Bedatri D. Choudhury
Managing Editor, Documentary Magazine/ Freelance Film Critic
|2001: A Space Odyssey
|Joaquim Pedro de Andrade
|News from Home
|All about My Mother
|Cléo from 5 to 7
|Francis Ford Coppola
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey created a vocabulary from a vacuum; there was nothing like that before or after. It does that with so much majesty, so much intrigue, and yet manages to go into a very deep philosophical, even spiritual, personal space. It take post-modernism (whatever that looked like in 1968) and builds something spiritual out of the relationship that can exist between man and machine.
There can be no recording of world cinema without paying attention to Brazil's Cinema Novo movement. If I could, I'd name all the Novo films here, but Macunaíma floats to the top for me, for everything it did to play around with form. It is a comedy, a fantasy, a tragedy, and a fantastic allegory of Brazilian people but also people in general, and their insatiable greed that is never quenched. Grande Otelo is a legend and this film is the perfect vehicle for his genius to play out
News from Home
The form of documentary, as I had viewed it, was so much about hard truths, newsy reporting, that watching News from Home stunned me. It is a documentary but it was personal, it had a heart and it connected the subjective and the objective so beautifully and with so much melancholy. She takes a global theme like urban isolation and places it within herself in a way that it becomes a testimony of modern life; so much so that even people who share nothing with her background, end up wanting to pick up the phone and call their mothers the next morning.
All about My Mother
Actors are often called 'director's actors'. I think Almodóvar is an actor's director. I don't know how he does it but he takes Cecilia Roth and then moulds himself to her and creates a story about motherhood, femininity; and while doing that, he builds an homage to actors and to cinema itself. Almodóvar needs to be on this list and this is my favourite film by him.
I know Pather Panchali is almost always the go-to Ray but for me, Aparajito – the sequel – is way more nuanced and melancholic. Of course there is loss in Pather Panchali but there is also a joy, a quick 'getting over' that comes with childhood. It brings out Sarbajaya's loneliness, it brings out Apu's helplessness, and the large sense of powerlessness that comes with adulthood.
Just for the magical collaboration of screenwriter Abbas Kiarostami and filmmaker Panahi. Many filmmakers fail to use child protagonists in a way that seems believable and delightful. Panahi is really the master of doing that.
I cant say enough things about Guru Dutt and what he does with film. It sounds trite but for me, his films are a testimony to how great sorrow can create great art. There are very few filmmakers who play with poetry, music, and scale the way Dutt does. Dutt knew how to sell his art without compromising on his artistry; so even when he did song and dance, it wasn't in a way that was unbelievable. He was a genius!
This was hard. Of course these are not the only ten films that I came up with. I did try to move away from films that are a staple of such lists. This is not to say their message hasn't stood the test of time, but I think one must try and shake up canons when one can.