Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Favorite Films by Director

In my web-group Confabulation, we had a challenge to come up with lists of our best/greatest/favorite films of all time (there was a lot of debate about the terminology!). I decided to restrict myself to one film per director, which meant that I had to figure out my current favorite for each significant director. The results are below, naturally offered with the proviso that my knowledge of every director's work is decidedly imperfect and incomplete. For approximately 185 directors, teams, and miscellaneous auteurs, I have listed my current top film, going in chronological order from the 1910s until today (and separating decades with spaces). All the selections are at a personal pantheon level of quality, although obviously for many directors, there would be more titles that met that standard. In cases like Hitchcock, Altman, Bergman, Ford, Fellini, Kurosawa, Ozu, it is especially difficult to hold to one title, but I did.

In 13 cases, I have allowed myself to select a set of films that go together strongly and seem to emanate from a single impulse. Those cases:

The 8 films that Preston Sturges made for Paramount between 1940 and 1944

The 9 films in the Val Lewton horror cycle, directed by Jacques Tourneur, Mark Robson, and Robert Wise between 1942 and 1946

The 3 astonishingly varied Westerns - Jubal, 3:10 to Yuma, and Cowboy - that Delmer Daves made with Glenn Ford between 1956 and 1958

Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy

Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy 

Francois Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series (5 films, 1959-1979)

Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, shot back-to-back and released in successive years 

Guy Maddin's Archangel and Careful, same situation

Monte Hellman's Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting, which were shot together

Jackie Chan's Project A and Project A Part II

The 17 Superman cartoons made by the Fleischer/Famous Studios between 1941 and 1943

Alan J. Pakula's Paranoid Trilogy - Klute, The Parallax View, All the President's Men

Michael Apted's Up series (1963-2012)

(Budd Boetticher's series of 7 westerns with Randolph Scott, 1956-1960, would also qualify, but I haven't seen all of those.)

At the bottom of the list of films is an alphabetical list of about 95 directors or teams that I am currently "punting" on; that list could obviously be expanded, but these 95 seem to have a claim to consideration in assembling a best/greatest/favorite films list. I'm punting for a variety of reasons, but foremost among them is a lack of familiarity with enough of the director's work. In many cases, I suspect I haven't yet seen the film that will be my top choice; in other cases I'm conflicted, or it has been a very long time since I have seen some of the important titles.

Of course there are cases when I did pick films for the main list by directors I could be much more schooled in. But in those cases I felt strongly about the titles in question. It's all on a case-by-case basis.

I'll keep this list up-to-date here - of course, there will be future changes!

Intolerance (D.W. Griffith) - 1916

Safety Last! (Harold Lloyd) - 1923
Greed (Erich von Stroheim) - 1924
Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton) - 1924
Sunrise (F.W. Murnau) - 1927
Napoleon (Abel Gance) - 1927
The Crowd (King Vidor) - 1928
October (Sergei Eisenstein) - 1928

Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko) - 1930
City Lights (Charlie Chaplin) - 1931
M. (Fritz Lang) - 1931
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy) – 1932
Boudu Saved from Drowning (Jean Renoir) – 1932
Me and My Gal (Raoul Walsh) - 1932
Dinner at Eight (George Cukor) – 1933
Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon) – 1933
The Pearls of the Crown (Sacha Guitry) – 1937
Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks) - 1939

Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) – 1941
Bambi (Walt Disney) - 1942
The Ox-Bow Incident (William Wellman) – 1943
Superman Cartoons (17) (Dave Fleischer/Seymour Kneitel/Izzy Sparber/Dan Gordon) – 1941-1943
A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger) - 1944

The Great McGinty/Christmas in July/ The Lady Eve/Sullivan’s Travels/The Palm Beach Story/The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek/Hail the Conquering Hero/The Great Moment (Preston Sturges) – 1940-1944

Murder My Sweet (Edward Dmytrk) - 1944
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli) - 1944
Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra) - 1944
Children of Paradise (Marcel Carne) – 1945
A Walk in the Sun (Lewis Milestone) -1945
The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler) - 1946
Humoresque (Jean Negulesco) - 1946

Cat People/I Walked with a Zombie/The Leopard Man/The Seventh Victim/The Ghost Ship/The Curse of the Cat People/The Body Snatcher/Isle of the Dead/Bedlam (Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur/Mark Robson/Robert Wise) – 1942-1946

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) - 1947
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston) - 1948
Fort Apache (John Ford) – 1948
Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky) - 1948
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls) - 1948
The Third Man (Carol Reed) - 1949
Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius) - 1949

Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder) - 1950
Orpheus (Jean Cocteau) - 1950
Los olvidados (Luis Bunuel) – 1950
D.O.A. (Rudolph Mate) - 1950
The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot) - 1953
I vitelloni (Federico Fellini) - 1953
Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones) - 1953
Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi) - 1954
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa) - 1954
Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich) - 1955
The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis) – 1955
Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges) – 1955
Love Me or Leave Me (Charles Vidor) – 1955
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton) - 1955
Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk) - 1956
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman) - 1957
The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold) - 1957
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick) – 1957
Abandon Ship (Richard Sale) – 1957
White Nights (Luchino Visconti) - 1957
Jubal/3:10 to Yuma/Cowboy (Delmer Daves) – 1956/1957/1958
Night Train (Jerzy Kawalerowicz) – 1959
Pather Panchali/Aparajito/The World of Apu (Satyajit Ray) – 1955/1956/1959

L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni) - 1960
The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young) - 1960
Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu) – 1960
Eyes without a Face (Georges Franju) - 1960
The Cloud-Capped Star (Ritwik Ghatak) - 1960
The Innocents (Jack Clayton) – 1961
Blast of Silence (Allen Baron) - 1961
Harakiri (Masako Kobayashi) – 1962
Advise & Consent (Otto Preminger) – 1962
Days of Wine and Roses (Blake Edwards) - 1962
Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey) - 1962
The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock) - 1963
Hands over the City (Francesco Rosi) – 1963
Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard) – 1963
Lord of the Flies (Peter Brook) - 1963
Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo) - 1964
Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev) – 1964
I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov) - 1964
A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester) - 1964
Shock Corridor/The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller) - 1963/1964
Fists in the Pocket (Marco Bellocchio) - 1965
The Loved One (Tony Richardson) – 1965
Brainstorm (William Conrad) – 1965
Au hazard Balthazar (Robert Bresson) - 1966
Seconds (John Frankenheimer) - 1966
Ride in the Whirlwind/The Shooting (Monte Hellman) – 1965/1966
Secret Ceremony (Joseph Losey) - 1968
The Night of the Living Dead (George Romero) - 1968
Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler) - 1969
Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville) – 1969
The Honeymoon Killers (Leonard Kastle) - 1969

Ryan’s Daughter (David Lean) – 1970
Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles) - 1970
A Touch of Zen (King Hu) - 1971
The Last Movie (Dennis Hopper) - 1971
The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich) - 1971
The Merchant of Four Seasons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) - 1971
Aguirre, Wrath of God (Werner Herzog) – 1972
Deliverance (John Boorman) - 1972
The Exorcist (William Friedkin) – 1973
Ganja & Hess (Bill Gunn) - 1973
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola) - 1974
Chinatown (Roman Polanski) – 1974
Klute/The Parallax View/All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula) – 1971/1974/1976
Night Moves (Arthur Penn) - 1975
Jaws (Steven Spielberg) - 1975
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick) – 1975
Moses and Aaron (Jean-Marie Straub/Daniele Huillet) – 1975
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Jones/Terry Gilliam) - 1975
1900 (Bernardo Bertolucci) - 1976
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese) – 1976
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes) - 1976
Eraserhead (David Lynch) - 1977
Le crabe-tambour (Pierre Schoendoerffer) – 1977
Halloween (John Carpenter) - 1978
Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick) - 1978
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky) – 1979

The 400 Blows/Antoine and Collette/Stolen Kisses/Bed & Board/Love on the Run (Francois Truffaut) – 1959/1962/1968/1970/1979

The Falls (Peter Greenaway) - 1980
Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis) - 1980
Bad Timing (Nicholas Roeg) - 1980
Stardust Memories (Woody Allen) - 1980
Atlantic City (Louis Malle) – 1980
Prince of the City (Sidney Lumet) - 1981
Les uns et les autres (Claude Lelouch) – 1981
Thief (Michael Mann) - 1981
Southern Comfort (Walter Hill) - 1981
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) - 1982
Parsifal (Hans-Jurgen Syberberg) - 1983
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone) - 1984
Choose Me (Alan Rudolph) - 1984
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader) – 1985
Vagabond (Agnes Varda) – 1985
The Fly (David Cronenberg) - 1986
Sid and Nancy (Alex Cox) - 1986
Project A/Project A Part II (Jackie Chan) – 1983/1987
Let’s Get Lost (Bruce Weber) – 1988
Eight Men Out (John Sayles) - 1988
The War of the Roses (Danny DeVito) - 1989

The Civil War (Ken Burns) - 1990
JFK (Oliver Stone) – 1991
Archangel/Careful (Guy Maddin) – 1991/1992
Actress (Stanley Kwan) - 1992
Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) - 1992
Short Cuts (Robert Altman) – 1993
Six Degrees of Separation (Fred Schepisi) - 1993
Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis) – 1993
Quiz Show (Robert Redford) – 1994
Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson) – 1994
Ed Wood (Tim Burton) - 1994
Three Colors: Blue, White, Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski) – 1993-1994
The Confessional (Robert Lepage) - 1995
Apollo 13 (Ron Howard) - 1995
Gummo (Harmony Korine) – 1997
The Spanish Prisoner (David Mamet) - 1997
Cabaret Balkan (Goran Paskaljevic) - 1998
Beau travail (Claire Denis) – 1999
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson) - 1999
American Beauty (Sam Mendes) - 1999

Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky) – 2000
Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson) – 2000
Timecode (Mike Figgis) – 2000
Code Unknown (Michael Haneke) - 2000
Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker) – 2001
Time Out (Laurent Cantet) - 2001
Lantana (Ray Lawrence) – 2001
The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo del Toro) – 2001
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly) - 2001
Irreversible (Gaspar Noe) – 2002
Adaptation (Spike Jonze) - 2002
Memories of Murder (Bong Joon-ho) - 2003
Elephant (Gus van Sant) - 2003
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir) - 2003
Dogville (Lars von Trier) - 2003
Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) - 2003
Closer (Mike Nichols) - 2004
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee) – 2005
Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney) - 2005
United 93 (Paul Greengrass) – 2006
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach) - 2006
Zodiac (David Fincher) - 2007
I’m Not There (Todd Haynes) - 2007
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel) - 2007
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow) – 2008
Man on Wire (James Marsh) - 2008
A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen) – 2009

Seven Up!/7 Plus Seven/21 Up/28 Up/35 Up/42 Up/49 Up/56 Up (Michael Apted/Paul Almond) – 1963/1970/1977/1984/1991/1998/2005/2012

Chantal Akerman
Pedro Almodovar
Lindsay Anderson
Theo Angelopoulos
Yevgeni Bauer
Mario Bava
Jacques Becker
Bertrand Blier
Budd Boetticher
Frank Borzage
Tod Browning
Leos Carax
Claude Chabrol
Souleymane Cisse
Rene Clair
Rene Clement
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Terence Davies
Jacques Demy
Vittorio De Sica
Carl Theodor Dreyer
Julien Duvivier
Jean Eustache
Louis Feuillade
Jacques Feyder
Robert Flaherty
Philippe Garrel
Jean Gremillon
Hou Hsiao-hsien
Kon Ichikawa
Im Kwon-taek
Shohei Imamura
Joris Ivens
Miklos Jancso
Derek Jarman
Abbas Kiarostami
Emir Kusturica
Spike Lee
Mike Leigh
Jerry Lewis
Marcel L’Herbier
Ernst Lubitsch
Dusan Makevejev
Rouben Mamoulian
Anthony Mann
Chris Marker
Leo McCarey
Hayao Miyazaki
Mario Monicelli
Errol Morris
Mikio Naruse
Manoel de Oliveira
Ermanno Olmi
G.W. Pabst
Sergei Paradjanov
Marcel Pagnol
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Sam Peckinpah
Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Maurice Pialat
Gillo Pontecorvo
Vsevolod Pudovkin
Nicholas Ray
Alain Resnais
Leni Riefenstahl
Jacques Rivette
Glauber Rocha
Eric Rohmer
Roberto Rossellini
Raul Ruiz
Ken Russell
Werner Schroeter
Ousmane Sembene
Robert Siodmak
Victor Sjostrom
Mauritz Stiller
Josef von Sternberg
Jan Svankmajer
Seijun Suzuki
Quentin Tarantino
Jacques Tati
Bertrand Tavernier
Andre Techine
Tsai Ming-liang
Dziga Vertov
Jean Vigo
Andrzej Wajda
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Wim Wenders
Wong Kar-wai
Edward Yang
Valerio Zurlini

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pedro Infante and Ismael Rodriguez

A great film collaboration which I am starting to become familiar with by virtue of where I live is Mexican actor-singer Pedro Infante (1917-1957) and director Ismael Rodriguez (1917-2004). Infante, killed at age 39 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting, died young like seemingly most Mexican stars  - his fellow Gallos Mexicanos (Mexican Roosters) Jorge Negrete (1911-1953, hepatitis) and Javier Solis (1931-1966, complications of gallbladder surgery), his frequent co-star Blanca Estela Pavon (1926-1949, plane crash). Infante is often described as the most beloved person in Mexican history; the Sinaloa campus of the Tec de Monterrey, where I work, is located on Boulevard Pedro Infante. He made 62 films, 17 directed by Ismael Rodriguez, and 2 more directed by Ismael's brother Roberto. (The Rodriguez brothers, including a third, Joselito, ran their own production company.)

Pedro Infante was the prototypical working class hero, and handled that persona stylishly. His many movies are easily picked up on Mexican DVDs with English subtitles, and I am enjoying getting to know them. The Rodriguez brothers were gifted and commercially astute directors who worked at high speed, like Infante himself (who averaged four features per year from 1943 to 1957). I just watched A toda maquina (Full Throttle), an action comedy about two motorcycle cops that is like a superior Mexican version of C.H.I.P.s. It plays as what we would today call a bromance or buddy movie, and it fascinated me to learn that for an ordinary, straight, red-blooded Mexican male in the year 1951, the choosing of a best friend, assuming you didn't have one left over from childhood, was urgent, un-ironic business, as serious in its way as the choice of a fiancee, and described in some of the same language ("Could this be The One?"). Once you had such a friend, he would always have your back as you would always have his; it was a commitment. The bromantic courtship might involve competition on a number of fronts including the romantic, and plenty of banter, horseplay, and maybe some actual fighting, but that was all just in the nature of testing the bond. In A toda maquina, Infante and co-star Luis Aguilar have to undergo a near-death experience together (brought on by their own stupidity) to realize their true friendship. I'm now very interested to see the sequel (shot back-to-back), ¡¿Qué te ha dado esa mujer?! - the title* indicates that the romantic rivalry will continue, friendship or no friendship.

* Roughly, What Right Do You Have to This Woman?!