João Lopes

Film critic

Voted for

La Règle du jeu1939Jean Renoir
Journey to Italy1954Roberto Rossellini
À bout de souffle1960Jean-Luc Godard
Splendor in the Grass1961Elia Kazan
Lilith1964Robert Rossen
Persona1966Ingmar Bergman
Hitler, a film from Germany1977Hans Jürgen Syberberg
Near Death1989Frederick Wiseman
Goodbye to Language2014Jean-Luc Godard
Happy End2017Michael Haneke


La Règle du jeu

1939 France

Cinema is not confined to observe history — somehow, it makes history. And this happens through its own language, impossible to reduce to other languages, namely of literary nature. This is a supreme example of such vocation, specially since we understand that here we find a subtle vision of a moment (1939) when history is confronting with the tragic emergence of new narratives. Without forgetting the radical passion of Renoir for his characters and, goes without saying, his actors.

Journey to Italy

1954 Italy, France

Truth or legend (as a matter of fact, truth and legend), Rossellini once defined his way of filming with an unforgettable sentence: “Things are there. Why manipulate them?” Probably, we need to understand such words beyond any literal meaning. For him, cinema has the ability of showing the vibrations of each event with the same roughness of the life we live: each instant carries the mystery of the next instant. This is the film of that thematic and esthetic principle, as if, suddenly, we have entered the intimate space (and time) of Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders.

À bout de souffle

1960 France

Where does modern cinema begin? Actually, it’s possible to answer citing some dozens of films, from Orson Welles to Michelangelo Antonioni, going through John Cassavetes, Andrei Tarkovsky or Glauber Rocha. But we can also ask: how can we begin to think modernity in cinema? In that case, we need to walk the streets of Paris with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Godard teaches us that an image is just an image (“pas une image juste…”), a sound just a sound. Learning that basic philosophy, we begin to understand the absolute fascination that cinema can involve. Ultimately, we begin to discuss the order of the world, this world where each film is searching for its spectator — and one is enough.

Splendor in the Grass

1961 USA

Roland Barthes wrote about the “ideas of the body” (“for my body does not have the same ideas as I do”). Probably, no one as Kazan — from my point of view, not probably, but surely — knew how to film those ideas. Not through any “erotic” variation, rather exposing the potentially tragic truth of any body: in the shining beauty of love, but also inside the more or less invisible arrangements of the social order. That’s why the ambiguous realism of Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty has the vertigo of some truth that only cinema can expose.


1964 USA

“You know what she wants? You think they can cure this fire? You know what they have to cure? She wants to leave the mark of her desire on every living creature in the world. If she were Caesar, she'd do it with a sword. If she were a poet, she'd do it with words. But she's Lilith; she has to do it with her body.” Warren Beatty listens to these words said by Jean Seberg and it’s like all the acquired truths about feminine and masculine vanished into the black hole of unsung stories that cinema itself helped opening. Rossen is, maybe, one the most forgotten geniuses of the history of cinema — anyway, this film would be enough to define a chapter apart of that history, dedicated to mad love, in fact, to the crystal clear proximity of love and madness (Breton: “I wish for you to be madly loved”).


1966 Sweden

Modern cinema taught the spectator to face a crude truth: a film is a film is a film… In other words: a film does not separate from life just because it results from some kind of technical and narrative artifice. That artifice is still a vital element, new, unexpected, creative. Bergman stages all that in the feminine, through the words, and also silences, that engage Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann. This is a film that exists inside the history of cinema as “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in the history of painting: after it, everything changed — and we changed with it.

Hitler, a film from Germany

1977 Federal Republic of Germany

Reacting to the attacks that his work raised in Germany, Syberberg used an expression that is important to remind: his film wasn’t so much about the historical character of Hitler, but about “Hitler in us”. Furthermore: according to the title, we are facing one “Hitler” who is also a “film” and a “film from Germany”. Cinema is living, like that, not as an illustrator of history, rather as a living object of that same history — all that, we must not forget, as if opera was invented by cinema itself.

Near Death

1989 USA

He was there. He really was there. That’s the main message of the work of Wiseman — and he knows that being there is a moral and political way of developing the art of seeing. Even when, as it happens here, he is observing the daily routines of the Beth Israel Hospital, in Boston, where everybody — patients, doctors, all the staff — must deal with terminal illness. Amazing feat: to show all that is also a radical way of celebrate the value of words. I speak, therefore I am.

Goodbye to Language

2014 France

After having experienced the three dimensions in “3x3D” (2013), the work of Godard led to this “goodbye”. Here, 3D is a double sign: pessimism about the survival of a classic desire of cinema; disenchantment facing the strain of all languages in a world of so many links and almost no communication. The result is an extreme, not extremist, experience trying to design the impossible layout of some kind of future to cinema. If cinema is really dying, this is the serene ghost of its rebirth.

Happy End

2017 France, Germany, Austria

To the great book of our history, the young actress Fantine Harduin (born in 2005) stands as one of the heaviest characters of cinema in our 21st century. In a world where the over-saturation of communications happens (and manufactures) a systematic emptying of human relations, she is the messenger of the ultimate indifference learned with adults, redeemed in cruel adventures with cell phones. Haneke shoots all that as an apocalypse without divinity — but still, Fantine character is called Eve.

Further remarks

Trying to set some kind of historical approach of cinema (choosing a Top 10, for instance) is always connected to a concrete experience of spectator. My choices try to remember some films that left their wit in the history of cinema. There is a “before” and a “after” each one of those films. At list, there is for me, the spectator.