Mia Hansen-Løve

Father of My Children; Goodbye First Love

France

Voted in the directors’ poll

Voted for

Arabian Nights

1974

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Eyes Wide Shut

1999

Stanley Kubrick

Fanny and Alexander

1984

Ingmar Bergman

frontière de l’aube, La

Philippe Garrel

Green Ray, The

1986

Eric Rohmer

Heat

1995

Michael Mann

Maison des bois, La

Maurice Pialat

Maman et la putain, La

1973

Jean Eustache

Millennium Mambo

2001

Hsiao-hsien Hou

Napoleon

1927

Abel Gance

Comments

It’s not a list of the films I think are the greatest, it’s just the ten films that maybe counted the most for me in my education. It’s important for me to say that because they’re not the ten most important films in the history of cinema, just the ten most important films for me.

Napoleon: I associate it with his novel Prisme, which I read at the same time as I discovered this film, and what I found extraordinary was the fact that he’d managed to create a work that was historical and of quite an uncommon force and at the same time show invention on a formal level that, especially in relation to his era, was quite visionary – and it was in service of something that was completely poetic and intimate. What stayed with me was admiraton for the ambition of the film, especially aesthetically, but also the emotion and the incredibly personal nature of the film; it seems to have been filmed in the first person. There is a snowball scene at the beginning that is completely sublime and there’s a party scene that’s shot hand-held and it’s just a totally unique film.

La maison des bois: It’s a fairly unique film for Pialat in that it’s very long and although it’s a TV film it’s hard not to view it as a film in its own right. It’s really cinema made to be seen on a big screen. There’s a richness in that film that I haven’t seen in his other films in the same way, except maybe Van Gogh, but there’s something even in spite of the subject and the tragic nature of it – there’s a joy and a goodness, something incredibly sunny. What I find great is the ability to tell the story that takes place at a very dark moment in France’s history, from a point of view of lightness, of childhood. The film taught me a lot about staging, about filming with children, the importance of allowing the time to take very long shots, following the children and giving them freedom, truly making the camera work in service of what’s happening.

La frontiere de l’aube: I admire the work of Garrel but I chose this one in particular because there’s something more political about it. To me it’s magnificent, and is quite similar to Garrel’s other films but while Garrel often made very similar films, I don’t think of that as being a weakness. There are great painters who always painted the same scene and it’s something that characterises them. He’s someone who seemed to be followed by the same demons and the same ghosts and it’s a film that really deals with ghosts. I chose this film because it was very poorly understood. The press really liked but it had very little in the way of audience and was misunderstood even by people who like Garrel’s work, and that’s why it touched me. It made me feel somewhat isolated in terms of taste. It happens a lot and on this occasion in particular it was a very strong sense of loneliness in that respect.

Le rayon vert: It’s a film that completely blew me away. I love Rohmer’s work but I love this in particular because it’s the portrait of a woman in her loneliness over the course of a summer. It’s a film of a stunning truth. It’s often said that Rohmer is a filmmaker of language – he uses words, his films are chatty – which is true, but the beauty of this film comes from things that happen in silence. There is something in the work of Rohmer that isn’t given, that’s unsaid, something mysterious. I find that is very moving because there’s something that escapes us in the loneliness of this woman.

Les 1001 nuits: I saw it a long time ago and it’s stayed with me, haunted me. Pasolini is the filmmaker who, in terms of writing, perhaps comes closest to poetry. Here, he managed to give the impression of not watching a film opening a window onto an imaginary world. It has such a degree of authenticity and force of representing this world, and the success with which it does it is miraculous to me. There’s an innocence and joy that he creates here. There’s something really magical about this film.

Fanny & Alexander: In Bergman’s films there are a lot of couples but this is the only one that deals with childhood. It’s a film that I thought of a lot when I’ve made films with children. He managed to capture the passage of time, sadness, particularly of the mother, relationships. For me there’s something unbeatable about it. There’s also a sense of nostalgia, especially with regards to the past and the passage of time that feels very close to me. Something visceral there. There are recurring shots in the film, like those of running water, that I find completely universal. There are things about my childhood in that film, and I find it a very universal film.

Millenium Mambo: This is the film that most accurately represented life as I lived it at the age of 20. It happens far away, in a completely different culture, but it best captured an atmosphere of those years for the people of my generation who were that age. Hedonism but melancholy that were inseparable from each other. I recognised a world there more than any French film of that time.

Heat: I love Mann’s films and I’ve seen this one so many times. It seems very classical in the story it tells – the conflict between need for action, responsibility, love, couples. What touches me about Mann’s films is the way he puts these things back into play but in his own language, a language that speaks with the poetry of the modern city, contemporary melancholy. And there’s something really erotic about this film, the interactions between the couples, the arguments, what plays out between the couples, especially between Ashley Judd and Val Kilmer. I find it highly erotic but deeply melancholy, and the way those two things speak to each other is singular in that film.

La maman et la putain: Even though it came later, there’s something very New Wave about this. I don’t think Jean-Pierre Leaud has ever been as good as he was in this film. There’s a way of filming words here that I find really exciting, and the fact I saw this film when I was so young really helped to make my ideas clear in my head and settled the kind of cinema I wanted to make.

Eyes Wide Shut: I think I liked this for the same reasons I liked Heat even though it’s a very different kind of cinema. For the way he filmed the couple but also the sadness of the film. I’m also a big fan of the Schnitzler work that it’s based on. It’s a timeless film but I found it shocking that it was received in France with an element of disdain after Kubrick’s death. It says something about sadness, about the failure of a couple, but also about strength. It has unforgettable shots and eroticism.

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