I’m not supposed to say that I haven’t seen a film. Let alone a classic. Let alone a film by a noted foreign filmmaker. Let alone basically anything. With the barrage of new films that come out on a weekly basis, it can be tough to make time to reach back to the past while keeping up with the present.
All of this is a preamble to saying; I have some catching up to do. What follows are the ten, sort of twelve, films I’m dedicated to finally giving the time of day.
The Apu Trilogy
Last year I selected Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, the initial entry in the trilogy, as one to watch. Various factors prevented that from being completed, but I believe there was a rather good one as Ray’s works were restored and re-released late in 2015 under the good ol’ Criterion banner. Time to go all Pokemon and catch ‘em all.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Rainer Werner Fassbinder is generally considered one of Germany’s finest filmmakers, yet I here sit, having not seen a single work by the man. Over a lengthy career that spans many genres and times, his romance between an elderly woman and much younger immigrant is typically cited as his best. Seems a fine place as any to start.
Ashes of Time
I’m a bit of a Wong Kar Wai fanboy, though not to the extent that you’ll be seeing any essays on My Blueberry Nights. I particularly love the director’s melancholic, emotionally complex work of the 90s. The one blindspot to me is Ashes of Time, the sole film of this era to not be set in relatively modern times. Hit-men using swords under the eye of a director at his peek sounds fun to me.
Not every picture on this list is from decades ago. The Assassin only hit U.S. theatres a few months back and it’s limited run was unfortunately missed by yours truly. Any and every movie by Hou Hsiao-Hsien (The Flight of the Red Balloon, Flowers of Shanghai) is worth being excited for, and those that have seen it have almost uniformly ranked it as one of the premiere works of the decade.
The Holy Mountain
I have spent far more time reading about cult favorite Alejandro Jodorowsky than I have actually viewing his filmography, with El Topo as the sole pic I’ve consumed. The Holy Mountain has always sounded compellingly strange, with its topics of immortality and sacrilege a point of particular interest.
Long considered one of the all-time great films, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s is said to be beautifully shot and play out as a powerful, smart meditation on religion and how it grips some tighter than others. Yes please.
With each new year, my love for Bela Tarr grows deeper. The Werckmeister Harmonies made this list last year and was one of the richest experiences of 2015. What can I say, I enjoy miserable movies about humanity’s darker nature and how individuals react to it. So, seven-plus hours of such, I’m down to give it a shot.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Also weighty, if probably less morose, Jacques Demy’s wartime set musical with the always magical Catherine Deneuve has always been one I’ve meant to have an evening side-by-side with.
Where is the Friend’s Home?
The opening chapter of Abbas Kiarostami’s legendary “Koker Trilogy” is also the only chapter in which I’m unfamiliar. The masterful Iranian director’s story of a boy trying to return a friend’s book, sounds right in tune with his other projects, where the simple day-to-day moments of life get lingered on and seen for something significantly more.
The Western genre is never one I’ve been a die-hard for my whole life. However, it’s a vital one to this country’s cinematic legacy. With that in mind, I’ve always tried to make sure the most treasured ones at least get seen to understand their place and hopefully develop a deeper appreciation. Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 has been stamped as one of the preeminent members of the gang and probably the last of the “Great Westerns” that have escaped my eyesight.