39. “Cries and Whispers”, Ingmar Bergman (1972)

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

Cries and Whispers.jpg

Cries and Whispers aka Viskningar och rop 

dir. Ingmar Bergman scr. Ingmar Bergman cin. Sven Nykvist with Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan, Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann

In 100 words: No film on this list has disturbed me quite as much as this, the nastiest and most emotionally violent movie that Bergman has ever made. His characters inflict such wretched emotional torment on each other throughout the picture, as two sisters watch a third sister die. Bergman frequently flashes back to a period in the three sisters’ lives where they exhibited abhorrent behavior to hurt themselves and those around them, revealing just how broken the family is. The vivid use of reds and blacks, its frequent close-ups of faces, and silences punctuated by bells heighten the stinging experience of watching.

Other Movies for Context: Is there any movie by Bergman that reaches the heights of this one in terms of its portrayal of a family? The closest I can think of from what I’ve seen is the great Fanny and Alexander (1983), which portrays a more loving film that’s broken by experience.

40. “Brief Encounter”, David Lean (1945)

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

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

dir. David Lean scr. Noel Coward, Anthony Havelock-Ailan, David Lean, Ronald Neame based on the play Still Life by Noel Coward cin. Robert Krasker with Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey, Cyril Raymond, Everley Gregg, and Margaret Barton

In 100 words: Lean’s magnum opus has a narrative structure bookended by one scene framed from two different perspectives: the first scene serving to make the latter scene devastating. The rest of the film is from Laura’s internal confession, which comments and condemns and later justifies her actions as they take place. Howard and Johnson are a match made in heaven and I love that we see how quickly they fall deeply in love and the internal conflict they face as the inevitable comes. Bless Lean for never really getting in their way, save for a few excellent stylistic risks and choice edits.

Other Movies for Context: Certainly one of the greatest romances of film history, and one that makes adultery feel less awful than it actually is. I can only think of one other movie that so successfully made adultery feel okay and that’s The Bridges of Madison County (1995), which is basically a more modern take on this movie, with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. One can also see the inspiration behind Carol (2015) from this one, with the narrative structure being super similar.

41. “The Earrings of Madame de…”, Max Ophuls (1953)

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

The earrings of Madame de

The Earrings of Madame de… aka Madame de…

dir. Max Ophuls scr. Marcel Achard, Max Ophuls, Annette Wademant based on the novel Madame de… by Louise de Vilmorin cin. Christian Matras with Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio de Sica

In 100 words: Andrew Sarris referred to this as the most perfect film ever made and it is hard to think of anything particularly wrong with this film: Ophuls’ camera movements elegantly but dexterously weaves through any obstacle, in surprising ways. His camera’s refusal to leave the characters’ side speaks not only to Ophuls’ mastery of the form, but also of how involving the story is: earrings become the axis on which the plot revolves. Beyond being a fabulous tale of adultery, it is a stunning story about how all the riches, titles, and reputation in the world would mean nothing without love.

Other Movies for Context: The great Max Ophuls had some of the most admirable camerawork in the history of film. I personally rank him alongside Mizoguchi in terms of the long take. His other works, however, haven’t exactly spoken to me the way this has: The Letters from an Unknown Woman (1948) felt like a creepy display of love and I was never truly involved in its story, while Lola Montes (1955) doesn’t feel as deep or as interesting as this one, despite the luscious colors of that film.

42. “Taxi Driver”, Martin Scorsese (1976)

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

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver

dir. Martin Scorsese scr. Paul Schrader cin. Michael Chapman with Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Kietel, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd

In 100 words: Travis Bickle is one of the most iconic American film characters ever, standing in for the disaffected men coming back from the Vietnam War unsure of their place in society, and even more uncertain of how to interact with anyone else. Scorsese’s masterpiece takes on toxic masculinity in deeply affecting ways, mostly by employing a brilliant POV technique to highlight how jarringly isolated Travis feels, and capture something terrifying and dark in a man broken by life, but still hoping for connection. Viewed from the context of today’s world, it’s sadly too relevant and too frightening. De Niro’s greatest accomplishment.

Other Movies for Context: You know, given the state of current affairs in America, this movie feels closest to identifying why so many white men who join white supremacy movements feel so familiar to me. This movie feels like an explanation for their behavior. ANYWAY, Scorsese is a legendary director and we’re lucky that he’s still here making films. His most recent, Silence (2017) is my favorite of his work in a long time. But Taxi Driver also feels similar to later works, which it no doubt influenced like Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992) and the Werner Herzog follow-up Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

43. “The Green Ray”, Eric Rohmer (1986)

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

The Green Ray

The Green Ray aka Le Rayon Vert

dir. Eric Rohmer scr. Eric Rohmer, Marie Riviere cin. Sophie Maintigneux with Marie Riviere, Beatrice Romand, Carita, Rosette

In 100 words: On the surface, this film feels too simple, its technique so spare that it may feel unremarkable. But then the plot and the film’s rich dialogue continues to build, wrapped in all of its central character’s neurosis, exploding with feeling and insights along the way. His characters have concerns that always feel trivial, but he injects them with such warmth, so much empathy, and such wit, that they feel universal: any person can relate to the abysmal loneliness Delphine feels and the hunger and reticence she has towards finding someone to love. Elegant images, clever ellipses, great ending. Riviere amazes.

Other Movies for Context: My goodness is Eric Rohmer the most sublime wordsmith ever? His films all feel similarly laid-back but rich with deep feeling. My Night at Maud‘s (1969) is truly special, along with Claire’s Knee (1970), and A Summer’s Tale (1996). I look forward to exploring more of his work, because he’s one of my favorite directors. Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy take cues from his work and even Hong Sang Soo’s dialogue-heavy but sparse images feel close in spirit to Rohmer’s work. Right Now, Wrong Then in particular reminds me a lot of Rohmer’s work.

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.