Top 10s

Mark Cousins’s Top 10

Mark Cousins’s Top 10

Mark Cousins is a critic and filmmaker based in Edinburgh. He is the writer and director of the fifteen-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011).

  • The Decameron

    1.
    The Decameron

    Pier Paolo Pasolini

  • The Canterbury Tales

    (tie)
    The Canterbury Tales

    Pier Paolo Pasolini

  • Arabian Nights

    (tie)
    Arabian Nights

    Pier Paolo Pasolini

    I saw these in my twenties, and loved their vulgarity, their escapism, and Pasolini’s belief that in former times, people were freer about their bodies and life was more fun. They are illicit travelogues, joyous and, probably, wrong.

  • Bad Timing

    2.
    Bad Timing

    Nicolas Roeg

    Love, according to this film, is close to death. Theresa Russell is raw and beautiful, and the film is full of symbols, of heartaches, of obsessions—Harvey Keitel’s, Art Garfunkel’s. Like a Schiele painting, which is high praise.

  • Le bonheur

    3.
    Le bonheur

    Agnès Varda

    Not Agnès Varda’s best-known film but her most visually beautiful one. Erotic, sunny, bleak, and bold.

  • The Marriage of Maria Braun

    4.
    The Marriage of Maria Braun

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

  • Lola

    (tie)
    Lola

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

  • Veronika Voss

    (tie)
    Veronika Voss

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    What a troika of women Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss are! Willful, performing, fascinating, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s women are versions of himself, his languor and despair. Wow.

  • Close-up

    5.
    Close-up

    Abbas Kiarostami

    A film about pretending to be someone, so inventive that your head aches. Abbas Kiarostami is the Galileo of cinema; he rethinks it, repositions us within it.

  • High and Low

    6.
    High and Low

    Akira Kurosawa

    Akira Kurosawa is best known for Seven Samurai, but this is more fun. Hitchcockian and full of dread and gorgeous widescreen imagery.

  • The Insect Woman

    7.
    The Insect Woman

    Shohei Imamura

    One of the glories of Criterion is that it has so many films by Shohei Imamura. I’ve long said that this is the best film ever made. Maybe one day I’ll stop saying it, or stop believing it, but until then it will, for me, show everything—the reason for living and the reason for making movies.

  • Medium Cool

    8.
    Medium Cool

    Haskell Wexler

    I saw this when I was a teenager, and was struck by the nudity and atmosphere. Then I met Haskell Wexler and watched his film again, and realized that it is Godard in America—fragmented, passionately political, inventive, and seductive.

  • A River Called Titas

    9.
    A River Called Titas

    Ritwik Ghatak

    Ritwik Ghatak was India’s Sam Peckinpah: drunk, bellicose, brilliant. He brought a Bengali sense of literature and sadness to his work. You’ll maybe only understand half this film at first (certainly the case for me), but its richness overwhelms.

  • Ace in the Hole

    10.
    Ace in the Hole

    Billy Wilder

    My taste usually runs to loosely structured films, but this one is as taut as a drum. Kirk Douglas is as snappy as Edward G. Robinson, and the story—about the press exploiting tragedy—is Rupert Murdoch–ian. A film that seems to get younger as time goes on.