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.
Gary Giddins’s Top 10
In honor of his participation in our release of Louis Malle’s jazzy noir classic Elevator to the Gallows, we invited music critic Gary Giddins to contribute a list of his ten favorite Criterion films.
Robin Wood’s Top 10
This month we asked critic Robin Wood—whose books include Hitchcock’s Films and Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan and who recently wrote essays for the Criterion releases The Furies and Le plaisir—to pick his ten favorite films in the collection…
Megan Abbott’s Top 10
Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Dare Me and The Fever. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal.