Claudia Weill


Voted for

Phantom Thread2017Paul Thomas Anderson
Some Like It Hot1959Billy Wilder
La Règle du jeu1939Jean Renoir
The Lost Daughter2021Maggie Gyllenhaal
12 Angry Men1956Sidney Lumet
The Godfather1972Francis Ford Coppola
A Woman under the Influence1974John Cassavetes
THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN2019Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn
Ikiru1952Akira Kurosawa
À bout de souffle1960Jean-Luc Godard


Phantom Thread

2017 USA

I was blown away by the archetypal brilliance of this film about the war between the sexes, embodied by a charming but imperious British haute couture dressmaker and his latest muse, mistress and assistant who won’t accept being the object to his subject. The outcome is as delicious as it is unpredictable. Jonny Greenwood’s haunting score is remarkable for its world-building ability, alongside the exquisite staging and effortless shooting in that vertical townhouse. These characters live inside you way past the last frame; Daniel Day-Lewis, of course, as Reynolds Woodcock, but also the fearless Lesley Manville and first timer Vicki Krieps.

Some Like It Hot

1959 USA

After a clunky set up, this is one of the most effortlessly witty and joyous high concept comedies ever, but with a lot of heart as well. Marilyn Monroe is heartbreakingly vulnerable – as she says, always getting “the fuzzy end of the lollypop”. Joe (Tony Curtis) must become someone else in order earn Sugar (who would never have confided in a man) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), hilariously, turns out to be as suggestible as a woman as he was as a man; in female clothing, he seems to believe he’s a woman. The scene where he tells Joe that he and Osgood are engaged is a classic. What about those maracas?! Talk about the value of a prop – it’s impossible to imagine the scene without them. Pure Wilder brilliance.

La Règle du jeu

1939 France

This magical, elusive film – a kind of upstairs-downstairs of French society just before the Second World War – unfolds effortlessly, as Renoir allows his characters to move throughout the frame as subplots are revealed behind the more important action in the foreground. All of this comes to a climax in the famous sequence of the house party, which includes an amateur stage performance put on for the entertainment of the house guests. I’ve looked at this sequence many times and still marvel at how gracefully Renoir moves from the audience to stage to backstage to rooms and corridors elsewhere in the house, effortlessly advancing half a dozen stories at once. And all this without a Steadicam! Much has been made of the use of deep focus photography in Citizen Kane (1941), but perhaps it was The Rules of the Game that inspired Welles. Finally, Renoir’s enormous compassion for his characters (he is never cynical or judgmental) makes what is essentially a social satire profoundly humanistic.

The Lost Daughter

2021 USA, Greece

An exploration of the profound ambivalence many of us experience in motherhood, made with subtlety, wit and suspense. With killer performances by Olivia Colman, Jesse Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard among others, exquisitely shot by the great Hélène Louvart and a haunting score, we ‘feel’ this film told in pure cinematic language – a brilliant re-imagining of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name.

12 Angry Men

1956 USA

In seemingly open and shut murder case, a jury that could send an immigrant teenager to the electric chair is locked in small room on the hottest day of the summer until they reach a unanimous verdict. For 90 minutes we too are locked in the jury room with these 12 men. There are no flashbacks, narration or subtitles, just 12 men talking, yet the film is a thriller because of how Lumet keeps the actors moving – allowing multiple stories to play out in the same frame, revealing prejudices, ignorance and cultural differences that threaten to lead to a miscarriage of justice. The staging is paired with a brilliant shooting strategy, starting with wide shots looking down at the room, orienting us while introducing us the the characters. Over the course of the film, the camera gradually gets lower as the lenses get tighter, making the room feel more and more claustrophobic.

The Godfather

1972 USA

Where to start with this film? It’s a powerful story told with such authority, such sureness of pace, with unforgettable characters, and brilliant staging, design and cinematography, all working together to create a perfect, indelible film, as broad in scope as it is specific about each character at each moment. A perfect film, as is The Godfather: Part II.

A Woman under the Influence

1974 USA

Gena Rowlands is larger than life, yet always believable and desperately moving, as she and Peter Falk sweep you up in their love, their fights and moments of tenderness. As Roger Ebert comments, Cassavetes is unbeatable at creating powerful, specific characters and then sticking with them through long, painful, uncompromising scenes until we think we know them well enough to predict what they'll do next and even begin to understand why. My favorite Cassavetes film – and also a major influence.



This film is a about a chance encounter between two Indigenous women from different classes, who meet at a bus stop where Rosie, the younger, pregnant woman, barefoot in the snow is trying to evade her abusive partner. As Aila, a middle-class professional (played by Tailfeathers, one of the directors), tries to rescue Rosie, the film explores the ‘out of touch-ness’ of privilege even when it’s well-intentioned, and, in this case, even from a member of the same ‘minority’!

It doesn’t help that Rosie's victimization in life causes her to act in harmful ways toward others, even those who want to help her. Filmed in real time, the film communicates as much in silence as it does with dialogue, making it so you ‘feel’ this film more than watch it. I have rarely found myself so immediately in the shoes of someone so different from myself – and so desperately hoping for them to be ‘ok’.


1952 Japan

Led by the evocative Shimura Takashi, beautifully observed, dark, often funny and with an unexpected and unconventional structure, this film creeps up on you. It’s almost impossible to see it without questioning your own life choices. I love that Kurosawa (like Ozu) doesn’t sentimentalise the relationship between parents and their adult children.

À bout de souffle

1960 France

I probably wouldn’t have made films if it weren’t for Godard. I was 14 when I saw Breathless, and before that I think I must have believed that movies came out of a camera the way we saw them.

Further remarks

Brief Encounter (1945)

I love the sheer romanticism of this film about an unconsummated affair, but mostly I love the fact that the opening and closing scene are the same, but the first is told objectively, while the second is told subjectively, and because of that, we find out what really happened.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Entertaining throughout, and gorgeously shot, with heat and color baked in, plus great performative characters. By the end, the racial and social tensions explode because of each person’s “perfectly good reasons” (to quote Renoir). The film remains as relevant today as when it was made 33 years ago.

I have no idea how to judge what are the ‘best’ films! These are the ones that moved me, that I remember and return to. Tomorrow the list might well be different!

For each, staging, score, performance, design and shooting are in the service of a strong point-of-view on the part of the director.