Film critic, broadcaster
|Vittorio De Sica
|Francis Ford Coppola
|There Will Be Blood
|Paul Thomas Anderson
|La Règle du jeu
|The Battle of Algiers
Welles, writer Mankiewicz and cinematographer Toland broke the "rules", re-inventing and re-invigorating cinema. Still stunning, still fascinating.
Torn between multiple masterpieces in Kurosawa's mighty body of work I had to choose the most influential, most often imitated epic for its seamless interweaving of astonishing action and simple, beautiful humanity.
Hitchcock is my favourite director and this is not my favourite for personal pleasure (that would be Shadow of a Doubt or Notorious), but it remains masterful, breathtaking in its relentless, ominous inventiveness and disturbing dreamlike tone sustained to the bitter end.
I cannot imagine American cinema without John Ford who, among other things, created and defined the western. This is the supreme masterpiece of genre, forever compelling and moving, superb in every department, including John Wayne's greatest performance and arguably the most memorable final shot in all cinema.
Italian neorealism's finest hour (and a half) remains the proof one does not need mega-bucks and genius actors when genuine, heart-piercing empathy with "ordinary" people driven by necessity, realised with no-frills simplicity, will more than do, magnificently.
The unforgettable epic of family, albeit one written in blood.
There Will Be Blood
Chilling, riveting parable of how America was made, with a pole-axing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.
La Règle du jeu
Deceptively light-handed charm throughout the upstairs, downstairs antics in a country house doesn't obscure Renoir's contempt for the underlying darkness and his prescience of what was to imminently befall such people. Still delightful, perfectly on target and still imitated in film and TV by people who possibly don't even know they are doing it.
Chaplin's defiantly silent 1931 triumph is a quite perfect balancing act between heartrending melodrama, eloquent pathos and zany hilarity, capped with its exquisitely moving ending.
The Battle of Algiers
Seminal, electrifying, nail-biting political thriller which has lost none of its passionate power, grounded in Pontecorvo's personal experience as a Resistant and a documentary maker. Not least of its claims to greatness is the emotive score by Pontecorvo and Ennio Morricone.
This was terribly difficult and it's so frustrating to leave out personal favourites and obviously great filmmakers. Ultimately I had to decide that what engages me most personally is not necessarily "the greatest" and when in doubt I tried to opt for choices that broke ground or have had an enduring impact on what came after. I know I have given short shrift to 21st-century films. Mea culpa.