The Blue Vial is my attempt to keep an online journal of the films I watch, and to revisit the films I love (or have otherwise strong opinions of). In the interest of fairness to any potential readers, I would like to share what currently stands as my top 25 all time films.
Film lists are tricky things. They can serve as documentation for some, forever solidifying any given film into its rightful numerical place in the heart of its author. I've known some people to spend five minutes drawing up a list of their favorite films and spend years referencing it in any relevant conversation. "You haven't seen The Last Picture Show? Why that is my seventh favorite film of all time..." etc.
My list would in fact be the very opposite of that. A litmus test if you will. Fluid. It is often changing, re-arranging and very much has an "out with the old in with the new" type mentality. That is not to say that I simply cast aside my love for any of these films in favor of a newfound treasure or that I operate under any kind of "Flavor of the Month" modus operandi.
Rather, the world of film is simply that rich and voluminous. Just when you think you have it all figured out (if you are in fact that arrogant), a Jacques Rivette movie will fall into your lap and completely change the way you view the potential of cinema. You will watch something by Chris Marker and question the nature of films themselves...are they simply fabricated memories? Your brain and imagination will be stretched a thousand different ways by a thousand different filmmakers, all with something just a little bit different (or in some cases MUCH different) to offer.
And so needless to say, the following 25 films are of monumental importance to me. They either had a profound effect on me cerebrally or emotionally to the extent that I've no choice but to include them on this list. However none of these, save the top 2 or 3 (and even those are subject to change) are set in stone. This is simply a starter guide to the type of material you should expect to see me discuss on this blog. So with all of that said:
Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch, 2001)
The absolute pinnacle of Lynch's wonderfully bizarre career, both creatively and aesthetically. Never has a film intrigued and arrested me on virtually every human level possible quite like this one. Lynch's masterpiece is all at once a murder mystery, an identity crisis, a scathing indictment of Tinsletown and a surrealistic nightmare. Or maybe it's none of those. The Club Silencio sequence is the most hypnotizing and gut wrenching I've perhaps ever seen in my life. An absolutely perfect film.
Celine & Julie Go Boating (dir. Jacques Rivette, 1974)
If there were ever a movie that Mulholland Drive owed a debt of gratitude, it's Jacque Rivette's mesmerizing 1974 adventure/ghost story/fairy tale hybrid Celine & Julie Go Boating. With a running time of over three hours and an intentionally irrelevant narrative structure, it may seem like a daunting task. However those with the wherewithal to make it through the occasionally meandering and confounding first half will, in the second, be treated to some of the most magical and wondrous images and ideas that have been captured by a filmmaker. Equal parts Alice in Wonderland and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, you will have a smile for hours on end after you experience Rivette's mystical construction.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (dir. Luis Bunuel, 1972)
Bunuel's surrealistic skewering of the French upper class follows six charachters who are constantly trying to sit down and enjoy a meal, but for one reason or another can never quite get the food on the table or that bite in their mouths. Bunuel's direction is as masterful as ever as he deftly balances playful vibes and haunting moods in equal measure. There is an incredible fluidity to the "story" and the patchwork of tricks and tones on display here keep the film amazingly fresh. I could watch this repeatedly and never tire of it. Bunuel's masterpiece.
Playtime (dir. Jacques Tati, 1967)
A staggering achievement of set and sound design. Visually, the most diabolically complex and meticulous yet satisfying movie I've ever seen. Make sure to view it on as large a screen as possible, as each frame is overstuffed with sight and sound gags. One of those films you could watch a thousand times and pick out something new every viewing. It truly blows my mind the amount of effort that had to have went into making something like this a reality.
Days of Heaven (dir. Terrence Malick, 1978)
The most gorgeous film ever shot. Simple as that. You could take any single shot from Days of Heaven, frame it, and hang it in a gallery. Your mouth will drop time after time watching this at the sheer poetic beauty of the images presented. Malick is a legendary filmmaker and each of his movies are materpieces in their own right, but this has been and most likely will always be my favorite.
Claire's Knee (Eric Rohmer, 1971)
There is no substitute for class, and Eric Rohmer has it to spare. The plot is simple enough: Boy likes girl, boy wants to touch girl's knee. In fact he becomes consumed with touching her knee. The fact that he is much older and never comes close to appearing as a pervert is a testament to the tact and grace of Rohmer, one of the greatest of all the French New Wave directors, and here he has created perhaps the most lighthearted and insightful fetish film of all time.
Sans Soleil (dir. Chris Marker, 1982)
One of the more enigmatic films you will ever see, Marker takes documentary footage shot from various countries and splices it together, draping them over a voice over narrative involving a woman receiving letters from her unseen travelling friend. More a meditation on memory and how imagery and our capacity for retention play crucial roles in not only our day to day lives, but in our very views of the world than an attempt to tell a story, it remains a fascinating, frustrating and endlessly complex work.
Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore (dir. Michele Soavi, 1995)
If David Lynch, Shakespeare and George A. Romero had a kid and he made a zombie film, it would probably look something like this. Cemetery Man follows Francisco Dellamorte as he works in a cemetery where every seventh day after a body is buried, it comes back to life, leaving him to dispatch of it a second time. The mixture of gore and philosophical musings are exciting to watch, you just don't see films like this well.......ever. As the story gets crazier and crazier, it reaches something of a mad purity before leaving us with probably the greatest head scratcher ending ever
Hoop Dreams (dir. Steve James, 1994)
Documentary (famously snubbed at the Oscars) following two inner city youths with loads of talent and NBA aspirations over the course of four years. Goes to prove the saying that real life is infinitely more fascinating than fiction, as this story takes the type of turns, both cruel and uplifting, that you just can't write. The subjects involved here are so engrossing that when the film ends, despite it being almost three hours you just don't want it to end. You want to continue following these kids to see how their lives will turn out, or if they will turn out at all, which is perhaps the highest possible compliment you could pay a movie like this.
Videodrome (dir. David Cronenberg, 1983)
A masterfully directed, nightmarishly seductive parable from Canadian Cronenberg about the potential of the television medium and losing control of your own flesh. Particularly prescient considering the current state of reality tv in america, videodrome starts at breakneck pace and doesn't look back, pulling no punches until its hauntingly transcendent (literally) ending. Cronenberg continues to be one of the most exciting living American filmmakers, and this film is as good an initiation as any into his terrifying universe. One of the quintessential modern horror masterpieces.
The Best of the Rest:
11) The Decalogue (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)
12) The Innocents (dir. Jack Clayton, 1961)
13) Safe (dir. Todd Haynes, 1995)
14) Out 1: Noli me tangere (dir. Jacques Rivette, 1971)
15) The French Connection (dir. William Friedkin, 1971)
16) Eyes Wide Shut (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
17) au Hasard Balthazar (dir. Robert Bresson, 1966)
18) Predator (dir. John McTiernan, 1987)
19) Vertigo (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
20) Laura (dir. Otto Preminger, 1944)
21) Inland Empire (dir. David Lynch, 2006)
22) Kiss Me Deadly (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1955)
23) Boogie Nights (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
24) Duelle (une quarantaine) (dir. Jacques Rivette, 1976)
25) Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992)