Karan Bali

Co-founder and Content-in-Charge, Upperstall.com, an online site that focuses on the cinema of the Indian sub-continent.

Voted for

Citizen Kane1941Orson Welles
LETYAT ZHURAVLI1957Mikhail Kalatozov
La Nuit américaine1973François Truffaut
La Ronde1950Max Ophuls
Closely Observed Trains1966Jirí Menzel
Pyaasa1957Guru Dutt
Rear Window1954Alfred Hitchcock
Tokyo Story1953Yasujirō Ozu
Faces Places2017Agnès Varda, JR
Cinema Paradiso1988Giuseppe Tornatore


Citizen Kane

1941 USA

What more can one add on this masterful film that continues to influence young filmmakers down the years even today and one that always give film critics something new to think about with each viewing? To put it simply, Kane is a masterclass in cinematic storytelling and Welles, a genius. Structured as a jigsaw puzzle and full of incredible set pieces, I still cannot get get over the fantastic montage at the breakfast table wherein we see the disintegration of Kane's marriage to Emily.


1957 USSR

The Cranes Are Flying is a poetic yet tragic, tender love story that brings out the futility and destruction of war so beautifully. Rarely have I seen such a poignant film that goes straight to the heart. The death scene is perhaps one of the greatest and most moving scenes in the history of the cinema.

La Nuit américaine

1973 France, Italy

The most magical and self-reflexive film on creativity and filmmaking. Truffaut beautifully demystifies both processes as he creates perhaps the definitive movie on a film-within-a-film as his ode to cinema. Nothing represents the plight of a film director better than when the character, played by Truffaut himself, declares, "Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive." An additional bonus is identifying the various cinematic references scattered through the film.

La Ronde

1950 France

Was there ever a more elegant filmmaker than Max Ophuls? I think not. La Ronde is a charming, witty, aristocratic and sassy film that looks at amorous episodes between people from different sections of Viennese society in 1900. The circular structure of the film is mirrored perfectly by the metaphorical carousal manipulated by the ringmaster, stunningly played by Anton Walbrook. And then there's that cast - a who's who of French cinema! Ophuls himself is in fine form, the film boasting of various long fluid takes that were his signature. But the famed opening shot takes, the cake, icing and little cherry on top!

Closely Observed Trains

1966 Czechoslovakia

One of the most beautiful, heartwarming and tragic coming-of-age films that I have seen. Tt tells the tale of a bumbling, innocent apprentice train dispatcher at a tiny station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II, stressed out by his virginity. A lovely little humane gem from the Czech New Wave that only gets better with each viewing. The knock-out ending is like a solid punch in the solar plexus ...


1957 India

A brilliant film telling of the struggles of a poet trying to get his work published in a materialistic and uncaring world in post-Independent India. The film critiques a greedy and soulless society that values human beings only after they die and not while they are alive, something that resonates even more deeply today. Ironically, actor-director Dutt himself became a name to reckon with as one of the finest Indian filmmakers ever only after his death. The sublime poetry by lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi be it commenting on living in a world sans humanity or sympathising with the plight of the fallen woman gives the film much of its heft. SD Burman's fine music is another big asset.

Rear Window

1954 USA

Few filmmakers can tap into our dark and perverse side as Alfred Hitchcock can. In Rear Window he opens the shutters to our voyeuristic tendencies as we follow an injured photographer on a wheelchair who gets his kicks from peeping into other people's apartments. You realise Hitchcock has tapped into your darkest thoughts when it looks like a murder may not have taken place after all in one of the apartments the photographer was spying on and instead of relief for the 'victim', you feel let down and cheated out fo a thrill! Fantastic lensing, brilliant use of image sizing in the POV shots all come together in a witty, romantic, and sexy edge-of-the seat thriller that sees Hitchcock at his very best.

Tokyo Story

1953 Japan

Was there ever a more gentle, meditative and sensitive poet of the cinema than Ozu? I doubt it. Throughout his incredibly brilliant career, he created some of the most memorable and humane characters in his films. Drinking sake has never been the same after watching an Ozu film! In Tokyo Story, Ozu poignantly explores the loneliness of old age as an elderly couple go to visit their children in postwar Tokyo only to find the children have little time for them, caught up as they are in their daily lives. Ozu's films might appear to be simple but they work on many levels. Tokyo Story is no exception as it delves into the Westernisation of Japanese society post the War, inter-generational differences, and the possibly of finding solace where we least expect it. A masterpiece!

Faces Places

2017 France, USA, Switzerland

Faces Places is an absolutely charming, poignant and riveting documentary that is at once personal yet universal. The film looks at the warm friendship forged between filmmaker, Varda, and photographer and mural artist JR as they travel through France, collaborating on a project that makes use of both their talents. Varda films JR at work, giving us her own humane perspective even as he photographs people and creates giant murals that give us a unique portrayal of life in rural France across generations. The film, while showcasing the artistry of the two, makes their road trip richer including their own interactions and more importantly, their interactions with their subjects for whom it is obvious, they have a lot of empathy. It all ends perfectly with a beautiful and touching bittersweet ending involving (actually not) Jean-Luc Godard.

Cinema Paradiso

1988 Italy, France

Few films have captured the magic of the movies more beautifully than Cinema Paradiso. It is the perfect film for both those associated with the film line and film buffs alike. It is a charming yet poignant coming-of-age story that traces the relationship and growing friendship between the unlikely pair of an elderly projectionist and a little boy, who falls in love with the movies, in their little Italian village. The boy finally grows up to become a filmmaker and recalls his childhood past when he is informed of the projectionist's death. The bitter sweet ending as the filmmaker, after the funeral, screens censored clips from films that the projectionist has preserved down the years will ensure that no eye is left dry at the end of the film. And that is the power and magic of cinema!

Further remarks

This was a fun but also a hugely difficult task as choosing just 10 films can be so limiting. You actually spend more time ruing the ones you could not include. Nevertheless, I am honoured to be a part of this exercise and cannot wait to see the final results!