My favourite films

Some time ago, I posted a list of my favourite novels. And, ever since, I know that many of you have been waiting with bated breath to find out my favourite ten films. I have, indeed, been inundated – inundated – with e-mails to that effect: “Now that you have let us know your favourite novels, please, please,” they plead, “please let us know your favourite films.”

Well, actually, no. I lie. But since it is Christmas, let us indulge ourselves.  Here they are, the Argumentative Old Git’s top ten favourite films:

City Lights (1931):

People keep telling me that Chaplin wasn’t funny. If that is so, I don’t know what the audience was laughing at when I saw this film in the cinema: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cinema audience laugh so much.

The film itself is pure alchemy. Chaplin takes a hackneyed tale, and, by some magic beyond analysis, turns it into pure gold. That ending shouldn’t work, but it does. Like Dickens (with whom he shares much in terms of moral and artistic values), Chaplin is often accused of sentimentality; but, again like Dickens, if he hadn’t risked being sentimental , he wouldn’t have been able to create scenes as ineffably beautiful and moving as the finale of City Lights.

Sons of the Desert  (1933):

It’s hard to believe that entire generations have grown up now without having seen a single Laurel & Hardy film. There has been no end of analysis into just what it is about these characters that makeS them so funny, and so appealing, but as with all things wonderful, there are aspects that are beyond any analysis. Ollie is so very pompous and self-important, and yet we love him. Why? Who knows! Stan is completely and utterly vacant, and yet we don’t look down upon him, or regard him in a patronising manner, or feel ourselves superior in any way. Why? Again – who knows!

The boys were generally at their best in the short films, but occasionally, as in Way Out West and in this, their magic remained intact for feature films also. The story is simple, but what they make out of it is, for me, a lasting joy. No matter how down I may happen to feel, Stan and Ollie cheer me up. I don’t think I feel such deep affection for any other fictional character, either in cinema or in any other medium.

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Alongside Chaplin and Stan & Ollie, the Marx Brothers form the third of that select group that, for me, defineS the gold standard in comedy.

The general consensus of opinion amongst Marxists is that the boys were at their undiluted best in the Paramount films, and that after they moved to MGM, their anarchic comedy was watered down by romantic subplots, musical interludes, etc. There is certainly a great deal of truth in this, but it is also true that the first two films they made for MGM, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races,  not only have better production values than the Paramount films, but also contain much of their finest material.

Yes, the romantic and musical interludes do slow things down a bit, but speaking personally, I do find a certain period charm to them. Most importantly, they do not get in the way of the comedy. Right from the opening scene in the restaurant, to the evergreen contract-signing scene and the equally evergreen cabin scene, right up to the finale  – one of the very best, involving the sabotage of Il Trovatore – just thinking back on this makes me break out into a broad grin.

Citizen Kane(1941)

Sometimes, something can be very great even though everyone says so. Except, perhaps, no-one says so any more about Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane: that’s one of those pieces of received wisdom that we, eager to be thought of as independent in our thought, steer away from.

This film is sometimes criticised for being merely a bag of tricks. But the word “merely” is misapplied. It is a bag of tricks, certainly, but the tricks are almost invariably there to serve a purpose: frequently, they aid the narrative flow rather than otherwise. Take, for instance, that passage where Kane signs up all the top journalists from a rival newspaper: we close in on a group photograph, see a flash on the screen, and then, with one of the most daring cuts I have seen, we pull back out of the picture as the picture comes to life – that cut covering two whole years. Flashy? Yes. But could the story have been told more economically, and with such clarity?

And it’s like this throughout – the tricks serving the narrative and the drama rather than getting in their way. And the drama is engrossing: it is about the betrayal of promise; of youthful idealism and dynamism overtaken by a profound sense of futility; and of the loneliness of old age, and a yearning for something that has been lost. Citizen Kane has all the complexity of a great novel.

Double Indemnity (1944)

I often think of Billy Wilder’s Double indemnity, The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard as a sort of unofficial trilogy – three extremely dark films, each featuring at the centre a self-destructive protagonist. How did the Factory of Dreams ever produce films such as these? Double Indemnity, in particular, is a great favourite: it’s the archetypal film noir, and virtually defines that genre all by itself. There’s nothing I can say about this film that hasn’t been said a million times before: the script, the performances, the direction, the lighting – it is all absolute perfection, and even though I know virtually every shot and every line by heart, I still get a kick watching it, just to enter that world again. So let us just move on.

They Were Expendable(1945)

Lyricism isn’t often associated with action films. And yet, John Ford, known for action films – especially Westerns – was a poet of the cinema. Only he could make a film about the gunfight at the OK Corral and call it My Darling Clementine.

They Were Expendable was intended as a wartime flag-waver, and depicts thus marines in the early stages of the war against Japan. How typical of Ford that even when making a flag-waver, it is a defeat he focuses on. Among the stars of the film is John Wayne (although he essentially plays second fiddle here to Robert Montgomery). But there are no gung-ho heroics, or boys’ own adventure. Indeed, the focus isn’t even on the plotline as such: often, Ford is happy not to explain all the details of the plot. The focus is on people, all people, even those who appear fleetingly: the camera still lingers on their faces, on their expressions. When the radio announces that US are at war with Japan, Ford’s camera focuses not on the men, but on the faces of the female Japanese singers at the bar. Later, a young marine is shivering with fear, and when asked by his officer if he is cold, lets slip out that he is afraid: the commanding officer, Robert Montgomery, pauses for a while and tells the lad that he has no monopoly on fear before moving on. The boy never re-appears, but once again, the camera focuses on his face, and lingers.

What Ford depicts is heroism – not the sort of macho heroism we tend to associate with John Wayne films, but the everyday heroism of ordinary everyday people, people who know that they are expendable and who yet sacrifice themselves in the name of duty, of service. Time after time the camera captures haunting images that only a true poet can conjure up – an old man refuses to leave his house in the face of invasion, and sits quietly on his own on his front steps; a troop of ragged soldiers march into no destination in particular amidst the swirling dust. And, as surely as Renoir did in La Grande Illusion (which I may well have picked in my Top Ten on another day), Ford depicts the essential nobility and dignity of the human race, even in the face of the unthinkable. It is easy to be cynical of such a vision, but it is a vision we need to hold on to.

Seven Samurai (1954)

This is a heroic, tragic tale of epic dimensions – perhaps the closest cinema has come to the Homeric. The individual actions scenes, especially that final battle in the rain and the mud, are rightly legendary: they have been much imitated, but never equalled. The pacing of the narrative over three and a half hours is immaculate: Kurasawa knows exactly when and how and to what extent to raise or lower the tempo. Each individual scene is engrossing, and the shape of the broad narrative arc is nothing short of breathtaking.

Apu Trilogy (1955-59)

Three films, I know, but should be counted as one. This trilogy, directed by Satyajit Ray, are works of profound humanity, and I never fail to find them moving. I’ve written about these films quite recently on this blog, so let’s move on.

The Innocents(1961)

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw can claim to be the finest example of the genre of the ghost story, and it has inspired not one, but two masterpieces – Benjamin Britten’s opera, and this film, directed by Jack Clayton. Once again, I have written about this recently on this blog, so let us move on to my final choice.

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Ingmar Bergman had already announced that this was to be his last film, and he was determined to go out on a high – to put into a single work the best of himself, to create, as it were, a summary of all past achievements. The result could have been a hodge-podge, but it isn’t: it is magical, right from that hushed opening as the boy Alexander plays with his toy theatre, right through to that deeply enigmatic ending some five hours or so later. (And incidentally, I would recommend anyone watching this to get hold of the full television film – this film was intended specifically for television – rather than the abridged version released for cinema). The warmth of the Christmas party scenes, the sheer terror evoked at the death of the father, the austerity and bleaknesss of the scenes at the bishop’s house, the magic and fantasy that invades the film towards the end … all the disparate elements is handled with the skill and artistry of an absolute master. A worthy finale to one of the most brilliant of cinematic careers.

35 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erika W. on December 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I can’t cut it down to 10, but here you go. not necessarily completely accurate–it is hard to come up with such on the spur of the moment, but I can watch these again and again. In fact Fanny and Alexander has turned into our annual Christmas watch and we even bought the DVDS (a very rare happening)

    Fanny and Alexander (unabridged)
    The seventh seal
    7 samurai
    Marcolino Pan y Vino(really for children)
    M.Hulot’s Holiday
    Hotel Sahara
    Baghdad Cafe
    House of Sand and Fog
    Gandhi
    Etre et Avoir
    Eat,Drink, Man, Woman
    The Others
    Let the Right One In
    The White Ribbon
    The Triplets of Belleville
    and (I blush) for this schmaltzy lush nonsense
    The Sissi films, all three with Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Bohm

    If you haven’t seen these–try do so, except for the last which is strictly for women only.

    Reply

    • Oh – these things are never accurate! Any list is subject to change given how I’m feeling at the time!

      Interesting that you like Jacques Tati. I enjoyed the tennis match in M. Hulot’s Holiday, but generally, I don’t think I quite get Tati. Buster Keaton is another: like Tati, he is revered by many, but somehow, I just don’t seem to get him. Then again, on the other hand, there are those who wonder what’s so great about Chaplin, or about the Marx Brothers: there’s nothing quite so subjective as humour, or as impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t quite “get it”!

      I never realised, by the way, that you have a taste for horror films!

      I don’t know of the Sissi films, but I believe Karlheinz Böhm was the son of the very distinguished conductor Karl Böhm, who used to bePrincipal Conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Böhm’s recordings of Mozart are amongst my favourite recordings. And I suppose I could make that my next list … My Top Ten Classical Music Recordings! Karl Böhm’s recording of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro is bound to feature in that!

      Reply

  2. I’d concur with “Fanny & Alexander”, especially as it’s the perfect film for viewing at this time of year. In fact quite a lot of your list feel like films that would have been programmed by the BBC for the festive season, back in the days when TV was the only way to see them outwith repertory cinemas, and consequently lent their appearances an air of excitement that can no longer be recaptured now.

    The one film on your list I’ve yet to see is the John Ford, but I’d be interested to know if you’ve seen The Thin Red Line; there certainly seem to be some parallels, and Malick’s film is bracing in its refusal to play by the conventional and dishonest heroics typically displayed by most war cinema – the soldiers here are confused, afraid and isolated from each other.

    Much as I like the remaining 8 films on the list I’d plump for a different set to complete my 10. Sure they are distinctly “from the canon”, but that’s why it’s a canon :-)

    – Rome, Open City
    – Ma Nuit Chez Maude
    – Ugetsu Monogatari
    – Il Deserto Rosso
    – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    – Don’t Look Now
    – Five Easy Pieces
    – Orphee
    – The Leopard

    The tyranny of 10 means there’s no room for any Kubrick, Pasolini, Jansco, Ozu, Bresson or Fellini, plus a host of others. The temptation to load in more Bergman (particularly Smiles of a Summer Night and Wild Strawberries) had to be forgone too, and Ray’s The Music Room and Days & Nights in the Forest were yet more reluctant omissions. Next time can you make it a top 50? :-)

    Reply

    • Reading through the other comments here, and seeing all those films I might have chosen but din’t (The Third Man, The Big Heat, Les Enfants du Paradis, The Seventh Seal, Ugetsu Monogatari, etc. — I do realise that ten is nowhere near enough. The problem with any list is all that had to be omitted, but which one wouldn’t want to live without.

      Given your advocacy, I really do need to see again & to re-appraise Don’t Look Now.

      Like yourself, I feel nostalgic for the times when films showing on terrestrial television (which was, of course, all the television there was in those days) were special events. I fondly remember one Christmas back inthe early 80s when the BBC showed all the Marx Brothers films, and I eagerly taped each of them on that new-fangled machine my parents had recently purchased – a VHS recorder. Now, BBC no longer shows the kind of film I’d want to watch; and sadly, I’ve stopped caring. remember the thrill of anticipation when the Christmas/New year Radio times used to appear in the shops?

      Reply

      • Posted by Alan Boshier on December 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm

        I certainly do remember those things, & the joys of seasons like Midnight Movie and Film International on BBC 2 in the 1970s, and I fear that were I a teenager now the great treasures of cinema would be hidden from me. Notwithstanding the availability of many films in digital formats nowadays, the importance of stumbling across great cinema either on TV or (from student days) repertory cinemas can’t be stressed highly enough – on countless occasions I saw films through these channels that opened up my perspective on cinema and have led to further explorations. I worry that future generations will never find these things.

      • Yes, I worry about it too – andnot just in the context of films. One could certainly argue that there is greater availability thatn there ever has been before, and that most films I want to see I could easily get hold of a DVD. But the point is that one needs to know what to look for. And if one’s awareness does not encompass certain things; and if, in addition, the lowest denominator that nowadays so completely dominates the mainstream at the expense of everything else has adversely affected one’s ability to take in anything of greater depth, complexity or subtlety (and I do feel this is a serious consideration); then the prospect does look bleak. The days when one could stumble across certain things are past: no-one who isn’t specifically looking out for such things will ever stumble upon a Bergman film, say.

        Anyway, it’s Chrustmas time, so let us leave dyspeptic rants till afterwards! :)

  3. Posted by Michael Henderson on December 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    That’s an interesting selection. I would include ‘Oh Mr.Porter’ and The Third Man’ in mine. The first one becaue Will Hay was so funny, and The Third Man because I love Vienna, and it is fascinating to see how it looked then, with the four powers trying to run it.

    Reply

    • I can well understand your wishing to include a Will Hay film: I would have done so myself on another day. Oh Mr Porter is possibly his best, but I retain a particular affection for The Ghost of St Michael’s. And yes, I do accept that the omission of The Third Man undermines the credibility of my list somewhat! :)

      Reply

  4. THEY WERE EXPENDABLE! Glad to see someone else loves this one. I haven’t seen it in years, possibly decades, but it stayed with me as a brilliant experience. Wayne was never better (maybe Ford wasn’t, either). Danny Peary actually chose it in his “Alternate Oscars” as Best Picture of 1945, and I’m certainly not going to argue with him. I may have to do my own favorite films list, although that means I’ll have to narrow my fifty down to twenty-five for space.

    I’ve never actually seen SONS OF THE DESERT, CITY LIGHTS, two-thirds of THE APU TRILOGY, or FANNY AND ALEXANDER. I’ll definitely be cracking on that one later this winter…

    No CRANK 2: EXTREME VOLTAGE? For shame!

    Reply

    • They Were Expendable is a wonderful film. It was a great favourite of Lindsay Anderson’s, and, indeed, it was Anderson’s bookc About John Ford that first alerted me to this film.

      It is interesting the extent to which one’s taste in certain matters is still subject to certain early influences: it was thanks to Lindsay Anderson’s book that i started to appreciate such films as The Grapes of Wrath, They Were Expendable, and My Darling Clementine; and I continue to share Anderson’s reservations on The Searchers, which is often claimed to be Ford’s finest.

      Reply

  5. I’m always reluctant to commit to a list. After all a list of what: best comedies, best noir, best drama…

    But I will mention:
    Colonel Chabert
    Picnic at Hanging Rock
    Bladerunner
    The Stationmaster’s Wife
    The Big Heat
    Photograhing fairies
    All About My Mother
    The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover
    Drowning by Numbers
    The Marriage of Maria Braun
    Double Indemnity
    Polyester

    Stop me someone…

    Reply

    • Hello Guy, I’m sure I posted a reply to you earlier today, but it appears to have gone AWOL.

      You’re right, of course, one can’t commit ourselves to just a limited number of favourites. And any such list is likely to change from day to day. But you must admit – it’s great fun!

      I hadn’t realised you were such a fan of Peter Greenaway, and, reading through your blog, I think I’d have expected a few more US crime noir films. But as you say, you can’t include everything you love. I’m pleased to see the inclusion of The Big Heat, which s also a huge favourite of mine. It has one of my favourite lines of any film – where the gangster’s moll, played by Gloria Grahame, says to the wife of the corrupt judge “We’re sisters under the mink”.

      Reply

      • Oh I have an entire BEST NOIR LIST too.
        Can’t forget to mention:
        Claire’s Knee
        Belle de Jour.

        What was I thinking.

        And Romeo is Bleeding makes my top list too.

      • Ah – Belle de Jour! I was a teenager when I saw it first, and it … er … it made quite an impression!

        I think, though, that I am more a Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie man myself!

  6. Always a man to like the wrong film (and the wrong book), these are mine:

    The Night of the Hunter – Laughton
    The World of Apu – Ray
    2046 – Kar-Wai
    Raise the Red Lantern – Yimou
    Red Beard – Kurasawa
    Arabian Nights – Pasolini
    Les Enfants du Paradis – Carné
    At the Height of Summer – Anh Hung

    and some others no doubt I can’t think of at the moment. There should probably be a Bergman, but I need to watch them all again (though the same could be said for Kurosawa).

    Reply

    • You obviously know Chinese cinema far better than I do. Sadly, for a variety of reasons,I have been very out of touch for a long time now, and my taste in films aere rooted in 30s, 40s and 50s. And the 70s as well, when I was a student – looking back on my list, I think I should have picked a couple or so from the 70s. I guess that with DVD now, I have no excuse to remain out of touch, and I’ll particulary look out for those Chinese titles you list.

      Reply

    • Posted by Alan Boshier on December 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      If I had to pick one Pasolini I’d also go for Arabian Nights; it’s a much neglected film but there is something very powerful about Pasolini’s style, his non-judgemental approach to sexuality, and his use of non-professional actors from this period before he turned to the rather miserable excesses of Salo.

      And for modern Chinese cinema I’d recommend Zhang Ke Jia; a very interesting director who, with films like Still Life and Unknown Pleasures, is tackling issues very relevant to contemporary China.

      Then I realised the wealth of riches in recent Iranian cinema that I’d completely forgotten about too – superb films like Crimson Gold, A Taste of Cherry, Offside etc. 10 is just too small!

      Reply

  7. Raise The Red Lantern is terrific, but I prefer Yimou’s Shanghai Triad,

    On the Russian front:
    Russkiy Bunt

    Reply

  8. Posted by alan on December 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    (This list subject to the state of my memory)
    The Sun – by Alexander Sokarov
    Midnight Cowboy
    About Schmidt
    2001
    Lawrence of Arabia
    Blade Runner
    The Wicker Man – the original version, not the later travesty
    Stalker – by Andrei Tarkovsky
    Das Boot
    Black Narcissus

    Reply

    • I think i’d have guessed a few on your list – 2001, Stalker, About Schmidt – but a couple of others took me by surprise. Black Narcissus is not, frankly, a film i’d have associated with you, but it’s great to see itin your list. And I hadn’t realised you were such a fan of The Wicker Man.

      I think i’ll make it one of my New Year resolutions to see The Boat.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Sandra on December 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I’m interested to see that you recommend the 5 hour TV version of “Fanny and Alexander” rather than the abridged film version. I’ve just joined “LoveFilm” and I was disappointed that this isn’t available to hire. The shortened version can be watched on-line for free but after your comments, I’ll get the DVD of 5-hour version.

    I’ve never seen it but my parents absolutely loved it.

    Reply

    • Hello Sandra, and welcome. It’s always difficult recommending things, especially to someone one doesn’t know personally, as we all, of course, have different tastes, but the full version of “Fanny and Alexander” does seem to me a treat. It’s in four parts, and so, can easily be spread out over a few nights (which is how it was intended to be viewed in the first place). I watched the first part again last night – it depicts a Christmas party at around the turn of the century at the house of a wealthy family – and was, yet again, taken aback by the beauty of the lighting, and of the gorgeous colours. Hope you enjoy it!

      Cheers, Himadri

      Reply

  10. Posted by Erika W. on December 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    No, I don’t like horror films at all and was surprised at myself for listing two–I had read the reviews and left it at that until friends whose judgment I trust said those interesting words “You must watch…” In both of them I found the horror was incidental to the acting and the stories. If anyone here is planning to watch “The Others” I would say “Don’t read any reviews–the action needs to unfold at its own pace”

    Reply

  11. Posted by John Henrick on December 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Being a trans-ponder, I must inject more Americana into my list. Ergo it starts thus:

    Gone With The Wind

    Then come:

    The Wizard of Oz

    Fantasia 1

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s

    and

    Nashville.

    There are assorted Hitchcock films at the ready, but instead of N x NW, I’ll mention

    The Trouble with Harry.

    Now for some that are strictly off color [sic]:

    Bringing Up Baby

    O. Henry’s Full House

    Suddenly Last Summer

    and

    Ikiru [I know, it's Japanese]

    With great regret, I must omit such favorites as Olivier’s Hamlet; Kind Hearts and Coronets; My Dinner with André; … ad infinitem.

    No room for Woodie Allen, either, although Paris at Midnight signals an interesting breakthrough for him.

    Reply

    • I hadn’t pictured you as a Gone With the Wind fan! I was in Atlanta last July, and, of one of my walks around the city (I like city walks) passed Margaret Mitchell’s house.

      My own list isn’t actually short on American films: 6/10 of them are American.

      Reply

  12. Posted by Mick Hawkins on December 26, 2011 at 2:03 am

    How is it possible to leave “Casablanca” off any top ten list? In no particular order, we could add:
    “The Lion in Winter” (Kathryn Hepburn, Peter O’Toole)
    “A Man for All Seasons”
    “The Horse’s Mouth” (Alec Guiness)
    “The Red Badge of Courage” (Audie Murphy)
    “Flying Down to Rio” (The first Fred and Ginger)
    “Some Like It Hot”
    “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”
    “Sunday in the Country”
    “Remains of the Day”

    Reply

    • That’s always the problem with these lists – there’s far too much one has to leave out. there’s no Casablanca on my list, no Maltese Falcon, no Third Man – not even a jimmy cagney gangster movie … what kind of list is this? Away from silly lists, I wouldn’t be without any of these films, and dozens more.

      Good to see The Horses’s Mouth in your list. It has been a long time since I last saw it, but I remember it being every bit as good as Joyce Cary’s marvellous novel.

      Reply

  13. Shock Corridor
    The Naked Kiss
    Pick-Up on South Street

    Reply

  14. Posted by Michael Harvey on January 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    My list, off the top of my head, and subject to second-thoughts.

    Bicycle Thieves
    The Band Wagon (dir Stanley Donen / Fred Astaire & Jack Buchanan)
    Fanny And Alexander
    Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock)
    Kind Hearts and Coronets
    Victim
    The Haunting
    The General (Buster Keaton)
    Les Quatre Cents Coups
    Henry V (Olivier)

    Reply

    • I take it, Michael, it’s teh original version of The Haunting (directed by Robert Wise) you mean rather than the embarrassing remake? It’s a splendidly creepy film, in which you see absolutely nothing at all. The scene with Claire Bloom & Julie harris in the room together cowerinhg in fear from the noise outside the door is among the most terrifying there is – horror really doesn’t get much better than this.

      Reply

  15. Posted by Jasper on January 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Approximately in order….

    1. Barry Lyndon. Only one that makes it to this list every time I try it: I was confused the 1st time I saw it, and in love the 2nd time. I now think it should be always mentioned in the same breath as 2001, a film which I excised from my list so as to be fair to other directors. (Hmm, Paths of Glory too, perhaps…)
    2. Donzoko. Kurosawa’s take on Gorky’s ‘Lower Depths’, one of his masterpieces that always flies under most critics’ radar. The ending leaves me breathless every time.
    3. L’Eclisse. Ask me on another day and l’Avventura might replace this one (that one’s island sequence is the height of cinematographic art, IMO), but I feel like this ‘sequel’ was a more focused effort.
    4. Winter Light. It may just be that I’m a sucker for Ingrid Thulin. I think there’s more to it than that, though.
    5. Kind Hearts & Coronets. I can’t honestly say how good the actual filmmaking is – I’m usually too busy dying of laughter to see anything.
    6. Andrei Rublev. The film that got me interested in SLOW films.
    7. City Lights. Have to concur there – I think you summed it up sufficiently.
    8. The Saddest Music in the World. Sure to be a great cult film someday, but deserves to much better known. If they gave out an Oscar for sheer wondrous absurdity of concept, the story of the Beer Baroness with pilsner-filled glass legs in Depression-era Manitoba hosting a sad-music competition with the winners getting to slide into a giant beer vat would have stolen the show. Plus, it SHOULD have won for cinematography.
    9. Casablanca. Probably seen more than 50 times by now, will probably see another 50 times. Considering how lost I get in the Ilse character, and considering how Bergman’s daughter was my favorite character in the previously-listed film, hmm I must be into those Rossellini women.
    10. When Harry Met Sally. Yeah, I know, a purely sentimental favorite, with no real reason to be included on such a list, but hey. I think they should’ve outlawed rom-coms after this one, simply because this couldn’t possibly have been bettered.

    Reply

    • Ah – a Kubrick fan! I have a good friend who is a big fan of Kubrick – although it is 2001 he loves the best.

      I have seen Renoir’s version of Gorki’s “Lower Depths” (Les Bas Fonds) but not Kurasawa’s. I must make a point of getting hold of it. And good to see Kind Hearts & Coronets on the list also (Michael Harvey above picks it as well – it’s another film i might have picked on another day).

      Winter Light is one of my favourite films also. i think it is supposed to form a trilogy of sorts with The Silence and Through a Glass darkly, and, fine though the others are, this one does seem to me to be the one in which Bergman achieved most perfectly what he had set out to achieve.

      We can never have a definitive Top Ten – so much depends on our mood at the time: often, all i want is to sit in front of an old Hammer horror film. But it’s always good fun trying to put a list together!

      Reply

      • Posted by Jasper on January 13, 2012 at 1:00 am

        Yep, the Bergman films are often called his ‘faith’ trilogy, though I snicker at the thought of putting ‘faith’ and ‘Ingmar Bergman’ in the same sentence…. and I know Criterion recently released a dualdisc set of the Renoir & Kurosawa ‘Lower Depths’ films – Donzoko is actually a transposition of the entire plot into 19th-century Tokyo slums, and was directed as if it was a stage play. Some of the faces familiar to viewers of K’s other films (other than Mifune, though he’s in it too) got a real chance to show off their acting chops in Donzoko. Sorry, I always have to sell this one to people who haven’t seen it… I think it’s a unique gem in his oeuvre.

  16. Posted by Michael Harvey on January 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    The trouble with these lists is that memory being what it is you tend to forget films you OUGHT to have included. How could I have forgotten Terence Davies DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES and Tony Richardson’s A TASTE OF HONEY?

    Reply

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