L’argent was the first Bresson film I ever saw, and it scared me with its beauty and craft. I saw Pickpocket quickly after that and was deeply moved by it. It’s mysterious how a filmmaker like Bresson can project so much emotion with just technical, formal elements. There’s so much space for the viewer in his films; there isn’t any one meaning being imposed on you. I think that’s why he is so singular and impossible to imitate.
When I think about Tarkovsky’s films, they blend together in my mind. There are certain scenes that seem like they could be from any one of his works. That’s partly why I think of these two films as siblings. They both had a profound effect on me when I was a young person, and they were probably the first two of his that I saw. His imagery is so distinctive that it transcends narrative.
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
I didn’t always know if I liked Kubrick’s films; they have such an uncomfortable atmosphere. But there’s something about them that makes them worth returning to; you never get tired of them. He doesn’t compromise; he’s so audacious, and you always feel like he’s showing you the way. You never have to doubt that he’s going to take you to an interesting place.
Cría cuervos . . .
The Spirit of the Beehive
This is my fourth and last tie—sorry . . . I saw these films on the same weekend and fell in love with the lead actress, Ana Torrent. It’s a tricky thing to direct children. You might be writing a film for a young actor in mind, but the years pass by so quickly, and if you happen to get the funding to make the project, that actor has already grown up. It’s hard to capture the moment in a child’s life when they are seeing the world and absorbing it in that special way that kids do. So I think it’s magical that these two brilliant Spanish filmmakers worked with her at this time in her childhood. And I love the other films they’ve made.
This is my favorite Mike Leigh film. It almost feels like a debut, even though it’s not. It’s so wild, almost to the point of feeling uncontrolled, but its craziness is very human. It sucks the energy out of you, but it’s also very funny. Sometimes the scenes seem like they wouldn’t work on the page, but they’re fearless. Like a first-time filmmaker, Leigh doesn’t second-guess himself.
A Woman Under the Influence
This is such a sad and beautiful film. I love the world that John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands created, so it’s hard to pick a favorite among their movies. This one is so devastating, and I remember really needing the joyful music that plays at the end. Rowlands and Falk are my favorite on-screen couple in all of cinema.
The Piano Teacher
This is one of my favorite Haneke films. The rhythm of the editing and the sound and the way he tells the story—it works like music. He reminds me of Bresson in that way; his formal choices feel effortless, but every one of them has a lot of rhythmic impact. Haneke has a deep understanding of how image and sound can go together in surprising ways.
I saw this quite early in my film education; at the time I hadn’t seen a lot of art-house cinema, so it felt strange and unconventional. I doubted whether it was any good; I just didn’t know what to think. But when you feel a movie is honest and personal, you get drawn into it. I’ve since seen it three times, and it gets better and better. Antonioni is a master craftsman, and this is a film you can revisit and learn new things each time.
This movie has probably my favorite first thirty minutes in any film. It starts with this beautiful title sequence, with the image of headlights, and a David Bowie track playing over it. You get drawn into the atmosphere. It’s told in a very personal and beautiful way. Lynch gets a lot of credit for his visual sensibility, but I think his sound design is inspiring too. It’s so brilliant and playful.
I don’t know how Altman made this film. I have a hard enough time focusing on two characters, but he can cram so many into a scene; I don’t know how his brain can handle that. From the energy that comes off the screen, you get a sense of how vibrant and alive the atmosphere must have been on set.
David Markey’s Top 10
Independent filmmaker and underground music aficionado David Markey’s films include 1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992) and the Super 8 cult classics The Slog Movie (1982), Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984), and its sequel Lovedolls Superstar (1986),…
Ramin Bahrani’s Top 10
Iranian-American writer and director Ramin Bahrani’s feature films include: Man Push Cart (2005), Chop Shop (2007), Goodbye Solo (2009), 99 Homes (2014), and Fahrenheit 451 (2018).
Joel Potrykus’s Top 10
With his features and new short film, Thing from the Factory by the Field, currently playing on the Criterion Channel, the writer-director selects ten movies that influenced his style.
Edson Oda’s Top 10
The Sundance-award-winning director of Nine Days shares a selection of favorite films that range from lyrical masterpieces like Wings of Desire to rule-breaking mind-benders like Being John Malkovich.