Film scholar and educator
|Sergei M. Eisenstein
|Man with a Movie Camera
|Vittorio De Sica
|À bout de souffle
|In the Mood for Love
|Wong Kar Wai
"Battleship Potemkin" captures the revolutionary spirit of Soviet Montage. Despite being nearly a century old, it continues to demonstrate the power of the cinematic medium to arouse, shock and manipulate spectatorial emotions. A canonical film.
Man with a Movie Camera
Most influential (meta) documentary, revolutionary in form and content. It is the only non-fictional film on my list.
This landmark neo-realist film, a favourite of Andre Bazin and a direct inspiration for Satyajit Ray's debut feature "Pather Panchali," is a revelatory, starkly honest, deeply moving, complex, sophisticated yet seemingly simple portrayal of human desperation, survival and apathy; thoroughly relatable and relevant for our bleak times. As Bosley Crowther says in his 1949 "New York Times" rave review, "people should see it - and they should care."
Deeply poignant and tender, yet restrained, dignified, almost stoic, it is narrated in typical minimalist Ozu style. Although it is difficult to pick just one from his extraordinary body of work, "Late Spring" was my first encounter with Ozu.
Ray's acclaimed debut feature, despite its technical blemishes, remains a much-loved, poignant, humanistic depiction of the minutiae of life and landscape in rural Bengal. Certain sequences (the train and death scenes for example) are unforgettable for their visual clarity and measured tone. A film that, on its release, introduced many in the Western world to Indian cinema, it asserts the primacy of the image and expressive music over verbosity and contrived narratives that sadly plague contemporary commercial and arthouse Bangla cinema.
My favourite Bergman. The surrealist dream sequence of the clock without hands has left an indelible impression when first encountered as a graduate student of cinema in Calcutta decades ago. Ruminations on death, loss, memory, the ravages of time - all characteristically Bergmanseque tropes are exemplified in "Wild Strawberries."
À bout de souffle
1960 was a notable year in film history as Godard's debut feature changed the face of arthouse cinema along with Antonioni's postmodern classic "L'avventura." Across the pond, Hitchcock's "Psycho" was released too. "Breathless" reinvented film narration and conventional cinematic language, influencing generations of filmmakers around the world. A real tour de force!
This (shockingly) underrated American indie, directed by Barbara Loden, urgently requires timely intervention by critics, scholars, curators et. al. for this feminist gem to take its rightful place within an expanded, revisionist cannon. A devasting film that strongly resonates in a post-Me Too world!
In the Mood for Love
Sumptuous in its use of music, montage, costumes and colour. A truly sensorial experience.
Difficult to categorise, this early Bong Joon-ho classic based on the Hwaseong serial killings, yields new insights on every repeated viewing. A political drama, crime thriller, social satire laced with wry humour, "Memories of Murder" is an edgy, raw, scathing indictment of the failure of the 1980s authoritarian Korean state to protect its most vulnerable citizens. Haunting aesthetics, remarkable sound design, and an expressive colour palette, the final freeze frame of Song Kang-ho's vacuous stare directed towards the viewer/murderer-at-large never fails to provoke goosebumps, as if to imply collective guilt and complicity.
My list is an attempt to "de-westernize" the canon by expanding it to include more recent landmark films from Asia, and to challenge Euro-American dominance and unconscious bias towards "Western" cinema that has been apparent in previous Sight and Sound Top 10 polls. Inevitably, with any list of 10, many extraordinary films that have made a significant contribution to the cinematic medium, have been left out - "Psycho" (1960, Alfred Hitchcock) and "Viridiana" (1961, Luis Bunuel) are two such films. I also feel that Korean cinema, often overshadowed by Japanese and Hong Kong cinemas, should take its rightful place within the cannon.