Eithne O'Neill

Journalist Editorial Board Positif

Voted for

Battleship Potemkin1925Sergei M. Eisenstein
To Be or Not to Be1942Ernst Lubitsch
Sansho the Bailiff1954Kenji Mizoguchi
Wild Strawberries1957Ingmar Bergman
Apur Sansar1958Satyajit Ray
The Gospel According to St. Matthew1964Pier Paolo Pasolini
Fear Eats the Soul1974Rainer Werner Fassbinder
The Deer Hunter1978Michael Cimino
An Angel at My Table1990Jane Campion
Ma nuit chez Maud1969Eric Rohmer


Battleship Potemkin

1925 USSR

Here I vote as a university teacher, a writer and film critic.

Historically, unsurpassed in its impact. Perfect blend of aesthetic and social commitment, of the collective and the individual, of thought and emotion. This film is also the one by its maker that I consider the most perfect.

To Be or Not to Be

1942 USA

Here I vote also: as a co-author of a referenced work on the film-maker,

who figures high in the rankings of knife-sharp satirical comedy on the screen,

in recognition of his capacity as one of the foremost directors of actors;

as a former university junior assistant lecturer in German studies;

as a reader with a special place for Hamlet among the Shakespearean tragedies;

and acknowledging the eternal relevance of its subject.

Sansho the Bailiff

1954 Japan

I vote in awe of one of the greatest filmmakers our world has known.

This is one of his masterpieces, poetry and melanchhoy are one with him.

The viewer who is not deeply moved by the final scene, the rigorous outcome of the preceding political and personal events, has a heart of stone.

As an admirer of Japanese art and the author of a work on Hayao Miyazaki, I appreciate the manner in which the tellers of tales for the screen blend the exquisite precision of their indigenous culture and a universal Weltanschauung.

Wild Strawberries

1957 Sweden

This acclaimed film came at a time in our Western outlook when the validity of the peaceful paternal figure was beginning to be questioned.

The film still works for me, like a piece of fine chamber music.

It is a self-examination that makes the cinema of Woody Allen pale in comparison – many of whose bittersweet comedies (notably Deconstructing Harry, especially marked by the Swedish director's influence) I greatly enjoyed.

I even took my own father, a writer and lover of theatre to see it, trying to convert him to the seventh art.

In retrospect, his deafening silence was indicative of denial more than anything else.

Apur Sansar

1958 India

This is a tribute to a whole culture, with its mixture of colonial influences and indigenous customs that reflects

that of other countries, including my own. Poverty seems here to cleanse the soul, to open doors. Without any sentimentality or falsity.

As with other films by Ray, visual sensitivity combines with a literary heritage that captivates. Again, it is through cinema that I have to come to feel something of the essence of a country where I have never set foot.

If any film director's work confirms the seventh art as a universal language, it is that of this gifted Indian.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew

1964 Italy, France

Pasolini is one of the heroic artistic geniuses of the 20th century.

That he could combine Christian charity with a radical standpoint is one of the multiple aspects of his commitment to humanity. Unlike other worthwhile proponents of social justice on the screen, he avoids caricature and outright demonstration by drawing on the depths of the psyche to promote his political theme.

Fear Eats the Soul

1974 Federal Republic of Germany

What an impact this film had on me at the time!

Now that French cineastes do their take on Fassbinder's films, it is clear that the German director's flame still burns bright, comparable to the resonance of Pasolini.

The title of Fassbinder's TV film – lately discovered by me – Ich will doch nur, dass ihr mich liebt (I Only Want You to Love Me), sums it up without diluting any of the savage social criticism.

Fassbinder I love, he had to be.

The Deer Hunter

1978 USA

Spectacular American cinema at its best.

Heart-rending, brillantly structured and enacted love and conquest, both at home and abroad, subtle dialogue: "This is this. This ain't somethin' else. This is this."

From the outset, the attention is captured, never to waver.

An Angel at My Table

1990 New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom

An amazing biopic of a woman writer, Janet Frame, which again brings cinema, writing, social justice, colonialism, the clash of cultures and the becoming of self together in one Frame.

Ma nuit chez Maud

1969 France

A shining example of French intellectual cinema that outstrips the genre.

And, it appears, one of those films that gained an audience abroad.

The incisive and subtle scenario by the director, written some time before the shooting of his film, sums up essential aspects of a prestigious European culture.

Who can resist the charm of Jean-Louis Trintignant's dazzling but secret smile?

The beauty of the French actresses?

That bittersweet Gallic touch?

Further remarks

Clearly, a selection that is highly personal, while respecting the passage of time and the universality of the artistic media.

Seven films out of ten are in black-and-white: unintentional, but there you have it – a golden oldie ?

Five of the titles I first saw either when they were released or within the next five years – a tribute to their impact?

The omission of British cinema is a betrayal of self. What of the work of Michael Powell? Of David Lean?

What of the comic vein?

This is also a rhetorical exercise, as we all know.