The Third Man
The most thoroughly satisfying and perhaps only perfect film ever made. I forget which director said they should close all the film schools and just show the students The Third Man thirty times. It bears at least a dozen reseeings, with something new and fine discovered each time. And to think that Benzedrine-riddled David O. Selznick tried to transform the fabulous final moments into a happy ending; but Carol Reed refused, standing up for all of us.
This year I found and stood in the dark Vienna doorway where Orson Welles stood when the kitty licked his shoe . . . and had my picture taken. I can find but one tiny glitch: Harry Lime’s address. It’s spoken by Joseph Cotten as “fünfzehn Josefsplatz,” but, moments later, the building with the caryatids prominently bears the number fünf. Okay, so no movie’s perfect.
Hitchcock’s best film, for my money. But then any movie with the sinister Ivan Triesault gets my vote. He’s the one who takes Claude Rains in the final moments for his last ride, for us and for Claude. I wonder if, even in real life, the villainous Triesault could smile. The suspense in the wine cellar upsets my nerves every time.
Tokyo monogatari, perhaps better known to non-Nipponophiles as Tokyo Story. Any film by the great Yasujiro Ozu will do, especially if it has Japan’s walked-away-in-mid-career huge star, the divine, mysterious, heart-seducing Setsuko Hara, who, Garbo-like and at the peak of her popularity, vanished into obscurity, never to return to the screen. I discovered her hideout in Kamakura, Japan, and briefly glimpsed her, refuting my cabdriver’s assurance that she was long dead. She lives yet, in her mid-nineties. Don’t pass this way without losing your heart to Miss Hara—Japan’s “eternal virgin”—on the screen. Also, same film, the great Chishu Ryu, who teaches the entire acting profession how to play, at a still youngish age, an ancient and enfeebled oldster. He is, one critic said, “old in his bones.”
Children of Paradise
The brilliant teacher I had for a Shakespeare seminar at Yale (Joel Dorius) asked us one day if we had an idea of what heaven, for us, would consist of. What you’d hope it would be. His own answer: “Just to sit in a screening room, watching Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise projected repeatedly and endlessly throughout eternity.” Hard to argue with that when you see and resee this classic. Dorius’s version of heaven beats hell out of harps and angels.
To Be or Not to Be
Starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Beyond praise.
Sweet Smell of Success
Love this film, partly and somewhat irrationally because it preserves in amber the Times Square part of Manhattan as it was when I first knew it, with glimpses of fondly remembered theaters, dance halls, pool halls, the Camel sign, etc., etc. Not the gaudy, blinding array of plastic junk that area is now. You can even see the late and fondly remembered Hotel Astor. Burt Lancaster has never thrilled me, but he’s awfully good in this, and the movie does thrill.
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Alec Guinness’s stunning versatility, playing a whole cast’s worth of characters, combined with his comic genius makes this a movie that should be enshrined. Funny how Guinness gets credit in many people’s faulty memories for Dennis Price’s high style performance. Can there be people who’ve never seen this treasure? Even once? How sad.
On the Waterfront
No words necessary.
Bret Easton Ellis’s Top 10
Bret Easton Ellis sent us his ten favorite Criterion films in alphabetical order, with the caveat that his list “could have been different last week and it might be different next week.”
David Markey’s Top 10
Independent filmmaker and underground music aficionado David Markey’s films include 1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992) and the Super 8 cult classics The Slog Movie (1982), Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984), and its sequel Lovedolls Superstar (1986),…
Allison Anders’s Top 10
“Wow, this assignment kicked my ass in a glorious way!” said Anders. “As with everyone before me, picking just ten Criterion classics is too daunting; so you have to find a system that allows you to play a favorite game, all the while knowing t…
Alec Baldwin’s Top 10
Actor Alec Baldwin’s film credits include Beetlejuice, Miami Blues, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Cooler (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), and The Departed. He has also won two Emmys for his role as Jack Donaghy on NBC’s…
Jeremy Workman’s Top 10
A frequent Criterion collaborator who has edited many of our trailers, the director of The World Before Your Feet charts the evolution of his movie love through multiple formats and new technologies.