A top ten

Like most people I like a list. But I am filled with uncertainty, dread or fear of failure or something I can’t quite name, whenever someone eagerly asks me what are your top ten favourite films of all time – as if my being able to quickly reel off favourites in crisp sound bites goes any distance to explaining who I am or the worth of my choices or whether I really know anything about anything and can prove it, with a list. Perhaps it’s a Facebook generation thing. Perhaps I am a relic.

Many blogs about film seem to me to be list happy. I want this blog to be different, but feel myself succumbing to the need to come out – to classify, categorise and label what I like.

Nevertheless the process of compiling a list is interesting; hence this new post.

Of course I already have a list of films I love. It’s just that it’s about fifty films deep and fifty films wide. Sometimes it’s even bigger. I add to it from time to time. Sometimes I move films around, reconsider and subtract. I have a list for ‘classic films’ and ‘foreign films’, one for ‘American indie films’ and one for ‘Australian films’. A list of ‘great 70s films’ and a list of ‘great 90s films.’ It seems to me that one list can’t really cover it all. But there are a couple of films that sit pretty close to being ‘all-time favourites’ and this never changes. I know it never will. These films will always be on my list, whatever it’s called.

So here’s my attempt at ‘a top ten list’ – a list of new, old, American, foreign, etc, a short list culled from all my other lists. I hesitate to call it ‘the top ten’ or ‘my top ten greatest most amazing films of all time’ or to give it some other conclusive stamp, to tie a bow around it and just send it on its way and forget about it. I understand that this list is an organic thing, that it may look different in October 2012 than it does now in March. I hope it does. I think this is inevitable when you watch a lot of films.

The list I have put together is in no particular order except for the film currently designated #1 which is the film I tell people is my favourite film of all time if they ask. I have almost zero uncertainty about this. It is simply one of the most exquisite films I have ever seen from one of my absolutely most-loved directors. I could include half a dozen of his films here but then it would be a list of my favourite films directed by him (see, one list really doesn’t suffice).

So, here goes. I am not suggesting these are the best or greatest films of all time (although a couple have appeared on such lists compiled by more knowledgeable people than me). These are my favourite choices today, at this moment, of films that I have collided with in some significant way; films that moved me, entertained me, and surprised me. Most of them have done this over and over again, their impact no less on second, tenth or fifteenth viewings. They are under my skin and that’s why they are on the list. Longer posts on some of these films are on their way in the coming months, however, I’ve been unable to restrain from explaining myself in the case of #1.

1. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)

Lush, nostalgic, gorgeous. And that’s just the soundtrack. This film, set in 1962 from Hong Kong cinema’s most romantic auteur, Wong Kar-wai, stars the beautiful actors Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as Chow Mo-wan and Su Li-zhen, neighbours in an apartment building where they are renting rooms. Their spouses are never around; they later discover they are involved with each other. Saturated in the sumptuous colours of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography, they dance around each other – Cheung in a stunning series of cheongsams, Leung smouldering like a modern day Clark Gable – through interior corridors and down narrow streets to the noodle stand they both frequent, and eventually fall in love. The nature of that love (what it is and what they do) and the film’s overall atmosphere and mood (time and space and how we move through both are key themes) remains restrained and ambiguous throughout which only adds to its beauty, mystique and emotional impact. It is transfixing, dreamy, melancholy and divine in every way and I love it.

2. City Lights (1931, Charlie Chaplin)

3. Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson)

4. Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen)

5. The Age of Innocence (1993, Martin Scorsese)

6. Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)

7. Cabaret (1972, Bob Fosse)

8. Heat (1995, Michael Mann)

9. Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder)

10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)

Honourable mentions and because a list of ten favourites really is simply impossible: The 400 Blows (1959, Francois Truffaut), Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese), The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola), The Godfather: Part 2 (1974, Francis Ford Coppola), Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott), Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch), Au revoir les enfants (1987, Louis Malle), All that Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk), Far From Heaven (2002, Todd Haynes), Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson), L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, Elia Kazan), Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino), Night on Earth (1991, Jim Jarmusch), Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-wai), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, Woody Allen), Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanly Donen and Gene Kelly), The Misfits (1961, John Huston), A Place in the Sun (1951, George Stevens), Last Tango in Paris (1972, Bernardo Bertolucci), A Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavetes), The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder), Network (1976, Sidney Lumet), Hunger (2008, Steve McQueen), Pretty in Pink (1986, Howard Deutch), Three Colours: Red (1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski), Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze), Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959, Alain Resnais), Hable con Ella/Talk to Her (2002, Pedro Almodovar), All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz), On the Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan), Edward Scissorhands (1990, Tim Burton), Happy Together (1997, Wong Kar-wai), Fargo (1996, Joel and Ethan Coen), Before Sunrise (1995, Richard Linklater), My Own Private Idaho (1991, Gus Van Sant).

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