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.

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81. “Hiroshima mon Amour”, Alain Resnais (1959)

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

Hiroshima mon Amour

Hiroshima mon Amour aka Hiroshima My Love

dir. Alain Resnais (1959) scr. Marguerite Duras cin. Michio Takahashi and Sacha Vierny with Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada

In 100 words: Memory and the act of remembering are the main concerns of this French New Wave classic, opening with an incredible montage of newsreel, recreations, and documentary footage of Hiroshima juxtaposed with shots of two embracing bodies, first covered in ashes, then in sweat. She and He discuss the nature of memory, especially trauma, how one inhabits or experiences them and how one forgets them. That these conversations all play out amidst a credible dissolution of a love affair is Duras’s power. That these are presented with stunning imagery, ingenious editing, and sinuous music akin to reliving memories is Resnais’ gift.

Other Movies for Context: Resnais has a fascinating and long filmography, but I’ve seen three other works from him: the incredible and important documentary Night and Fog (1955) about the Holocaust, Last Year in Marienbad (1961), which gave me a headache, and Mon oncle d’Amerique (1980), which was great but felt like a dream. In terms of the subject matter, the only other definitive Hiroshima movie I can think of is Shohei Imamura’s Black Rain (1988), which plays out more like a straight-up drama, but with heightened and lurid flashback scenes that recall Resnais’s film.

96. “Breathless”, Jean-Luc Godard (1960)

Part of the 100 Greatest Films I’ve Ever Seen list.

breathless

Breathless aka À bout de souffle

dir. Jean-Luc Godard (1960) scr. Jean-Luc Godard based on a story by Francois Truffaut cin. Raoul Coutard with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg

In 100 words: Released in 1960 and forever changing the face of cinema, Breathless embodies the spirit of the French New Wave by essentially chucking the rigid rules of old movies out the window and playfully experimenting with form. The film was shot with a realistic vibe that approximated documentaries, invented new ways of shooting and cutting films, and created a sound that mixed colorful selections of jazz and Parisian street noise. But most importantly, Breathless effortlessly bridges the old and the new: it is a lovely homage to the films of yesteryear while it simultaneously points the direction for the medium’s future.

Other Films for Context: Godard is arguably the most famous and most important director of the French New Wave, making a lot of movies during the decade that influenced countless directors since. My favorite from the ones I’ve seen of his is Vivre sa vie (1962), a gorgeously shot and easy to follow movie. Other films of his I’ve seen include the overrated Contempt (1963) and the interesting Alphaville (1965). Towards the end of the decade, his works have started becoming more political and experimental to the point of being obnoxious–Weekend (1967) is a prime example of this turn.