Greg Cwik


Voted for

Apocalypse Now1979Francis Ford Coppola
The Master2012Paul Thomas Anderson
Another Woman1988Woody Allen
KONGBUFENZI1986Edward Yang
Journey to the West2014Tsai Ming-liang
Love Streams1984John Cassavetes
The Magnificent Ambersons1942Orson Welles
Point Blank1967John Boorman
Trouble Every Day2001Claire Denis
L'Argent1983Robert Bresson


How did I decide what ten films are, in my opinion, 'The Best Films Ever'? Well, it was a much more stressful task than I had expected, and also a rewarding one, an opportunity for self-reflection. This poll is, after all, so prestigious, a point of reference that will be analysed, scrutinised, cited for the next ten years. Everyone will have an opinion. The public nature of the poll is, I quickly realised, an ineluctable influence; I was worried about what people would think of my choices, what they would think of me. Should I include the bonafide canonical classics, which, as unimpeachable as they may be, may seem boring and obvious, evidence of an incurious mind? Or should I pick more obscure films, flaunt my erudition and vast knowledge of film but maybe come off as "pretentious?" When you write criticism, you make yourself vulnerable to scrutiny. Your opinions, your taste, what you value in a film and what you want a film to be, is a big part of your identity, how people see you. I didn't pick the films that I think are "The Best," because that's a futile endeavour, but ten films that represent me and my relationship to film. As a critic, it's so important to be able to articulate not just what you think of a film, but why. All criticism is personal. When it gets down to it, if asked to explain what I want from a film, what qualities I find the most important and what I want from a movie, I would say it's the aesthetic and formal style of the film, though of course there's much more to it than that. But I often find myself commenting on the cinematography, the editing and the sound design and the music, the way the camera moves, the way a scene is lit, the way a shot is blocked and composed. I will yell at my friends, "Look at that shot!" And competence isn't enough; there has to be a unique voice to the filmmaking, something singular, a vision. Vittorio Storaro's work on Apocalypse Now, for example, imbues me with a sense of awe, that image of fat bald Brando swallowed up by impermeable darkness as he intones cryptic aphorisms, this jungle sage, this mad god. Or John Boorman's Point Blank, a singularly bold union of the classic tough-guy-getting-revenge noir narrative and debonair braggadocio that you rarely find in a studio production; consider the scene of Lee Marvin walking with obdurate purpose down a long hallway, the inexorable sound of his footsteps like a metronome setting the rhythm for a montage of striking, seemingly inchoate images that abruptly, violently ends when Marvin bursts through a door, his face contorted into a look of unfettered fury, gun in hand as he shoves his ex-wife aside, indeterrable in his single-minded purpose. There's Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, which, even in its tragically bastardised form, remains a staggeringly deft and sui generis achievement, trenchant and romantic and cynical, the camera bimbling through a huge ornate room of couples dancing, or ascending up a grand staircase along with the characters, passing through shadows and pools of light as their argument intensifies. In recent years I've come to appreciate the Meisner approach to acting instead of the capital-A Acting of the method approach. Another Woman (which just beat out Crimes and Misdemeanors) stars Gena Rowlands as a philosophy professor struggling to write her book, mired in the malaise of the modern intellectual, struggling against that sense of stagnation that afflicts all creative types at some point; she overhears another woman (Mia Farrow) talking to her therapist in the next room, and becomes deeply, inexplicably invested in this woman's troubles, which presents a chance for self-realisation as she ruminates on her own past. It's maybe Allen's sensitive film, his saddest and most emotionally complex, and he's willing to let Rowlands use her face, her body language, her quietude to tell the story, to define the character, rather than his familiar use of witty dialogue. It was only after I had finalised my list that I realized Gena Rowlands stars in two of my films, the other being Cassavetes' Love Streams, a film vibrating with passion and daring and deft enough to make us care about deeply flawed, sometimes unlikeable characters who make us uncomfortable and who nonetheless earn our sympathy. There's something so earnest and unfettered about Rowlands, a vulnerability and emotional honesty, a fearlessness and willingness to let us see all the ugly inside without pushing us too far away. I am drawn to films about loneliness, films that posit no easy answers. Consider The Master, which is about, among many other things, how we define masculinity in America, how a man should be. It's a portrait of male friendship and toxic codependency and the deceitful allure of acceptance, of feeling like someone actually cares about you. Anderson finds in post-war America not the jubilance of victory, but an aching sense of loneliness, of alienation, of wanting to belong to something, anything. I also tend to like insoluble films. Look at the cruel carnality of Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day, which I once took a date to. (There was no second date.) I am beguiled by Denis' delphic approach to narrative, and I admire the trust she has for her viewers. Perhaps even more unpleasant is Bresson's L'Argent, the Frenchman's final film. It's austere, the images ascetic and stoically precise. More than any other film, it captures the evil of money, a tangible monstrosity that corrupts and corrodes as it slips from hand to hand. And in the end, one of the most upsetting scenes in world cinema, blood is spilled as indifferently as coffee. Though I have only seen the film once, those final few minutes, the shot of those hands raising that axe, have stayed with me for years. Ultimately, this is what I want from a movie, and from life, too: indelible memories.