|Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
|Tini zabutykh predkiv
|Street of Crocodiles
It took five or six years to see Allures after reading about it in Light Moving in Time by William C Wees. The prolonged anticipation probably enhanced the mystery surrounding the film, but even in these days of instant cinematic gratification, Allures can still transport the viewer into a state of cosmic rapture.
I’m not sure how what is essentially a mantra of death can be so irresistibly entertaining, but this film is on fire in every single department. Both ludicrous and malevolent, The Cremator is a septic meditation on the hideous lure of fascism.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
A surprisingly musical film given the absence of a soundtrack. Its ever-insistent and accumulative rhythms, motifs and patterns amount to a quiet, domestic catharsis despite the fact that Delphine Seyrig didn’t know how to make a coffee until the shoot. If Michael Snow donned an apron, you might get something close to Akerman’s utterly singular and bloody-minded ode or indictment to the seeming invisibility of domestic drudgery.
A wretched, ethanol-sodden, social blackhole of a world in which almost all the characters are only concerned with their own personal gain. For all the magisterial structure and atmosphere, there might have been a prophetic forewarning of the caustic magnetism of Machiavellian leaders. Too late now.
Tini zabutykh predkiv
A Carpathian kaleidoscope of Orthodox and folkloric imagery that still runs amok with poetic fury and fervour.
Street of Crocodiles
The film that opened a portal for me into Central and Eastern European culture. I still find the film with its strange shops and mannequins to be continuously unfathomable and enigmatic, yet it’s a retail underworld that I’m compelled to spy on rather than inhabit.
My favourite Scorsese films often change, but Raging Bull plunges me into the ring to face all the demons that plague the culture of machismo along with all the emotional impotence that corrupts such a psyche.
This is a very personal one for me, as Holly Woodlawn acted in my first narrative short film in 1995. She and the film were incredibly exotic for a middle-class teenager in suburban Reading, but beyond the ‘underground’ appeal of the sleaze and rudimentary sound, Morrissey graced the film with enough affection and romance to make me think of him as a back-alley Douglas Sirk.
It’s very difficult to pick one Buñuel and Viridiana is on a par with every subsequent film he made until his death. Picking a favourite from his later period is tantamount to Silvia Pinal shuffling the decks at the end of Viridiana.
I’m biased, as I grew up on Windfall in Athens. Often dismissed as the weakest of Cacoyannis’s output, this zero-calorie debut about a stolen lottery ticket and subsequent romance is a straightforward enough yarn, but it’s made with such infectious joie de vivre that one can forgive any missteps. It’s also a rhapsodic eulogy to a rejuvenated Athens after the real-life horrors of famine and civil war.
The films listed here all had a visceral, emotional or cerebral effect on me and I think of these in terms of personal impact rather than any notion of greatness. With the exception of the Akerman, Herz and Tarr, I saw these films in my late teens or early twenties and there isn’t anything in this list that was made this century despite my love of several contemporary features. This makes me wonder in my late forties if the power of any film is partly equated with the hunger of formative eyes or if I simply haven’t seen enough recently. Painful omissions aplenty, especially old musicals.