Jonathan Caouette’s Top 10

Jonathan Caouette’s Top10

Jonathan Caouette is the director of several feature-length documentaries: the award-winning personal diary film Tarnation (2004), produced by John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant; All Tomorrow’s Parties (2009), about the music festival; and Walk Away Renee (2011), the follow-up to Tarnation. Caouette can be heard in conversation with the notorious writer JT Leroy on the Criterion release of My Own Private Idaho.

Oct 22, 2013
  • 1

    Robert Altman

    3 Women

    This is, by far, one of my all-time favorite films of all time bar none. I have seen the film well over one hundred times, and I am always trying to get people to watch it with me. Funny enough, as I type this, I am in Bordeaux, France, at the first ever Bordeaux International Independent Film Festival. I was asked to pick one film that I loved that I could talk about, and, of course, it was 3 Women. The screening is tonight, and I am seeing if for the first time on 35 mm. I had seen VHS copies of the film prior to the wonderful Criterion version coming out, and, of course, I now see and hear things in the film that I have never known before Criterion brought that all in. The film has a magical quality. I experience new things and information about the film every time I see it. It’s like a recurring dream that I don't mind redreaming over and over. It’s my favorite film in the world. I would love to do a one-off film festival somewhere called The Identity Crisis Film Festival . . . and show all films that I feel are similar to 3 Women, such as That Obscure Object of Desire, Persona, and Mulholland Drive.

  • 2

    Louis Malle

    Au revoir les enfants

    This is a heart-wrenching film. It’s one of about three films that exist that truly still make me cry. I saw this at our local art-house cinema in Texas when it came out, and it was one of the first films that I saw that made me want to be a filmmaker in a real way.

  • 3

    Nicolas Roeg

    Bad Timing

    I saw this recently for the first time, per Xan Cassavetes’s recommendation. The flashback sequences are painstaking. This is a kind of cinema that is rare and beautiful.

  • 4

    Herk Harvey

    Carnival of Souls

    Thank you, Criterion, for putting this amazingly creepy film out into the world in such a beautiful, definitive way. This is by far one of my favorite psychological horror films of all time. The Criterion version was an unbelievable step up from the VHS copy I had of this for years, when the film was strangely titled Corridors of Evil, for some reason. Carnival of Souls is like a fever-dream-elongated Twilight Zone episode. It’s a masterpiece, and I love falling asleep to the film as well. It induces great, strange dreams.

  • 5

    Terrence Malick

    Days of Heaven

    This is one of the most gorgeously shot films ever made. The plot is masterful, and it has all the qualities I love about Americana.

  • 6

    David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer

    Grey Gardens

    One of the most terrifying and beautiful films ever.

  • 7

    Hal Ashby

    Harold and Maude

    This is the film that turned me on to Cat Stevens, Bud Cort, and Ruth Gordon, all simultaneously. The film never gets old, and the extras on the Criterion version are amazing. I had no idea that Hal Ashby was such a hippie.

  • 8

    Gus Van Sant

    My Own Private Idaho

    This film is my church. It’s the first Gus Van Sant film I saw, and I was blown away. He zeroed in on a subculture that I thought only I knew about. MOPI is a very ahead-of-its-time film, and I felt privileged to be able to participate with even a small commentary on the Criterion release. The film has never been more gorgeous than it is on the Criterion release.

  • 9

    Roman Polanski


    One of the most horrifying films ever. A nightmare transposed into cinematic form. A rare thing. I hope to achieve making a film like this one day. The restoration that you all did is amazing. Bravo.

  • 10

    John Cassavetes

    A Woman Under the Influence

    This is a film that I could deeply personalize with. When making my films Tarnation and the follow-up, Walk Away Renee, I easily recalled this amazing film in my mind’s eye. I have never seen a film depicting mental illness so raw and pure as this. The film is so real that one often feels that they are really, really eavesdropping on something. Amazing.