|Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
|Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
|Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
I remember seeing this in the Prince Charles on a day I'd forgotten to eat, and all I remember is getting more and more hungry and trying to ignore it because of how much I loved the film.
Agnès Varda has such an effortless sense of humanity that you can glide through her films only to see a knife sliding into your heart in the closing moments. Vagabond is harder nosed than some of the others but is the one that keeps coming back: beautiful and savage - with sideways camera movements guiding you to a world that is often left out of the cinematic frame.
Someone somewhere managed to release P'Tit Quin Quin in its unbroken three hour entirety in UK cinemas, and I'd love to thank them. It's unlike anything else, not only than Dumont had made previously, but also pretty much anyone...
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
There's probably a link between all the films on this list in that I struggle to believe how good they really are. Each feels like the perfect collision of incredible skill with some chaotic madness to give you the sense they could've only been made at that exact moment, by those exact people. Dr. Strangelove surfs the constant feeling that it might collapse in on itself, like some extravagant high wire act where you feel the film is as much on the edge as its apocalypse threatened world. Hilarious, terrifying and permanently relevant - it’s hard to imagine a time where it won’t be in amongst the greatest films ever made.
There's something about films approaching three hours plus that when they're good they're really good. For me Margaret is pretty much sublime - spinning out from a single chance encounter to a vast, knotty, extremely funny take on the overlap and friction between peoples lives in the aftermath of not only a tragedy but also New York’s own recent history post 9/11.
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Even knowing they were long term friends, it feels like a freak of circumstance that Paul Schrader, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola came together in 1985, post Star Wars, Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver to make Mishima. It’s a film the folds between the fiction and reality of Mishima’s writing and bizarre life story, building a portrait of a flawed and deeply troubled man struggling to come to terms with his place in society, speech impediment and sexuality - all drawn together by Philip Glass’ brilliant score and Schrader's vision.
I was rolling between Ratatouille and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs because I think Phil Lord and Chris Miller are so hugely influential on contemporary cinema but rarely credited. Ratatouille though is just an undeniable masterpiece and feels like the pinnacle of recent animated films. It manages to tell a story so indebted to the history of animation from the Fleischer brothers onwards, whilst also balancing all the modernity of contemporary Pixar storytelling - hitting what feels like a near perfection that’s difficult to imagine anyone not finding some joy in.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
In a sense all of Apichatpong Weestheralkul’s films melt into one another, so it felt pretty magical to hear he’d asked for a retrospective of his work to be screened over the course of one night, encouraging people to drift in and out of sleep as they played. There’s something radically different about the way he treats cinema, that feeds into his cultural heritage and understanding of the world and existence. Sometimes I forget how much I like his films until it’s ten minutes in and you remember how extraordinary it is to drift into and learn from his worlds.
Milos Foreman’s Fireman’s Ball and Richard Linklater’s Slacker both have a similar roving comedic disorder that daisy chains from character to character like Altman’s ensembles. I love them all, and wonder if I’d have ever dreamed about making films had something like Slacker or more recently Tangerine not shown how possible it could be. Nashville was the start for me though, a film that gives you a sense of an entire city and legion of characters sewn together through a narrative in perfect alignment with the paranoia of the era whilst managing to be humorous and humble despite its scope.
Any list of ten feels a little arbitrary and it’s difficult not include so many films that changed the way I see cinema - but The Arbor was the film along with Nashville that made me move away from art and look at storytelling in a different way. The blend between film, theatre and documentary alongside the overarching generational struggle of the Dunbar family, was like nothing I’d seen before. I still think it’s a remarkable achievement and came at a time when so many British films (Sleep Furiously, Hunger, Archipelago, Red Road, Cock and Bull Story) were following on from filmmakers I was just discovering, Derek Jarman, Patrick Keiller and others, to expand what was possible for any young filmmaker thinking about picking up a camera here.
I can only list the films that mean the most to me in no particular order as it feels too easy to get tied up in knots overthinking why something is or isn't meaningful. The ten might change over time or even tomorrow but these are the films that spring to mind as the ones I come back to again and again.
The films I would like to have included aside from any mentioned: Dog Day Afternoon, The Boyfriend, Portrait of Jason, Boy Meets Girl, Elle, Do The Right Thing, Tampopo and Zero De Conduite.