Pablo Villaça

Film critic

Voted for

The Godfather1972Francis Ford Coppola
Twenty Years Later1984Eduardo Coutinho
City Lights1931Charles Chaplin
Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
Singin' in the Rain1951Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
AKAHIGE1965Akira Kurosawa
UMBERTO D.1952Vittorio De Sica
Vagabond1985Agnès Varda
Where Is the Friend's House?1987Abbas Kiarostami


The Godfather

1972 USA

I understand that only one film can receive a vote; so you can count my vote for the original, from 1972. Particularly, I've always had the inclination to consider the trilogy as a one, 10-hours long, single story, and I'm unable to put them in any preference order. I just love them all.

Twenty Years Later

1984 Brazil

Eduardo Coutinho was the most humanist filmmaker the movies have ever produced. His immense ability to put himself in other people´s shoes, to see value in every human being, at the same time gave his films the aspect of an anthropological study and a declaration of love for humanity. In Cabra Marcado para Morrer, not only does he exhibit these traits, but he also creates a modern and sophisticated political and structural experiment that feels vital and daring almost four decades after it was completed.

City Lights

1931 USA

The balance between humour and drama so effective in Chaplin's work has its roots not just in his undoubted talent, but in the real sympathy he felt for characters on the fringes of society. He saw in the dreams, love, disappointments and pains of those people a rich dramaturgical material, but he never lost sight of the humanity and complexity of a stratum of society often defined by fiction only by its financial conditions and not by its individuality and sensitivity. City Lights was, in those aspects, the best example of his best traits.


2003 Korea, Republic of

Most examples of the police-film genre - especially those focused on serial killers - show an almost obsessive interest in the criminal and his methods, treating the victims and the tragedy of those lost lives only as an obligatory step to get to what they really want to portray. This masterpiece by Bong Joon Ho never loses sight of the human dimension of the (real) events, the pain of the victims' families and the high price that a dive into the sick mind of a sociopath exacts from those condemned to persecute him.


1958 USA

A perfect combination of Hitchcock's thematic and aesthetic obsessions, Vertigo is both an effective thriller and a surprising character study that paints James Stewart in colours that are more complex than those we were used to seeing the actor painted with. Far from the heroic, principled type, the protagonist is, ultimately, a narcissist who saw his "beloved" as an object, as a prop whose job was to cure his neuroses and satiate his lust - and what made her so worthy of desire was, in large part, the contempt with which she was regarded by the one who desired her. It is not difficult to see why Hitchcock understood the protagonist so well.

Singin' in the Rain

1951 USA

There isn't a single false note on Singin' in the Rain other than those sung by Jean Hagen's fantastic creation, the impossibly irritating Lina Lamont. From the songs to Gene Kelly's choreography, through the contagious energy of Donald O'Connor and the adorable sincerity of Debbie Reynolds, this is one of those rare films that proposes to do several different things at the same time and does all of them perfectly. It is a tribute to cinema itself, to the pioneers who developed the art, to the love of creation, a tender romance and a comedy capable of leaving the spectator breathless. But most of all, it's a testament to Kelly's unparalleled charisma, whose smile had a power rivaled only by the elegance of his dancing. There are classics that lose strength over the decades; here's one that only gets better with each passing year.


1965 Japan

The last picture Kurosawa did with Toshirô Mifune after 16 works together, it's moving (and fitting) that Mifune's performance is one of his most beautiful, complex and powerful, bringing to life a doctor who treats each patient as an individual, not as a pile of symptoms, demonstrating an unparalleled sensitivity also to their emotional wounds and how to approach them (the scene in which he tries to medicate a girl who insists on throwing the medicine in his face is touching not only for the tragedy that is the girl's life, but also for the doctor´s patience and understanding). Superbly photographed by Asakazu Nakai and Takao Saitô, who create compositions that could be in a museum, Red Beard is also masterful in its thoughtful production design, which transforms the clinic and the village around it into a palpable world. Exciting in its profound humanity that finds grace in small and unexpected moments of humour, this film has become my favorite in Kurosawa's majestic work.


1952 Italy

Written by Cesare Zavattini, De Sica's regular partner, Umberto D. is deceptively simple, following a man whose sole objective is to preserve what dignity he has left. By following the title character's efforts to keep the roof over his head, De Sica builds a humanistic monument that was condemned by the Italian government at the time, which saw the picture as negative propaganda merely because it portrayed the difficult reality of a significant part of the population. Without ever turning to melodrama, the film doesn't even succumb to the temptation of using the adorable dog Flike as a crutch to enchantment, laughter or tears (and it would be easy to do that); yes, the relationship between Umberto and Flike is one of the film's anchors, but it´s developed with sweetness rather than artifice. Always sensitive to the difficulties of those who work/worked their entire lives without having any real chance of achieving some degree of comfort and tranquility, De Sica and Zavattini reach, here, the apex of their careers - and also one of those reached by cinema itself.


1985 France, United Kingdom

Agnès Varda had a unique capacity for empathy, which was perfectly complemented by her sensitive gaze and her talent as a visual artist. Her pictures, both fictional or documentary (and often both at the same time, as Vagabond is, in a way), coloured everything with humanity. But although she was primarily interested in people, Varda never ignored the purely formal aspect of her films - and she was skilled at combining classical language elements with intelligent experimentation that helped the Art to evolve as a whole. Her filmography synthesises everything important in art: it's particular, but universal; it's human and therefore political; it's touching without abandoning rationality; and it's formally challenging. At the same time, she had the generosity to share her processes, to expose her creative logic; when she turned her camera on herself, the impulse was never vanity, but to tear herself open for the spectator, which required absolute courage. Dying at 90 years old, she lived a beautiful and full life, of course, but people like her leave us too soon no matter what age they die. There was a world of talent and sensitivity in that tiny body of hers.

Where Is the Friend's House?

1987 Iran

There are no simple premises for a talented storyteller. In someone else's hands, an entire movie about a little boy trying to find his friend's house to return the notebook he forgot (which will cause their teacher's ire) could sound hollow; in Kiarostami's, it's a journey that borders on the epic. The first feature in the Koker trilogy, the film understands that, for an 8-year-old boy, the dimension of an ordinary mission is similar to that of, say, Ethan Hunt trying to find an atomic bomb and, to reflect that, the narrative explores the geography of the village and the daily life of its inhabitants to form a humanist portrait of that humble community, its way of life and its difficulties. In essence, however, the film puts its soul in the persistence and generosity of its little protagonist, who through minimal gestures (slowing down his steps to accompany an old man; washing a friend's injured leg) becomes an irresistible figure.

Further remarks

Like I explained when discussing my first choice, I would place the Godfather trilogy on the top of my list if I could; that being impossible, I'm using the first film as a placeholder for all three.