Catherine Russell

Professor and writer

Voted for

Nashville1975Robert Altman
Double Indemnity1944Billy Wilder
Meek's Cutoff2010Kelly Reichardt
Cléo from 5 to 71962Agnès Varda
Sans Soleil1982Chris Marker
There's Always Tomorrow1955Douglas Sirk
Some Came Running1958Vincente Minnelli
In the Mood for Love2000Wong Kar Wai
TOUTE UNE NUIT1982Chantal Akerman



1975 USA

This is a groundbreaking film technically, on the levels of sound, performance, editing and scriptwriting. It is also a critical commentary on the entertainment industry and American Politics, not to mention the gendering of visual culture. As a musical it really pushes the boundaries, producing some good music while decimating the industry. I love the traffic jam scene and I love Ronee Blakely's performance as Billy Jean – just one of a dozen great performances with no one stealing the spotlight. It seems very collaborative and creates an unusual sense of community for an American film, even if the end suggests that it is an ideological void of a community. It is still there, propped up by Black soul singers and gospel.


1960 Japan

This movie sits on the cusp of the old world of Japan and the modern city, like so many of Naruse's films. It features some remarkable performances and is centred around a woman trying to make it in the world of hostess bars with her integrity intact. The melodrama is deeply moving and also an insightful portrait of Tokyo circa 1960, punctuated with well-chosen locations.

Double Indemnity

1944 USA

This seminal film noir features an incredible performance by Barbara Stanwyck. The writing is brilliant, the lighting is amazing, and the architecture is great too. I think it initiates a new kind of modern woman that flourished in the postwar era – a dangerous and duplicitous woman, who Stanwyck had already played several times in The Lady Eve and Ball of Fire, not to mention Baby Face.

Meek's Cutoff

2010 USA

A great deconstructed Western with echoes of Tarkovsky but better than Tarkovsky. I love the pace, and the lighting, the despair, and the gender dynamics. I love the Indigenous guide who guides the settlers nowhere.

Cléo from 5 to 7

1962 France, Italy

I love this film because it is new New Wave, in the sense that it was invisible when I was a student and now it is everywhere because Varda had been overshadowed by Godard et al. I still like Godard's films of the same period a great deal, but Cleo seems newer. I love the structure and the city and the fashions and the cutting. It is a terrifically smart film with great insight into the culture of the times.

Sans Soleil

1982 France

This is a transformative experimental documentary and essay film. It is among Marker's best, with all his amazing poetry, written and visual. It is loaded with brilliant aphorisms and also dripping with irony. The epistolary form is super smart and makes for a brilliant structure. It is one of the first real global films, I think, and I love the moves it makes from Iceland to Japan, France and so on, which seem fluid and yet travel great cultural and geographical distances.

There's Always Tomorrow

1955 USA

Although this is not among Sirk's most popular films it is my personal favourite. I love the black and white cinematography, and the chemistry between Stanwyck and MacMurray is amazing – especially when you compare it to Double Indemnity, where they have a completely different kind of chemistry. The story of teenagers interrupting their father's romance is very 50s, and it is a snide comment on Americana and one of the most moving of Sirk's melodramas. The end, with the watches, and the jet flying overhead, was very nicely incorporated into Christian Marclay's The Clock, but that's just a sidebar.

Some Came Running

1958 USA

Sinatra's best film. Definitely Dean Martin's best film, and emblematic of Minnelli at his finest – including incredible sets and colour schemes, costumes, and a fantastic fairground at the end. One of the best of those adaptations of novels that were so popular in the 50s, about Americana gone sour. It captures some of the Rat Pack buzz at the same time as it tends to question the toxic masculinity within that scene. Shirley MacLaine creates a fantastic character out of very little, while all the townsfolk seem stifling in their gestures as well as their words.

In the Mood for Love

2000 Hong Kong, France

I like all of Wong Kar-wai's films, but this one especially. It is so multilayered and oblique and yet also somehow very moving. Great soundtrack and costumes, and amazing performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Like so many of Wong's films, it seems like a collaborative process and you can feel that in the production. I also like the fact that it has layers of Shanghai culture in Hong Kong and that the romance evokes a complicated weave of history and memory. At the same time, it deals with commodities and real estate, noodles and mah-jong – very down-to-earth stuff.


1982 Belgium, France

I haven't seen this film for a long time because it does not seem to be available in any other format than degraded VHS, so maybe I am including it in the hopes that that someone will be inspired to restore it. I remember it as dreamy and rhythmic, but also a bit nervous, in the Akerman way. Lovers come and go in the night to different apartments, cafes, and the streets of Brussels, including slightly residential streets as well as cobblestones. It has many actors but few characters, mainly figures expressing passion, desire, grief, loneliness, anticipation and rest.

Further remarks

I listed 10 films but they are in no particular order. Sorry but I'm not into that. I could probably list another 20 or 30 but these are the ones that come to mind as films that I relish seeing again and again. My choices tend toward melodrama, which surprises even me, but these are pretty sad films that are allegories for failed societies. My comments are a bit perfunctory but I am kind of busy and don't have the time to write longer explanations. Thanks for inviting me to contribute.