Roger Clarke

Critic

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Alice

1988

Jan Svankmajer

Andrei Rublev

1966

Andrei Tarkovsky

Arabian Nights

1974

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Fanny and Alexander

1984

Ingmar Bergman

Mouchette

1966

Robert Bresson

Mulholland Dr

2001

David Lynch

Nosferatu

1922

F. W. Murnau

One and a Two, A

1999

Edward Yang

Russian Ark

2002

Aleksandr Sokurov

Sansho Dayu

1954

Mizoguchi Kenji

Comments

I have an aversion to lists and a complicated relationship to the canonical. The internet is convulsed with macho and tribal criticisms of top ten and top 100 lists of this nature. Yet against my expectations I have found this to be a useful exercise. Why, for example, do I have so few American films in my top ten? I would dearly like to have added a Robert Altman film – especially Nashville and The Long Good Friday – or a good screwball comedy, probably Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve. If I had to add an Orson Welles, it would be The Magnificent Ambersons. There are many others – the inevitable Renoirs and Ozus, but I prefer Bresson and Mizoguchi in each case. I would like to have included Hou Hsiao-hsien, or possibly an Eric Rohmer, especially since the soundscape of the latter’s Brittany beaches always propels me back to my childhood. Others will take care of the big beasts of 1970s cinema – Scorsese and Coppola – and I don’t feel any great need to revisit them. Someone such as Werner Herzog deserves a mention for his whole output and an outstanding contribution to film culture in general – he’s become almost a folkloric figure. Ang Lee has similarly made a great contribution for his synthesis of eastern and western sensibilities. His Wedding Banquet is one of the great modern farces. As to my actual top ten, I have the following observations. I am aware that there is an intersection between favourite films and good films, the classic error of the amateur critic. Just because I like a film it doesn’t make it good, it just means it pushes a few buttons. In the case of Mizoguchi and Bresson I could have chosen almost any of their films. Sokurov is uneven in his output, but I still find the swoop of his Russian Ark as astounding as the first day I saw it. Choosing Pasolini’s Arabian Nights, which along with Porcile is his least-regarded film, might be seen as deliberately perverse, but it seems to me his happiest and prettiest film. Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, along with F.W Murnau’s Nosferatu, seem to have an almost occult force to them and give the sensation that they are accessing areas of imagination very few other films do. To a lesser extent, the same can be said of Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. On the other hand, Yi-Yi seems to me one of the most sublimely humane and conscious films ever made, containing no bells and whistles – the loss of Edward Yang after his early death in 2007 remains one of the greatest blows to modern cinema in recent times. His A Brighter Summer’s day was also in consideration for this top ten. But in general the films that mean the most to me are often films that resemble dreams or aspire to a dream state. Fanny & Alexander is an example of this. Film, especially approached in the darkness of a theatre, seems to me the nearest thing we have to a waking dream, with all the treasures and unfolding secrets that entails. I wouldn’t say these films are necessarily in an order, but I do find Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev to be a film that still enchants and intrigues. There is something about the warp and weft of his film, and its attempt to understand the nature of the votive and the creative, that seems to me cinematic poetry of the highest order.

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