Elena Smolina


Voted for

À bout de souffle1960Jean-Luc Godard
Mirror1975Andrei Tarkovsky
Loves of a Blonde1965Milos Forman
Fanny and Alexander1982Ingmar Bergman
Barry Lyndon1975Stanley Kubrick
La dolce vita1960Federico Fellini
The 400 Blows1959François Truffaut
Nashville1975Robert Altman
Death in Venice1971Luchino Visconti



1994 Hong Kong

Wong Kar-Wai’s poetic filmmaking was transformative for a whole generation. It was a mirror through which East and West have looked at each other: Hong Kong, smitten with everything American on one side, Westerners, hypnotised by what they thought was real Hong Kong on the other. It was a play-pretend, a highly stylised exercise in heartache, and yet it still was profound and heartbreaking. For those who are now in their late thirties or early forties there will forever be a bittersweet tingle at the sight of Tony Leung’s face, the face of a sad policeman falling in love with a waitress – today that storyline alone rings naive and nostalgic, something almost impossible to pull off any more. That moment is gone – though Christopher Doyle’s crazy camera has captured and preserved it – that brief moment in time when films could still be poems, flickering like an old neon sign.

À bout de souffle

1960 France

The most famous film of the Nouvelle Vague, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless was a new take on the gangster picture, this time filled with jump-cuts, scenes that were not necessarily moving the plot forward, shot on the streets of Paris with a hand-held camera. The story of a criminal in love, portrayed by Jean-Paul Belmondo, became the sole reason several generations of filmmakers decided to make movies in the first place.


1975 USSR

Andrei Tarkovsky’s most personal work, which has also become a playbook for anyone’s personal picture. this ultimate film d’auteur follows a dying man, who we also see as a boy, his relationships with his estranged father, his mother who raised him alone, his own son and his ex-wife. Following its nonlinear narrative we wait achingly for the hero’s father to come home – and he doesn’t, though mom’s waiting for him too, even if she’s not wearing her ring – the apples fall to the ground, the wind touches the long grass.

Mirror is as elusive as a dream that dissolves into thin air the more you try to remember it, and at the same time it has the determination and clarity essential to a work by a great master. Nothing here is accidental and even if it seems self-absorbed, it invites you in, always, so that you can make of it what you will.

Loves of a Blonde

1965 Czechoslovakia

The best-known film of Milos Forman’s Czech years follows Andula, a shoe-factory worker in an almost exclusively all-girl town. Girls are worried they will never meet the one, but Andula gets lucky when a band from Prague comes to town. Loves of a Blonde (aka A Blonde in Love) is shot in the same semi-documentary manner Forman used for all his Czech films (later, when he went on to become one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed directors, he had to drop this style altogether). Professional actors here play alongside non-professionals, factory workers, musicians, housewives. Forman, who initially trained as a screenwriter, pairs his perfectly structured script with a fluid real-life feel, and the result is probably the most charming film of the 60s.

Fanny and Alexander

1982 Sweden, France, Federal Republic of Germany

A child is fragile and resilient, a grown-up is made solely of memories, little scars that form a soul’s tissue.

Barry Lyndon

1975 USA, United Kingdom

Sublime and elusive, Barry Lyndon is not quite as well-regarded as the rest of Kubrick’s oeuvre, and yet it is his most sad, mysterious and misleading work – flickering like the candlelight by which some of it was famously lit.

The 400 Blows

1959 France

Simply the greatest coming-of-age story in film history. You could call it the Catcher in the Rye of cinema.


1975 USA

Hilarious, clever and heartbreaking – Robert Altman at his multi-storylining best.

Death in Venice

1971 Italy

If your heart is not shattered to pieces by the time the heart of Aschenbach, the hero of Thomas Mann’s novella and Luchino Visconti's film, is, you maybe don’t need to be reading this.