Duane Hopkins

Better Things; Love Me or Leave Me Alone

UK

Voted in the directors’ poll

Voted for

Au Hasard Balthazar

1966

Robert Bresson

Barry Lyndon

1975

Stanley Kubrick

Christine

1937

Julien Duvivier

Floating Weeds

1959

Ozu Yasujirô

humanité, L'

1999

Bruno Dumont

Lovers on the Bridge, The

1991

Leos Carax

My Way Home

1978

Bill Douglas

New World, The

2005

Terrence Malick

Once Upon a Time in the West

1968

Sergio Leone

Raging Bull

1980

Martin Scorsese

Comments

Au hasard, Balthazar: The creation of a new cinematographic language. New rules. A new film grammar. A new way of approaching story and creating the emotional ‘content’ of a film. One of the few to aggressively demand that film as an artform find its own language and use what was unique to it: editing. Not to mention, of course, the always-spoken-of precision and economy. Bresson was a huge evolutionary step.

Christine: Hard to chose between this and Elephant. Both are film as high art, a combination of narrative and aesthetic that shows what film can be when not confined to a straightforward interpretation of drama. I have yet to see cinema stripped to its bare essentials so effectively, or to see the country where I live captured in a way that seems to relate so succinctly to my memory.

The New World: This felt like a complete expression of the elliptical editing and storytelling style that Malick had been slowly building to and continues to innovate upon. Film as reverie. His ability to condense time and space and add meaning within the edits – between the pictures themselves – feels unparalleled. The last 10 minutes is one of the most beautifully realised examples of film editing ever.

Floating Weeds: Ozu’s films can hurt in the most beautiful way. As a friend of mine said when describing a film, “it will haunt my heart in a way I shall forever be grateful for”. I feel the same about many of Ozu’s works – the joy, the sadness, the everyday. Ozu was also one of the strongest image-makers ever in cinema. His expression of composition was highly individual: always simple, humble, beautifully balanced and yet highly complex frames that could create abstractions within the everyday. The purity of his camera is constant, always static and from a set height; his ‘direct address’ style when filming conversations felt like a lightening bolt when I first saw it. His mode of expression was unique and fully realised.

Barry Lyndon: A kind of perfect film – a fully realised universe, like walking through a living, breathing museum. The scale of achievements within the cinematography alone will never be equalled. Baroque, elegant, and yet somehow still raw, it is film as dreamscape, every individual component subjugated to the expression of the whole. Kubrick seems interested in everything in ways other filmmakers seem not to be. The rigour behind this film and his wish to strive for perfection, for something not yet seen, is unbelievable. The interaction of image and music is perfect. The wordless seduction of Lady Lyndon by Barry set to Schubert is one of the most sublime sequences in film: the play of glances at the card table (noticed by her companion), Lady Lyndon’s slow walk outside, Barry’s approach glimpsed through the window, the slow tracking shot as he approaches her, the turn, the gaze, the first kiss. Incredible.

Raging Bull: A film with an incredible engine. Constant new visual ideas. Powerful and poetic, violent and tender. When I first saw the mixture of camera speeds, movement, rhythms, dialogue, colour, text, all falling over one another in a breathless rush of ideas, I was speechless. This, combined with the feeling of naturalism and non-naturalism, all beautifully and concisely made sense of within the editing… I knew I had never seen or felt anything like it.

Once Upon a Time in the West: People always talk about Bresson when discussing the idea of ‘sequencing’ but for me Leone is just as important if in a much more self-conscious, bravura manner. He can extend moments between characters endlessly and create atmospheres in completely inimitable, beguiling ways. Epic and spectacular but always with emotional content, he could create awe-inspiring sequences with little more than gazes. Pure cinema.

My Way Home: The final part of Bill Douglas’s Trilogy, which to my mind counts as one whole film that took six years to make. When I first saw these, I re-watched them immediately. The intensity floored me. Deeply honest and without a hint of sentimentality, Douglas sets about mining his past to create a monument of personal cinema. A towering artistic achievement. An uncompromised vision. I was amazed I hadn’t seen or heard of them before. I could not understand why these had not been celebrated proudly as homegrown classics of personal cinema. The rigour and poetics of the editing matches Bresson at his most complex. The aesthetic and thematic equal of anything being made in the world at the same time, and they are ours.

Les amants du Pont Neuf: Leos Carax has a completely singular take on visual and narrative cinematic grammar. He can make anything work. A magician. He appears fearless and excited by what cinema can be, as opposed to what the industry tells him it is. A real artist in a way that shows how pedestrian and unambitious the majority of film works are. He is a true original.

Humanity: Like taking the elements that Bresson laid down and stretching them almost to breaking point. The gaze of his camera is always penetrating and powerful and yet retains a very humane neutrality. The creation of indelible atmospheres that are at once recognisable and yet strange. An exercise in how the cumulative effect of cinema works.

And if I had an eleventh… Import/Export (Ulrich Siedl): None of the fake distinctions between documentary and fiction, just pure filmmaking. I admire hugely his technique and approach. The New Europe in the New Style, all seen through the eyes of one of the most uncompromising artists working today. A filmmaker who refuses to be involved in any of the fake distinctions between fiction and documentary and through his work shows us what film can aspire to be as a tool of expression and representation.

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