Thank you for the invitation to write a top ten list for your new electronic film journal. Movie lists are tricky things, but very seductive indeed. One can spend days poring over them in a state of Proustian reverie.
To the continuing dismay of my stepfather, I am someone who has “wasted” his life on the cinema. We are cinephiles to our dying breath. It is that simple. The reasons why we are entranced by the dancing light and shadows of the medium are complex ones, but we can not deny our nature.
Unlike André Breton, I have not passed my “cinema age.” True I don’t wake up these days, as I used to in the sixties and seventies, to encounter another fresh wave of movies to enjoy – but, this does not mean, that the cinema is dead. Far from it.
One of the more recent well – thumbed books in my library is the aptly silver covered Projections 4½ (Faber, London, 1995). I can’t get enough of it – that Blakean delight in swimming in the labyrinthine intersections of autobiography and cinema that animates the book.
So for my list of movies that matter to me. I can’t do a list of all-time favourites. It is too torturous, so unfair and next to impossible to do so. As they say what follows is just a list concocted for today. It would radically change for every day there is in the year and for every hour, etc. Movie list making is a great parlour game, worthy of the Surrealists, but it is open to so many different things.
The movies listed are not in any order of preference, and the ocean of cinema, matters for us as our lives unfold not only for the usual factors (director, writer, performer, cinematographer, composer, etc) but for a gesture, a face, a moment, a shot, a scene, a piece of dialogue. Fugutive pieces of celluloid that make up that larger ribbon of time we call life.
1. Luis Bunuel. El. ( 1952)
2. Orson Welles. Touch of Evil (1958)
3. Robert Bresson. Mouchette ( 1967)
4. Jean Renoir. A Day in the Country (1936)
5. Alfred Hitchcock . Vertigo ( 1958)
6. Carl Dreyer. Ordet ( 1954)
7. F.W.Murnau. Sunrise (1928)
8. Jean Vigo. L’Atalante (1934)
9. Jacques Tourneur. Out of the Past (1947)
10. John Ford. My Darling Clementine. (1946)
But Bill, what about a film from someone like Godard, Avery, Antonioni, Marker, Mizoguchi, Rossellini, Lang, Keaton, Lewis, Ulmer, Preminger, Hawks, Brakhage, Bergman, Kurosawa, Deren, Ophüls, Rivette, Fuller, Mann, Sirk, De Toth, Siegel, Polanski, Truffaut, Wilder, Cassavetes, Peckinpah, Straub/Huillet, Scorcese, Lubitsch, Von Sternberg, Tati ?
The list goes on….
John’s top ten list also is reprinted in the Top Tens section, with other people’s lists.