The Criterion Collection has an excellent series called Top 10 where they invite filmmakers, film critics and theorists, actors, cinephiles, and celebrities to list their Top 10 from the Criterion Collection. It’s a really unique series because it provides wonderful insights into what has influenced these people. Now that I’ve been reading these lists for a few years, my own personal top 10 of Criterion Top 10 lists has started to emerge. Here are the 10 people whose lists I like the most:
Campion’s list hits every single high note in my book. She’s got Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai (1974); Ingmar Bergman, Scenes from a Marriage (1973); the French New Wave with Jean-Luc Godard’s classic Contempt (1963); the Czech New Wave via Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball (1963); and then she confessed that “[Luis] Buñuel is my first deep love in cinema” while adding That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). I’m impressed.
It’s not so much that I would place Buscemi’s choices in my own top 10. What makes me enjoy Buscemi’s list so much is his dedication to independent cinema. Buscemi owes much of his career to indie work. You know, along with all of his talent and hard work. So it warms my heart to see him list Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974); Man Bites Dog (1992), which feels just like a classic 90’s American indie, even if it is from Belgium; and Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1991).
Anders’ list features several of the best female protagonists in the entire Criterion Collection- Angela (Anna Karina) in A Woman is a Woman (1961); Millie (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky (Sissy Spacek) in Robert Altman’s incomparable 3 Women (1977); Mary (Candace Hilligoss) in the cult classic, Carnival of Souls (1962); and Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) in The Red Shoes (1948).
Listening to Cowie’s commentary has enhanced my enjoyment of several Criterion movies. In a lot of ways, he has been a de facto film professor for all of us, offering insight into how and why these films are so cherished. It should come as no surprise that there’s a lot of overlap between my favorite directors and films with Cowie’s list. There’s also a wonderful balance to his list, which includes films from Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Poland, Sweden, and Denmark.
Just as Steve Buscemi’s list pays homage to his independent roots, Guy Maddin’s list pays homage to his own roots. It unfolds like a road map through his films. When you think of Maddin, you think of a reverence for silent film, disturbing imagery, and quirky childhood issues (amongst other things). Represented on his list: Häxan (1922); Pandora’s Box (1929); Grey Gardens (1976); and Forbidden Games (1952).
It’s easy to think of Criterion as a source of foreign and arthouse cinema. The reality is that they have a whole host of wonderful American films. Markey’s list illustrates this fact across a variety of genres. It includes indie drama- Slacker (1991) and Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959). It includes comedy- This is Spinal Tap (1984). It includes… whatever the hell little slice of fun Terry Gilliam cooks up- Brazil (1985) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). It’s a spectacular checklist of American Criterion selections.
Gorin’s list presents a special balance of countries of origin and genres. Noteworthy to me is the inclusion of Jacques Tati’s Play Time (1967) and more importantly, the high praise he heaps upon Bergman’s Winter Light (1962):
This is a terrifying film to watch for any aspiring filmmaker worth his/her salt. One takes a look at it and soon realizes that it spells perfection. Not a reassuring realization when one is trying to enter the trade.
João Pedro Rodrigues
Rodrigues’s list jumps out at me specifically because of the inclusion of two films, together, directly in the middle of his list. Namely, he pairs 1960 films Eyes Without a Face and Peeping Tom, both wonderful bits of suspense and Freudian horror.
His inclusions are characterized by deep religious overtones, featuring Day of Wrath (1943), Fanny and Alexander (1982), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and The Flowers of St. Francis (1950). For good measure and a foray into comedy, he adds Preston Sturges’ brilliant dark comedy Unfaithfully Yours (1948).
Guillermo Del Toro
I saved the best for last. Upon seeing Del Toro’s list, my reaction was “No wonder I enjoy his movies so much”. The list begins with five total films from two of my very favorite directors- Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa. It continues with Jean Cocteau’s fantasy masterpiece, Beauty and the Beast (1946)– and there’s little wonder it played an influence on him. It continues on with heavy doses of Preston Sturges, Carl Th. Dreyer, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, and Terry Gilliam. He also picks up a few wonderful horror films along the way- The Night of the Hunter (1955), Onibaba (1964), and Eyes Without a Face (1960).