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Member Lists

Essential Cinema
List creator: JGerow
Created on: September 9, 2004 - 8:02 AM PDT
Description: Some essential films on DVD, with a bit of help from Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1,000-best list

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Sunrise (1927)
  The pinnacle of the art of silent film in Hollywood is a simple love story made universal through Murnau's dazzling expressionist camera style. He imported the best of UFA to the Fox studios for this masterpiece, and influenced Ford and Borzage.
Touch of Evil (1958)
Not Rated
  This will have to substitute for The Magnificent Ambersons. Orson Welles's larger-than-life performance as Hank Quinlan is matched by his bravura mise-en-scene which never quits, and a remarkable cast of off-the-wall characters.
Rear Window (Special Edition) (1954)
  With so many Hitchcock films to choose from, this one says the most about the nature of film-watching. Runners-up are Psycho, Vertigo, Notorious, Rope, and North by Northwest.
Ordet (Criterion Collection) (1955)
  Hard to choose from among Dreyer's masterpieces, but the emotional force of Ordet's ending has stayed with me over many decades. No director had a greater eye for reducing a scene to its visual essentials and making it resonate with meaning.
A Man Escaped (Criterion) (1956)
  My favorite Bresson film currently available, it obliquely tells the story of a French soldier's escape from a Nazi prison. As in Au Hasard Balthazar, Bresson uses classical music sparingly to maximum effect.
Early Summer (Criterion Collection) (1951)
  Completing Paul Schrader's trio of transcendental stylists, Yasujiro Ozu was the master of family dynamics. Tokyo Story is considered to be his greatest film, but this simple drama about an arranged marriage exemplifies Ozu's late themes and style.
The Rules of the Game (Criterion Collection) (1939)
  Everyone has his reasons. Jean Renoir's masterpiece is a tragicomic dissection of the dying aristocracy on the eve of World War II, and what happens when its rules are broken.
L'Atalante (1934)
Not Rated
  Jean Vigo's only feature film is a poetic masterpiece depicting marriage as a voyage down a long river. Michel Simon gives an indelible performance as the meddling barge captain. We can only wonder what Vigo would have accomplished had he lived longer.
L'Avventura (Criterion Collection) (1960)
Not Rated
  I would rate L'Eclisse as Antonioni's greatest film, but L'Avventura began his trilogy of upper-class alienation, personified by Monica Vitti. Landscape and architecture reflect and comment on the characters' personal crises.
The Leopard (Criterion Collection) (1963)
  The newly-restored, definitive Italian version of Visconti's masterpiece is a unique historical epic which is finally getting its critical due.
M (Criterion Collection) (1931)
  Fritz Lang's first talkie bridges his silent classics (Dr. Mabuse, Metropolis) and his Hollywood work (Fury, The Big Heat). Lang virtually invented film noir with this study of police and criminals both pursuing Peter Lorre's pathetic child murderer.
The Searchers (1956)
  John Ford's Western is an epic meditation on personal obsession, racism, loss and redemption, featuring John Wayne's best performance.
The Scarlet Empress (Criterion Collection) (1934)
Not Rated
  My favorite Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich collaboration takes his style to its ultimate extreme. Dietrich's Catherine the Great is surrounded by the most lavish sets and lovingly framed by veils, statues and candles in a campy visual tour de force.
Trouble in Paradise (Criterion Collection) (1932)
Not Rated
  Ernst Lubitsch's delightful pre-Code romantic comedy is a textbook example of the "Lubitsch touch," which uses closed doors, reaction shots and other devices to convey what's happening offscreen and evade the censors.
Lola Montes (Criterion) (1955)
Not Rated
  Max Ophuls' Letter from an Unknown Woman and Madame de... belong on this list, but his last film is a swirling spectacle showcasing Ophuls' mastery of camera movement as destiny.
City Lights (Chaplin Collection) (1931)
  Chaplin defied the talkies with perhaps his finest performance, redeeming the story's sentimentality with his comic timing and sheer conviction.
Playtime (Criterion Collection) (1967)
Not Rated
  Jacques Tati turned modern Paris into a stage for his brilliantly-choreographed comic set pieces, climaxing in a hilariously chaotic sequence in a restaurant. (Currently unavailable)
Belle De Jour (Criterion) (1967)
  Luis Bunuel's L'Age d'Or and Los Olvidados belong on this list. However, this sardonic surrealist film with Catherine Deneuve as a masochistic housewife turned prostitute inaugurated the final phase of Bunuel's great career.

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