Saturday, November 27, 2004


Thanks to Darren, I recently discovered YMDB (Your Movie Database), where you can make up your own top 20 favorite movies list for others to view and comment on. Catnip for a list-maniac like me.

As befits this parlor game, I'd just like to say that my intention is not to offer some canonical "greatest" list, but simply a collection of 20 films that I personally feel closest to. Whether they are well-known or obscure, I can only vouch for the fact that they are all personal, possibly eccentric but nevertheless passionately felt choices.

Okay, so here goes:

  • AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (Robert Bresson, 1967, France)
  • THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy, 1966, France)
  • RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir, 1939, France)
  • VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, USA)
  • ORDET (Carl-Theodor Dreyer, 1955, Denmark)
  • RIO BRAVO (Howard Hawks, 1959, USA)
  • BELLE DE JOUR (Luis Buñuel, 1967, France)
  • PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray, 1955, India)
  • BLUE VELVET (David Lynch, 1986, USA)
  • DEKALOG (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987, Poland)
  • PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman, 1966, Sweden)
  • THE MIRROR (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975, Russia)
  • TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932, USA)
  • CONTEMPT (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963, France)
  • VOYAGE TO ITALY (Roberto Rossellini, 1953, Italy)
  • THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS (R.W. Fassbinder, 1972, Germany)
  • LE SAMOURAI (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967, France)
  • THE PUPPETMASTER (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1993, Taiwan)
  • BEAU TRAVAIL (Claire Denis, 1999, France)
  • DOGVILLE (Lars von Trier, 2003, Denmark)

Not shockingly, I discovered that my list finds several points of contact with those of Doug and Darren. I find this reassuring and flattering because frankly I'm awed by their taste.

A brief word on the upper slopes.

Jacques Demy's The Young Girls of Rochefort is a deliciously bittersweet billet doux to fleeting love and eternal art. It is an ageless and unimaginably beautiful film.

And as for Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, it is a searing, divine work--a convulsive parable of existence, comprised of an entire spectrum of tones from brutal to tender. If the sublime ending of this movie leaves you unmoved, all I can do is borrow from jazz writer Richard Cook: "Tear up your organ donor card--they can't transplant hearts of stone."