Guide To My Greatest Films List (WARNING: SPOILERS) [NOTE: This list will be updated later to more accurately reflect my current rankings]


  2. Greed-Von Stroheim (1924)
  3. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre-Huston (1948); There Will Be Blood-Anderson (2007); The Wild Bunch-Peckinpah (1969); Satantango-Tarr (1994)

  4. Metropolis-Lang (1926)
  5. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Intolerance-Griffith (1916); The Battleship Potemkin-Eisenstein (1925); Modern Times-Chaplin (1936); Star Wars-Lucas (1977); The Empire Strikes Back-Kershner (1980); Blade Runner-Scott (1982); The Terminator-Cameron (1984); Brazil-Gilliam (1985); The City of Lost Children-Jeunet (1995); The Fifth Element-Besson (1997)

  6. The Passion of Joan of Arc-Dreyer (1927)
  7. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Breaking the Waves-Von Trier (1996)

  8. Citizen Kane-Welles (1941)

  9. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Magnificent Ambersons-Welles (1942); Mr. Arkadin-Welles (1955); Hiroshima, Mon Amour-Resnais (1959); Mirror-Tarkovksy (1974)

  10. Ikiru-Kurosawa (1952) (IN-PROGRESS)
  11. In 1952, Kurosawa directed his emotional masterpiece, Ikiru ("To Live", or just as apt, "Doomed"). The film had little in common with the Samurai epics Kurosawa would become so well known for throughout his career, and instead fostered a deep, impassioned sympathy for life and death.

  12. Ikiru tells the story of a lonely bureaucrat, Kanji Watanabe, who discovers he has stomach cancer and, facing death, finally starts living a life of meaning, after having served his office in decades of monotony. The film also symbolically expresses the plight of post-war Japan and Watanabe becomes a symbol of its pathos. The scenes are visualized through cinematography and art direction presenting them in a constant terminal condition, everything beaten and degraded, grainy, black and white; like ash, the aftermath of war. There is a poetic grace to the camera movements, and instead of just observing the scenes in a straightforward or simplistic manner, they often mimic the movements and viewpoints of Watanabe from just behind or near his body, or take on his point-of-view entirely. The careful, flowing motions of the camera are meticulously plotted to immerse the viewer in the grave state of Watanabe, his introversion, his grief, his sorrow, his gestures, his slow life, his slow death.

  13. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Wild Strawberries-Bergman (1957); Nostalghia-Tarkovsky (1983); Eternity and a Day-Angelopoulos (1998)

  14. Touch of Evil-Welles (1958)
  15. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Pepe Le Moko-Duvivier (1937); The Third Man-Reed (1949); Kiss Me Deadly-Aldrich (1955); The Trial-Welles (1962); Chinatown-Polanski (1974)

  16. North By Northwest-Hitchcock (1959)
  17. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The 39 Steps-Hitchcock (1935); To Catch a Thief-Hitchcock (1955); The Getaway-Peckinpah (1972); Raiders of the Lost Ark-Spielberg (1980); Frantic-Polanski (1988); The Game-Fincher (1998)

  18. Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte-Aldrich (1965)
  19. ALSO RECOMMENDED: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?-Aldrich (1962)

  20. Persona-Bergman (1966)
  21. In 1966, Ingmar Bergman thoroughly shattered cinematic conventions with Persona, a film that was both a quantum leap in psychological depth and in the expression of film as a complex, highly personalized art form.

  22. The high contrast, stark cinematography was in a constant state of profound, clinical meditation upon visual paralysis. It was met with ghostly, otherworldly visions and hauntingly scrutinizing close-ups that exposed, internalized and twisted unspeakable and inexplicable psychological states in the protagonists as they transformed from human beings, to existential symbols, to nightmarish, vampiric states of mind, and finally to lost or renewed identities. The accompanying soundtrack was mysterious and intensely penetrating, as well as highly evocative of the lugubrious nature of the characters. The film is edited as a series of elliptical stages, brooding through a stream-of-consciousness of images in the confines of budding hysteria amidst catastrophic mental transference between two personalities, diabolically overtaking the same being until its original essence is totally lost. The acting was not “acting” anymore. It was a total assumption of another being. Collectively, the two protagonists (playing two halves of the same character) forge perhaps the greatest performance in the history of film. The performance and the film is a metaphor for and comment upon the method an actor goes through for his art: when a person acts out a character, the transformation can become so complete that it splits his personality, or even entirely overtakes his previous existence.

  23. The opening montage is the establishment of multiple realities: first the reality of “cinema”, enforced by identification through a series of emotionally direct, startling images. Then her son’s reality, staged from a metaphorical afterlife (inside a morgue). This “afterlife” is actually a subconscious psychological state of the protagonist: she has “banished” her son to such imprisonment in the recesses of her mind, caused by her withdrawal from him and her hidden desire that he is dead. Soon her son notices her on the screen, her reality now transposed with his own reality, yearning for her to salvage him from this banishment; the images on screen fluctuating between her personalities. Following this we are inside the world of the film itself, where all these realities converge in breathtaking psychological distortion & complexity, a pure cinematic nightmare – the only place where such realities all coexist, the only place where such a persona can be forged and therefore the only place where it can then be shattered. Here, Persona enters a totally new realm of emotional significance. The gradually escalating embattlement between two conflicting personalities becomes a devastating exploration of the psyche, with each exposed and struck down, coalescing into a telepathic method of giving birth to a new being, entering a state of artistic expression never before approached in film. The protagonists have left their own characters, creating a new character in the process. And gradually the film leaves its own cinematic universe, in essence creating a new film in the process. Persona reaches a highly metaphysical form of interaction, becoming an elongated soliloquy and leaving the world of cinema altogether into a state where each reality presented in the opening montage merges in perfect unison to become a supernatural catharsis of the soul.

  24. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Hiroshima, Mon Amour-Resnais (1959); Last Year at Marienbad-Resnais (1960); Hour of the Wolf-Bergman (1967); Cries & Whispers-Bergman (1972)

  25. 2001: A Space Odyssey-Kubrick (1968)
  26. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Tree of Life-Malick (2011)

  27. The Wild Bunch-Peckinpah (1969)
  28. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Greed-Von Stroheim (1924); Once Upon A Time In The West-Leone (1968); Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia-Peckinpah (1974); Taxi Driver-Scorsese (1976); The Killer-Woo (1989); Hard Boiled-Woo (1992); Natural Born Killers-Stone (1994)

  29. The Godfather-Coppola (1972)
  30. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Godfather, Part 2-Coppola (1974); The Deer Hunter-Cimino (1978); Schindler's List-Spielberg (1993)

  31. Mirror-Tarkovsky (1974)
  32. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Citizen Kane-Welles (1941); Hiroshima, Mon Amour-Resnais (1959); Last Year at Marienbad-Resnais (1960); Days of Heaven-Malick (1978); Stalker-Tarkovsky (1979); Come & See-Klimov (1985); Wings of Desire-Wenders (1987); The Thin Red Line-Malick (1998); The Tree of Life-Malick (2011)

  33. Nashville-Altman (1975)
  34. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Rules of the Game-Renoir (1939)

  35. The Traveling Players-Angelopoulos (1975)
  36. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Andrei Rublev-Tarkovsky (1966); Landscape in the Mist-Angelopoulos (1988); Satantango-Tarr (1994); Ulysses' Gaze-Angelopoulos (1995)

  37. Apocalypse Now-Coppola (1979)
  38. In 1979, Francis Ford Coppola directed Apocalypse Now, a towering, complex statement on the Vietnam War.

  39. Apocalypse Now takes place in Vietnam where Captain Willard, depressed, drunk and verging on insanity, is sent on a classified mission into Cambodia to terminate the command of Kurtz, a Colonel who's gone insane following increasingly insubordinate defiance of his superiors to build his own army and fight his own war deep in the jungle.

  40. The film expands from a straightforward mission of questionable ethics into a haunting reincarnation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Along the way it becomes a multi-dimensional, epic denouncement of the Vietnam War, each of its massive set pieces being commanding, panoramic views of its failure, loss, confusion, moral ambiguity, madness and cruelty. As much as it is an anti-war film, it also upholds an unflinching confront of the desires that envelope man, and as such, is an intensely seductive lure into the depravity of the Vietnam War, with the long journey down the river acting as an otherworldly swallow wherein the characters become increasingly subjected to a growing apocalyptic madness, concluding at the Kurtz compound as epic metaphors for the end of civilization. This journey becomes not just a physical act, but a morally conflicted odyssey expanding the consciousness of Willard, and the expanding consciousness of Man as regards the Vietnam War all the way to overwhelmed cognizance of its utter failure and the stunned sense of despair when everything around one is lost.

  41. Coppola and cinematographer Storaro exhibit a total command of the medium, utilizing sweeping aerial footage, POV, tracking shots, totally convincing special effects, massive set pieces and choice locales, and a flawless sense of color, lighting, control of tone, sound effects and score, featuring a number of the most astounding sequences in any war film. Its visuals are a stunning convergence of the extraordinary beauty of nature, the overwhelming spectacle and drama of battle, the dreamy surrealism of drug culture, the crowning and worship of religious idols, the darkness of war-torn man, the seduction and nightmarish inevitability of a hell on Earth. With masterfully composed editing, Coppola mounts collages of all these reference points emerging in deft unison, haunting the two protagonists under a sense of grandiose, philosophical introversion.

  42. As a man on the very edge of sanity, Willard is confronting his alter ego and fate in Kurtz, who at the end of the odyssey represents the aftermath of mankind and the birth of total anarchy. The Kurtz compound, spoiled in malaria, hanging dead bodies in trees, littered with severed heads on pikes and bloody, murdered bodies strewn across the ground, religiously fanatical natives, drugged and spaced-out war veterans, towering stone idols and Kurtz’s cavernous temple from which he is worshipped, is the nightmare supplanting all expectations, effectively transforming Willard into a subhuman. In his killing of Kurtz, juxtaposed by the ceremonial slaughter of a water buffalo, Man has returned to the instinctual barbarism of wild animals, losing all signs of civilization. Willard departs in a hypnotic trance, consumed by the transferred state of mind he has derived from Kurtz and his compound.

  43. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Aguirre, the Wrath of God-Herzog (1972); Taxi Driver-Scorsese (1976); Come & See-Klimov (1985); Platoon-Stone (1986); The Thin Red Line-Malick (1998)

  44. Stalker-Tarkovsky (1979)
  45. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Solaris-Tarkovsky (1972); Mirror-Tarkovsky (1974); Satantango-Tarr (1994); Werckmeister Harmonies-Tarr (2000)

  46. Possession-Zulawski (1981)
  47. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Repulsion-Polanski (1965); Rosemary's Baby-Polanski (1968); The Exorcist-Friedkin (1973); Fatal Attraction-Lyne (1987)

  48. Blade Runner-Scott (1982)
  49. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Metropolis-Lang (1926); The Terminator-Cameron (1984); A.I. Artificial Intelligence-Spielberg (2001); Minority Report-Spielberg (2002); Children of Men-Cuaron (2006)

  50. Nostalghia-Tarkovsky (1983)
  51. Andrei Tarkovsky cemented his semi-autobiographical personal odyssey with Nostalghia, perhaps the pinnacle of his cinematic art.

  52. The visuals of Nostalghia are consumed by a mesmerizing oneiric state, languished in the aftermath of overwhelming tragedy, seemingly under the intense burden and guidance of solemn prayer. The environments are so evocative that they become metaphysical extensions of the main characters (and in particular, Andrei), enveloping their confounded, contemplative wanderings; their existential purgatory. Tarkovsky does not merely show the protagonist experiencing emotional episodes – he shows the entire scene and landscapes as the physique, elaboration and representation of his state of mind. Each sequence becomes a gradual unveiling, presented as if miraculous conceptions of time and place, and under the grip of the protagonists’ intense feelings of nostalgia. He is transfixed on moments in time, on his memories, on people and objects, on his environment, gazing upon and longing for them as if he is seeing them for the last time before death. The surrounding landscapes and environments may be Italy but they take on the character of Russia, reflecting his immersion and longing for his homeland. Throughout the film, characters will each seem to be fraught with alternating, ambiguous mental states and purposes, and inexplicable assumptions of being. The film will become increasingly structured as a stream-of-consciousness, while each separate sequence is linked together by an inexorable fate that seems the pieces of a broad, ascending schematic of poetry, heavenly scenes, religious iconography and haunting, esoteric symbolism that reaches a transcendent, highly metaphysical plane. For its soundtrack, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, as well as strands of Debussy, Wagner and Russian folk songs are deftly employed to powerful effect in backing the visuals and themes of the film.

  53. Nostalghia presents its main protagonist, Andrei Gorchakov, as a filmic representation of Tarkovsky. He visits Italy to research the obscure composer Pavel Sosnovsky but finds himself unable to maintain focus and operate there due to a profound and stifling longing for his homeland of Russia. Opening the film is a memory (in first person perspective) of Andrei’s family, joining together atop a Russian countryside, shrouded in mist, intensely nostalgic and dream-like. In the next shot, Andrei and his comely interpreter, Eugenia, arrive by car in the Tuscan countryside, which is also shrouded in mist, intensely nostalgic and dream-like. It is visually reminiscent of the previous scene, posing the following: Italy is overwhelmed by Andrei’s state of mind, and has been replaced by his nostalgic longing for Russia. They get out of the car and gradually walk up the countryside to a convent, swallowed by the heavy mist as they make their way there. Stifled by nostalgic despair at the intensity of his surroundings, Andrei lags behind.

  54. Inside the convent, Eugenia views frescoes by Piero della Francesca, while Andrei refuses to enter, instead waiting outside, struck by memories of his family back home in Russia. Eugenia observes while a prayer is made to motherhood by a young woman and a group of religious followers. At the climax of her prayer, she releases a flock of birds from inside the clothing of a statue of Jesus, shown to be “overseen” by Piero della Francesca's fresco of The Virgin Mary. This fresco of the Madonna, also being viewed by Eugenia and gazed upon through the first person camera perspective of Tarkovsky himself, is juxtaposed with a shot of Andrei Gorchakov. While appearing to be standing outside the convent, he is actually standing inside his own memory of his Russian homestead, looking back at The Virgin Mary/Eugenia in Italy (as if it was all a vision he had from before). A feather from the flock of birds at the convent gradually falls from the sky, floating down to the floor and also into Andrei Gorchakov’s memory, suggesting a spiritual connection and influence between he, The Virgin Mary, his family, Russia, the young pregnant woman and her prayer, Italy and Eugenia.

  55. Andrei and Eugenia arrive at their hotel. There, he is caught between memories of his wife back in Russia, and holding a conversation with Eugenia in the present, confusing the two. He and Eugenia converse about art, the sort of nostalgia peculiar to Russians, and the need to rid the world of frontiers (each a vocal introduction to the most extensive themes of the film). This sequence is edited with the spatial difference between Eugenia and Andrei collapsed, suggesting unification, confusion, and that their conversation may also be an internal dialogue between two facets of the same mind (Tarkovsky). Mid-conversation, Andrei is stricken by his memories of home, of his daughter running across the countryside and playing catch with his dog. Afterwards, he enters his hotel room and his dog suddenly arrives from his mind to join him in Italy, and thereafter appears in various scenes throughout the rest of the film. In different scenes the dog will appear to be both Andrei’s as well as Domenico’s (one of several suggestions that Andrei and Domenico are different facets of the same personality/being). Eugenia also visits him at the door of his hotel room and she seems smitten with Andrei before leaving to her room with her innuendo and expectations unacknowledged.

  56. Andrei falls asleep in his room and into a haunting, enigmatic dream sequence. Here, Eugenia and Andrei’s wife (who, at various points in the film is alluded to as a spiritual reincarnation of the Virgin Mary) seem to coexist as one, intertwined in a pose and facial expressions suggesting secrecy, erotica and a merging of their bodies/personalities (reminiscent of Bergman’s Persona). Their union is a metaphor for Andrei’s merging of Italy and Russia, as well as his mental confusion/unification of the two women. As the dream sequence continues, Eugenia becomes grief-stricken with bleeding hands (crucifixion?), and his wife becomes pregnant. Mentally speaking, there doesn’t seem to be a clear demarcation made between the two women, a possible psychological reference to Andrei’s fear of cheating on his wife with Eugenia (or that Eugenia will try to press the issue). This also suggests a thematic connection resulting from the sequence inside the convent where the prayers for motherhood were made, and where the juxtaposition and merging between The Virgin Mary, Andrei and Eugenia, Italy, Russia and his family occurred. Concluding this sequence is a haunting image of Andrei’s wife, pregnant and lying down in a still-life, funereal pose, dissipating from his dream and into his present reality as he awakes in his hotel room in Italy on the very same bed.

  57. Soon, Andrei meets Domenico, a highly idiosyncratic man considered insane by the surrounding community. Domenico once locked his family inside their house for 7 years in an ill-advised attempt to protect them from the apocalypse. Their first encounter occurs in a hypnotic, dream-like sequence, surrounding an old Roman bath in the center of the Tuscan village Bagno Vignoni, overwhelmed by a heavy mist and shot with camera movements that glide in a stately, floating grace. It is shot in a first person perspective in which the characters walk in and out of the point of view of the camera, and their ruminations and vocalizations seem to be both what “they” are communicating and “thoughts” or “monologues” from the “point of view/camera perspective” (Tarkovsky).

  58. Domenico leaves Bagno Vignoni, and Andrei and Eugenia leave shortly thereafter to meet him at his home. There, they attempt to convince Domenico to see them, though he seems aloof, introverted and disinterested. Eugenia suddenly leaves in disgust, upset that Andrei pays so little attention to consummating their relationship, instead dedicating himself to meeting Domenico and in urging her to help him do so. Once she leaves, Andrei then talks to Domenico himself and soon gains entry to his home, which is a broken down wreck: holes in the ceiling, puddles all over the flooring, purposeless doorways, haunting pictures and strange notes posted on the walls and bottles littered about to catch the rain. These are products of Domenico’s confusions and internal monologue, physical representations of his state of mind.

  59. As Andrei enters, the door opens like a portal, as if he is stepping into another dimension. Much of the sequence is dream-like. As before with Eugenia, Tarkovsky portrays the ongoing conversation between Andrei and Domenico with their spatial relationship collapsed, each of them alone in their own space while communicating to the other. They will not occupy the same frame until Domenico finally shares a task he has for Andrei. Obsessed with the thought of committing an act of faith, Domenico requests that Andrei walk across the Roman bath in the center of Bagno Vignoni, a lit candle in his hand. He must cross before the flame goes out, which Domenico claims will save the whole world. Andrei agrees to the task and leaves, suddenly and conspicuously disappearing from the house altogether (suggesting that Domenico may have been alone the whole time). Domenico is left haunted, in a state of anxiety about being alone. He is consumed by his own nostalgia and deep sorrow over losing his family, stifled by his memories (like Andrei), remembering the day authorities released his imprisoned family. In a character juxtaposition from Domenico’s son Zoe to Andrei, suddenly he and Andrei are seen embracing (as if a reunion of father-and-son).

  60. As Andrei arrives back at Bagno Vignoni, Eugenia is sitting on his bed in his hotel room. She is very upset at him and protests this in a mad, scolding diatribe of non-sequitur ideas and criticisms which suddenly reveals her to be a totally different person, now with a confused, crazed state of mind (like Domenico, especially later on when he is at the Capitoleum). Following Eugenia’s tirade, she storms off to her room to pack and get ready to leave Tuscan, while Andrei suddenly gets a bloody nose and starts falling unconscious. Andrei lies down and Eugenia returns with a letter from the composer Pavel Sosnovsky. Reading it to herself, she begins to understand Andrei and his state of mind. While she is reading, the contents of the letter are also being thought by Andrei (as he is falling unconscious), and in a monologue that is being vocalized to him by Sosnovsky.

  61. The themes running throughout the film now begin thoroughly merging into profoundly moving and vivid expressions of Tarkovsky’s nostalgia and deeply spiritual nature. Andrei falls into a dream state. He longingly recalls his wife at home in Russia, as she suddenly awakens there and speaks to him. It seems they have been dreaming about each other simultaneously, and are now in telepathic communion. They are transcending frontiers between themselves, between Italy and Russia. She opens a shade and a bird takes flight from the window sill. She then opens the front door which actually acts as a sort of portal, leading Andrei into a different memory, gazing at his family (perhaps as a young boy) in his homeland. In the next shot, his wife and family stand in the Russian countryside in elongated sorrow, looking back (into the camera) at him in haunting close-up, in wrenching despair, the scene drenched in mist and morning dew as their bodies duplicate (two alike memories fused together?) during an uncut, long tracking shot. Slowly in the background, the sun dawns behind them. Inside flooded Italian ruins, Andrei loses himself in booze, waxing philosophic in a drunken outpouring to an Italian girl who shows up from behind the walls. An unseen exterior force (the internal monologue of Tarkovsky himself, in telepathic communion with his father) recites his poetry as an allusionary sermon in voice-over to Andrei as he falls unconscious. He then finds himself in a rampaged, littered, post-apocalyptic alley way near the abandoned house of Domenico, the one he locked his family in for seven years. In a despairing search for answers Andrei makes a startling, haunting revelation about himself. Looking in a mirror, he sees the reflection of Domenico instead of his own, thus discovering that they are the same person and that he imprisoned his family. He cannot confront it and he collapses, shocked and devastated. He arrives inside the towering ruins of an Italian church, slowly walking through as Eugenia and another voice (God? His father?) converse over him, making a postulate for his future, symbolically shown in the form of a feather gradually falling from the sky down into the flooded area where he initially fell unconscious. This is a circular connection from the earlier memory at the beginning of the film when Eugenia was inside the convent. The film seems to have come full circle in a cycle towards infinity. During a brief interval where Andrei contacts Eugenia (who has left to Rome and found another man), she becomes stricken with Andrei’s nostalgia for Italy (or “Russia”) and (like Andrei), longs to go see Domenico. Andrei returns to the bath in Bagno Vignoni after he is reminded by Eugenia to fulfill Domenico’s request. Domenico is in Rome, atop the Marcus Aurelius statue at the Capitoleum, delivering an elaborate, maniacal diatribe detailing his views on the failings of man, of faith and brotherhood, and his muddled hopes for the future. Eugenia, Andrei’s dog, and dozens of onlookers abound, are standing there in total disconnection from reality, frozen in time as if live statues in petrified awe (a symbolic approximation of a dream of Pavel Sosnovsky’s, described in the letter that was read by Eugenia, which was written just before the composer committed suicide). At the end of his speech, Domenico pours gasoline on his body, jumps down from the statue and (like Sosnovsky), commits suicide, burning himself alive in an act of immolation to Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, a rebellious call for the world to unite in understanding, faith and universal brotherhood. Only a few of the spectators are alive enough to react, and even they seem detached from reality. Meanwhile, Andrei makes several attempts to cross the bath in Bagno Vignoni, shown in one long excruciating take by Tarkovsky. The candle keeps burning out only partially across. Finally, after nearly passing out and now on the verge of death, he manages to cross to the other side, candle aflame and in hand. As he collapses at the end of the poolside, he makes a desperate attempt to place the candle on the ledge so that it will not extinguish before he draws his last breath, finally accomplishing this a moment before dying. Directly following this, Andrei has visions of a woman who may be his mother, and a young boy who may be his son or perhaps himself as a child. Each seem to be at the bath where he committed his final act. Both seem to have a special recognition of what he has done, and, as with many of the shots throughout the film, the camera perspective (Tarkovsky) returns their recognition by longingly holding its gaze upon them. The closing sequence is of Andrei sitting with his dog in front of his Russian home, inside the countryside of the opening scene of the film. They are shown to also be inside the ruins of the Italian church he walked through which is now towering above his Russian home and making up the perimeter of his surroundings. A heavy mist billows between his homestead and the Italian church ruins. Snow falls slowly while angels sing as Tarkovsky makes a dedication to his mother.

  62. To summarize, Nostalghia is Tarkovsky’s deep-seated internal monologue. He expresses this through the viewpoint of the camera, which is Tarkovsky himself. The long, entranced, subtly moving gazes of the camera are in the first person — they are him, through the shot, seeing things for the last time. When the camera views the characters and scenery (always in a longing, subtly moving, aching gaze), Tarkovsky is watching and considering himself, his own spiritual nature, contemplating his thoughts and various points of view, the main characters symbolizing a split of his personality. When the main characters communicate with one another, they are expressing his own internal monologue or dialogues between the various facets of his personality.

  63. Andrei's walk across the bath is a microcosm of an entire lifetime. It is the struggle of a life encapsulated in a single shot, the cycle of birth to death, represented by both the lead character, his persistence and then fading health, and in his hand the lit, flickering then fading, candle flame. Concurrently to Andrei crossing the bath, Domenico's suicide is the fanatical parallel to the same task. Instead of a gentle candle, he has violently lit himself afire. Perhaps the two acts together equal a balance that, in Tarkovsky's eyes, brings a spiritual salvation to the world.

  64. According to Oleg Yankovsky, when he first met Tarkovsky to discuss the filming, the director asked the actor to help him fulfill a grand idea to “display an entire human life in one shot, without any editing, from beginning to end, from birth to the very moment of death.” Tarkovsky visualized life in the form of a candle. “Remember the candles in Orthodox churches, how they flicker. The very essence of things, the spirit, the spirit of fire.” And so the act of carrying the candle across the stagnant pool was nothing less than the effort of an entire lifetime encapsulated in one gesture. “If you can do that,” Tarkovsky challenged Yankovsky, “if it really happens and you carry the candle to the end–in one shot, straight, without cinematic conjuring tricks and cut-in editing—then maybe this act will be the true meaning of my life. It will certainly be the finest shot I ever took—if you can do it, if you can endure to the end.” (ref:

  65. Throughout the film, Tarkovsky's meditative, nearly still, intensely focused and measured shots can each be compared to mini lifetimes within a whole, the spirit slowly receding from them or slowly illuminating them, represented by the gradual, intricate changes in lighting, character and environment. Each are microcosms and harbingers of the penultimate shot of Andrei crossing the bath with candle in hand. Each could be said to be subliminally leading Andrei to his final task. Each could be said to be metaphors for the candle, its flame showing life by its flicker then gradually extinguishing; these shots, their little lives, slowly birthing, living, then extinguishing one-by-one until Andrei carries out his final task and passes away at the pool's ledge, the candle safely across.

  66. The film's lighting and cinematography as a whole can be likened to a gradual trek and reach towards enlightenment. Much of the first half is filled with dimmed or darker lit interiors and dank, gloomy, misted, visually impaired environments, before gradually becoming slightly lighter and more visually clear until the finale. The entire film could be likened to a single, metaphorical candle slowly illuminating a darkness. The scenes can be viewed as retrospective, as the resulting aftermath of Andrei's final act, each moment and the film's entirety now imbued by it, and/or as evidence that he was led there subliminally or by God. At several points in the film, Andrei is struck by a sharp, grinding noise in his mind, which seems to signify the pain of his recollections, the deep, intensity of his nostalgia. It could also signify the subliminal nature of his calling.

  67. Tarkovsky has erected a monument of interconnected themes and metaphor. It progresses as one massive movement to infinity, as a liberation of his most personalized feelings, revealing a profound and utterly singular form of spiritual expression. Within this, the themes and metaphors of the film interchange and procreate without warning or explanation. The film moves forward as if a series of visions as opposed to a clearly defined plot. The incidents and conclusions in the film just are, arrived at by thought alone, on a metaphysical, spiritual plane and not subject to the laws of the physical universe. Each theme presented congregates with all other themes presented. Each character represents several identities throughout the film. These assumptions of being represent Tarkovsky’s visions of those he desired an internal dialogue before death in perhaps his own plea for salvation (as well as perhaps an identity crises). Andrei becomes Jesus, Domenico becomes God, Eugenia becomes the Madonna, Andrei’s wife becomes Eugenia, Domenico becomes Andrei’s father, and Andrei his son Zoe. Domenico and Andrei merge, becoming each other. They each become Sosnovsky. Italy becomes Russia, the beginning of the film becomes the end of the film, dreams and memories become reality and vice versa. The film is an elaborate composition on the inter-connectivity of all beings and all things, as both a hope and an actuality. It is a visionary embodiment of Tarkovsky’s particular form of Russian nostalgia, which immerses the film’s universe from all vantage points: Tarkovsky himself, each of the characters successively, the environments, and, encompassing all of these simultaneously, the viewer, who in essence has been granted the same vantage point as Tarkovsky, or, back of that, God. With the opening shot, it progresses from the first person perspective of Tarkovsky alone, and expands successively to each character and to each sequence and environment, until it is all-consuming, emanating as an epic definition and experience of the concept in all its meaning. It is possible the entire film is a sequence actually starting from the afterlife, from Andrei’s vantage point and visionary context in the last shot, with each sequence a careful re-assessment being mentally “pulled back” from the beginning of the film to the end.

  68. Nostalghia is Tarkovsky’s moving introspection on pending death, his gradual, intricate unveiling of self as a spiritual being, and an extraordinarily beautiful tableaux and ode to the world he would soon be leaving behind, the world he was losing to memories and dreams, of hope and longing that all things be reappraised as if being seen for the last time; that those things, the people, himself, and all he held dear, be ultimately remembered as works of art. In the final shot, an eternal pose and gaze from the afterlife, Andrei has overcome the frontiers of space, time and human connection: he is back home in Russia while also inside Italy, looking back upon the world he left. Amidst a perpetual Russian snow, along the countrysides of both Italy and his homeland, it is the ominous culmination of his hopes and efforts, an offering that emanates as a fusion of his nostalgia eternally imaged. It is a work of art that merges the mysterious sense of geometry, perspective and profound imagery as that of Renaissance masters Piero della Francesca and Leonardo Da Vinci. As with The Virgin Mary, the entire scene is a monumental religious fresco. Tarkovsky offers himself to her, his humble plea of salvation in honor of the surrogate who has led him there and she who attends to his mother from beyond the grave.

  69. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Ikiru-Kurosawa (1952); Wild Strawberries-Bergman (1957); The Sacrifice-Tarkovsky (1986); Eternity and a Day-Angelopoulos (1998)

  70. Brazil-Gilliam (1985)
  71. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Metropolis-Lang (1926); Modern Times-Chaplin (1936); The Trial-Welles (1962); 8 1/2-Fellini (1963); A Clockwork Orange-Kubrick (1971); The City of Lost Children-Jeunet (1995); 12 Monkeys-Gilliam (1996)

  72. Blue Velvet-Lynch (1986)
  73. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Shadow of a Doubt-Hitchcock (1948); Psycho-Hitchcock (1960); The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover-Greenaway (1989)

  74. The Sacrifice-Tarkovsky (1986)
  75. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Shame-Bergman (1968); Nostalghia-Tarkovsky (1983); The Willow Tree-Majidi (2005)

  76. Landscape in the Mist-Angelopoulos (1988)
  77. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Walkabout-Roeg (1971); The Traveling Players-Angelopoulos (1975); Ulysses' Gaze-Angelopoulos (1995); Eternity and a Day-Angelopoulos (1998)

  78. The Killer-Woo (1989)
  79. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Wild Bunch-Peckinpah (1969); Hard Boiled-Woo (1992); Leon: The Professional-Besson (1994); Face/Off-Woo (1997)

  80. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover-Greenaway (1989)
  81. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Blue Velvet-Lynch (1986); Delicatessen-Jeunet (1995)

  82. Leon: The Professional-Besson (1994)
  83. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Killer-Woo (1989); Hard Boiled-Woo (1992); La Femme Nikita-Besson (1990); Face/Off-Woo (1997)

  84. Natural Born Killers-Stone (1994)
  85. In 1994 Oliver Stone directed Natural Born Killers, probably the most violent and controversial mainstream film ever produced.

  86. The film is the story of a couple of serial killers, Mickey and Mallory Knox, who fall in love and go on a cross-country murdering spree, killing with random, senseless violence on psychotic whims, leaving over 50 deaths in their wake. A media frenzy and social satire ensues and reaches a breaking point when they are caught, arrested, put in a high security prison, and then influence an apocalyptic rebellion during which they escape victoriously.

  87. Stone plunges the viewer head-on into a nightmarish hell on Earth that is the world colored by the protagonists’ psychotic states of mind, thus uncompromisingly subjecting the viewer to assume their points of view, trapped and eternally damned as they are. Visually, he depicts this by utilizing a schizophrenia of different techniques in cinematography and mind-bending variations of vivid color schemes, along with black & white, various optical and special effects, crazy cartoons detailing “heroic” actions of the lead characters, a grossly demented and blackly comic degenerate family sitcom, hallucinatory head trips, spiraling detours into visionary black holes consumed by and reflecting old movies, music videos, monsters, wild beasts, and informed by a slew of references to pop culture. The protagonists’ minds run amok like a parade of media reflecting from several sources inside the frame: on television sets, on hotel room windows, on back alleys, mirrored on the sky, in the people they see, and many other incarnations. In terms of editing, the film is in a constant act of ferocious rebellion, relentlessly unfolding in a state of total delirium, employing extremist, rapid-fire variations of frantic Eisenstein-ian montages and Peckinpah’s poetic nihilism and apocalyptic violence to the limit. Emotionally, Stone uses these techniques to depict not just the action unfolding, but the inner torments and motivations of all the main characters. He doesn’t explain; he shows memories revolting against them as juxtapositions to the action in present time, in sudden reactions to the environment and as chaotic assaults of the subconscious driving them to madness.

  88. Natural Born Killers depicts relentless acts of violent, bloody carnage exploding from the screen with vivid imagination, a crazed delusional fantasy referenced by splatterpunk, comic books, Bonnie & Clyde, and several actual media events. In taking this to its artistic and cathartic extreme, and making it so chaotic, violent and psychologically palpable, it communicates with an awe-inspiring expressive force, erupting into perceptive social media satire, while also becoming an outrageous monstrosity of jet black comedy, psychological thriller and crime sub-genres.

  89. As the film evolves, the main characters become a revolving circus of personalities and different media types: from social outcasts, to romantic lovers, to evil mass-murderers on the show American Maniacs, to cartoon superheroes, to mass media icons, sex symbols, and public idols. They pass through different states of mind as if passing through different dimensions; as if, by contagion, passing through the collective consciousness of all the victims, the media and cultural phenomena spiraling into oblivion around them; a hysteria of relentless sin, an illusion of invincibility, a wrath that never stops and never lets go.

  90. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Scarface-Hawks (1932); Bonnie & Clyde-Penn (1967); The Wild Bunch-Peckinpah (1969); A Clockwork Orange-Kubrick (1971); Taxi Driver-Scorsese (1976); Wild at Heart-Lynch (1990)

  91. Satantango-Tarr (1994)
  92. ALSO RECOMMENDED: The Traveling Players-Angelopoulos (1975); Stalker-Tarkovsky (1979); Damnation-Tarr (1989); Werckmeister Harmonies-Tarr (2000)

  93. The Kingdom-Von Trier (1994)

  95. Underground-Kusturica (1995)
  96. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Duck Soup-McCarey/The Marx Brothers (1933); The Great Dictator-Chaplin (1940); To Be or Not To Be-Lubitsch (1948); 8 1/2-Fellini (1963); Come & See-Klimov (1985); Black Cat, White Cat-Kusturica (1998)

  97. Lost Highway-Lynch (1997)
  98. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Vertigo-Hitchcock (1958); Mulholland Drive-Lynch (2001); Inland Empire-Lynch (2006)

  99. The Color of Paradise-Majidi (1998)
  100. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Pather Panchali-Ray (1955); The Willow Tree-Majidi (2005)

  101. Inland Empire-Lynch (2006)
  102. ALSO RECOMMENDED: Sunset Boulevard-Wilder (1950); Lost Highway-Lynch (1997); Mulholland Drive-Lynch (2001)
Author Comments: 

Warning: the above list contains reviews/summaries which feature spoilers. I recommend that one reads one of these only following the first viewing of the film, not before.

The above list is arranged in order of "challenge rating". In other words, I took my "Greatest Films" list and ordered it by how "difficult" each film is (approximately) on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most difficult. One can follow this order when watching the films on my list and, if done in that sequence (or even an approximation of it), you can increase your chances of acclimating your tastes to the plethora of different types of films represented. This is especially useful for those who don't really like the same films as I do but wants to take the plunge into discovering them anyway.

See my "Guide To My Greatest Albums" list for more precise challenge ratings definitions

If Inland Empire was watched with short intermissions between the first and second hour, and the second and third hour (and it actually does make clear act breaks almost exactly for each hour so it wouldn't largely break the action) I'd say it'd drop on the difficulty level by at least 1 full point.

Also your Citizen Kane review is keen and also much more emotionally engaging than I ever found the film. Heh. I'd never say that it's by any means bad or even less than great. I've always just found it felt a little lifeless (perhaps that's the point).

That's an interesting point on Inland Empire. Personally I find the film a breeze - I find any bluntly emotional film (or album) a breeze no matter the structure. For most people it seems to be the reverse--which is what this list is: a prediction of what I think the "average" filmgoer would think of these films challenge-wise. Obviously, because it's an estimate, it's open to inaccuracies and not everyone is going to agree on where each film stands.

I actually have (or had) a tougher time with finding a film like North By Northwest highly emotional (in its case, because it's so "flippant" and "breezy" and never stops to "pound any of its emotional moments home") than I did with Inland Empire, which shattered me on the first viewing. In some ways, the order above should be reversed for someone like me...

Thanks regarding Kane. And yes, "lifelessness" is one of the points. I'll probably tweak & write more on my review but I'll say here that even the exuberance of much of the film's first 1/2 has pretense to it (like Kane himself) and just underneath that is lifelessness. Another point of the film is that it can't quite be pinpointed; the film and Kane share the same characteristics of multiplicity--the "character" Kane within the scenes of the film is a microcosm of the overall "film" Kane. It's an endless enigma, a sort of void or vacuum that can seem to pass by if one's not careful, but actually has practically infinite mystery and meaning.

An interesting and workable method I've found usually works for me in changing my mind on a film that "seems like it should be amazing but I'm just not digging it", is this: my main complaint towards the film (or album) is often the very thing that, if viewed from a slightly tweaked perspective, will suddenly become that which is amazing about the film (or album).

Potential examples: "Citizen Kane is so lifeless it bores me" to "Citizen Kane is so lifeless that it awes me" (in this case, lifeless goes from "boring" to something like an "enigmatic state of emotional desolation"). It's an interesting shift.

Someone could walk up to me after listening to Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom and say "God that was strange/wierd" (with a defeated look) and I could respond enthusiastically, "I know! It's amazing how unique, subjective and indiosynchratic it is, isn't it? Wait, isn't it?" As he walks away...

Often works for me when I'm having difficulty. I'll watch the film (or listen to the album) with that shift in mind and all of a sudden it can start coming together.

For me that shift is usually simply twisting my complaint to how that could be a positive from an emotional standpoint. In North By Northwest's case the flippancy and breeziness is actually a significant part of it's emotional and visceral power. That such a nightmarish plot and deadly, suspenseful circumstances are continuously treated as if just a silly game and how what just happened hardly even mattered (if at all), while the film also looks as vibrant and cheerful as a cartoon, turns into quite a volcanic emotional experience once one is keen enough to it.

I can't really begin to think of a good way to reply to all of this but I just wantt os ay that I don't find it boring and I do agree with just about everything you say about the film-- just not to the same degree. It is still an amazing film for all the things you said, but I just wouldn't say it is the best by any stretch.

First of all, I don't know how you can watch a movie 40 times. That's crazy talk.

Anyways, I agree with Zach (surprisesurprise), kind of. It's not that I disagree with what you're saying, but you clearly like the film a lot more than myself.

Calling him a "tyranical deity" and all the adjectives that preceded it seems odd because of course Kane is the authoritarian figure of the film, it's his life story. I don't see anything genius about that, it's the nature of the narrative form. Him shaping the reality of the film is an idealist position that's been around for centuries.

Another issue: I agree that all the film's visuals are communicative, and that in itself is problematic. By layering the film so heavily the surface drops out, and, well, that's life dropping out. We don't experience on metaphorical and psychological levels, and I'm not saying that art should ignore them, but it's an issue when they're so dominant. His other work is a step forward in this aspect.

I was wondering whether subtly is something you appreciate. Your critical language is often dramatic and sweeping, do you also like art that works on a less... operatic scale?

Well, I've been watching it for 15 years so it's not that crazy. That's an average of 2-3 per year.

It's fine if you don't really like the film a ton. Maybe someday you will, maybe you won't. The route to doing so, is at least as far as I've experienced, in the words of that review... the "tyrannical deity" comment isn't meant to be a unique insight into the film... the middle paragraph contains the most valuable insight into uncovering the true depths of Kane, opening the door so to speak. What I've written in the paragraph following that is only amplified by really experiencing what's in the 2nd paragraph. And if you've already experienced that fully, and still don't love the film, that's totally okay. Art is subjective.

There are several subtle films I value highly. Citizen Kane, beyond its surface, is among the most subtle films ever made (okay if you disagree). The Traveling Players, Landscape in the Mist, Blow Up, The Magnificent Ambersons, Nostalghia are quite subtle. Brazil, Metropolis, Zardoz...just kidding. Satantango, Werckmeister Harmonies, Red--subtle films are littered all throughout my list from 7.5 on up. Overall I generally love all types of films--the resulting emotional impact is the only real constant. My 9/10+ list is mainly just my choices of all the different ways "emotional significance" has been achieved to the greatest degree.

Thanks for the in-depth response. I hope more reviews are on the way, because your Kane one certainly made me pause and think. Also I glanced at your list again, not sure where the subtlety question came from haha.

It's all good ( : More reviews are coming, albeit gradually...

HIGHLY RECOMMEND: Malick's new film Tree of Life

Here's a crying shame about Tree Of Life showings where I live: Most places in Vancouver will only show it digital. And places that do have a 35mm print of it will only show it 2 or 3 times a week.


You'll want to see it in the best setting possible because the experience is likely to be a memorable one...even if you don't end up thinking the film is a masterpiece like I do, it's hard for me to imagine you not at least appreciating it & being awed by Malick's attempt at such a profound, massive, uncompromising vision

The only thing that broke the experience for me was the other people my age in the theatre and their conversations during the credits. Some of whom I knew personally but did not say hello to. It all kinda felt like at the core of what they were saying was just "there weren't enough car chases/explosions/scantily clad women" (Then again, there is an extent that they'd be right in that there are pretentious aspects of the film. There are a handful of times where there's some hamhanded symbols but it usually doesn't rest on them long enough to be COMPLETELY tiresome).

Personally, I don't mind pretention; masterpieces that aren't at least somewhat pretentious are fairly difficult to come by. Almost by definition/happenstance, going "all out" leads one to so-called "pretentiousness". I almost think it was a word developed by someone who was jealous of someone elses greatness.

In terms of symbolism and everything else about the film: for me, all of it worked due to the amount of conviction put into it. Malick never let up; he was true to his own ideas, conception, emotions, etc. He gave us his vision and he himself was totally sold on it, so his vision got across to me.

As for the audience, there were a handful of people (usually couples) who left during my viewing of "Tree of Life" which is somewhat odd to me because the film, though better than I expected, was pretty close to how I expected it to be. So that leaves me wondering what the heck those people thought they were about to see. A Terrence Malick film is a Terrence Malick film, just like an Andrei Tarkovsky film is an Andrei Tarkovsky film or a David Lynch film (save Straight Story) is a David Lynch film.

I think I read Ray Carney saying basically what you just said about pretension.

The people who walked out were probably people who only noticed that Brad Pitt and Sean Penn were in it. People who say things like "They're just pulling this to try to get oscars" or "Brad Pitt must have been hurting for a buck to appear in this film.".

Don't know much about Carney but from what I've read it seems like he might support that view.

If Tree of Life won best picture or any significant oscars I'd be shocked. The Oscars usually give the highest rewards to films which are well made but also don't stray too far from the status quo. That said, though I've seen very few new films recently, it seems like it would be hard to justify denying it a "best cinematography" oscar. I have a hard time imagining a better contender for "best editing" so it should take that hands down, no questions asked, but I doubt it will.

I could imagine Tree of Life getting some technical oscars, and maybe a token screenplay nomination or something but it is hardly an oscar movie. Someone once said that the oscars should change all their awards from "best" to "most"-- things that win have the "most acting" or "most editing" in big bombastic and show-off-y ways.

I got mixed feelings about The Tree of Life. I liked it, but it's probably my least favorite Malick so far. Beautiful film, but it struck me as a little hollow. A lot of affecting images but a lack of coherence means they don't add up to a whole lot. Malick's aspirations are cosmic and loft, but he lacks both the profundity and focus to follow through. Also it was a little heavy on the classical music. This sounds like I'm being overly critical -- let me reiterate, I liked it; but Malick set a high standard, and the film definitely isn't The New World. Or Bad Lands. Or Days of Heaven. Or The Thin Blue Line. That said, I'd like to watch it again.

BTW: Carney can't stand Malick, so there's that. He's wrong in any case.

**Thin Red Line.

I've never read anything Carney has said explicitly about Malick, but I thought it seemed like a toss-up as to whether he'd tihnk it's good cinema or hamhanded garbage. Tree of Life was far from perfect but certainly above average in the least (I still gotta see every other Malick outside Tree of Life and New World).

I suspected views on it would be somewhat mixed. The film raises so many possible interpretations (which is one of the things I think is great about it). It probably will end up being similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey where opinions on it range from "awe-inspiring/miraculous" to "uneven/confusing" to "pretentious", but I expect it's consensous will grow more favorable with time (like 2001). It stands out like a monolith. It's an extremely resonant film. And comparing it to other films of the era, looking at all aspects of it: visuals, editing, acting, themes, sound/music, Tree of Life is masterful in every significant regard.

I'm a bit surprised you found it hollow--I was quite stirred & moved by it, and found it quite thought provoking/profound. It has so much structural, visual and thematic depth that I expect it's power and significance would only increase with repeat viewings--won't know for sure until I see it again but that's how it seems--and usually those qualities of depth equal an increase in overall significance for me. Personally, I thought it had incredible coherence, a level of coherence above that of most films; in that it's coherence, like thought (similar to Mirror) was based more on intuition/emotional connections as opposed to being tightly linear & heavily scripted.

I'm going to see it again soon as well. I'm hoping to catch another viewing before it leaves theaters. I'm very curious to see if my high regard for it holds up. In what is usually a good sign: the more I think about Tree of Life the more impressed I am by it. Still, the truest, final test, is of course, repeat viewings.

Funny, I think 2001 is a slightly apt comparison. A lot of beauty but little truth. I think Tree of Life is much better, though.

I don't mean narrative coherence or anything like that, but his vision is so sprawling that it runs away from him a few times too many. I agree it's moving film, quite arresting; but beyond the immediacy of the images very little lingered for me. He didn't have a whole lot to say about life itself. Have you seen Malick's other films? If so -- how do you feel this one compares?

I'm having a hard time figuring out what you mean by "a lot of beauty but little truth". Were your expectations a documentary? What does "truth" in film mean to you?

I agree that it's sprawling but can't think of a single moment or scene where Malick wasn't in total command of his vision. It's certainly "stream-of-consciousness" in many parts but I disagree that this constitutes "running away from him" unless you meant something else.

Re: "didn't have a whole lot to say about life itself"... really? What else was the film about? Even considering that true, does that even matter? Is that your goal for the films you watch (which if thats the case, of course it matters)?

Re: Malick's other films... (1) Tree of Life (2) Days of Heaven (3) Badlands (4) Thin Red Line ...haven't seen New World yet, outside of some trailers and excerpts--it's on my "too see" list... I'm sure it's very good. Malick is too invested in his work and too talented to make a bad film.

I was a little hesitant to say "truth", as I'm uncertain about the word myself, but I'll stick by it. Here's this as a f'r instance:

I just finished reading Troilus and Cressida: incredible, genius, unparalleled stuff. What makes it so extraordinary is Shakespeare's range of perceptions. He has a deep, complex understanding how humanity. How we can be wretched, warm, bawdy, violent, arrogant, loyal, engaging, distasteful, crude, treacherous, pretentious, intelligent, etc. He takes his understanding and expresses it in the most magnificent lines ever written. The reason his conception of life is truthful is because it's relatable. Now, I don't mean relatable in the sense a boy reads a Jack Kirby comic and plugs into its power fantasies; I mean relatable in the sense that we see our own lives in every act and scene that unfolds. There is no difference between Shakespeare's characters and us. They may live in different time periods and have made unthinkable decisions; but in the end: they're us. There is no separation.

I am not looking for a documentary. I do not believe setting up a camera somehow captures life. But I am looking for a vision of life (that was present in The New World, for example) that Tree of Life kind of lacks. It's not that it's without merit, and it's decidedly not merely decorative, but I wish there were more behind the beautiful images. I admit I had high expectations though so I may be unduly harsh.

Yeah, my goal is to attain deeper understandings of life. To experience new things and learn in fresh ways.

Thanks for explaining. I suppose "relatable" would be relative. For me, it mainly depends on the emotional conviction from the originator(s) [the director, actors, etc] and then the willingness for the audience to receive and experience that conviction. The "relatability" of it in regards to life would make it easier to receive and experience, and I agree that this can be vital. However, wouldn't the ultimate in experiencing new things and learning in fresh ways involve drawing emotional ties to experiences which are seemingly more out of reach than most? Woudn't it involve a tremendous, perhaps infinite, gamut of different kinds of insights/experiences?

As an aside, I think the point of the images and how they were presented in Tree of Life was to give each a sort of "unattainable perfection", so that it appears the entire film is touched by the hand of God.

I think I misspoke when I said "relatable", it doesn't quite communicate what I'm saying. Because you're absolutely right, I want things that are different from my life. Come & See, Late Spring, The New World, The Mirror; etc; all these films are unlike the life I lead, but they're so familiar at the same time. The characters may be placed in wildly different situations but they're no different from me. They love, hate, want, cherish, yearn, detest, fight, etc in ways that I haven't, but I can experience their emotions because they're so grounded in reality, in life as I know it, in what I know to be true (as verified by my own, personal experience). I can understand them emotionally, they aren't located in an alternate world. The problem with a film like 2001 is that it's very inhumane. It's so cold and distant, it doesn't care about life, it cares about its own spectacle and technique, which is fine in and of itself, but I want a little more.

It all comes together now. Thanks for clarifying.

Agreed on your insight for 2001 (inhumane, cold, distant), as was clearly part of Kubrick's intention for the 1st 60% or so of film (with the Jupiter mission the film gradually becomes more and more emotional). Obviously we disagree on its merits, but you're certainly not alone there. One thing to look at that may or may not improve your opinion of 2001 is that the film is a visual, structural, and emotional ascension. You're right, it is a spectacle. It's purpose is to inspire awe. As an ascension, it goes from the dawn of man "hominids", to cold & distant humans & science, to conflict between the humans and science, to emotional turmoil & overwhelm & new cosmic experiences, to spiritual ascension & afterlife, and finally a new plane of spiritual existence. For me, it gradually increases in profundity. The final portion of the film (from the moment Dave enters the ship and turns off HAL and on through the stargate sequence) may be the most profound section of any film ever made (Nostalghia's last 55 minutes being perhaps even more profound).

I've now posted a review of Nostalghia.

The following are some interesting answers to questions once asked of Tarkovsky about the film:

Looking at the Russian protagonist, one is tempted to view it as being an autobiographical film.

It is, but only from the artistic point of view. In fact, in this sense, I have never made a film that has mirrored my moods with such violence, that has liberated my interior world so profoundly, as this one. I myself, when I saw the completed film, was stunned in the face of this expressive force. I felt almost ill: the same thing that one experiences when looking at oneself in the mirror, or when one has the impression of even having gone beyond one's own intentions.

Is it true that you viewed Nostalghia only once before bringing it here to the Cannes Film Festival?

Yes. And I was extremely pleased with it. I feel that it is my most successfully realized film, the one that best expresses my interior world. The protagonist even became my alter ego of sorts. He contains all my emotions, my psychology, my nature. He is my portrait in the mirror.

Where do you situate Nostalghia in the context of your body of work?

Nostalghia is an extremely important film for me. It is a film in which I have managed to express myself fully. I must say that it has confirmed for me that cinema is a truly great art form, capable of representing faithfully even the most imperceptable movements of the human soul.

What struck you most upon seeing, even if only once, your completed film?

Its almost unbearable sadness, which, however, reflects very well my need to immerse myself in spirituality.

Just polished up my review/summary of Tarkovsky's Nostalghia.

Just posted a review of Natural Born Killers. May or may not be complete.

Natural Born Killers review is fantastic. Smart stuff, great analysis.

Thanks :)

New review of Apocalypse Now posted, though I doubt it's complete. It lies somewhere between "rough draft" and a finished product.

What's the challenge rating for Last Year at Marienbad? I dig almost all the stuff you rate a 7.5/10 or higher. However, it was really an awful experience to me, maybe beacause it's too experimental? I was bored as hell. I'm into Tarkovsky, Bergman, Fellini's 8.5 and Synecdoche, New York and etc. I didn't have too much experience with French wave, but I loved Breathless, and 400 Blows was also a solid one, maybe a bit overrated for me.

Oh, let's see... Marienbad's challenge rating would probably be 8, maybe 7.5... Most of the French New Wave is a bit overrated imo. Though I never thought it was lower than a 7/10, Marienbad gradually got better for me upon repeat viewings. I just rewatched it last night again and it may drop down to 7.3/10 - not sure right now though. Did you watch the Criterion release? Also, have you seen Resnais' Hiroshima, Mon Amour?

I don't know it was the Criterion release or not, I don't think that's why disliked it. I haven't seen the other film, but I hope it's better than Marienbad. I'm curious about Jules and Jim, it looks a lot better than 400 Blows.

The Criterion release is important because the visual quality of the film is a major factor in how mesmerizing it can be. Jules and Jim is amazing :)

In progress on a review of Ikiru

Removed my Citizen Kane review/analysis because it's inadequate and I'm working on a new one.

I/P on adding more to my Nostalghia review/analysis as well as polishing up some of the grammar/wording/sentences. Will be doing bits and pieces of this over the next day or 2, or 3. Due to time constraints, I rarely write a whole review in one shot, and often write portions of them in haste, which is why they are sometimes inconsistent. Within the next few days, I should have Nostalghia done for all intents and purposes.

Okay, Nostalghia is finished (for all intents and purposes -- could be minor updates/changes here and there). Now it is quite a bit longer and more detailed; a very thorough review/analysis on a very deep, enigmatic film, perhaps Tarkovsky's least understood.

Woah, you completely changed this! I like the Also Recommended feature though. Any plans of bringing the challenge ratings back though? Are you going to change your Classical and Rock/Jazz Albums guides similarly too?

BTW your author comments are still the same.

A disclaimer: I'm about to go to bed and am very tired at this moment, so if this post doesn't make too much sense feel free to query and I'll get back to you after I have actually gotten sleep :)


No plan at the moment, but I may bring the challenge ratings back. I'll eventually change those other guides as well.

The reason for the removal of the challenge ratings is as follows:

The difference between a film that is "difficult" to watch and how much time/work it can take to uncover all of its depth can be very wide. For instance, Citizen Kane isn't too tough of a watch initially -- just its basic entertainment value/watch-ability or whatever you want to call it, but it has so much depth/layers/meanings just beneath its surface to "get it fully" is as difficult as an 8.5 or 9 (or something like that) in challenge rating (because it uses a form of filmic communication that is so singular that it's "hidden" from casual view -- my upcoming review sometime this century will explain) -- yet, to just watch it and "enjoy" it is not difficult at all -- yet, yet, yet ... blah ... so I got hung up on these two factors on this and other films and just said 'forget it' after not being sure which one to go with. The 'actual' challenge rating of a film (not just its basic "watch-ability" or how easily it entertains) -- but how challenging it is to fully uncover the depths of it -- would be pretty accurately represented by my "Most Profound Films" list (Citizen Kane #1, Nostalghia #2, etc). This would better take into account not just how "difficult" it was to watch on first encounter so to speak, but how much one's views and conception of it is likely to expand and change and elaborate upon repeat viewings -- the depth of its intellectual stimulation upon the viewer.

So ... all that said, if I bring back the challenge ratings I'd probably just mirror them to my "Most Profound Films" list, such as #1 is 9.0, #'s 2-5 are 8.5 -- something of this sort...

The films are now ordered in date sequence which is probably the better route to go anyway. That gives one the gradient of developments as they occurred in film history, and gets one used to different eras and techniques and styles as they evolved, and in the sequence they evolved. Because I am only dealing with 9/10+ on this list, there are inevitably some historical gaps in that evolution (which I may change) ... but either way, that's where the "Also recommended" helps: these fill in the person's "education" and, if he/she is having a rough time with a film, can also help with it upon watching those ones as a sort of "primer" before going back to the one they had difficulty on.

Re: author comments ... thanks I'll change them soon

I revised my Nostlaghia review/analysis ... this list itself is NOT updated at this time, but should be pretty soon.