44. “All About Eve”, Joseph Mankiewicz (1950)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

All About Eve

All About Eve

dir. Joseph Mankiewicz scr. Joseph Mankiewicz based on The Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr cin. Milton R. Krasner with Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Gregor Ratoff, and Marilyn Monroe

In 100 words: On this list, none is as more precious and entertaining as this movie’s brilliant script, full of the sharp one-liners and witty putdowns delivered by some of the most extraordinary actors giving their best performances. Mankiewicz’s dialogue is a dream, matched only by the richness of his satirical take on the theater community, with all of its riveting backstage intrigue. I love that he takes these people’s careers seriously, not just paying lip-service. His visuals are unfussy but the changing landscape of his mise-en-scene provide valuable insights into these characters. Bette Davis gives her best performance ever. An American landmark.

 Other Movies for Context: Few movies are as iconic as this–it’s peak Bette Davis, Mankiewicz, the delicious George Sanders, and the introduction of the brilliant tartness of Thelma Ritter. In the very same year, another celebrity satire often compared to this movie debuted: Sunset Boulevard (1950), Billy Wilder’s influential gothic take on Hollywood. I think of Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway (1994) sometimes when I look back on this one. Mean Girls (2004) also feels similarly devious and witty with the whole backstabby part of the movie, functioning similar to this. But my gosh, this movie is so important to the development of my love for film, it’s hard to think about anything else when you’re watching it.

45. “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”, Chantal Akerman (1975)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Jeanne Dielman.jpg

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

dir. Chantal Akerman scr. Chantal Akerman cin. Babette Mangolte with Delphine Seyrig and Jan Dacorte

In 100 words: Jeanne Dielman is a true action movie: Akerman trains her camera on the moments of in-between of a woman’s life, which cinema rarely if ever focuses on. The protracted length of the film is crucial to its success—we see the titular heroine go through her routine with monotonous precision until she quietly but unmistakably falls off it. I love how Akerman never cuts away from an action, letting her audience feel the weight of time pass as she completes a task. Plus, the surprising drama she wrings out of the mundane is spectacular. Spare but majestic, enigmatic and memorable.

Other Movies for Context: Todd Haynes’ Safe comes the closest to evoking the power of this movie’s focus on domestic woman’s life. Akerman’s long scrupulous takes here are evoked in other works of art, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose works like Cemetery of Splendour (2015) or Syndromes and a Century (2006) rely on long unbroken takes that value camera placement above all else. As for Akerman, I’ve seen her film Je Tu Il Elle (1974), which has the spareness that she’s known for but less of the drama that this one has.

46. “Days of Heaven”, Terrence Malick (1978)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Days of HEaven

Days of Heaven

dir. Terrence Malick scr. Terrence Malick cin. Nelson Almendros and Haskell Wexler with Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, and Linda Manz

In 100 words: This is possibly the most gorgeous movie I’ve ever seen: its painterly images capture a rustic America best preserved by famous works of art. The film’s narration adds weight to its simplistic story: Linda’s voiceover provides a wistful commentary that helps explain the logic of Malick’s editing and sensual visual rhythm— the quick cuts between people, actions, and then to nature and animals capture the feeling of recollecting memories. These superb images are matched by the gorgeous sounds by Morricone, which combined classical and modernist music that evoked the melancholy of the era. Frequent imitations serve to highlight its mastery.

Other Movies for Context: This movie is super iconic and Malick’s style, which he truly owned and formulated in this movie, has frequently been imitated but never truly and fully captured, even by Malick again. Badlands (1973), his debut movie, is closest to this film’s story, with a similar lovers on a run plot. But think of any “independent” movies after this, and most likely they’ll have some similarity to this. Personally, I think of Daughters of the Dust (1991), Julie Dash’s impeccably lyrical take on the Gulah people of South Carolina, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), which basically captures the spirit of the movie, but on a lesser note, and even American Honey (2016), which feels similarly attuned to its characters’ mental states as they roam around America.

47. “Oasis”, Lee Chang Dong (2002)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen List

Oasis

Oasis aka 오아시스

dir. Lee Chang Dong scr. Lee Chang Dong cin. Choi Young-taek with Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri, Ahn Nae-sang, Son Byong-ho

In 100 words: Oasis is perhaps the movie on this list that comes closest to being completely terrible had it been written and directed by someone with less talent or hackneyed sense of direction. Consider the difficulty of depicting a romance between a woman with cerebral palsy and a vaguely autistic man just out from prison, it may end up like a movie-of-the-week TV special. In Lee’s hands, it becomes something deeper and more potent: he blends a naturalistic and humanistic aesthetic with flashes of hopeful fantasy to portray an unconventional but deeply romantic love, while functioning as a trenchant social critique. Exquisite.

Other Movies for Context: Lee Chang Dong is my favorite of all Korean directors working now and has produced some of the best social dramas that depict Korean society’s worst and best instincts. My personal favorite from his small but formidable filmography is Secret Sunshine (2007), a maternal melodrama about small town dynamics, grief, and religion that hinges on Jeon Do-yeon’s magnificent performance in a tricky role. Poetry (2011) focuses on an elderly woman suffering from dementia just as she opens her mind for more learning. His most crucial work, I think, however, is Peppermint Candy (1997), a stunning historical drama that basically charts the history of Korea as it transitioned post-dictatorship.

48. “The Night of the Hunter”, Charles Laughton (1955)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter

dir. Charles Laughton scr. James Agee based on the novel by Davis Grubb cin. Stanley Cortez with Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lilian Gish, Billy Chapin

In 100 words: There’s something so perverse about Robert Mitchum’s serial killer Reverend Harry Powell that nags at me—his preaching is so out of step with his murdering instincts, yet oddly fits with his religious nonsense. Laughton’s singular horror classic strikes a similar chord: its expressionistic use of space and design recalls Weimar cinema, while his ideal American small-town community looks and feels artificial. All of these though work to create a claustrophobic atmosphere—Laughton heightens Mitchum’s treacherous presence and the noirish lighting and play with shadows as an ever-encroaching danger to the kids and the community. Brilliant, absolutely terrifying, and unforgettable.

Other Movies for Context: William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) plays with the same light and dark themes that this movie did, with its interesting angles and lighting. Another similarly odd movie is Touch of Evil (1958) by Orson Welles, which has the same ambiguous ideas about right and wrong, and even a similar style as well. The Night of the Hunter, however, recalls The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) by Robert Weine and Nosferatu (1922) by F.W. Murnau–both sensational films that derived its terror from the expressionistic use of design that Hunter takes its cues from.

49. “Belle de Jour”, Luis Bunuel (1967)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour

dir. Luis Bunuel scr. Luis Bunuel and Jean-Claude Carriere based on the book by Joseph Kessel cin. Sacha Vierny with Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, and Pierre Clementi

In 100 words: In this darkly funny, sexy, and provocative film, Bunuel finds room to address all of his obsessions about the sexual desires of the bourgeois. Belle is a surreal masterpiece: a bored housewife who fulfills her inner fantasies by becoming a prostitute in a Parisian brothel, entertaining odd men with peculiar desires. That Bunuel focuses on a woman’s sexual thoughts and fantasies, even the lewd and filthy ones is casually transgressive. More importantly, he builds a world of ironies and unexpected character details—the family who lives in the brothel, the hilarious posturing of the young gangster, and Severine’s unexpected pleasures.

Other Movies for Context: Oh Bunuel, I love his work so much, and this is always such a treat to watch. When I think of this movie, the one that pops to mind immediately is Sleeping Beauty (2011), by Julia Leigh, because of its similar look and topic. Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016) both have Isabelle Huppert playing women with sexual desires that are particularly sadistic, but their directors are intelligent enough to engage with those desires rather than play them up for laughs or quirks.

50. “Shame” , Ingmar Bergman (1968)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list

Shame

Shame aka Skammen

dir. Ingmar Bergman scr. Ingmar Bergman cin. Sven Nykvist with Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow, Sigge Furst, Gunnar Bjornstrand,  Ulf Johansson

In 100 words: The Bergman film that feels the least gimmicky in its construct but still the most potent in its delivery. Released at the height of Vietnam War, this film affirms the savagery of war but its intrusion into a couple’s life manifests not only in the physical toll but more profoundly in their psychological well-being. Their marriage was never perfect, as the script’s incisive dialogue suggests early on, but the terror and chaos have magnified their weaknesses, and cracked open their animosity towards each other. Shot for shot, it’s Bergman’s most realistic and immediate film. Bleak, unsparing, and damn near perfect.

Other Movies for Context: Thematically, Bergman’s movie kind of reminds me of The Hurt Locker (2009), although blown up and more focused on “war as a drug” aspect. Although underneath that story, it feels like a rich examination of a couple so unsuited for each other. Otherwise, Bergman’s filmography offers a rich examination of marriage: Scenes from a Marriage (1973) being another highlight, while his script for The Best Intentions (1991) was directed by Bille August. Bergman is among my favorite directors, and he will show up two more times on this list.