Updated: Sep 17, 2018
Here’s another 10. In general, these are pulpier, darker.
1. Die Niebelungen: “Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death)” and “Kriemhilds Rache (Kriemhild’s Revenge)” (1924, Germany, dir. Fritz Lang)
A mind-blowing epic duology of films on the Niebelungenlied legend. Part one tells the story of Siegfried’s slaying of the dragon (watch him in action!), winning the hand (and heart) of the gentle Kriemhild, and eventual betrayal by Kriemhild’s uncle, Hagen Tronje. Part two focuses on the now-widowed Kriemhild’s revenge on her uncle and brother. Kriemhild’s transformation from the shy, pure, bride of a hero to the vengeful queen of the Huns is fantastic. Though the total length of the two films run over three hours, they really should be watched back-to-back.
2. The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Canada, dir. Atom Egoyan)
Atom Egoyan’s works remind me the uniqueness of film: it is not mere visual storytelling or moving pictures. Film has a power completely independent from the other arts. Egoyan’s films leave a sense of wistfulness, yearning, sorrow, all shrouded in a grey-blue veil of beauty. The Sweet Hereafter, a film about the healing of a small town following the deaths of children in a schoolbus accident. Sarah Polley, as the only surviving child from the bus, is one of the great talents in film today. Her face illuminates with quiet intelligence, sensitivity way beyond her years, and a strange sensuality that is almost frightening. (watch the trailer)
Okay, so I’m cheating a little, but both these films feature Garbo with Gilbert. In Queen Christina, Garbo shows that Dietrich is not the only one who can look sexy in a boy’s garb. The final shot of her face as she faces the unknown future, is justly famous. Flesh and the Devil is an early silent, where Gilbert’s presence is more tolerable as we do not have to hear his voice. These are some of the most sizzling scenes ever captured on film (watch a scene): and the passion was real off-screen as well.
4. Brief Encounter (1945, U.K., dir. David Lean)
The story over-sentimental? Sure. The Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2 score too sappy? Of course. But if you want sweep-me-off-my-feet five-hankie romance, this story, which is about two married people who meet at a railway station once a week and fall in love (of course) and separate (sure), is it. All the passion occurs in their gazes, between their words. David Lean, do you ever create happy romances? (Watch the separation scene here)
5. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922, Germany, dir. F.W. Murnau)
My favorite of all vampire movies. Max Schreck’s Count is still the most grotesque, haunting, frightening, creepy and dead of all the other dozens of imitators (see clips here). I was dissatisfied with Werner Herzog’s re-interpretation, though Klaus Kinski gives an unforgettable performance as a more lonely, human vampire. Watch Merhige’s hilarious Shadow of the Vampire (watch trailer), a movie about a director remaking the original Murnau film, with the star who seems to very much be “in the role” all the time.
6. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime, 1997, Japan, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
A young prince travels to find a cure for a curse in form of an incurable disease, finds himself amid a war between the animals of the forest (led by a human girl, Princess Mononoke) and the village town that is destroying the forest. A beautiful, frightening, awe-inspiring action movie in the form of an ancient fable. Miyazaki does it again. (watch trailer here)
7. The Matrix (1999, U.S.A., dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski)
I’m ashamed to list this movie alongside Garbo and Lean (okay, actually I'm not), but really, this film did revolutionize the industry. Influenced by anime and wushu films, few action flicks have matched the coolness of The Matrix. “Bullet Time” has been imitated in numerous films, as well as in spoofs. The best is still the Japanese Matrix Ping Pong. I am simultaneously ashamed and proud to be a native of this country so good at wasting time, talent, and money.
8. Mulholland Dr. (2001, U.S.A., dir. David Lynch)
This film takes you to the sunniest of L.A. and drags you down to the darkest of places. Reality and fantasy flips over in the second half. Or is it fantasy and reality? Requires multiple viewings. Yes, it does all make sense. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are a perfect Betty-Veronica match in this psychological thriller. This may be Lynch at his best. It seems that almost everything he's directed until then was leading up to this film. (watch trailer)
9. Latcho Drom (1993, France, dir. Tony Gatlif)
This quasi-dramatic documentary traces Romany music through India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France and Spain. There are some moments that are unforgettable. I have watched this again and again, to great pleasure. (Watch/listen to Dorado Schmitt in the film)
10. Now let’s stuff in Some of the Most Bizarre Movies I’ve Ever Seen in this final choice. 8 1/2, Mulholland Dr., anything with Klaus Kinski, belong here, too:
The Ninth Configuration (1980, U.S.A., dir. William Peter Blatty)
Does anyone know this weird film directed by the screenwriter of The Exorcist? It is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever watched. It takes place in a mental asylum for insane and AWOL U.S. Army soldiers. The new director turns out to be much more disturbed and crazy than the patients. Funny, disquieting, and did I say weird? Watch it with 2001: A Space Odyssey and really get drowned in the ocean of existentialism.(watch a short clip here)
The Ruling Class (1972, U.K., dir. Peter Medak)
Peter O’Toole plays Jack, the 14th Earl of Gurney. His family is annoyed, as Jack Gurney is insane, believing that he is Jesus Christ, returning to the world to bring it love and charity. After some treatments (electro-shocks), he returns as Jack—the Ripper, that is. Weird, far from perfect, but unforgettable. Peter O’Toole is bizarrely fabulous. (watch this crazy trailer)
Ordet (1955, Denmark, dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer)
This story of three sons (one of whom also believes that he is Christ), star-crossed (or religion-crossed) lovers, religion and true faith, seems to show us the true strangeness and wonder of miracles. (see the final scene. Be warned: major spoiler!)
Repulsion (1965, U.S.A., dir. Roman Polanski)
A weekend of slow, hallucinatory, claustrophobic decent into madness. Uh, why is this on my list? I could watch this film only 1-1/2 times, and can’t bear to watch it again. Polanski seems to open up the gates of insanity and welcome us into it. Catherine Deneuve is fantastic as the paranoid, repressed Carole. More frightening than most of the films at the “Horror” section of the video store. (watch trailer here)