured in heartbreaking glances and body language. A shoulder turn or look away speaks volumes. Antonioni is a master of blocking actors. They move up close, far away, and out of shot in long single takes that reveal more about their emotions than any confession.
Quick cheat again. I could easily have listed Le cercle rouge, Army of Shadows, Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle, which are all in the Criterion collection. Melville is probably my favorite director and was a huge influence on the script of Drive. The cinema of process and silent taciturn heroes whose tough-guy exteriors hide lonely, fragile hearts.
Like Melville, Michael Mann is a master of silent storytelling, but he is also one of the best writers of dialogue I know. There’s a scene between James Caan and Tuesday Weld in a diner that goes on for ten minutes, but you never get bored for a second. They go from being virtual strangers to lovers in the course of a conversation, and you don’t question it. Not only do his criminals feel authentic when they talk about their profession but their inarticulate attempts at declaring their love feel just as true.
Set in a world that seems completely familiar and mundane—the devil could be our neighbor or sitting next to us in our local café. The experience is all the more terrifying for bringing horror into our everyday existence rather than keeping it at a safe fantastical distance.
I could just as easily have picked Kagemusha. The beauty of the Samurai war film. Color-coded armor and banners and endless waves of soldiers attacking fortresses shrouded in mist. I read somewhere that Kurosawa painted the grass greener and the wheat fields yellower as part of his color scheme.
Jules and Jim
The love triangle in this movie has probably been the biggest influence on my writing. Truffaut’s rivals aren’t out to destroy each other, they love each other as much as the woman they’re chasing, and this makes the conflict and complications all the more powerful. This film taught me that as a screenwriter you have to have compassion for all your characters, and that nothing is ever black and white.
Stuart Cooper’s Top 10
“I have chosen ten titles from the Criterion Collection not because they are my favorites or necessarily the most important, but because they mean a lot to me personally and bear some relationship to my filmmaking career and the making of Overlord.…
Pedro Costa’s Top 10
Portuguese director Pedro Costa is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning artist behind the films Ossos, In Vanda’s Room, and Colossal Youth, available from Criterion in the special edition four-DVD box set Letters from Fontainhas: Three Film…
William Friedkin’s Top 10
“I discovered Criterion in the late eighties with the laserdisc of Citizen Kane, which I still watch,” writes director William Friedkin, whose films include The French Connection, The Exorcist, Sorcerer, and 2011’s Killer Joe.
James Franco’s Top 10
“I am obsessed with the Criterion Collection . . . Basically, I have every disc in the collection, and I am making my way through them all. It’s rare that I watch one I don’t like.”