Dario Llinares


Voted for

Holy Motors2012Léos Carax
The Hustler1961Robert Rossen
Pierrot le fou1965Jean-Luc Godard
All the President's Men1976Alan J. Pakula
L'avventura1960Michelangelo Antonioni
Taxi Driver1976Martin Scorsese
In the Mood for Love2000Wong Kar Wai
Blade Runner1982Ridley Scott
The Hour of the Furnaces1968Fernando Solanas
Tokyo Story1953Yasujirō Ozu


Holy Motors

2012 France, Germany, Belgium

Irreverent, playful, melancholic, an aesthetic feast of cinematic possibility. In Carax's episodic odyssey chameleonic Denis Lavant journeys through scenarios of a surrealist future cinema. I saw Holy Motors at the 2011 Cornwall Film Festival and couldn't focus on anything else for the rest of the weekend. A fever dream of jouissance from which I've never completely awoken.

The Hustler

1961 USA

Rossen's unshowy but precise direction harnesses star power to explore the dark side of success and redemption myths ingrained by Hollywood. 'Fast' Eddie Felson, a glisteningly youthful and charismatic Paul Newman, is the archetype of the cynical gambler; a virtuoso ghosting through smoke-filled pool halls. Jackie Gleason as Felson's nemesis Minnesota Fats and Piper Laurie as Sarah Packard, the desperate conscience of the film, imbue a formidable gravitas and complexity. The secret dark soul of the film is George C. Scott's devilishly cynical gangster Bert Gordon. A film with immense character.

Pierrot le fou

1965 France, Italy

Seeing Pierrot le fou in the spring of 1999, my first year of university, made me rethink my entire sense of what cinema was. I think it was part of a module on classic European cinema; 9am screenings at the Showroom in Sheffield were a source of complaint for us entitled students. Of course, with Godard, cinema is the subject as well as the form. The gangster noir template is chopped and broken, then reassembled as a bricolage of signifiers, to forge a mesmerising generic satire that also seems to reinvent colour. Belmondo and Karina as young lovers on the run are impossibly cool in their tragedy. I remember coming out of the screening into the sunshine from the darkness of the auditorium and thinking the light of the world had a new fluorescence.

All the President's Men

1976 USA

Alan J. Pakula's adaptation of Woodward and Berstein's book is not only the defining representation of the Watergate break-in as a historical event, it has become the iconic benchmark of late-modern cynical paranoia that runs through popular culture. Perhaps its idealistic depiction of the crusading investigative journalists is somewhat passé, as we struggle with a crisis of objective truth. Watching it in 2022 may be even an exercise in nostalgic longing for a time when political corruption seemed somehow more contained. Yet, that sense that the knowable limits of the modern political condition are controlled in ways we can only glimpse in moments of rupture, manifest in a film that defines the aesthetics of conspiracy.


1960 Italy, France

I later saw a documentary on Antonioni in which he described himself as the proponent of the "cinema of miscommunication". A statement as insightful as it was self-aware. L'avventura I also first saw at film university. It made me contemplate the idea that a filmmaker could be deliberately obtuse, vague, mystifying, and that it could work so entirely in creating a mood of alienation. Moving onto La notte, Blow-Up and The Passenger, this was an artist who epitomised the auteurist possibility of a singular cinematic vision structured across an entire body of work. Ironically, his central insight is the modernist breakdown of coherence and unity, in cinema and life. And Monica Vitti.

Taxi Driver

1976 USA

Yes, it's Taxi Driver. Yes, it's Scorsese. How original. Still, for me, the film that fuses most completely Scorsese's visual signature, riveting psychological depth, efficiency of dramatic tension, and layering of thematic concerns. It's a cliché to suggest Taxi Driver gets more prescient with time. Perhaps it's more accurate to say it's the object or negation of our commercialised obsession with nostalgia. Watch one of the most criminally under-discussed films of recent years – You Were Never Really Here, or Joker – or any number of the token anti-heroes that define American cinema and you'll find the shadow of Travis Bickle. For good and ill, we are still enthralled, sicked and challenged by the violence within God's lonely man.

In the Mood for Love

2000 Hong Kong, France

Sometimes it's difficult to explain why a motif just works. The impossibly beautiful Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung drift past each other in slow motion to the melancholic strains of Shigeru Umebayashi's theme, which captures some deep sense of desire, emptiness, longing or intimacy that are deeply imbued within Japanese cinema, but are also universal. This recurring lament also reflects the film's concern with time, particularly in dissolving the proprieties and repressions that we place on ourselves and others, to conform to social mores. Visually luxurious and theatrical without becoming kitsch, and breathtakingly enigmatic.

Blade Runner

1982 USA, Hong Kong

Blade Runner distils the iconographies of dystopian science-fiction and transmogrifies them to produce the audio-visual and thematic blueprint for seemingly every example of the genre to follow. The production design is so complete – the quintessential example of that overused phrase "world-building" – yet it has come to exemplify the discontinuities and contradictions of fractured postmodernism eclecticism. As we have moved into the digital age and passed 2019, the year the film is set, Blade Runner's analogue materiality now looks thoroughly retro-dystopian. But our deepest anxieties – about the integrity of the self, our technology-constituted experience, environmental apocalypse and a polarised society in extremis – have never felt more relevant.

The Hour of the Furnaces

1968 Argentina

I was teaching a course on documentary and the concept of the Third Cinema, when I came across The Hour of the Furnaces on an imported VHS. From the opening salvo of the striking match, the hypnotic drumbeat, slogans calling for directly for violent insurrection, interspersed with revolutionary war footage, I was gripped. Reading Solanas and Getino's manifesto alongside, you cannot deny the filmmakers' commitment to cinema as a political weapon. Indeed, it is a film made to be digestible to either a corporate or arthouse system. Long, for sure. Didactic, absolutely. Exemplifying the fundamental flaw in Third Cinema revolutionary intention, perhaps. Nevertheless, this is the great cinematic cry of agitational documentary activism.

Tokyo Story

1953 Japan

It's difficult, bordering on baffling, to try and sufficiently comprehend how such quiet, seemingly unassumingly and gentle stories of generational tension within the domestic sphere can build to such a devastating emotional reckoning. Ozu's formal precision in constructing filmic space, the camera angles and framing, the reserved anti-theatrical physicality and demure, contained acting all point to a strict formalism. Such rigid aesthetics could, in other hands, be stilted and ponderous. But within his scrupulous audio-visual language and nuanced social sensibility, there is a masterful play of irony, humour and pathos that reaches the level of the sublime.

Further remarks

My first attempt at coming up with a list of 'greatest' films of all time is, of course, subject to the irresolvable dichotomy between subjectivity and objectivity. On top of that, in today's culture, we are all rightly reflecting on our contextual biases and the social and institutional histories that have shaped who gets to make films and who gets to comment on them. Yet, this is made more uncertain by the quicksand of digital immediacy and an often kneejerk reactionaryism has been cultivated as a commodity. In this context, what also came into my mind (as the performance anxiety of list-making took hold) was the Bourdieu readings I've attempted to grasp in many an academic seminar, as a student and now as a teacher. Old Pierre has the effect of rendering anyone who professes a certain "taste" in art an impostor, a charlatan spinning a self-regarding tale of cultural positioning. So what criteria could I present to justify the above choices? Well, they are all films that had a transformative effect on my sensibility as a cinema lover. At the same time, I believe I could outline a reasonably solid case that they have all shaped the possibility of cinema, as an artform, a social mirror, a physical experience and a psychological dreamscape. Not to forget, I simply adore watching them.