Ira Sachs

film director

Voted for

La Gueule ouverte1974Maurice Pialat
Je, tu, il, elle1974Chantal Akerman
Vagabond1985Agnès Varda
Au hasard Balthazar1966Robert Bresson
Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss1982Rainer Werner Fassbinder
À NOS AMOURS1983Maurice Pialat
Splendor in the Grass1961Elia Kazan
National Velvet1945Clarence Brown
Bakushû1951Yasujirō Ozu


La Gueule ouverte

1974 France

The starkness, the authenticity, the patience, the tenderness, the cruelty. Pialat opens the wounds like few others in a film as much about family as it is about sickness and death. The cinematography by Néstor Almendros is as ravishing as the four central performances. At the center is the sublime Phillipe Léotard, with a face for cinema like few others.

Je, tu, il, elle

1974 Belgium

Few films are as conceptually complete as this one, made by Akerman when she was in her very early 20s. The risks she takes, as both actor and filmmaker, are sublime. They are also infinitely inspiring.


1985 France, United Kingdom

Two years after her debut in Maurice Pialat's À Nos Amours, Sandrine Bonnaire gives another performance for the ages. Really one of the greatest in the history of cinema. She's seamlessly matched in authenticity by Varda's direction, empathy and extraordinary craft.

Au hasard Balthazar

1966 France, Sweden

The first ten minutes, an overture that speaks to the death of childhood, are for me the ten most ravishing minutes of cinema that have ever been made. No one has better understood how sound and image together make cinema than Bresson, and these opening minutes are his artistry in miniature. Not surprisingly, Godard described the movie best: "the world in an hour and a half."


1975 France

If I was to only be able to watch one film again for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It's both robust and delicate in a way that is pure beauty. Eustache and cinematographer Néstor Almendros – and all the girls and boys who make up the cast – have given us the most beautiful film about early adolescence ever made. The images are human vulnerability in the purest form.

Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss

1982 Federal Republic of Germany

As Veronika herself sings, "Memories are made of this." This is a film that has stayed in my head, since the first time I saw it 35 years ago, as if I just watched it yesterday and few films have used the colors black and white as memorably. The blackness of Veronika's dresses, the ravishing whiteness of the room she dies in at the end. A film full of love for movie goddesses and their sorrows.


1983 France

I recently saw this again on the big screen, and when the movie was over, I stood up in the cinema and looked around at the others in the audience, as if to ask, "Did you see what I just saw?" I was so overwhelmed by the power of the film, I almost couldn't breathe. In the performance, and the face, of Sandrine Bonnaire, as observed and loved by Maurice Pialat (both off-screen as the director, and on-screen, as her father in the film), we are witness to the indelible in life and in the world. There is so much loss in her last frozen image, but in that moment, in cinema, it is preserved forever.

Splendor in the Grass

1961 USA

I'm noticing that so many of the films I've chosen as the greatest, for me, are films about youth and childhood. I think it's because in the faces of the young, there can be found something so purely cinematic. Something captured, caught, held onto, and already gone, before the images have passed. This film devastated me the first time I saw it because I found the pain experienced by the two teenage leads – Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood – so intimately familiar. I can no longer distinguish between my own adolescence and the one I discovered in this movie. The last scene in the film, when Natalie visits Warren in the country – so different from each other now – is one of the most profound and exquisite I know.

National Velvet

1945 USA

A movie that reminds us of what movies can be. This film has everything in it: passion, youth, excitement, suspense, tears, Elizabeth Taylor – and it's all in Technicolor. To remind yourself of the history of American movies at their greatest, look no further.


1951 Japan

Few filmmakers have changed the way I think of the world, and storytelling, and life, in the way that Ozu has. It's the ending of this film that I hold on dearly – a reminder of how soon enough we are all dust. Ozu is to cinema what Chekhov is to literature.

Further remarks

The greatest films ever made are for me the ones that have personally affected me most deeply. It is because of their impact that these very same films are the ones that have influenced me the greatest as an artist and filmmaker. These are the films that I hold on to as if each one were a member of my own family. They are the films that have made me who I am, as my father and mother have, my siblings and my cousins and my friends. I would be someone different if I had never seen any one of them. They are a part of me.