The banner image above is from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most simply described, Tarr’s linda rosing big brother sex—adapted from a much esteemed, if still untranslated, novel by László Krasznahorkai—is a bleakly comic allegory of social disintegration on the muddy puszta.
Set on an entropic collective farm during the last years of Hungarian Communism, it’s a mordant, characteristically Eastern European tale of hapless peasants and charismatic swindlers. Selected by Zhao Liang, Jonathan Romney, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Ronald Bergan, Ying Liang. Chris Marker’s masterpiece is one of the key nonfiction films of our time—a personal philosophical essay that concentrates mainly on contemporary Tokyo but also includes footage shot in Iceland, Guinea-Bissau, and San Francisco. Selected by Andrew Kotting, Götz Spielmann, Margaret Brown, Eulàlia Iglesias Huix, Massimo Causo.
Antonioni creates a film that questions the politics of its protagonist and, at the same time, challenges the way we watch movies. In many ways, this is the best film ever made about movies, because Antonioni recognizes the fragile nature of celluloid and the need to preserve great images. Selected by Quim Casas, Charles Burnett, Corneliu Porumboiu, John Carpenter, Eugène Green. Selected by Andrew Kotting, Gerald Peary, Leonardo García Tsao, Lisandro Alonso, Michael Atkinson. A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow—whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick. In its enormous spareness, Akerman’s film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world.
Selected by Amy Taubin, Berenice Reynaud, Dennis Lim, Lalitha Gopalan, Laura Mulvey. Jaws is a lively, chaotic swirl of contradictions, prodigious talent, and formal mastery. It’s a thriller that played a role in the entire restructuring of Hollywood’s methods of selling its films to the public. Jaws was the sure-to-be calamity that became one of the most beloved and quoted films of all time The surprise is how good it was and still is. The film is a strange mixture of the über-controlled and the wild and wooly.
Selected by James Mangold, Ben Stiller, M. Night Shyamalan, Bobby Farrelly, Jeff Nichols. The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s indelible take on both the horror genre and the popular fiction of Stephen King, is both a radical distillation of its source novel’s densely stuffed ghosts-and-gore imagery as well as a conflation of its hidden central theme of the true-life horrors of domestic abuse. Selected by Ben Wheatley, Ti West, Gregg Araki, Jonathan Romney, Juan Antonio Bayona.
Mizoguchi’s packed compositions express the harrowing pull of the narrative line—and the residual humanity that tugs against it. Selected by Armond White, Carlos Reygadas, Dave Kehr, Charles Barr, Gilberto Perez. Originally planned to run around ten hours but hacked to just over two by Thalberg’s MGM, von Stroheim’s greatest film still survives as a true masterpiece of cinema. Selected by Guillermo Del Toro, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Simon Louvish, Carol J. Not just a defining work of the French New Wave but one of the great, lasting mysteries of modern art, Alain Resnais’ epochal Last Year at Marienbad has been puzzling appreciative viewers for decades.
Selected by Esteve Riambau, Patrick Tam, Ronald Bergan, Marc Forster, Kent Jones. A great film, rich in thought and feeling, composed in rhythms that vary from the elegiac to the spontaneous. This 1962 western flaunts its artificiality, both in its use of studio interiors and in the casting of an aging James Stewart as a young, idealistic lawyer who comes to the frontier. This stately yet uncommonly gripping 1956 feature is my choice as the greatest achievement of Robert Bresson, one of the cinema’s foremost artists. The best of all prison-escape movies, it reconstructs the very notion of freedom through offscreen sounds and defines salvation in terms of painstakingly patient and meticulous effort.
Selected by Jean-Marie Straub, Jia Zhangke, Hong Sang-soo, Carlos Reygadas, Kevin Jackson. Internationally revered Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has created some of the most inventive and transcendent cinema of the past thirty years, and Close-up is his most radical, brilliant work. Selected by Chris Darke, Dennis Lim, Jean-Michel Frodon, Lizzie Francke, Agnès Devictor. Spacious, shrewdly detailed and conceived with compassion and wit, it unfurls at an unhurried walking pace, spreading itself across a very American urban landscape. Nashville is the home of the Grand Old Opry, the epicentre of American country music where musicians, producers, promoters and good ol’ boys are getting pressured by a political wheeler-dealer into supporting an independent new presidential candidate.
Would that we all could build such masterful bridges. More than 40 years old, François Truffaut’s whirling dervish remains an ageless beauty. The film appears to us as like a specter, with a sensibility about cinematic language and sexual relations rarely seen today. A better title for this benchmark of the French New Wave might have been Breathless—an apt descriptor for the film’s lyrical visual flair and whirlpool of emotions.