Simple Top Tens

Decades: 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, 1940s, 1930s, 1920s, Pre-1920s

Ten Favorite Films

  1. MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch)
  2. YI YI (Edward Yang)
  3. SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker)
  4. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Orson Welles)
  5. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai)
  6. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton)
  7. A TOUCH OF ZEN (King Hu)
  8. THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy)
  9. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
  10. SUNRISE (F.W. Murnau)

2010s

Best of the Decade

  1. TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (David Lynch)
  2. SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)
  3. CAROL (Todd Haynes)
  4. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
  5. YOURSELF AND YOURS (Hong Sang-soo)
  6. THE DAY HE ARRIVES (Hong Sang-soo)
  7. MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt)
  8. MARGARET (Kenneth Lonergan)
  9. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhangke)
  10. CAMERAPERSON (Kirsten Johnson)

2018

  1. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Orson Welles)
  2. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT (Christopher McQuarrie)
  3. BISBEE ’17 (Robert Greene)
  4. ISLE OF DOGS (Wes Anderson)
  5. SUPPORT THE GIRLS (Andrew Bujalski)
  6. A STAR IS BORN (Bradley Cooper)
  7. THE COMMUTER (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  8. NOTES ON AN APPEARANCE (Ricky D’Ambrose)
  9. SHOOT THE MOON RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES (Graham L. Carter)
  10. FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY (Michael Koresky & Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman)

2017

  1. TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (David Lynch)
  2. FIRST REFORMED (Paul Schrader)
  3. ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE (Hong Sang-soo)
  4. THE DAY AFTER (Hong Sang-soo)
  5. THE WORK (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)
  6. FACES PLACES (Agnès Varda & JR)
  7. PRINCESS CYD (Stephen Cone)
  8. GOOD TIME (Josh & Benny Safdie)
  9. ZAMA (Lucrecia Martel)
  10. UN BEAU SOLEIL INTÉRIEUR (Claire Denis)

2016

  1. SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)
  2. YOURSELF AND YOURS (Hong Sang-soo)
  3. CAMERAPERSON (Kirsten Johnson)
  4. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)
  5. TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade)
  6. THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-wook)
  7. KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (Robert Greene)
  8. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (Mike Mills)
  9. SIERANEVADA (Cristi Puiu)
  10. ELLE (Paul Verhoeven)

2015

  1. CAROL (Todd Haynes)
  2. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhangke)
  3. MISTRESS AMERICA (Noah Baumbach)
  4. BLACKHAT (Michael Mann)
  5. RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (Hong Sang-soo)
  6. MY GOLDEN DAYS (Arnaud Desplechin)
  7. HAPPY HOUR (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  8. ALOHA (Cameron Crowe)
  9. HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY (Stephen Cone)
  10. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller)

2014

  1. PHOENIX (Christian Petzold)
  2. HILL OF FREEDOM (Hong Sang-soo)
  3. BOYHOOD (Richard Linklater)
  4. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
  5. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Wes Anderson)
  6. INHERENT VICE (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  7. L FOR LEISURE (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
  8. THE MEND (John Magary)
  9. NON-STOP (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  10. JOHN WICK (Chad Stahelski and David Leitch)

2013

  1. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
  2. MANAKAMANA (Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
  3. THE GRANDMASTER (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON (Hong Sang-soo)
  5. OUR SUNHI (Hong Sang-soo)
  6. “Let Your Light Shine” (Jodie Mack)
  7. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, Season Four (Mitchell Hurwitz and Troy Miller)
  8. “Brouillard: Passage #14” (Alexandre Larose)
  9. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  10. THE IMMIGRANT (James Gray)

2012

  1. MOONRISE KINGDOM (Wes Anderson)
  2. PASSION (Brian De Palma)
  3. FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
  4. THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT (Dan Sallitt)
  5. TO THE WONDER (Terrence Malick)
  6. IN ANOTHER COUNTRY (Hong Sang-soo)
  7. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  8. IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Don Hertzfeldt)
  9. THE ACT OF KILLING (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  10. LEVIATHAN (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel)

2011

  1. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)
  2. THE DAY HE ARRIVES (Hong Sang-soo)
  3. MARGARET (Kenneth Lonergan)
  4. “List” (Hong Sang-soo)
  5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Brad Bird)
  6. MELANCHOLIA (Lars von Trier)
  7. THE WISE KIDS (Stephen Cone)
  8. UNKNOWN (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  9. PINA (Wim Wenders)
  10. LUCK: “Pilot” (Michael Mann)

2010

  1. MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt)
  2. HAHAHA (Hong Sang-soo)
  3. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (Edgar Wright)
  4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher)
  5. “Lady Blue Shanghai” (David Lynch)
  6. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  7. TRUE GRIT (Joel & Ethan Coen)

2000s

Best of the Decade

  1. MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch)
  2. YI YI (Edward Yang)
  3. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Steven Spielberg)
  5. GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (Tsai Ming-liang)
  6. PLATFORM (Jia Zhangke)
  7. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch)
  8. MIAMI VICE (Michael Mann)
  9. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai)
  10. LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sofia Coppola)

2009

  1. OXHIDE II (Liu Jiayin)
  2. ORPHAN (Jaume Collet-Serra)
  3. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. FANTASTIC MR. FOX (Wes Anderson)
  5. “Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis” (Daïchi Saïto)
  6. SWEETGRASS (Ilisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
  7. “Lost in the Mountains” (Hong Sang-soo)
  8. PUBLIC ENEMIES (Michael Mann)
  9. BLONDES IN THE JUNGLE (Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)

2008

  1. THE HEADLESS WOMAN (Lucrecia Martel)
  2. HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS (Mariano Llinás)
  3. TWO LOVERS (James Gray)
  4. WENDY AND LUCY (Kelly Reichardt)
  5. “Green Fuse” (Daïchi Saïto)
  6. AFTERSCHOOL (Antonio Campos)
  7. BURN AFTER READING (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  8. WALL•E (Andrew Stanton)
  9. THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (Agnès Varda)

2007

  1. DEATH PROOF (Quentin Tarantino)
  2. scenes from THE WIND (Edward Yang)
  3. MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (Cristian Mungiu)
  5. HOT FUZZ (Edgar Wright)
  6. THE DARJEELING LIMITED (Wes Anderson)
  7. PERSEPOLIS (Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud)
  8. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (Russell Mulcahy)

2006

  1. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch)
  2. MIAMI VICE (Michael Mann)
  3. STILL LIFE (Jia Zhangke)
  4. EXILED (Johnnie To)
  5. OLD JOY (Kelly Reichardt)
  6. CHILDREN OF MEN (Alfonso Cuarón)
  7. THE HOST (Bong Joon-ho)

2005

  1. THE NEW WORLD (Terrence Malick)
  2. THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (Cristi Puiu)
  3. OXHIDE (Liu Jiayin)
  4. CACHÉ (Michael Haneke)
  5. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Noah Baumbach)
  6. LADY VENGEANCE (Park Chan-wook)
  7. HOUSE OF WAX (Jaume Collet-Serra)

2004

  1. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai)
  2. BEFORE SUNSET (Richard Linklater)
  3. TROPICAL MALADY (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  4. THE WORLD (Jia Zhangke)
  5. COLLATERAL (Michael Mann)
  6. TRIPLE AGENT (Eric Rohmer)
  7. THE INCREDIBLES (Brad Bird)
  8. HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (Zhang Yimou)
  9. KILL BILL VOL. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)
  10. PRIMER (Shane Carruth)

2003

  1. GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (Tsai Ming-liang)
  2. LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sofia Coppola)
  3. LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (Thom Andersen)
  4. KILL BILL VOL. 1 (Quentin Tarantino)
  5. OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook)
  6. S21: THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE (Rithy Panh)
  7. THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS (Jørgen Leth & Lars von Trier)
  8. THE SCHOOL OF ROCK (Richard Linklater)
  9. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (Joel & Ethan Coen)

2002

  1. FEMME FATALE (Brian De Palma)
  2. HERO (Zhang Yimou)
  3. ON THE OCCASION OF REMEMBERING THE TURNING GATE (Hong Sang-soo)
  4. BLISSFULLY YOURS (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  5. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  6. UNKNOWN PLEASURES (Jia Zhangke)
  7. JACKASS: THE MOVIE (Jeff Tremaine)
  8. RESIDENT EVIL (Paul W.S. Anderson)
  9. SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Park Chan-wook)
  10. FUNNY HA HA (Andrew Bujalski)

2001

  1. MULHOLLAND DR. (David Lynch)
  2. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Steven Spielberg)
  3. MILLENNIUM MAMBO (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  4. SPIRITED AWAY (Hayao Miyazaki)
  5. WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? (Tsai Ming-liang)
  6. LA CIÉNAGA (Lucrecia Martel)
  7. ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (Shunji Iwai)
  8. ALI (Michael Mann)
  9. TROUBLE EVERY DAY (Claire Denis)
  10. THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (Joel & Ethan Coen)

2000

  1. YI YI (Edward Yang)
  2. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-wai)
  3. PLATFORM (Jia Zhangke)
  4. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Ang Lee)
  5. “The Heart of the World” (Guy Maddin)
  6. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (Mark Dindal)
  7. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (Kenneth Lonergan)
  8. HAMLET (Michael Almereyda)
  9. VIRGIN STRIPPED BARE BY HER BACHELORS (Hong Sang-soo)
  10. MISSION TO MARS (Brian De Palma)

1990s

Best of the Decade

  1. A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (Edward Yang)
  2. CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar-wai)
  3. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (David Lynch)
  4. CLOSE-UP (Abbas Kiarostami)
  5. TRUST (Hal Hartley)
  6. HEAT (Michael Mann)
  7. ASHES OF TIME (Wong Kar-wai)
  8. THE HOLE (Tsai Ming-liang)
  9. CURE (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  10. “Outer Space” (Peter Tscherkassky)

1999

  1. “Outer Space” (Peter Tscherkassky)
  2. EYES WIDE SHUT (Stanley Kubrick)
  3. BEAU TRAVAIL (Claire Denis)
  4. COWBOY BEBOP: “Pierrot le Fou” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  5. COWBOY BEBOP: “Speak Like a Child” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  6. THE MISSION (Johnnie To)
  7. THE INSIDER (Michael Mann)
  8. EXISTENZ (David Cronenberg)
  9. THE MATRIX (Lana & Lilly Wachowski)
  10. THE STRAIGHT STORY (David Lynch)

1998

  1. THE HOLE (Tsai Ming-liang)
  2. THE THIN RED LINE (Terrence Malick)
  3. RUSHMORE (Wes Anderson)
  4. COWBOY BEBOP: “Sympathy for the Devil” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  5. FESTEN (Thomas Vinterberg)
  6. SNAKE EYES (Brian De Palma)
  7. COWBOY BEBOP: “Gateway Shuffle” (Shinichiro Watanabe)
  8. DIL SE.. (Mani Ratnam)

1997

  1. CURE (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  2. THE RIVER (Tsai Ming-liang)
  3. LOST HIGHWAY (David Lynch)
  4. HAPPY TOGETHER (Wong Kar-wai)
  5. TASTE OF CHERRY (Abbas Kiarostami)
  6. XIAO WU (Jia Zhangke)

1996

  1. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (Brian De Palma)
  2. BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier)
  3. FARGO (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  4. IRMA VEP (Olivier Assayas)
  5. BOTTLE ROCKET (Wes Anderson)
  6. NENETTE AND BONI (Claire Denis)

1995

  1. HEAT (Michael Mann)
  2. FALLEN ANGELS (Wong Kar-wai)
  3. CLUELESS (Amy Heckerling)
  4. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Clint Eastwood)
  5. BEFORE SUNRISE (Richard Linklater)
  6. “Premonitions Following an Evil Deed” (David Lynch)

1994

  1. CHUNGKING EXPRESS (Wong Kar-wai)
  2. ASHES OF TIME (Wong Kar-wai)
  3. VIVE L’AMOUR (Tsai Ming-liang)
  4. U.S. GO HOME (Claire Denis)
  5. TO LIVE (Zhang Yimou)
  6. COLD WATER (Olivier Assayas)
  7. RIVER OF GRASS (Kelly Reichardt)
  8. THE GLASS SHIELD (Charles Burnett)

1993

  1. “Je vous salue, Sarajevo” (Jean-Luc Godard)
  2. GREEN SNAKE (Tsui Hark)
  3. CARLITO’S WAY (Brian De Palma)
  4. D’EST (Chantal Akerman)
  5. THREE COLORS: BLUE (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  6. JURASSIC PARK (Steven Spielberg)

1992

  1. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (David Lynch)
  2. HARD-BOILED (John Woo)
  3. THE LONG DAY CLOSES (Terence Davies)
  4. UNFORGIVEN (Clint Eastwood)
  5. REBELS OF THE NEON GOD (Tsai Ming-liang)
  6. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (Michael Mann)
  7. RAISING CAIN (Brian De Palma)

1991

  1. A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (Edward Yang)
  2. SURVIVING DESIRE (Hal Hartley)
  3. BARTON FINK (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  4. UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD (Wim Wenders)
  5. “Ambition” (Hal Hartley)
  6. TWIN PEAKS: “Beyond Life and Death” (David Lynch)
  7. RAISE THE RED LANTERN (Zhang Yimou)
  8. THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  9. THEORY OF ACHIEVEMENT (Hal Hartley)
  10. ONLY YESTERDAY (Isao Takahata)

1990

  1. CLOSE-UP (Abbas Kiarostami)
  2. TRUST (Hal Hartley)
  3. DAYS OF BEING WILD (Wong Kar-wai)
  4. TWIN PEAKS: “Lonely Souls” (David Lynch)
  5. WILD AT HEART (David Lynch)
  6. TWIN PEAKS: “Pilot” (David Lynch)
  7. TWIN PEAKS: “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” (David Lynch)
  8. TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (Charles Burnett)
  9. JU DOU (Zhang Yimou)
  10. NO FEAR, NO DIE (Claire Denis)

1980s

Best of the Decade

  1. SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker)
  2. THE TERRORIZERS (Edward Yang)
  3. PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders)
  4. BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott)
  5. TAIPEI STORY (Edward Yang)
  6. STOP MAKING SENSE (Jonathan Demme)
  7. BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)
  8. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (Hayao Miyazaki)
  9. MANHUNTER (Michael Mann)
  10. THAT DAY, ON THE BEACH (Edward Yang)

1989

  1. DO THE RIGHT THING (Spike Lee)
  2. THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH (Hal Hartley)
  3. THE KILLER (John Woo)
  4. CASUALTIES OF WAR (Brian De Palma)
  5. KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (Hayao Miyazaki)
  6. THE SEVENTH CONTINENT (Michael Haneke)
  7. SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE (Steven Soderbergh)

1988

  1. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (Hayao Miyazaki)
  2. “Cat Listening to Music” (Chris Marker)
  3. AKIRA (Katsuhiro Otomo)
  4. AS TEARS GO BY (Wong Kar-wai)
  5. DIE HARD (John McTiernan)

1987

  1. ISHTAR (Elaine May)
  2. DAUGHTER OF THE NILE (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  3. WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders)
  4. ROBOCOP (Paul Verhoeven)
  5. RAISING ARIZONA (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. SIGN “O” THE TIMES (Prince)
  7. A CHINESE GHOST STORY (Ching Siu-tung)

1986

  1. THE TERRORIZERS (Edward Yang)
  2. BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)
  3. MANHUNTER (Michael Mann)
  4. THE GREEN RAY (Eric Rohmer)
  5. SOMETHING WILD (Jonathan Demme)
  6. ALIENS (James Cameron)
  7. A BETTER TOMORROW (John Woo)
  8. THE RISE AND FALL OF A SMALL FILM COMPANY (Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (John Carpenter)

1985

  1. TAIPEI STORY (Edward Yang)
  2. RAN (Akira Kurosawa)
  3. BRAZIL (Terry Gilliam)
  4. AFTER HOURS (Martin Scorsese)
  5. MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (Stephen Frears)
  6. TROUBLE IN MIND (Alan Rudolph)

1984

  1. PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders)
  2. STOP MAKING SENSE (Jonathan Demme)
  3. DUNE (David Lynch)
  4. THE TERMINATOR (James Cameron)
  5. GREMLINS (Joe Dante)
  6. AMERICAN DREAMS (LOST AND FOUND) (James Benning)
  7. REPO MAN (Kon Ichikawa)

1983

  1. SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker)
  2. THAT DAY, ON THE BEACH (Edward Yang)
  3. THE KEEP (Michael Mann)
  4. AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS (Paul Vecchiali)
  5. SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN (Alan Briggs)

1982

  1. BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott)
  2. THE THING (John Carpenter)
  3. “Expectations” (Edward Yang)
  4. KOYAANISQATSI (Godfrey Reggio)
  5. “En rachâchant (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)
  6. IN OUR TIME (Tao Te-chen/Edward Yang/Ko I-chen/Chang Yi)

1981

  1. “Orderly or Disorderly” (Abbas Kiarostami)
  2. POSSESSION (Andrzej Zulawski)
  3. BLOW OUT (Brian De Palma)
  4. THIEF (Michael Mann)
  5. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Steven Spielberg)
  6. THE ROAD WARRIOR (George Miller)

1980

  1. THE SHINING (Stanley Kubrick)
  2. RAGING BULL (Martin Scorsese)
  3. DRESSED TO KILL (Brian De Palma)
  4. THE ELEPHANT MAN (David Lynch)
  5. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Irvin Kershner)
  6. HOME MOVIES (Brian De Palma)

1970s

Best of the Decade

  1. A TOUCH OF ZEN (King Hu)
  2. ERASERHEAD (David Lynch)
  3. OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE (Jacques Rivette)
  4. A NEW LEAF (Elaine May)
  5. THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (Lau Kar-leung)
  6. “(nostalgia)” (Hollis Frampton)
  7. NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
  8. THE DEVILS (Ken Russell)
  9. JAWS (Steven Spielberg)
  10. JEANNE DIELMAN | 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE | 1080 BRUXELLES (Chantal Akerman)

1979

  1. STALKER (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  2. APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Ford Coppola)
  3. LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN (King Hu)
  4. ALIEN (Ridley Scott)

1978

  1. THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (Lau Kar-leung)
  2. DAYS OF HEAVEN (Terrence Malick)
  3. HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter)
  4. REMEMBER MY NAME (Alan Rudolph)

1977

  1. ERASERHEAD (David Lynch)
  2. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Steven Spielberg)
  3. ANNIE HALL (Woody Allen)
  4. STAR WARS (George Lucas)
  5. A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (Chris Marker)

1976

  1. TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese)
  2. INSIANG (Lino Brocka)
  3. CARRIE (Brian De Palma)
  4. MIKEY AND NICKY (Elaine May)
  5. IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (Nagisa Oshima)
  6. THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN (Radley Metzger)

1975

  1. NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
  2. JAWS (Steven Spielberg)
  3. JEANNE DIELMAN | 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE | 1080 BRUXELLES (Chantal Akerman)
  4. THE PASSENGER (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  5. “Associations” (John Smith)
  6. BARRY LYNDON (Stanley Kubrick)

1974

  1. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (Tobe Hooper)
  2. ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  3. PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (Brian De Palma)
  4. CHINATOWN (Roman Polanski)
  5. “Dyketactics” (Barbara Hammer)

1973

  1. F FOR FAKE (Orson Welles)
  2. BADLANDS (Terrence Malick)
  3. THE FATE OF LEE KHAN (King Hu)

1972

  1. THE HEARTBREAK KID (Elaine May)
  2. JUNIOR BONNER (Sam Peckinpah)
  3. LIZA WITH A Z (Bob Fosse)
  4. CABARET (Bob Fosse)

1971

  1. A TOUCH OF ZEN (King Hu)
  2. OUT 1: NOLI ME TANGERE (Jacques Rivette)
  3. A NEW LEAF (Elaine May)
  4. “(nostalgia)” (Hollis Frampton)
  5. THE DEVILS (Ken Russell)
  6. THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Peter Bogdanovich)

1970

  1. ZORNS LEMMA (Hollis Frampton)
  2. EYES DO NOT WANT TO CLOSE AT ALL TIMES, OR PERHAPS ONE DAY ROME WILL PERMIT HERSELF TO CHOOSE IN HER TURN (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)
  3. LE BOUCHER (Claude Chabrol)
  4. THE CONFORMIST (Bernardo Bertolucci)
  5. THE WILD CHILD (François Truffaut)
  6. WANDA (Barbara Loden)
  7. WIND FROM THE EAST (Groupe Dziga Vertov and Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin)
  8. THE MAN WHO LEFT HIS WILL ON FILM (Nagisa Oshima)
  9. THE DEBUT (Gleb Panfilov)
  10. “The Grandmother” (David Lynch)

1960s

Best of the Decade

  1. THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy)
  2. “La jetée” (Chris Marker)
  3. DRAGON INN (King Hu)
  4. THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy)
  5. PIERROT LE FOU (Jean-Luc Godard)
  6. GERTRUD (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  7. PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman)
  8. THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo)
  9. WEEKEND (Jean-Luc Godard)
  10. WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)

1969

  1. MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S (Eric Rohmer)
  2. BOY (Nagisa Oshima)
  3. UNE FEMME DOUCE (Robert Bresson)
  4. DESTROY, SHE SAID (Marguerite Duras)
  5. DOUBLE SUICIDE (Masahiro Shinoda)
  6. BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (Paul Mazursky)
  7. LE GAI SAVOIR (Jean-Luc Godard)
  8. ADALEN 31 (Bo Widerberg)
  9. OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (Richard Attenborough)
  10. THE JOKE (Jaromil Jires)

1968

  1. JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME (Alain Resnais)
  2. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick)
  3. THE IMMORTAL STORY (Orson Welles)
  4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (George A. Romero)
  5. MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea)
  6. THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)
  7. ONE PLUS ONE (Jean-Luc Godard)
  8. L’ENFANCE NUE (Maurice Pialat)
  9. MANDABI (Ousmane Sembène)
  10. THE GREAT SILENCE (Sergio Corbucci)

1967

  1. THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy)
  2. DRAGON INN (King Hu)
  3. WEEKEND (Jean-Luc Godard)
  4. WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
  5. ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (Chang Cheh)
  6. THE RED AND THE WHITE (Miklós Jancsó)
  7. MOUCHETTE (Robert Bresson)
  8. 2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER (Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. PORTRAIT OF JASON (Shirley Clarke)
  10. FAR FROM VIETNAM (Jean-Luc Godard & Joris Ivens & William Klein & Claude Lelouch & Chris Marker & Alain Resnais & Agnès Varda)

1966

  1. PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman)
  2. THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo)
  3. THE TAKING OF POWER BY LOUIS XIV (Roberto Rossellini)
  4. AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (Robert Bresson)
  5. BLACK GIRL (Ousmane Sembène)
  6. COME DRINK WITH ME (King Hu)
  7. THE NUN (Jacques Rivette)
  8. THE WAR IS OVER (Alain Resnais)
  9. BLOWUP (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  10. THE ROUND-UP (Miklós Jancsó)

1965

  1. PIERROT LE FOU (Jean-Luc Godard)
  2. THE WAR GAME (Peter Watkins)
  3. SIMON OF THE DESERT (Luis Buñuel)
  4. TOKYO OLYMPIAD (Kon Ichikawa)
  5. RED BEARD (Akira Kurosawa)
  6. THE KOUMIKO MYSTERY (Chris Marker)
  7. SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS (Sergei Parajanov)
  8. ALPHAVILLE (Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. NOT RECONCILED (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet)
  10. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (Orson Welles)

1964

  1. THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy)
  2. GERTRUD (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  3. WOMAN IN THE DUNES (Hiroshi Teshigahara)
  4. MARNIE (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. CHARULATA (Satyajit Ray)
  6. THE BRIG (Jonas Mekas)
  7. NOTHING BUT A MAN (Michael Roemer)
  8. RED DESERT (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  9. I AM CUBA (Mikhail Kalatozov)
  10. DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (Stanley Kubrick)

1963

  1. “The House Is Black” (Forough Farrokhzad)
  2. MURIEL, OR THE TIME OF RETURN (Alain Resnais)
  3. THE SERVANT (Joseph Losey)
  4. LE JOLI MAI (Chris Marker)
  5. PASAZERKA (Andrzej Munk)
  6. LES CARABINIERS (Jean-Luc Godard)
  7. THE BIG CITY (Satyajit Ray)
  8. “The New World” (Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. CONTEMPT (Jean-Luc Godard)
  10. “Mothlight” (Stan Brakhage)

1962

  1. “La jetée” (Chris Marker)
  2. LOLITA (Stanley Kubrick)
  3. AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (Yasujiro Ozu)
  4. VIVRE SA VIE (Jean-Luc Godard)
  5. JULES ET JIM (François Truffaut)
  6. THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (Luis Buñuel)
  7. HARAKIRI (Masaki Kobayashi)
  8. THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC (Robert Bresson)
  9. IL MARE (Giuseppe Patroni Griffi)
  10. L’ECLISSE (Michelangelo Antonioni)

1961

  1. LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (Alain Resnais)
  2. A WOMAN IS A WOMAN (Jean-Luc Godard)
  3. LA NOTTE (Michelangelo Antonioni)

1960

  1. BREATHLESS (Jean-Luc Godard)
  2. L’AVVENTURA (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  3. NIGHT AND FOG IN JAPAN (Nagisa Oshima)
  4. THE BELLBOY (Jerry Lewis)
  5. LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini)
  6. THE BAD SLEEP WELL (Akira Kurosawa)
  7. SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (François Truffaut)
  8. LE PETIT SOLDAT (Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH (Nagisa Oshima)

1950s

Best of the Decade

  1. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton)
  2. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
  3. “Duck Amuck” (Chuck Jones)
  4. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
  6. REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
  7. A STAR IS BORN (George Cukor)
  8. RIO BRAVO (Howard Hawks)
  9. SANSHO THE BAILIFF (Kenji Mizoguchi)
  10. “Night and Fog” (Alain Resnais)

1959

  1. RIO BRAVO (Howard Hawks)
  2. THE 400 BLOWS (François Truffaut)
  3. THE WORLD OF APU (Satyajit Ray)
  4. HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (Alain Resnais)
  5. “Window Water Baby Moving” (Stan Brakhage)
  6. UNE SIMPLE HISTOIRE (Marcel Hanoun)

1958

  1. VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. TOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles)
  3. ENJO (Kon Ichikawa)

1957

  1. SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (Alexander Mackendrick)
  2. THRONE OF BLOOD (Akira Kurosawa)
  3. PATHS OF GLORY (Stanley Kubrick)
  4. “What’s Opera, Doc?” (Chuck Jones)
  5. “Ali Baba Bunny” (Chuck Jones)

1956

  1. “Night and Fog” (Alain Resnais)
  2. THE WRONG MAN (Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. A MAN ESCAPED (Robert Bresson)
  4. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. THE BURMESE HARP (Kon Ichikawa)
  6. THE SEARCHERS (John Ford)

1955

  1. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton)
  2. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Nicholas Ray)
  3. LOLA MONTÈS (Max Ophuls)
  4. THE LONG GRAY LINE (John Ford)
  5. MOONFLEET (Fritz Lang)
  6. MR. ARKADIN (Orson Welles)
  7. ARTISTS AND MODELS (Frank Tashlin)
  8. KISS ME DEADLY (Robert Aldrich)
  9. PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)
  10. ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: “Revenge” (Alfred Hitchcock)

1954

  1. SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
  2. REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. A STAR IS BORN (George Cukor)
  4. SANSHO THE BAILIFF (Kenji Mizoguchi)
  5. JOURNEY TO ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
  6. GODZILLA (Ishiro Honda)
  7. THE CRUCIFIED LOVERS (Kenji Mizoguchi)
  8. MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (Douglas Sirk)

1953

  1. “Duck Amuck” (Chuck Jones)
  2. TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
  3. THE SAGA OF ANATAHAN (Josef von Sternberg)
  4. UGETSU (Kenji Mizoguchi)
  5. THE BIG HEAT (Fritz Lang)
  6. “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century” (Chuck Jones)
  7. THE LADY WITHOUT CAMELIAS (Michelangelo Antonioni)
  8. “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!” (Chuck Jones)

1952

  1. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly)
  2. THE LUSTY MEN (Nicholas Ray)
  3. “Rabbit Seasoning” (Chuck Jones)
  4. “Feed the Kitty” (Chuck Jones)
  5. “Operation: Rabbit” (Chuck Jones)

1951

  1. AWAARA (Raj Kapoor)
  2. THE TALL TARGET (Anthony Mann)
  3. OTHELLO (Orson Welles)
  4. “Rabbit Fire” (Chuck Jones)

1950

  1. SUNSET BLVD. (Billy Wilder)
  2. LA RONDE (Max Ophuls)
  3. “Rabbit of Seville” (Chuck Jones)
  4. ALL ABOUT EVE (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
  5. RASHOMON (Akira Kurosawa)
  6. LOS OLVIDADOS (Luis Buñuel)

1940s

Best of the Decade

  1. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Orson Welles)
  2. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)
  3. LATE SPRING (Yasujiro Ozu)
  4. NOTORIOUS (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. THE BIG SLEEP (Howard Hawks)
  6. BRIEF ENCOUNTER (David Lean)
  7. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Vincente Minnelli)
  8. OUT OF THE PAST (Jacques Tourneur)
  9. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra)
  10. DAISY KENYON (Otto Preminger)

1949

  1. LATE SPRING (Yasujiro Ozu)
  2. THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed)

1948

  1. ROPE (Alfred Hitchcock)

1947

  1. OUT OF THE PAST (Jacques Tourneur)
  2. DAISY KENYON (Otto Preminger)

1946

  1. NOTORIOUS (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. THE BIG SLEEP (Howard Hawks)
  3. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (Frank Capra)
  4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Jean Cocteau)

1945

  1. BRIEF ENCOUNTER (David Lean)
  2. DETOUR (Edgar G. Ulmer)
  3. MILDRED PIERCE (Michael Curtiz)

1944

  1. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Vincente Minnelli)
  2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Billy Wilder)
  3. LAURA (Otto Preminger)

1943

  1. “Meshes of the Afternoon” (Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid)
  2. THE GANG’S ALL HERE (Busby Berkeley)
  3. HEAVEN CAN WAIT (Ernst Lubitsch)
  4. SHADOW OF A DOUBT (Alfred Hitchcock)

1942

  1. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Orson Welles)
  2. CAT PEOPLE (Jacques Tourneur)
  3. CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz)

1941

  1. CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)

1940

  1. REBECCA (Alfred Hitchcock)

1930s

Best of the Decade

  1. ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (Howard Hawks)
  2. M (Fritz Lang)
  3. THE RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)
  4. HOLIDAY (George Cukor)
  5. SABOTAGE (Alfred Hitchcock)
  6. TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch)
  7. THE LADY VANISHES (Alfred Hitchcock)
  8. THE 39 STEPS (Alfred Hitchcock)
  9. THE GODDESS (Wu Yonggang)
  10. CITY LIGHTS (Charles Chaplin)

1939

  1. ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (Howard Hawks)
  2. THE RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)
  3. THE WIZARD OF OZ (Victor Fleming)

1938

  1. HOLIDAY (George Cukor)
  2. THE LADY VANISHES (Alfred Hitchcock)

1937

  1. A STAR IS BORN (William A. Wellman)

1936

  1. SABOTAGE (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. THE CRIME OF MONSIEUR LANGE (Jean Renoir)

1935

  1. THE 39 STEPS (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. TONI (Jean Renoir)

1934

  1. THE GODDESS (Wu Yonggang)
  2. L’ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)

1933

  1. DESIGN FOR LIVING (Ernst Lubitsch)

1932

  1. TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch)

1931

  1. M (Fritz Lang)
  2. CITY LIGHTS (Charles Chaplin)
  3. TABU (F.W. Murnau)
  4. FRANKENSTEIN (James Whale)
  5. DISHONORED (Josef von Sternberg)
  6. MARIUS (Alexander Korda)

1930

  1. MOROCCO (Josef von Sternberg)

1920s

  1. SUNRISE (F.W. Murnau)
  2. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  3. NAPOLÉON (Abel Gance)
  4. SEVEN CHANCES (Buster Keaton)
  5. SPIONE (Fritz Lang)
  6. SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
  7. NOSFERATU (F.W. Murnau)
  8. APPLAUSE (Rouben Mamoulian)
  9. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (Raoul Walsh)
  10. STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (Charles Reisner and Buster Keaton)

1929

  1. APPLAUSE (Rouben Mamoulian)
  2. “Un Chien Andalou” (Luis Buñuel)

1928

  1. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  2. SPIONE (Fritz Lang)
  3. STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (Charles Reisner and Buster Keaton)
  4. THE WEDDING MARCH (Erich von Stroheim)
  5. “Record 957” (Germaine Dulac)
  6. SHOW PEOPLE (King Vidor)

1927

  1. SUNRISE (F.W. Murnau)
  2. NAPOLÉON (Abel Gance)
  3. THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN (Germaine Dulac)

1925

  1. SEVEN CHANCES (Buster Keaton)
  2. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein)
  3. THE MERRY WIDOW (Erich von Stroheim)

1924

  1. SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
  2. THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (Raoul Walsh)
  3. HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (Victor Sjöström)

1922

  1. NOSFERATU (F.W. Murnau)
  2. NANOOK OF THE NORTH (Robert J. Flaherty)

Pre-1920s

  1. LES VAMPIRES (Louis Feuillade)
  2. “A Trip to the Moon” (Georges Méliès)
  3. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith)

1915

  1. LES VAMPIRES (Louis Feuillade)
  2. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith)

1902

  1. “A Trip to the Moon” (Georges Méliès)

The Gang’s All Here

Written for The Solute’s Forgotbusters series, edited by Sam Scott.

The name “Busby Berkeley” is practically synonymous with the extravagant Hollywood musicals of the Depression era. For about fifteen years, Berkeley was the king of the musical, serving as the choreographer and sometimes director of lavish song-and-dance films, as his geometric, intricate dances often served as the highlights of the somewhat standard backstage dramas that typified the Hollywood musical of that time. Indeed, it was not until the rise of the Freed Unit, with its own iconic musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon, that the musical numbers became more integrated into the narrative instead of being largely confined to the stage.

Berkeley is perhaps best known today for the famous films he choreographed for other directors at Warner Bros., such as 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Footlight Parade. These films were all made in 1933, and slowly Berkeley’s brand of extravagance became less popular, as he even made forays into straight drama. Thus, the late-career masterpiece that is The Gang’s All Here is even more unexpected.

The Gang’s All Here was made in 1943, in the middle of World War II, and it stands out for a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, it was the first color film that Berkeley had directed or even worked extensively on, and stunningly he shows no sign of tentativeness, lavishly and liberally using the fantastical Technicolor to render the both the songs and the narrative sequences in strong hues that add a vital amount of character to the images. Secondly, he was the sole director of the film, and while this may not have altered too much, it gives The Gang’s All Here a more cohesive approach than something like 42nd Street (the only other Berkeley movie I have seen); the aesthetic approach is very similar in most of the scenes and there is an abundance of performances that occur even during the narrative sections.

The plot of The Gang’s All Here is relatively straightforward, relying more on the character interactions than any sense of drama or urgency. The film begins in the Club New Yorker, known for its lavish and wild shows featuring Phil Baker (Phil Baker) and Dorita (Carmen Miranda), as it introduces the de facto protagonist Andy Mason (James Ellison), an Army sergeant about to leave for the Pacific Front. He sees and then meets Eadie Allen (Alice Faye), a new dancer at the Club, and they quickly fall in love. He leaves the next day, and is allowed to return home after receiving a medal. Upon receiving this news, Andrew Mason Sr., his father (Eugene Pallette) decides to throw a party when his son returns/ And, after a series of deliberations, he invites the performers at the Club New Yorker and the Benny Goodman Orchestra (as themselves) to stay at his and his colleague’s homes while they rehearse for a new show and frames the party as a war bond rally. From here, the film splits into a surprisingly complex number of sub-plots, the most relevant being the Andy’s desire to marry Eadie even though he is betrothed to Potter’s daughter Vivian, but by the film’s closing party, as everyone is reconciled. It is a pleasurable story, to be sure, and some parts become truly emotional (especially Eadie’s loneliness at Andy’s absence), but it is by and large an excuse for the musical sequences that grow more and more strange, culminating in perhaps the most profoundly odd 5 minutes I have ever seen in any film. Shall we begin?

The very first shot is a marvel, beginning with a shadowed figure singing “Aquarela do Brasil” (yes, the song from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil). The camera zooms in, and then moves down an inexplicably abstract pattern of lines before settling on a boat from Brazil carrying both passengers and cargo. The camera pans up an improbably large bundle of fruit and back down to reveal Dorida, who begins singing as the camera moves over to Phil Baker, then through the proscenium to reveal the entirety of the audience. And that’s all just in the first shot.

To describe the extent of the ingenuity of The Gang’s All Here, or to just describe each musical number in an acceptable amount of detail, would take several articles. Berkeley’s approach here is less in line with the strict theatricality of something like 42nd Street, where an explicit narrative is being told, and more in terms of a free-associativity, where the performance is embraced for the performance’s sake. From an utterly inexplicable number featuring a long line of chorus girls wielding giant bananas to a simple performance on the Staten Island ferry by Eadie to Andy (that features the fourth-wall breaking exchange, “Hear the orchestra?” “Where’s it coming from?”), to the second-to-last number, featuring heretofore unseen young children dancing in polka-dot dresses, scenes that would normally be incredibly disruptive and extraneous in an ordinary film are the most important, as Berkeley constructs a celebration of creativity and art that is never less than a joy to watch.

But the most surprising aspect of The Gang’s All Here is the ending, which quite literally comes out of nowhere. After a brief segment of the performers with lighted, floating hoops while wearing what look like space suits the film literalizes the kaleidoscopic effect that Berkeley had received acclaim for, turning the dance into completely abstract images, before the faces of all the principal players zoom out of the screen and the heads of the entire cast sings in unison. It is an eerie, almost scary effect, one that would shock almost any viewer.

How then, can such a profoundly weird film be forgotten? Most likely, The Gang’s All Here was probably dismissed as “just another” Hollywood musical, and it likely is about as famous as any other famous-at-the-time film from that era. But Berkeley’s accomplishment speaks for itself; he once said that his main goal was to top himself, and here, at the end of his heyday, he made a musical film that shares more qualities with the avant-garde than anything else, even the musicals which he had done so much to popularize.

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party

Going to resume posting reviews I’m especially proud of, starting with this most personal of films.

The first clue to the brilliance of this film is in the title: Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. Rather than being a simple character study, it is a vibrant, free-wheeling ensemble piece, often abandoning the ostensible main character for entire sequences and placing him in the background for some scenes in which he does appear in. By adopting this structure, Cone crafts an incisive, heartbreaking, yet hopeful cross-section of a specific part of America: a Southern Christian family and their friends, both religious and not, and with widely varying sets of beliefs and sexualities. It feels both extremely focused and unexpectedly universal; especially to me, it felt like one of the most personal films I have ever seen, for reasons I won’t go into in this review.

Even from a technical point of view, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party is wonderfully made, with particular attention to the various points of view that switch from scene to scene. Chiu’s cinematography is natural but subtly striking, capturing the vibrant party well as it gets later and later, and comes to the fore during some beautiful underwater shots that almost seem otherworldly in their serene nature. Cone’s editing ensures that the flow of faces and ideas never gets dull or shortchanged, helped by the use of both electronic, driving modern music and a strangely ethereal score.

But Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party soars on the perfect combination of its ensemble cast and its screenplay. As a whole, the cast naturalistically inhabits all of these characters so well, making each and every one of the twenty people on screen stand out from each other and interacting with exactly the right amount of chemistry that would be right for that specific grouping. It is hard to choose any standouts, as the ensemble forms such a cohesive unit, though perhaps Doman (who shoulders the responsibility of the main character with poise), Neilan (who plays my favorite character in the film with no small amount of ease), and Laidlaw (who gives perhaps the most demanding performance, delivering a difficult revelatory monologue in devastating fashion) deserve just slightly more credit.

Cone’s screenplay is built on a sense of the moment-to-moment; it is cohesive in both its character developments and its view of these broken but strong figures, but much of the joy of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party is in seeing the interactions that occur, the little discrete scenes that pop up within each chunk of the film that offer a change in the viewer’s perspective on each person. From an unexpected crying fit, to a misguided remark, to a simple affirmation of one’s sexuality, the little things manage to make the viewer understand that these characters are, by virtue of their status as humans, unable to be cozily categorized into preconceptions. They are complex, deeply seated in their beliefs yet able to be changed in the course of a single day. But perhaps the most important change of all happens to Henry. In one day, the same shot changes meaning profoundly, and he, on his birthday, becomes more open, more thoughtful, in the way that I sense this film wants the world to be. Where else can you see Gregg Araki’s Kaboom and a Christian book in the same set of presents?

“Formative” Films/Timeline

Prompted by the occasion of Kiarostami’s passing, an attempt to chronicle some measure of the development of my cinephilia. An even more stream-of-consciousness post than usual.

(tentative list)

Formative Films: Blade Runner, The Battle of Algiers, Close-Up, Eraserhead, Sans soleil, Jeanne Dielman, Yi Yi

It must be said that, especially before the first wave or phase of my cinephilia, I retain random, often off-color memories from bad movies that I happened to watch; hopefully these will fade eventually. Perhaps inevitably, most of my favorites are in here, though important films/probable former first-place favorites to me, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future, are not.

Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin: at least for the foreseeable future, I think this is the first film memory I have. The timeline fits: it was released the year I was born, obviously is a children’s movie, and conceivably I could have seen it when I was only a few years old; I still remember the “skull” and the shadow of Christopher Robin (no clue on what was the first film I saw in theaters though, might go back and try to figure it out)

First Wave of Cinephilia (summer of 2013?) 2001: A Space Odyssey, City Lights, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, Raging Bull, Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Deer Hunter(?): some mixed reactions from this time; e.g. distinctly remember being awed by 2001, though not to the extent I am now, while my mother and sister fell asleep, and was somewhat underwhelmed by most of the latter half; kind of happy that this wave ended quickly, wasn’t nearly invested enough to truly engage with the films. From these films, Blade Runner was probably formative; remained my favorite film for an extended time and I truly was in awe of the soulful spectacle.

Autumn Semester Break Weekend 2015 (January 29-February 2) Breathless, Chinatown, La jetée, Badlands, 8 1/2, Night and Fog, The 400 Blows, Seven Samurai, Singin’ in the Rain, Casablanca, Sunrise, Tokyo Story: pretty sure that this is the weekend that restarted my cinephilia; must credit They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They for making me aware of people like Tarkovsky (and, memorably, Salo), but I don’t think it really clicked in a sense deeper than a film like Apocalypse Now until that weekend; mostly on an emotional level then but I still remember certain moments, like the marsh tracking shot and the city zoom in Sunrise, that struck me on a technical level even then.

The Battle of Algiers, Close-Up (first half of 2015, June 25): if I can call any two films formative before I started Letterboxd, it would be these two (maybe discounting 400, Sunrise, Tokyo Story). It helps that I saw these at relatively isolated points, and though I remember seeing various films like Vivre sa vie, La dolce vita, and L’avventura distinctly on their own, these two were the ones that  especially stood out, Battle for how boldly political it was (especially at a time when I was staunchly conservative) and Close-Up for its heartbreaking celebration of cinephilia; I was aware of the various techniques of both but they swept me up with such gusto, such awe.

Eraserhead (midnight June 6, 2015): this is my B.C./A.D. The visceral impact, the technical perfection, the pure nightmarish quality shook me to my core. I saw Mad Max: Fury Road later that day and was underwhelmed because of how profoundly affected I was at the time.

Sans soleil: if Close-Up is the must-see film for cinephiles, then Sans soleil is the must-see film for any living person; I remember I started to watch it but was interrupted 15 minutes in by my dad, who wanted to watch Kingsman (we both hated it); I restarted the next day and was destroyed and rebuilt.

Days of Heaven: don’t know why I chose to restart my Letterboxd (which had lain dormant with only one diary entry for Moonrise Kingdom, I think on April 18?) with this, but perhaps the move to Georgia emboldened me to usher in a new stage; last film I saw before was Grave of the Fireflies on the plane.

Jeanne Dielman/Persona: a bit unsure on these but I think these two, especially Jeanne Dielman, inform my sensibilities to a strong extent; both two immensely formal and daring works that shocked me to no end.

Yi Yi: I could put just the camera move on Ting-Ting when she’s taking out the trash on this list and it would suffice, it was such a revelatory use of simple but pure camera movement to convey  a sense of humanism, of emotion that put me in a true state of awe. The crosscutting between the first date and the reminisces was similarly revelatory, but everything felt so alive yet so precise; just so .

Queen of Earth: I remember being surprised that, in a day of seeing (and meeting!) Wenders and Melville that this film by a director I had heard little about was the best I saw. I wouldn’t necessarily  stand by this statement now, but I’m fairly certain that this was the first truly  independent film, and was an important step for me to rely slightly less on the canon.