César Ballester

Senior lecturer in Film History and Theory, Arts University College Bournemouth

Spain

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

2046

2004

Wong Kar Wai

Arrive d'un train en gare, L'

1906

Auguste Lumière/Louis Lumière

Avventura, L'

1960

Michelangelo Antonioni

Conversation, The

1974

Francis Ford Coppola

Intimate Lighting

1965

Ivan Passer

Last Laugh, The

1924

F. W. Murnau

My Night with Maud

1969

Eric Rohmer

Persona

1966

Ingmar Bergman

Rink, The

1916

Charles Chaplin

Spirit of the Beehive, The

1973

Víctor Erice

Comments

Only ten films? Only ten! Impossible. I’ve had to leave out so many excellent films, so many excellent directors from the silent period, or people like John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder (my heroes), Orson Welles (yes, I am afraid I am not going to include Citizen Kane, although it is indeed a great film), Dassin’s Rififi, Truffaut, Fellini, Woody Allen (Annie Hall!), Ozu or Kurosawa, without forgetting “all those bright young men and women” from the former Eastern Europe: Wajda, Munk, Kieslowski, Forman, Menzel, Chytilová, Szabo, Meszaros, the Soviet filmmakers. And Tarkovski; and Buñuel. And the list can go on and on and on and on. As a film historian I should give an objective list covering the key moments in the history of cinema, but I am, above all, a spectator, so, I am afraid, this list is a rather personal one. So… Not only was L’Arrive d’un train en gare one of the first films to have a proper audience, but it also does not matter how many times I watch it, I still find it mesmerising. Any of Chaplin’s silent films could have received the vote. Anyway, I am not going to go for City Lights or any of his features, but for one of his two-reelers at the Mutual, The Rink. I have The Last Laugh as I feel it is not only Murnau’s best film but also because it is one the pinnacles of the silent period in terms of developing a purely visual language. With L’avventura Antonioni went back to the silent masters by using dialogue sparsely and developing a different type of story, supported by the visuals and sounds. I could have also chosen La Notte (1960) or L’eclisse (1962). Nothing really happens in Intimate Lighting, just two old friends meeting and catching up after so many years. Perfect. Persona is the best example of what Béla Balázs termed as the ‘dimension of physiognomy’. Together with Nykvist, Andersson and Ullman, Bergman explores the soul behind the mask. In My Night with Maud, Eric Rohmer meets Nestor Almendros meets Jean-Louis Trintignant meets Françoise Fabian… The Spirit of the Beehive displays Erice’s mastery when it comes to developing a dialogue between the spectator and the filmmaker: he makes the spectator a participant of the creative process or, to paraphrase his words, he encourages the spectator to experience the same path down which the director has previously walked. And Luis Cuadrado’s cinematography is stunning. The Conversation is one of those before-and-after films; Walter Murch experiments with sound design. I have to include a more contemporary film, otherwise I would be one of those grumpy old men who thinks cinema is dead, so 2046 is it. Wong Kar Wai is one of the greatest filmmakers in terms of knowing, absorbing, blending and developing the hundred and so odd years of cinema.

Latest from the BFI

  • Latest from the BFI

    Latest news, features and opinion.

More information

Films, TV and people

  • Films, TV and people

    Film lists and highlights from BFI Player.

More information

Sight & Sound magazine

  • Sight & Sound magazine

    Reviews, interviews and features from the international film magazine.

More information

Back to the top