Tim Lucas

Film critic; publisher, editor,Video Watchdog video review magazine

US

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Au Hasard Balthazar

1966

Robert Bresson

Barry Lyndon

1975

Stanley Kubrick

Devils, The

1971

Ken Russell

eclisse, L'

1962

Michelangelo Antonioni

enfants du paradis, Les

1945

Marcel Carné

Fanny and Alexander

1984

Ingmar Bergman

Man on Wire

2007

James Marsh

Most Important Thing: Love, The

1974

Andrzej Zulawski

Once Upon a Time in the West

1968

Sergio Leone

Three Colours: Red

1994

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Comments

I’ve set myself a couple of rules: no short films, only one title per director. There should be no numbers in such rarified air, but I have organised the titles into an approximate if slippery order of preference. I find the complete omission of silent and animated films tragic, but as I’ve often thought, it’s people’s top 11-20 choices that often yield the most interesting pictures. That said, I believe I’ve succeeded in squeezing more interesting titles closer to the top than in previous years. I was very late in catching up with this L’Eclisse, but the decades-long delay did nothing to make its comments on relationships in a post-war, suburban and artificial landscape any the less pertinent. This is the only film I know that understands exactly how much to withhold – of its characters and its story – to make its overall construct ring true. Its uninhabited, cubist finale is the greatest of all time. Les enfants du paradis is the only film I know that has all the nutrition of a great novel, the kind you can’t bear to end; its abrupt ending, which washes the world it has constructed away, leaves one in complete awe of its powers of invention. I first saw Once Upon a Time in the West film at the age of 12; I went to see the Elvis Presley movie Charro! that was playing with it. I wasn’t a fan of the genre, so I didn’t recognise that Leone’s film was a pastiche of dozens of other Westerns, but I feel I lost something of my virginity to it, and when I staggered out of the theater without seeing Charro! because I knew it couldn’t possibly compare to what I’d just seen, I made what I now recognise as my first adult decision. I would prefer to list the whole Three Colours Trilogy as a whole, but limited to one, I find Three Colours: Red more certain of itself, less enigmatic, and thus more moving than The Double Life of Veronique. Not only is it the greatest platonic love story I’ve seen, it acknowledges a side of life I’ve always known and, before this film, felt alone in knowing. The most passionate and articulate of political films, The Devils is intellectual and feverish, absolutely inspired in its design, appropriately terrifying, and yes, outrageous – because it is outraged. This may be the cinema’s most damning indictment of humankind, and it is refreshed every time someone fails to see beyond the shame it depicts to its spine of dignity. Having lived in different people’s homes as a youngster, and having been subjected to their whims, cruelties and almost random kindnesses, I often sought refuge in the unconditional love of animals, all of which makes Au Hasard Balthazar the most compassionate of films and the unusually cathartic for me. There is almost too much magnificence in Bergman to consider, and there are titles I know better and perhaps love harder, but Fanny and Alexander film gives us his most generous assembly of unforgettable characters, and its aspects of magic and melodrama now find it knocking Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast off my list as the greater fairytale. Wry, patient, beautifully and meticulously observed, Barry Lyndon is the screen’s most convincing and picturesque evocation of an earlier time, and the slyness of its expression opens a whole new wing of subtlety. Beyond all that, it nails the human race. Much as in the case of my choosing Fanny and Alexander over Beauty and the Beast, Andrzej Zulawski’s The Most Important Thing: Love has done the once unthinkable by bumping Godard’s Contempt off my top ten. Both films are about the movies, the pinch of business against the purer yearnings of the spirit, and what is unknowable in the dynamics between people, and they also share a similar Georges Delerue score, but what I find most captivating – despite Romy Schneider’s heartrending performance and Jacques Dutronc’s jokerly tragedian – is its depiction of courtly love in a harsh and brutal world. Man on Wire, James Marsh’s documentary about Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, is a breathtaking testament to the achievements that are within reach of the daydreaming mind every day. Now that the towers themselves no longer exist, the film’s importance quantifies as Petit’s glorious (because of its essentially meaninglessness) feat assumes a greater surrealistic, colossally abstract dimension, as we ponder what survives today of his death-defying lark.

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