|In the Mood for Love
|Wong Kar Wai
|The 400 Blows
|The Exterminating Angel
|Clouds of Sils Maria
|Trois couleurs rouge
It's all there, on the screen. All of humanity's dreams, poetry, artistry; jealousy, compassion, cowardice, malaise. But also chance and hope plays a large part in shaping our destinies. Why do we desire something in which the attainment is not to give fulfilment, no, not necessarily, but in fact may create unhappiness or complacency? And yet, the human heart can't help but seek that elusive thing; just for the chase, perhaps.
With stunning cinematography and direction, this is a masterpiece, an examination of the very tenuous relationships we have with each other – however in love, however distant or strange, the tenebrous night unfolds its mystery to all who are held captive in its wake. Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti at their best.
This film is alive and haunting at the same time; it speaks of freedom and the inevitability of alienation and decline; where your future is already predestined based on a history you had no hand in making. We are an alienated race despite our constant mantra of diversity and inclusion; a speck of dust (if that) in the chronology of the universe; but such a meaningful speck we are to each other. There is a kind of pureness of spirit in this film that I’ve not felt in other films before or since.
In the Mood for Love
To be immersed in the cinematic, for me, is to be submerged in a world where aesthetics, light, perspectives, characters come to dance before your eyes. And this film is such a dance, of the sultry lovelorn kind; where Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung’s unrequited love plays out in slow motion. My homeland of Hong Kong in the 60s cannot look any more sumptuous than the art direction of William Chang and the lilting cinematography of Mark Lee Ping-bin or the ever-inventive Christopher Doyle. This is a love letter to a Hong Kong of Wong’s childhood and a deep yearning for the past.
An iconic opening shot where we hear JLG’s voiceover as the camera on a dolly tracks towards the audience and finally turns its gaze on us, breaking the fourth wall. Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli are also the iconic on-screen couple, their love games at the beginning and the wonderfully beguiling music by Georges Delerue draws you into their lives; this is how you would also like to be. Gorgeous on-location shots at Capri, with Fritz Lang on screen; Alberto Moravia’s book was adapted beautifully.
Another book ‘adaptation’ (from László Krasznahorkai’s very fine The Melancholy of Resistance), but what an astonishing feat of cinematic invention. I was mesmerised when I saw this film at the Sydney Film Festival and could not shake certain scenes out of my head; like the many long tracking shots of János walking, or the dance when narrating the celestial bodies; and of course, the encounter with the sacred whale.
The 400 Blows
I have recently rewatched this film – and it struck me more now than ever before, there’s so much freedom in the film based loosely on his own childhood. Whilst it’s loaded with personal meaning, there is lightness in the nouvelle vague style of taking the film shoots into the streets, working mainly with non-actors and with barely a script. The incredible music by Jean Constantin. Truffaut is already a master in his first feature film as is the naturally talented and precocious Jean-Pierre Léaud. History is being made.
The Exterminating Angel
As a concept and critique of society and the ease of which we slip back into our entropic state – this film says it all in an hour and 35 minutes. Buñuel is a genius.
Clouds of Sils Maria
There is so much to love about Assayas’ films, and this one is perhaps my favourite. What I like about it is it deals with the unknowable; it treats the audience as complicit to its secrets. It doesn’t feel staged, with lots of cross-cultural elements that we once experienced back in the 1960s, where actors would lapse into German, Italian and French depending on what is required. The cast – Juliette Binoche, Angela Winkler, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn and even Kristen Stewart – are just superb.
Trois couleurs rouge
The magnificent late Jean-Louis Trintignant can be celebrated here. Wonderful weaving of time and doubling, echoes of lives and chance encounters abound. I remembered being in Paris when Three Colours: Blue was in the theatres, and how I loved that film; and also White for many years. But it’s Red that I come back to again and again, having maybe seen this film for 20 or more times.
It's very difficult to only select 10 films, but at least we had 10 to select, and not 3, or 5!
However, I don't believe that there would ever be a 'film canon' that can be effectively created. Cinema is far too vast a field, spanning many genres and cultures.
For this selection, what I aimed for are not just a selection of films that I love, but films that have shaped me, and without which I would not be the cinephile or indeed the person I am. Hopefully, it also represents a range across time and cultures.
Of course, it would be ridiculous to think that choosing 20 films would be more effective in this exercise; as the key is to be selective however difficult that task may be.