Top 10

by Petri Simon

Created 07/19/17

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It is of course impossible to choose only ten and I won't even start naming the films from the collection I was sad to miss out, because they' re almost everyone of them.

Having said that they are rather examples of how diverse cinema can be than absolute favorites. They stand for the huge number of elements - obviously much more than ten - that can make a film outstanding. The magic of Fellini, the empathy of Leigh, the simplicity of Bresson, the sensuality of Kurosawa, the passion of Scorsese.

Since I could have a different top-ten-pick on each day, this is of course not carved in stone at all.

In chronological order.

(I would be very happy to see The Conversation, Exotica and Winter Sleep released.)

  • A film of famously hilarous overlapping dialogues, foundational classic Hollywood acting and rarely mentioned masterful camera work. It at once satirises and glorifies the American media. It is about a big shot newspaper editor (Cary Grant) who tries to stop her ex-wife, the essential Hawksian woman (Rosalind Russel), from remarrying. Hawks is easily my favorite from the many important auteurs of the golden ages. He is incredibly vital, rapid, full of sensational entertaining energy. Whether he composes a breathtaking shot in a large-scale western, creates an unmistakable mood in a chilling film noir or guides his actors to their finest in a screwball comedy, he is always at his peak. This pick also represents my love for the great tradition of American romantic comedy and especially my favorite Hawks film, Bringing Up Baby. I hope for its release very much.

  • It's so powerful, so tragic, with its incredible on location photography and raw documentary-like atmosphere, this film is the ultimate definition of neorealism. It is obviously a film about Nazi occupied Rome, but Rossellini tells his story, through a very personal family drama. The bond between the little boy and his stepfather, and also both of these characters connection to the priest is very touching. Since the circumstances of the shooting were so incredible, I don't think that the story itself gets enough credit. It has a very unexpected humour, especially in the scenes with Don Pietro. Rossellini famously renewed his style and approach in filmmaking and had three important eras. His minor works though are just as significant as the magnum opuses of many great filmmakers. Flowers of St. Francis between Germany Year Zero and Stromboli, or India: Matri Bhumi after the films with Bergman but before the TV films shoud get the same recognition as well.

  • Kurosawa doesn't need more than three locations to create one of the most complex experiences in cinematic history. He doesn’t only study the nature of truth but achieves a whole new level of what is possible in visual storytelling. It is as challenging and thought-provoking as it gets. Four people recollect their memories to tell four different versions of a story about a samurai, his wife and a bandit. While reconsidering their opinion on the actual happenings with each interpretation, the audience also reconsider what they’ve known as narrative. It works in a very instinct way, it doesn’t require any interest in theory. If Hitchcock’s Rear Window is an intellectual, calculated work about voyeurism and the connection between the viewer and the film, than this an entirely sensual one. During the hearing of the witnesses, there is no interrogator, they talk directly to the camera. The film involves the audience without them noticing it. The cinematography and the use of natural lights are mesmerizing.

  • That was my first experience with Bresson and the richness of the extremely simple shots completely fascinated me. Those emptied frames, essential hand movements, the aesthetics of the theft: wonderful! When I watched it for the second time I could pay more attention to its emotional aspect. Michel is an extraordinary character and his relationship with Jeanne is rarely uplifting for Bresson.

  • A film that represents all the aspects of Fellini's genius. After his somewhat neorealist films and before 8½, he builds his usual circus-like world around these bigger than life, yet very vulnarable characters. It has the magic and the dreams of his following masterpieces but the unexpected, sudden and tragic awakening comes as realistic as in any of his '50s films. Putting all of this aside, it is simply a great fun to watch, with its superb acting performances, floating camera work and memorable music.

  • Mastroianni is superficial and tainted, Jeanne Moreau is deep and honest. It is of course much more complicated than that and it might be an unnecessary simplification. However, this is the essential film about the carefree high society. Growing up among these grandour intellectuals and artists and having attended to similar parties it is sometimes really painful to watch because the characters are so authentic that they remind me of my own acquaintances. It is not surprising, Antonioni's vision is usually frightening, he has foreseen many depressing elements of contemporary society. La notte has a rarely discussed but amazing dance sequence. The ending is one of the most emotional and tear-jerking moment in film history.

  • This is easily my favorite road movie of all time. Wenders had this incredible, smashing energy, he was pure rock 'n roll. Alice in the Cities has the most in depth observations about the differences between American and European culture I have ever seen. I respect Wenders so much, not only for creating this lovable, complex character of Alice, but trusting a ten-year-old to play her. What a performance that became! To see Yella Rottländer's portrayal of this wonderful girl is always a very emotional experience for me.

  • I admire Mike Leigh for his endless empathy and love he has for his characters. Even if I watch this or Secrets & Lies or Vera Drake or any of his films for the tenth time, I always get the same chatartic feeling because of his great warmth towards humanity. The subject matter is unemployment in Thatcher's England but like all of his films, it is also about very universal things such as youth, boredom, love and many sides of family conflicts of course.

  • I can't make a list without including Scorsese. I have to pay hommage, not just to his exceptional vision and career but also to the admiration he has for cinema. It is hard to find another director who is so humble and speaks so lovingly and enthusiasticly about the films of others. He - alongside Godard, Bogdanovich, Tavernier, Kent Jones and others of course - shaped the great genre of documentaries about film history. The best things about these films - Personal Journey, My Voyage to Italy - is how much he enjoys talking about cinema, you'll get an immediate desire to see all the films he mentions. The Last Temptation of Christ is a complex, challenging film, feautring wonderful landscape cinematography and a remarkable soundtrack. I think it is very personal for Scorsese. It is of course understandable how much he is associated with New York and gangster films, yet I think, in a way, this and Hugo are his most personal works.

  • I saw many great films as a child thanks to my mother. She introduced me to Fellini, Bunuel, Wenders, Cassavetes, Tati and so on. They had a big impact on me but either did I really unterstood them nor was I truly interested in visual arts. At the age 19 when I had no idea what I am going to do after the matura exam I saw Boyhood with my girlfriend in the cinema. This was the one film that started my obsession. Having said that I would also like to cheat a little bit and say that this choice stands also for each film I have seen since. Later that week we saw Barton Fink in a retrosceptive screening and while watching it I decided to try becoming either a director or a film historian. Like Open City, Boyhood is very famous for one thing, whereas it has many important aspects. It is Linklater's love both for his actors and characters what makes it an especially cheerful and optimistic cinematic experience. The title speaks for itself, but it is equally the story of the mother, portrayed perfectly by Patricia Arquette.

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