Veronica Fitzpatrick


Voted for

Notorious1946Alfred Hitchcock
In the Mood for Love2000Wong Kar Wai
The Passion of Joan of Arc1927Carl Th. Dreyer
Black Girl1965Ousmane Sembène
Black Narcissus1947Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
All My Life1966Bruce Baillie
La Grande Illusion1937Jean Renoir
Heat1995Michael Mann
Johnny Guitar1954Nicholas Ray
Bram Stoker's Dracula1992Francis Ford Coppola



1946 USA

Memorable for the low-eyed chemistry between Bergman and Grant but perhaps less credited for the fugitive lyricism of its ellipses and superimpositions, NOTORIOUS lends literal exigence to the notion of a “taut” thriller. In this film about codes that itself celebrates what film art as code can convey, there simply is no slack.

In the Mood for Love

2000 Hong Kong, France

The most romantically potent moment ever committed to screen is Tony Leung Chiu-wai’s jaw moving imperceptibly against the cup of his fingers against an unseen cavity in a wall at Angkor Wat. The severity of his hair’s part, the starch of his collar, the intrusive sunlight, the crumbling facades; the miracle of recording a thing that can’t be pictured, let alone heard.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

1927 France

PASSION is a cinematic fairy tale, out of time. I first watched it in a college course on Middle Ages history. Learned about the print being lost then discovered in the closet of a Norwegian mental hospital (whose director was also a historian). Re-encountered with the addition of Richard Einhorn’s transcendent 1994 score. Writing about the close-up, Bela Balázs defined microphysiognomy as “the face beneath the play of expressions”; Maria Falconetti’s performance contains both the play of expressions—the timeless naturalism of incremental micromovements—and “the face,” that which conscious emotional expressivity fails to mask. There’s a staggering purity to it that feels like the blueprint for every meaningful close-up to follow.

Black Girl

1965 Senegal, France

bell hooks wrote, “Even in the worst circumstances of domination, the ability to manipulate one’s gaze in the face of structures of domination that would contain it, opens up the possibility of agency.” Sembène’s debut feature conjugates Diouana’s gaze to communicate (or really, to confirm) what its intended audience already knows: the violence of racist colonialism is as supple as it is destructive. In voiceover, BLACK GIRL tenders her subjectivity—including the desire for mobility that undergirds and complicates diasporic experience—so that agency foreclosed within the film may be galvanized beyond it.

Black Narcissus

1947 United Kingdom

BLACK NARCISSUS is the ultimate tight wire act between control and surrender. On one side, there’s the question of fidelity to Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel, and the choice to build and shoot the Himalayas at Pinewood Studios, the meticulousness of which seems to leave nothing to chance—yet the collaboration between Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, and shared erstwhile amant Michael Powell (who called the atmospheric film his most erotic, “in every frame and image, from the beginning to the end”) indicates a work whose composure is designed to be unsettled.

All My Life


Shot in 16mm in Mendocino, California, inspired by “the quality of light for three summer days," ALL MY LIFE is Canyon Cinema founder Bruce Baillie’s patient three-minute pan to the left along a flowering fence. At the end, the camera shifts up and away, into the sky. The result is a lyric poem, extemporaneous yet measured. Character without characters. A sensation of time and temperature. Blue and red. Light and movement. The durational, transporting experience of film pared back to show the bone.

La Grande Illusion

1937 France

In the unforgettable last minute of a 1970 interview, Dick Cavett asks Orson Welles what two films he’d load “onto the ark” for eternal preservation. He stammers, a little lost, then answers, “Grande Illusion, Renoir…” “Yeah?” Cavett prompts. “And, uh…uh. Something else!” Compared to Renoir’s beloved POW melodrama, other films do feel demoted to the level of “something else.” The combination of autobiography and political insight and poetic realism, the way negotiations of space (cells, borders, liberation as seen through a window frame) articulate freedom versus confinement—an antiwar film about friendship, GRANDE ILLUSION is the less biting counterpart to RÈGLE DU JEU, equally critical yet wholly earnest.


1995 USA

With the collision of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, HEAT pits two giants against each other and lets them fall in love. Stylistically, its penetrative blue palette and sinuous pacing belies its designation as a thriller or “crime film.” HEAT is unreasonably grand, Shakespearean in its unspooling of fraying ambition and too-late revelations and damnatory revenge.

Johnny Guitar

1954 USA

For all JOHNNY GUITAR's baroque, hallucinatory excess, to see la maestra Joan Crawford, 30 years and three marriages into her career, "Queen of the Movies" turned "Box Office Poison," confess to Sterling Hayden's Johnny that she's searched for him in every man she's met, is to encounter something elemental not only to this film (or to "film," writ large) but to life itself.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

1992 USA

Historically, Coppola splits the vote between the GODFATHER entries, THE CONVERSATION, and APOCALYPSE NOW, so here’s a dark horse: DRACULA is lurid, sensational, ahistorical, gratuitous, and the only film on my list to really exemplify the cardinal horniness of cinema. Everything is in it, from Eiko Ishioka’s costumes to Oldman’s crossing “oceans of time,” is calibrated toward beauty and disturbance. It’ll move you if you let it.

Further remarks

Looking over my list, I see films I’ve loved since I was 16: some lucky rentals or recommendations, many encountered through prisms of theory, criticism, and academic scrutiny; like worry stones, they’ve absorbed and been transformed (personalized, improved, made indispensable) by habitual return. The through lines here reflect a taste for suspense, excess, and melodrama—for spectacular sensation, but also for restraint and obliquity, for desires contoured by longing versus fulfillment. “Greatness” here is therefore a measure of subjective indelibility and mutual contact. Again and again, as a spectator and writer, I reach for these moments. They reach back.