Alexei Popogrebsky

How I Ended This Summer

Russia

Voted in the directors’ poll

Voted for

400 Blows, The

1959

François Truffaut

1963

Federico Fellini

A nos Amours

1983

Maurice Pialat

Barry Lyndon

1975

Stanley Kubrick

Cranes are Flying, The

1957

Mikhail Kalatozov

Fireworks

1997

Kitano Takeshi

Mirror

1974

Andrei Tarkovsky

My Friend Ivan Lapshin

1986

Aleksey German

Spirited Away

2001

Miyazaki Hayao

Tale of Tales, A

1979

Yuri Norstein

Comments

It's very difficult to choose the ‘greatest films of all time’ are. What are the criteria? I suspect that by trying to be objective in drawing up a list of ‘greatest’ films, I would end up nominating films I don't necessarily like. So instead I’ve tried to be as subjective as possible and list the ‘greatest films in my life’ – films that at one time or another had the greatest impact on me and my view of cinema, and even life in general. They are more or less in their order of appearance in my life.

I watched 8½ when I was 7½. It just blew me away. What a fascinating thing the adult world is: whip-wielding men in cool hats, wrapped in bed linen, chasing fancy-dressed women. For a long time thereafter I firmly believed that if I understood everything in a film, it wasn’t ‘art’.

The Cranes Are Flying was the first time I became aware of the impact of cinematography. I must have been around 13 when I first watched Mirror. This time I realised that there are films that are not even meant to be 'understood'. It’s the poetry of cinema in its purest form, on a very delicate verge of being pretentious – which makes its genius even more striking.

I first saw Tale of Tales by accident on Soviet TV, where the TV guide described it as a ‘children's cartoon’. From the very first second I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t dreaming. What Mirror stands for in live action, Tale of Tales represents in animation.

It wasn’t quite by accident that I saw My Friend Ivan Lapshin in 1986: I remember parents talking about "German’s film to be shown on TV". Still, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer lyrical physicality – an impossible combination of super-realistic and seemingly spontaneous naturalism with the amazing precision of the direction.

After first seeing The 400 Blows I fell in love with effortless simplicity. It was only later that I saw Vigo's films and Barnet's Outskirts, which had achieved a similar effect a few decades earlier.

I remember not wanting to see Barry Lyndon, although I’d been familiar with Kubrick's films for quite some time. I just never liked costume films and literary adaptations, and I still don't; and I despised offscreen narration. But this is truly exceptional in all respects. I wonder how many times I watched it trying to figure out what exactly fascinates me about it. Everything, I guess.

Hana-bi is a fascinating combination of poetry, beauty and violence – and simplicity. For years, I kept wanting to watch it again, but didn’t for fear that the amazing magic wouldn’t happen again.

And it’s the same with A nos amours. Sandrine Bonnaire's character in the film is one of the most poignant mysteries in cinema for me. For years I’ve kept remembering and pondering the film, but not revisited it.

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