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Criterion has such a vast array of incredible titles that creating a list seemed pointless. Nonetheless, as pointless as they are, lists are fun to make, so here are my ten favorite titles from the Criterion library.
The only film I have ever considered to be perfect, and most likely the only film I ever will consider perfect. The characters, the story, the symbolism--Everything is just...symphonic. I must admit, though, that I did not think so highly of it when I first saw it, but after quite a few viewings and more than a few analytical excursions into Fellini's opus, I came to the realization that it was the film that summed up everything I love about the cinema. And I do love the moment when Guido whistle-taps down the hall in the hotel. It's a pitch-perfect moment of sincere charm.
A year later (or years, I can't even remember when I wrote this) my love still is as strong as ever. My reading is incorrect, though. Fellini was clearly trying to tell me that I am the ringleader of my own circus. I hope I can put on as good a show as he did.
A true work of art in every single sense. Powell & Pressberger created a unique parable to the original fairy tale, while also remaining firmly rooted within the tale itself, using lucid imagery and gorgeous, colorful cinematography to drive the point in that we may or may not be residing inside a dream world. It is a cinematic triumph. Nothing less.
This still remains an unforgettable experience even after all these years and I still continue to cherish the gifts it bestows upon me.
Of all the masterworks I've had the pleasure of viewing, this takes the cake for having the greatest influence on myself as an artist. A defiance of traditional narrative order, Mulholland Drive is an incredible sensory and thematic experience unrivaled by any other film dealing in dreams and nightmares. Not to mention, Lynch's sense of style is so delicious I literally want to sit down and eat every single frame.
I hate tag lines--an attempt to summarize a film in one or two lines is absolutely asinine to me. But, in the case of Nashville, I have to admit I agree with the tag line they chose for it, for it truly is "The damnedest thing you ever saw". The quintessential ensemble film detailing twenty four (!) lives in the Athens of the South, Nashville is uproariously funny, acidically bitter, and emotionally hollowing. Sometimes, all at once. This was the pinnacle of the New Hollywood era, and asserted Robert Altman as a true auteur. We shall never see his like again.
"For mortal eyes cannot behold the devil" Lady Anne spits venomously at the men who cower in fear of the deformed and devious Duke of Gloucester. Indeed, Laurence Olivier is magnetic behind and (especially) in front of the camera by separating so fully from Shakespeare in his interpretation of the Bard's infamous historical. I may never forget that glare of glares when the Duke of York teases Richard about his hump.
Good God, what a great fucking film. Apologies on the language, but I cannot help it. Bergman truly pulled no punches from this stark, creepy and immensely mature work that messes with the mind in ways that defy traditional comprehension. The final twenty minutes may be some of the most sobering bits of celluloid I've ever beheld, and bless Bergman for inflicting them upon me.
"To think, the country is in the hands of a ham" is but one of many zingers Lubitsch handles with the greatest finesse (the Lubitsch touch, they call it) in this incredibly brave, yet gut-bustingly funny film of Nazi evil. Benny and Lombard, I believe, never soared higher than as Jospeh and Maria Tura (and the film is made all the more important by Lombard's tragic death shortly after, as she was a true force-of-presence on the screen).
Kurosawa's magnum opus. A film without equal, yet so many have taken from it so shamelessly that as the years pass it only grows in its already immense stature. Despite his beautiful epics, this intimate piece stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Shakespeare has had a long and tumultuous past with film, but for every ten pieces of coal that come along, the diamond waiting at the end is always worth trudging for. Such is the way of Kurosawa's adaptation of MacBeth, with its setting appropriately placed in feudal Japan. MacBeth has always been my favorite work of the Bard, and here it gets the best treatment I've ever seen. The arrow sequence at the end always has me on the edge of my seat.
I cannot, in good conscience, write anything more than this about the trilogy: they are the truest, purest form of a masterpiece that exists.
The world had a lot to chew on in the New Hollywood era, but I don't think they were expecting such a raw talent in Terrence Malick when he broke into the industry with this incredible interpretation on the Starkweather-Fugate murders. I was floored when I first saw it, and I am still floored now. Yet, even as I put this on my list, Malick continued to get better and better with every film, culminating in the absolute powerhouse of "The Tree of Life".