Film critic, film curator
|Bringing Up Baby||1938||Howard Hawks|
|Europa '51||1952||Roberto Rossellini|
|Au hasard Balthazar||1966||Robert Bresson|
|Je, tu, il, elle||1974||Chantal Akerman|
|Love Streams||1984||John Cassavetes|
|Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges||1989||Harun Farocki|
|A Brighter Summer Day||1991||Edward Yang|
|La Flor||2018||Mariano Llinás|
The first home movie in history – prefacing what is arguably the most widespread usage of the moving image, now, almost 130 years later. All of these people are now deceased. Yet live on, like embers, for eternity, in this lightest and happiest of mundane moments.
Bringing Up Baby
Truly, the incredible lightness of being. Katherine Hepburn as one of cinema's purest souls — and what history of cinema could one ever forge without Cary Grant? Or cinema's first (and foremost) collapsing skeletal dinosaur? And its most famous tiger?
One of cinema's greatest (if not all-time greatest) partnerships, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini – alongside Cassavetes and Gena Rowland, Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-Sheng, Pedro Costa and Ventura, Ingmar Begman and Liv Ullman – creating what such artistic partnerships do best: a profoundly humanistic portrait of a person caught at the crossroads. Few – perhaps only Pasolini – truly managed to capture the essence of post-war Europe. Rossellini is the finest of them all.
Au hasard Balthazar
Bresson – few have changed the face of cinema to the same extent, proposing a wholly new understanding of cinematic time, performance, decoupage and of the fiction/non-fiction dichotomy. The finest work to have ever shifted from the human to the non-human, and back again.
Je, tu, il, elle
This list should have just been the entire filmography of Chantal, perhaps. I chose her second feature – the quintessential queer film, which anchored much of queer cinema's (aesthetic) sensibilities, a meditative work on both solitude and gender roles which also encapsulates seeds that would germinate in much of her later work – Jeanne Dielman, Les Rendez-vous d'Anna, D'est, No Home Movie, heck, even A Couch in New York.
Another extremely difficult one to pick from the oeuvre of such an incredible filmmaker – it's at least the third or fourth title of his that I'm coming to. But nowhere else is Cassavetes & Rowland's collaboration more intense in its subtlety; all the while, nowhere else is their philosophy of love any clearer.
Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges
Farocki reshaped experimental cinema as we know it – both in terms of politics, analytical means and focus, but especially in terms of aesthetics and imagery; few have challenged the notion of authorship over images in the many ways he did. The inextinguishable fire was also burning deep within himself – who used his body to give one of cinema's most haunting images; Images of the World is the perfect distillation of his artistic system and worldview.
Possibly the best documentary in modern history. Hossein Sabzian is the ultimate embodiment of cinephilia, man-cinema, cinema-man; few scenes in cinema have left such a lasting impact on me as that of the soda can slowly rolling down the street, as the camera patiently waits for it to finish its movement, its eye a democratising force and philosophic statement: nothing it sees is ever insignificant, ever not worth the time, ever not worth the attention.
A Brighter Summer Day
A film born both out of love for cinema and a deep desire to fully reform it – few have understood mediality as Yang did; even few have understood the underlying reasons for (social) violence and the aimlessness of youth. Yang's masterpiece traces a line from cinema past (Ozu) to cinema future (Ming-liang, Lav Diaz).
A monument, a document: a masterpiece that inspires awe, first and foremost. A work born out of the truest love of cinema that might have ever been, in all of its forms – from the B movie and melodrama to the epic film and experimental; and a method of working with actors that is unprecedented. In La Flor, I find so much I love about cinema – Renoir, Corman, Carrière, Almodóvar, Curtiz. But it's the sort of work you simply love on its own account – after 14 hours, the veil lifts, and you find yourself wishing it would never end.
As incredible an honour as it is to be invited to participate in the Sight and Sound poll, I must say, chopping all of cinema down to ten titles was a form of torture… So, without any long-winded arguments or pretence of objectivity, here are a few titles that have made my time on this strange Earth so much more meaningful. From the first home movie, showing people who are now long gone, alive for but a minute as embers, to some of the most beautiful love songs ever written to (and through) the silver screen. Humans, non-humans, bodies, flesh in time embalmed, cinema as eternal life and constant death – bones (made of celluloid and pixels) for an unlikely couple to collapse over, in love.