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Some of these films may not be my favorites of all time, as many of them aren't released by Criterion. (I would love to see a Criterion release of The Good, the Bad and the Weird.)
The 10 selections on this list are basically some of the Criterion-released films that I find particularly interesting. A few of them are favorites of mine though.
Feel free to comment, as they say.
"The Third Man" is one of my favorite films ever! As a huge fan of both Orson Welles and film-noir I rejoiced the first time I saw this British classic. Even though Welles only appears in a fraction of the film, the lines he delivers, and the acting he does, is so great that the rest almost withers. Not to say that the rest isn't great, 'cause it IS! The cinematography, the sets... Dreamlike!
I first saw "Salò" at the age of 12 or 13 and was grossed out by its depictions of sadistic violence and perverted sexual content, but now that I've had time to dive deeper into the films message and symbolism I really like it! Some of the scenes and their symbolism may dwell too much in horrendous violence, and thus loose some of its meaning, but overall "Salò" is a powerful piece of cinema!
How can there be so much suspense and intensity in a film limited to one single room and one single discussion almost throughout its entire runtime? It is the script and most important, the acting, that makes "12 Angry Men" so thrilling. Never during the films 96 minutes of runtime am I bored one single second. Words and arguments crosses the table all the time, and it is amazing to witness!
Stan Brakhage's "Dog Star Man" is truly what defines experimental film for me. No other director working in this genre of non-narrative and weirdness has made such an emotional impact on me as Brakhage. Right from the breathtaking prelude to the hectic and almost frantic main-parts, "Dog Star Man" is a tour-de-force of epic proportions!
Of all the historical dramas that has been released over the years, "Andrei Rublev" stands as one of the most powerful! Tarkovsky has taken the tale of a historical icon-painter, and made it his almost self-biographical journey. Even though the story is powerful and engaging, it is the cinematography in "Andrei Rublev" that steals the show for me. Long shots over the beautiful Russian nature makes for some great eye candy to accompany the story.
"Antichrist" proves that von Trier has still got what it takes to make an atmospheric horror-drama several years after the amazing "Riget"-series. Though vastly different in terms of style and thematics, the two films share that piercing eerie atmosphere that we don't see in too many horror-films these days. "Antichrist" is a greatly-composed modern horror film. The extreme version of Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now"!
If there must be one suspense-film over all suspense-films, it must be "The Wages of Fear"! Set in the beautiful but cruel landscapes of Southern America, one is constantly kept at the edge of ones seats when watching Montand and Co. carefully driving through the mountains on their deadly mission! The multilingual nature of the film also gives it a natural feeling setting it apart from many other thrillers in the same vein.
I've always been attracted by Eastern-European drama films. I always associate them with a deep and soothing melancholy. Kieslowski's "Red" is the pinnacle of these associations. Irène Jacob does a great role in the film, and the directing is absolutely superb! The best of the Three Colors-films.
As a musician I can only sit down and enjoy Reiner's satirical mock-documentary on rock-and-roll culture of the 70's and 80's. He has taken all the over-the-top-elements of classic rocks aesthetics and culture and made them seem so natural. That is where "This is Spinal Tap" scores its points for me!
Although not one of my favorite films, either from Japan or in general, I really admire the visual aspects of "In the Realm of the Senses", as well as the interaction between the characters. The bond between the two main-characters is really tragic, as it seems to be driven more by lust and desire than love, and Oshima's portrayal of these feelings makes "In the Realm of the Senses" something more intelligent than just an erotic drama.