I recently came to the painful realization that Criterion would not be calling me up any time soon to inquire about my top 10 films in their collection. Coupled with a recent challenge from The Criterion Cast podcast for listeners to create their own Three Reasons videos, I took it upon myself to create a series of ten short videos highlighting those films in the collection that have influenced me. Here they are in alphabetical order:
#1 – Army of Shadows
I caught Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 film Army of Shadows (Criterion spine #385) when it made its American theatrical debut in 2006. This epic 2-1/2 hour thriller was inspired by Melville’s own experiences in the French resistance.
#2 – Close-up
Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 narrative-documentary hybrid Nema Ye Nazdik (Close-Up) was a revelation to me when Criterion released it on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010 (spine number 519). The issues of identity and reality were similar to those I had been exploring in Icarus of Pittsburgh, Scenic Highway, and even to some extent, Fansom the Lizard. But Kiarostami took it one step further by having the actual subjects in the real-life event participate in the re-creation for the film itself – including the impersonated film director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, himself.
By relocating the narrative from Baltimore to my hometown, New Orleans, Fincher infuses the film with its themes of time and decay – themes that resonate in my work.
#4 – F For Fake
#5 – For All Mankind
This piece is for Al Reinert’s 1989 documentary about the Apollo space program (spine #54) – using footage shot by the astronauts themselves – which I have owned variously on videotape, CD-ROM, laserdisc, and DVD.
#6 – Le Jetée
Chris Marker’s 1963 science fiction short (spine number 387 – coupled with his 1983 free-form travelogue “Sans Soleil”) is a successful cinematic example of using compelling black and white images alone to tell a story. It was this technique of using primarily still photographs that informed the visual grammar of my 2009 documentary short A Necessary Ruin.
For the most part, it is the surreal narrative style of the troope – from their television show through their foray into motion pictures – that I gravitate toward.
#8 – Slacker
This piece is for Richard Linklaters’s 1991 16mm stream of conciousness docu-log Slacker – that become a touchstone for Generation X (spine #247). Included in the DVD set is Linklater’s excellent first feature It’s Impossible To Learn To Plow By Reading Books.
#9 – Stolen Kisses
This is the third film in François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel cycle – 1968′s Stolen Kisses (Criterion spine #186). (Honestly, I could have picked any in the series.) I hope that one day my favorite Truffaut film makes it into the collection – 1973′s Le Nuit Américaine.
#10 – The Third Man
Carol Reed’s 1949 noir set in postwar Vienna. Unfortunately, the Criterion version (spine number 64) is out of print – but not before I luckily snatched up the 1999 DVD, the 2007 DVD re-issue, and the 2008 Blu-Ray. This is one of a handful of films I can put on at anytime, and find myself not able to tear myself away until the end.