Contributing Editor, Cinema Scope
|L' Âge d'or
|Céline and Julie Go Boating
|Don't Look Now
|The Manchurian Candidate
|Meshes of the Afternoon
|Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied
My strategy this time out was to forgo even well-intentioned attempts at objectivity (in a film critic?) or diversity/balance/historical perspective (in an all-time top 10 list?) and pick titles that reflected and refracted the qualities of my all-time favourite (as opposed to actual all-time best) movie. Which is, and always will be, Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, till death do us part, for reasons that have a lot to do with my feelings about the relationship between moviegoing and mortality (and the one as a way station en route to the other). Hence the shared qualities of the other nine (alphabetical) entries here, which are all in one way or another ominous, oneiric, existential meditations, with more than a few also examining the possibilities of storytelling as a form of purgatory (another personal hobbyhorse for which I'm ride or die). That theme would definitely be my way into a double bill of Celine and Julie and The Shining, twin pop-Gothics populated by pale, period-piece ghosts who just want to party; while we're playing matchmaker, how about the ballsy, semiotic provocations of L'Age d'or alongside L'Intrus, similarly sutured together in a series of synaptic leaps taking it (and us) towards and away simultaneously from meaning. That leaves a meet-cute between the haplessly hypnotized assassins of Cure and The Manchurian Candidate, ice-veined case studies in the ultimate triumph of free will, for better or worse. Because it's nice and short, we could even add La Jetée for a triple bill of cinema-as-hypnosis, featuring a time-traveller who sleeps perchance to dream, only to die before he wakes. As for Don't Look Now, it goes equally well with Meshes of the Afternoon – matching, nightmare visions of lethal pursuit down winding psychic blind alleys – and Duck Amuck. Both Daffy Duck and darling John Baxter arrive at the same realisation, which is that the universe really *is* trying to tell us something: unfortunately, it's a joke for which we are the punchline. Cold comfort, but also fair enough. As for what didn't make it, well I'm pretty sure that in the process of curating these movies I left out the actual ten best movies of all time, whatever they might be. I'd like to think that whoever's reading these words probably agrees.