Paul Whitington

Film critic, Irish Independent

Ireland

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

400 Blows, The

1959

François Truffaut

Avventura, L'

1960

Michelangelo Antonioni

Citizen Kane

1941

Orson Welles

General, The

1926

Buster Keaton

Pather Panchali

1955

Satyajit Ray

Règle du jeu, La

1939

Jean Renoir

Seven Samurai

1954

Akira Kurosawa

Seventh Seal, The

1957

Ingmar Bergman

Tokyo Story

1953

Ozu Yasujirô

White Ribbon, The

2009

Michael Haneke

Comments

To me, Renoir’s La Règle du jeu remains unsurpassed in terms of its marriage of comedy, pathos, the director’s sublime visual sensibility and its complex overarching theme. Sixty-odd years after the release of Citizen Kane, Welles’ debut feature looks as fresh and vital as ever. With the help of movie veterans like Greg Toland, Welles broke rules he didn’t even know existed and vastly expanded the language of cinema. Akira Kurosawa’s majestic account of a village that hires a motley crew of samurai to defend it from bandit raids is so fluent and visually powerful that the subtitles become incidental. Orson Welles described The General as “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made”, and he wasn’t wrong. The vision, clarity and economy with which Keaton tells his story are remarkable. Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story has appeared on your top ten lists before and deservedly so. His film memorably depicts the growing pains of postwar Japan, and the mutual incomprehension of two elderly rural parents and their go-ahead, westernised children. Packed with unforgettable scenes and images, Ingmar Bergman’s utterly unique 1957 film examined his complex attitudes to religion and morality, but what surprises me most rewatching it is how funny it is. My favourite Truffaut film and my favourite coming-of-age movie, Les Quatre cent coups is comparable to James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in its insightful depiction of the awakening of an artistic sensibility. Made for half-nothing, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali is among the most seamless and graceful movies ever made, the best of the Apu Trilogy and a stunning achievement. Antonioni’s L’Avventura has the kind of plotline that gives arthouse cinema a bad name, but somehow a lacklustre search for a young woman who’s gone missing on a small volcanic island becomes an existential investigation of the human condition. Every time you watch it, you notice something new. My only vaguely controversial choice is Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. I wanted to include something worthy that was made after 1970! And while I’ve found some of his films hugely problematic, I think Haneke is extremely gifted when he gets it right, and The White Ribbon is a beautifully constructed masterpiece. In it he uses a seemingly idyllic German village on the eve of the First World War to investigate the origins not just of fascism but of the profound human impulse towards violence and terrorism, and the endless battle between civilisation and nihilism.

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