Head of Film at the ICA London
|The Exterminating Angel
|The 400 Blows
|Vittorio De Sica
|The Hour of the Furnaces
|Francis Ford Coppola
The Exterminating Angel
One of Buñuel's very best films, The Exterminating Angel is a devastatingly funny satire in which the guests at an upper-class dinner party find that some mysterious compulsion makes it impossible for them to leave. In the best surrealist tradition, this film is disconcerting and overflowing with meaning as the vast, magnificent salon gradually descends into sordid squalor. It is a black comedy filled with anti-bourgeois and anti-clerical sentiments, a dreamlike story where the surrealism of Buñuel is manifested in all its fantastic wealth. Although perceived as a highly accurate analysis of class, The Exterminating Angel becomes a manifesto for the powerlessness of the human race as a whole.
The 400 Blows
Astonishing debut feature by François Truffaut, The 400 Blows is one of the greatest films to ever describe that angst towards life, family and societal hierarchical structures while launching the French New Wave and since then universally regarded as one of the all-time great coming-of-age movies that followed a few months in the life of 12-year-old Antoine Doinel (the extraordinary Jean-Pierre Léaud).
In my view the best expression of Italian neorealism, Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves defined an era in cinema. A work that not only embodies both aesthetically and politically the most important features of the Italian neorealist movement but also with his use of non professional actors, social engagement and firm roots into the fabric of society and reality paved the way for hybridity in film and therefore the so called cinema of the real.
The Hour of the Furnaces
The term ‘Third Cinema’ was invented by the Argentinean film makers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, who produced and directed the most important documentary for the Third Cinema movement in the 1960’s: The Hour of Furnaces (1968). In concert with the film they produced an important essay that would come to define the radical ideas of this movement: Towards a Third Cinema. While Solanas and Getino are central to Third Cinema, the concept of Third Cinema is a global one, connecting a variety of different films from Africa, Latin America and even Europe.
Third Cinema continues to pose difficult and challenging questions. The idea of Third Cinema was conceived in the 1960s as a set of radical manifestos and low-budget experimental movies by a group of Latin American filmmakers who defined a ‘cinema of opposition’ in reaction to Hollywood and European models. This new form of expression came from three different areas of the world: Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Mirror is a masterpiece about nostalgia and memory; a film that Tarkovsky made in his late 40s, a work with which he attempted to reflect on the origins of his own being as an artist and the unpredictable and nostalgic ramifications of his own life, declaring that overall the adult is an expression of his own childhood, especially at the creative level. To do this, the director opted for an editing and narrative structure that eluded the normal progression of the story but, on the contrary, favored mnemonic associations, the juxtapositions of figures that return forever in an existence that seems circular and infinite. An eternal masterclass of how to create a magnificent treatment of space and time through the cinematic language.
A film director in his mid-forties, Guido (in the performance of his career, Mastroianni), faces the fear of old age and death through images in which he sees himself dead while around him life goes on without him. 8½ is the film of a film (the dream of a dream?), the story of a director who cannot make a film. After recounting his character's bewilderment, the nausea, the pain, the anguish with which he feels those relationships, the effort to put them in order and discover meaning in them leads Fellini to realise how life is about others, the living and the dead, real beings and creatures of fantasy; one must accept them all, with love, gratitude and solidarity.
Bad Blood is the quintessence of the marvelous, visceral and brilliant cinema of Leos Carax, who in the midst of what some in France called the "new '68" shots a film inspired by Céline and Rimbaud while wandering in romantic lyricisms dotted at times with noir, at times with science fiction. Bad Blood is an absolutely free and stubborn work, which not surprisingly hosts the performance of an absolute heretic like Michel Piccoli, as well as the extraordinaire Denis Lavant and the young Juliette Binoche and Julie Delpy, who were 22 and 17 years old respectively at the time of the shooting.
Bad Blood is a film intimately dedicated to the act of falling in love. Carax moves into a territory that is purely cinematic, speaking to classic noir as well as to the avant-garde, to Chaplin and the nouvelle vague, but the less conventional one, with obvious reference to AIDS that was tragically beginning to make headlines in those years. A truly masterpiece by one of the greatest geniuses in the history of Cinema.
Apocalypse Now is Francis Ford Coppola's stunning vision of man's dark nature revealed through the madness of the Vietnam War. Inspired by Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella Heart of Darkness and with the most innovative sound design mastered by the three times genius Oscar winner Walter Murch, the film tells the story of US Special Forces Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on his journey into the Cambodian jungle. His mental and physical mission, to 'terminate' the dangerously lawless warlord Colonel Kurtz, who has set himself up as the God of a local tribe, soon becomes a process of self-discovery ending with an outstanding, memorable performance from Marlon Brando.
In December of 1989, Poland (with Europe soon to follow) welcomed the release of a true masterpiece: Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue (Dekalog in the original Polish). An examination of the ethical underpinnings of the Ten Commandments. Made for Polish television, the original concept involved selecting ten different filmmakers to each direct a 57-minute episode, two of them to be expanded into theatrical features. Kieślowski, collaborating with nine different cinematographers, ended up directing the entire oeuvre. The social and moral themes of contemporary times were the focus of his many significant films, through an uniquely humanist treatment. His is a cinema of questioning, one that does not want to give any explanation, answer or definite truth, an approach that became his authorial signature. Through his cinematic expressions of destiny and chance, his investigations into human lives are matched perfectly by his rigorous demand for aestheticism and form. Kieślowski's cinema is a process of tender, sensitive and gradual revelation, a cinema that drips a steady dose into your system until you're overwhelmed by its vision of what it means to be human with an uncertain life to live. A cinema absent of conclusions and answers.
At 25 years old Orson Welles masterfully introduces to the entire world new aspects of the cinematic language unknown up to that point such as from the jigsaw-puzzle narrative structure or the stunning deep-focus camera work but also offers a definitive portrait of a media megalomaniac mogul that we then witnessed since multiple times in real life and cinema both in American society that around everywhere else. As Italian, this film always cut so close to the bone drawing disturbing comparisons to the nefarious consequences of the Berlusconi era in Italy spanning across more than 20 years.
It was a pleasure and honour to contribute to this poll. I tried to merge the 10 works that indelibly left a mark on my cinema formation as well as those leaving a deep, profound mark in the history and form of this amazing, always inspiring seventh art.