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.
- 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)
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."