Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aki Kaurismäki's Top 10 at The Criterion Collection

Copying here: The Criterion Collection Newsletter October 2011

"The more pessimistic I feel, the more optimistic I need to make my movies."
—Aki Kaurismäki

The Many Happy-Sad Faces of Aki Kaurismäki

Nobody makes a sincere deadpan comedy like Aki Kaurismäki. His latest, Le Havre, may be his best. A fable-like tribute to classic French cinema, Le Havre opens today in New York and Los Angeles from Janus Films. After winning the International Critics’ Award at Cannes, it has played to acclaim at the New York and Chicago film festivals (garnering the grand prize at the latter) and been selected as Finland’s official Oscar submission. It’s “a heartfelt hat tip to the power of community and cinema” (Time Out New York) and “pure pleasure” (The Hollywood Reporter); “Kaurismäki has joined the ranks of the master auteurs” (Dennis Lim, Los Angeles Times). Learn more about the film at

Aki Kaurismäki’s Top 10

Our favorite Finn didn’t have an easy time picking his ten favorite titles in the Criterion Collection. He writes, “I didn’t really concentrate for this selection, since all my energy from now on will be solely used for suing Criterion, accusation being torture. It can’t be anything less when a disoriented young mind is put in a situation where he has to leave Chaplin, Renoir, Tati, Clouzot, Malle, Truffaut, Godard . . . outside of a minimal-sized list, the size controlled by these Janus-faced Criterion people, who don’t seem to understand the laws of any reason.

Casque d’or #1 Jacques Becker
Au hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson
Here we find two versions of the same story, both unique.

Tokyo Story #2 Yasujiro Ozu
Late Spring Yasujiro Ozu
An Autumn Afternoon Yasujiro Ozu
It is almost impossible to find sharp prints of these films. But your tears are the ones to blame.

Ikiru #3 Akira Kurosawa
Red Beard Akira Kurosawa
This double bill gives an excellent chance to compare the acting of Takeshi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune. Neither is anything but perfect. It is a mystery how Kurosawa, who always refused to make a film without a social statement, manages at the same time to be one of the most entertaining of all filmmakers.

Written on the Wind #4 Douglas Sirk
The shot with Dorothy Malone walking down the stairs makes all rock videos ever after resemble forgotten, anemic nuns.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul Rainer Werner Fassbinder
With his small masterpiece, Fassbinder shows us the basic tenderness of his heart, this time not hidden behind his cinematic skills.

Shadows #5 John Cassavetes
Faces John Cassavetes
A Woman Under the Influence John Cassavetes
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie John Cassavetes
Opening Night John Cassavetes
There would be no sense in trying to select one of John Cassavetes’ films, since they are all one expression of a genial and exceptionally generous mind.

À propos de Nice #6 Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman
Zéro de conduite Jean Vigo
L’Atalante Jean Vigo
Nanook of the North Robert Flaherty
I have always considered Jean Vigo and Robert Flaherty close relatives. Between Nanook and L’Atalante, you can place practically all cinema except Bunuel’s L’age d’or.

49th Parallel #7 Michael Powell
The Small Back Room Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Both of these films can be considered B movies in the standards of Powell and Pressburger, but maybe partly because of that they seem to remain extraordinarily fresh, even if the first one (made in 1941) is clearly made partly for war propaganda reasons. All films made by the Archers are among the most beautiful.

Army of Shadows #8 Jean-Pierre Melville
Le deuxième souffle Jean-Pierre Melville
Jean-Pierre Melville is once more a director from whom one could pick any film for this kind (cruelly controlled by the Criterion criminals) of list. With this double bill there comes a chance to study twice the work of two great actors, Lino Ventura and Paul Meurisse.

Port of Shadows #9 Marcel Carné
As clearly as there is only one Lino Ventura, there is a sole Jean Gabin. Neither have I seen a replica of Michèle Morgan nor Michel Simon (one of the reasons why Renoir’s Boudu should be in this list, but . . .). Port of Shadows is a pure actor-based melodrama full of prewar pessimism.

Bicycle Thieves Vittorio De Sica
Bicycle Thieves proves that even the tiniest dreams can be torn to pieces. Never in the history of cinema has hope been served in so minimalistic but heartbreaking a way as in the last shot of this masterpiece.

The Night of the Hunter #10 Charles Laughton
Ace in the Hole Billy Wilder
Simon of the Desert Luis Buñuel
These wonderful films are tied together in thousands of hardly visible ways.

This Is Spinal Tap #11 Rob Reiner
Jimi Plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

A great link, thanks to Mikko Pihkoluoma:

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