|Trouble in Paradise
|The Pajama Game
|George Abbott, Stanley Donen
|ONNA GA KAIDAN O AGARU TOKI
|McCabe & Mrs. Miller
|Céline and Julie Go Boating
|Steve De Jarnatt
Looking at my list of ten films I was surprised there was nothing about really violent men, which I have to say is something that I love. I thought I had no films that really explored the damage of internalised and externalised masculinity through pressures of performance. Of course, I'm wrong; such threads are underlying in so many films – including The Crowd, which I had held in my mind mostly as a spectacular achievement of cinematography in capturing the thrill of urban modernity. It is also clearly about the failures inevitable within the myth of the American Dream. Through the combination of these elements, it belongs here.
Trouble in Paradise
My list had to have a pre-Code, and it had to have a Lubitsch, and this exquisite film gets me both. Although I couldn't say whether it is the best Lubitsch film ever made it is endlessly rewatchable (like many others, let's face it). Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall represent the height of smooth, in tone and gesture.
Simply the perfect noir.
The Pajama Game
If considered in isolation, so many parts of this film don't work or seem as though they won't work together. But this was Hollywood in the 1950s. With the strength of Doris Day's presence and voice, Bob Fosse's jarring choreography, the incredible set pieces and colour design, a little melodramatic flair and a pro-union message, The Pajama Game shows just how great cinema can be.
ONNA GA KAIDAN O AGARU TOKI
A devastatingly good central performance from Hideko Takamine and some fantastic lines of dialogue.
I saw this as part of a Muratova season in 2015 and I have never forgotten it.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
It seems odd to suggest that a film that revises a genre is in fact the greatest example of that genre, but in this case I think it might be so. This film does not celebrate the western but, in an act of love, brings out its unmistakable pathos. Never has a soundtrack suited a film's sound mixing so well as Leonard Cohen's for McCabe & Mrs Miller. Then there is the richness of the landscape, Altman's depth of feeling, the time spent with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, and the intimate, distant violence of the ending.
Céline and Julie Go Boating
A film that unravels in hypnotic, peculiar, mysterious, beautiful ways.
A film that owns the first-act genre twist, perfectly embodying the chilling urgency and panic that I imagine will come with nuclear (or other) apocalypse. A film defined by hopelessness for the human race but filled with optimism in the intimate moments and relationships that seem to matter to people at any particular time. Los Angeles here is at its most cinematic and mythic; an expanse of emptiness and chaos, darkness and coloured neon, loneliness and intimacy. And the La Brea Tar Pits.
A 21st-century film compiled from its histories. Marclay uses some of the best and some of the most mediocre of the cinematic medium, plus some television, to create an opus that gets better the longer you spend with it and let its rhythm build. I've travelled near and far for The Clock, seen it in three different cities in various states of consciousness, and it strikes me that these are the kind of things that might never happen again. Just as encounters with 35mm prints are rare, it may be impossible to ever recreate the conditions to spend 24 hours sharing a couch with one or several strangers, enchanted by the flickering light. The ephemerality is essential.
It took me a long time to put this list together. In fact I put together at least ten such lists, some of which were variations on the final product and some entirely different. This flux is, to me, the nature of cinephilia. Films change us, impact us, some forever and some for a finite period of time. I gravitate towards certain styles, modes, faces, and while the object may change, the subject, me, is represented equally by them all. The logic that I structured this list with allowed me one film from the silent period, one film from this century, and approximately one from each decade or genre in between. Likewise, I tried not to double up on any actors or directors. This is not the only list that could represent me but it's the list for right now. I think about all of these films at least once a week, often remembering fragments of dialogue or imagery, sometimes just overcome by some chimerical power of their cinematic presence. These films are all the Greatest Films of All Time.