A wonder. If I had to choose the best movie ever made, I’d choose 8 1/2. It’s so rich, so free, so influential. It has such a high energy in its form, an energy that never stops. It’s like a strong river that never stops flowing. It also has one of the most wonderful endings in film history. Something extraordinarily surprising, poetic, and reasonable in a way you wouldn’t have expected.
This is one of my favorite Ozu movies. On Ozu’s gravestone is the word mu, which in Japanese means “emptiness.” For me, emptiness and silence are very familiar, important family members, and I think the forms come out of emptiness. In the way Ozu makes movies, I feel deeply aware of emptiness. There is something very wise, quiet, and powerful in it. So Ozu for me is like a big brother who helps me remember from time to time the really important things about the form of moviemaking, which have nothing to do with manipulating the audience or being clever. Form can have something to do with truth.
One of my favorite movies of Antonioni’s, and Antonioni is one of my big influences. I like the slowness of his movies, the nonnarrative structure. L’avventura was the one with which he really broke through into something new, and it was, at its release, a big mis-success. I like that at last it came through, and people realized how important it was.
Before the Rain
Before the Rain is one of my favorite movies of recent years. I think, in a very interesting way, there is a lot of spiritual thought hidden in the movie. When I saw it, the structure of the movie was very new, how it works with time. In my opinion, “time” will be one of the big topics in the future of telling stories, and how we approach it narratively will change in the next twenty to thirty years.
A Woman Under the Influence
Cassavetes’ movies to me are a kind of pure energy. He’s the very opposite of Ozu because he cared nothing at all about form. Yet for some strange reason, by not caring about form at all—he just went for it—this produced, in formal aspects, the same result as when you pay a lot of attention to form. His energy with actors can also be felt. In each shot, you can feel what he wants to tell us about story, and you get the feeling that this has to be acted now, shot in the very moment. I would say it’s possibly something very American. This pure energy of making is very American, and it’s very optimistic.
I like this film because Melville was influenced by American cinema, but on the other hand he made very European movies. For me, it’s somehow a movie that gives an answer from ocean to ocean, continent to continent. And I like the rhythm and relaxation of the work of Melville—the inner energy, the pureness.
I would say it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. There were times in my life when I had to watch Sans Soleil once a year, and I could because there was a cinema in Vienna that used to show it every summer. On one hand, it’s a perfect and artistic movie, but on the other, it’s like the basis of moviemaking. It’s an essay film dealing with documentary material, and it transforms it into a poetic idea of the world. For me, it’s the highlight of documentary filmmaking.
Bill Plympton’s Top 10
Cartoonist, filmmaker, and animator Bill Plympton, whose illustrations have appeared in the pages of the New York Times, the Village Voice, and Vanity Fair, and whose short films became famous on MTV in the eighties, directed the documentary Walt Cur…
Caitlin Kuhwald’s Top 10
Caitlin Kuhwald designed the covers for Criterion’s editions of Heaven Can Wait, The Thief of Bagdad, and Amarcord. She lives in Oakland, teaches illustration at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and is a full-time freelance illu…
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),…
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…