artist - professor - curator
|Carl Th. Dreyer
|A Man Escaped
|La dolce vita
|Vivre sa vie
The extraordinary, historical resurrection sequence has become not only a landmark for those who conceive of cinema as a territory of mystical and metaphysical searches and convictions, but also for those who are devoted to fiction not just as a commentary on reality but as a different mode of reality itself.
A baroque Freudian fable of passion and revenge becomes a tragic poem of dissolved subjectivity. As never before, and probably never since, geographical displacements, ascents and descents, the twists and turns of the plot, large and small details, actions, movements and characters' decisions are masterfully staged as an operatic and tense conflict between facts and metaphors, consciousness and hallucination.
Jorge Luis Borges' famous dictum about Welles – "He is not intelligent; he is a genius, in the most German sense of the word" – applies perfectly to the majestic quality of the virtuous yet perfectly imperfect dynamics of this film where a young Orson – almost as young as cinema itself – prematurely reinvents it by tracing a thin, conflicting line between avant-garde and tradition, narration and experiment, farce and drama, document and fantasy.
A Man Escaped
The solemn, rhythmic, solid visual structuring that is proverbial in Bressonian orchestration is here more than ever a conceptual theorem in materialistic spiritualism. Reason and perception, condemnation and salvation, sin and sanctity, ethics and aesthetics compose the mathematical system of interrogation and revelation that Bresson eventually develops in all his works, but particularly here and in his two other "prison films", The Trial of Joan of Arc and Pickpocket.
La dolce vita
According to Pier Paolo Pasolini, "the greatest Catholic film ever made". When there was no such thing yet as the "Felliniesque", Federico Fellini establishes once and for all the foundations of his moral aestheticism.
A desperate, critical, passionate vitality in the form of a protean self-portrait to impose a universal manifesto and a merciless reading of a city, a culture, an entire era.
Through this absolute paradigm of modern cinema in its most terminal extremes, Antonioni masterfully imposes time as physical matter and space as spirit, in a prodigious mixture of abstraction and objectivity, of unreality and hyperrealism, where characters' ghostly presences also behave as social portraits, eventually becoming a hieratic parade of masks and figures.
Naturally immersed in the neorealist worldview, in his capacity as one of its founding fathers, Rossellini quickly understood that he needed to go even further and conceived a narrative and reflexive structure between newsreel and melodrama, in which the mechanical artifice of cinema has to confront the harsh immediacy of reality rather than simply capture or recreate it. The Wellesian resource of the voiceover and the episodic structure establish a notably pioneering treatment of critical and dramatic detachment.
The absolute reluctance to proceed through camera movements and the adoption of a fanatically fixed point of view as a category of thought provides the stable geometry of the shot as a vehicle for the discovery of a truth that is beyond image and narrative. Language is here not only expression or enunciation but a tool for cognitive questioning in silence, stillness and emptiness.
A true Fordian "tour de force" on the ethical and political conceptions and misconceptions of his own films, it is also an anticipatory model of modern American epic and critical cinema. The staging of symphonic harmony, the pictorial conception of landscape and interiors, the ultimate, symbolic relationship between light and shadows, oppression and freedom, and the bold counterpoint between silent film resources and contemporary language methods make the perfect setting for the development of a conflict, and a character, as a true revolution in the genre's doctrinal canon.
Vivre sa vie
Cinéma vérité meets Greek tragedy. Against any Aristotelian development, the architecture of 12 acts that Godard chose to structure the film imposes the logic of a broken mirror to reflect the shattered, conflicting, divergent world of his female hero, establishing a decisive, transcendental turn in the notions of identification, empathy and emotional connection between the spectator and the character. Everyday banality acquires the dimension of metaphysical fatality through Godard's sensitive inventiveness, to establish in one film the entire curriculum for a philosophical cinema.
It is possible to think that the choice of the ten greatest films in history implies the choice of the ten greatest directors in history. I understand that it's not necessarily so, but I also think that in a single film all the greatness and the transcendent qualities of its creator can be detected, concentrated, distilled. At the same time, I see that none of the ten films that I have chosen were produced after the 60s, which is a conviction rather than a decision; I firmly believe that the ten films that I have selected left a categorical mark as a moral, formal and philosophical manifesto, a true monument destined to change not only the history of cinematographic art but the world, and it is very difficult for me to find that transformative power in most recent examples.