05 septembre 2007

25 Best Non-English language films

In response to Edward Copeland's Choosing the best non-English language films, I present my ballot (my top 25 out of the nominated films):

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
Flat out the most romantic movie of all time, Umbrellas bursts forth at the seams with exuberant color and all the freshness of youthful visions of the world. The final scene's saudade is eviscerating not because it's tragic, but because it isn't. An unrivalled emotional experience.
2. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)
An intimate epic of resistance that details the codes by which people live under occupation. The opening shot is as powerful and artful as openers get - Nazis marching, triumphantly, in front of the Arc de Triomphe. An epilogue that turns the story of a few individuals into the story of a nation. Tragic, brutal, and human.
3. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
The mastery of this film is beyond my capacity for speech.
4. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
5. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
What really thrills about Battle of Algiers after all of these years is not that you feel in the midst of events; that's been done too much since to feel freshly radical. Battle's amplified intensity comes from being in the midst of events. It's not spectatorship but intimacy here; Pontecorvo's camera gives up showing in favor of participation. This goes for both sides of the fight - we're as intimate with the general giving a press conference as we are with the young woman cutting her hair to slip past security checkpoints. This is radical, because filmmakers mostly align themselves with the watchers. Pontecorvo, instead, implicates us in both sides of the conflict.
6. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
After seeing this for the first time, I turned to the person sitting next to me and said "If it was playing again right now, I would definitely stay."
7. Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)
The opening shots of mummified human remains, as my friend said to me afterwards, is like the secret of vampire lore unlocked. "We all die, and these are the stories human beings tell ourselves to help us make sense of the fact that we die." There's nothing left but for me to agree.
8. Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
The perfect comic exploration of the "man vs. nature" archetype, where nature is the artificial world that man has created.
9. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
10. Rashômon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
11. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
12. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Though it occassionally teeters on the verge of cloying, it consistently comes out on the right side by virtue a real emotional intimacy with wounded characters who need a bit of a push to have the courage to pursue their happiness.
13. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
Mein Gott! That opening sequence! Rivalled only by the apocalyptic insanity of Kinski as Aguirre.
14. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
15. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Not the film people think it is, but a much better one: a sweet mini-romance.
16. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
A medieval morality play both set in and a product of a world in dire need of such stories. A tale of sacrifice and the resurgence of life, of mankind's possibility for goodness in a world run amok with evil. Simple and sublime.
17. Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
A few clues for latecomers: The Madison. The Louvre, quickly. Anna Karina.
18. The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
19. The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
20. Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939)
A film that builds and builds and builds and builds... until the final edit, a moment of sublime, impossible loss - and beauty.
21. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2001)
Like every time I ever fell in love, only so much more beautiful (if just as tragic).
22. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
Lang's balloons floating in the air and shots of empty stairwells are a masterclass in suspense and the horror of the viewer's imagination. M turns "In the Hall of the Mountain King" into the every parent's worst nightmare.
23. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
24. Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
25. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)


and the 25 best that didn't make the nominees list (in rough order of my preference)*:
An Actor's Revenge (Kon Ichikawa, 1963)
Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
Tesis (Alejandro Amenábar, 1996)
The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache, 1973)
The Hunt (Carlos Saura, 1966)
In Vanda's Room (Pedro Costa, 2000)
Pepi Luci Bom y otras chicas del montón (Pedro Almodóvar, 1980)
L'Âge D'Or (Luis Buñuel, 1930)
Queimada (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969)
Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle, 1958)
A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Elio Petri, 1970)
When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)
Sauvage Innocence (Philippe Garrel, 2001)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2000)
The Closet (Francis Veber, 2001)
Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)
The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
I Am Cuba (Mikheil Kalatozishvili, 1964)
Two Women (Vittorio de Sica, 1960)
Even Dwarves Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970)
Sicilia! (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1999)
Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem, 1998)
Mouchette (Robert Bresson, 1967)
Tuvalu (Veit Helmer, 1999)

* I'm not including La Jetée because it's technically not a feature.

To say nothing of Pather Panchali, Flowers of Shanghai, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Viridiana, Vacas, Charulata, Sholay, The Kingdom, and LOADS of films I've forgotten or haven't yet seen.

Update: Results!

7 commentaires:

................................................................... a dit…

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" plays tonight at the Tel Aviv cinematheque, and it feels great to know it was very early sold-out. They screened "Lola" few days ago and people fell in love in the dark.
great choice, from all the right reasons. :)

Philosophe_rouge a dit…

Some excellent choices, I love Cherbourg, although I like Peau D'Ane a little better. I really need to see more Demy. I actually need to see many films on your list... I'll work on that.

dave a dit…

I'm actually not that high on Donkey Skin, but it does have its charms. I also need to see more Demy, for sure.

Philosophe_rouge a dit…

I must admit thathat a lot of my love for Donkey Skin is nostalgic, they play it all the time during the holidays around here.

the art of memory a dit…

very fine list, you are a good poet.
no dreyer though?
i have a real sonofagun of a list i am trying to finish, take a look mid-week.
it is funny, with many film books, i sort of half read the text, and find myself spending more time in the back, looking at the lists of films (like rosenbaum and sitney)

dave a dit…

Thanks for the kind words.

Only 2 Dreyer films were finalists, and I have seen neither (Day of Wrath and Ordet). I love The Passion of Joan of Arc, but alas, it is silent and wasn't eligible.

I read very few books about films (as opposed to about film), but I too am drawn to lists -- mainly as a subset of the list 'Films I Would Like to See.'

the art of memory a dit…

both those dreyers are amazing, esp. ordet.
his best for me.
borges said something about schools no longer teaching literature, but the history of literature (or something like that), which i took to mean that there was not an interest in looking at the actual work, but to look at the history of talking about the work, or how it unfolded as a whole. i guess this is why so many film books don't interest me, because you spend more time reading about adorno and heidegger, and the work takes a backseat.
but, i can see both sides being important.
anyway, i put my list up, take a look.
but i don't get into them "fern" movies, just "merkan".