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January 12, 2006

Pillow List - 2006

Admittedly, I've never been a big proponent of list-making - a process that seems, at best, an impossible reduction of film experience into finite, arbitrary parameters, and at worst, a misused tool for lazy advocacy (or criticism) of a film's merit. Still, I'll admit to being drawn to the idea of a Sei Shônagon-styled pillow book as a means of capturing passing thoughts that would otherwise be lost. So rather than attempting to compile a list of canonical films to chronicle one cinephile's journey, I'm instead listing a hundred films in response to a YMDb reader comment that, like a pillow book entry, describes a temporal point of convergence - the films that are meaningful to me at this juncture - each a memory, a mnemonic, a biography, a resonance ...to be taken with a grain of salt.

In alphabetical order, limited to one film per filmmaker:

001. After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 1998)
002. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
003. Ankur (Shyam Benegal, 1974)
004. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
005. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937)
006. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)
007. The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg, 1930)
008. Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger, 1958)
009. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
010. The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa, 1956)

011. La Ceremonie (Claude Chabrol, 1995)
012. Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963)
013. Charulata (Satyajit Ray, 1964)
014. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
015. City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989)
016. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
017. Close-up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
018. The Cloud-Capped Star (Ritwik Ghatak, 1960)
019. Code Inconnu (Michael Haneke, 2000)
020. Un Coeur en hiver (Claude Sautet, 1992)

021. Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)
022. The Day the Sun Turned Cold (Yim Ho, 1994)
023. Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1991)
024. Death by Hanging (Nagisa Oshima, 1968)
025. Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1989)
026. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
027. The Dying Swan (Yevgeni Bauer, 1916)
028. L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)
029. Eldorado (Marcel L'Herbier, 1921)
030. Europa 51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)

031. The Face of Another (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966)
032. The Fire Within (Louis Malle, 1963)
033. Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955)
034. The Girl with the Hatbox (Boris Barnet, 1927)
035. The Green Room (François Truffaut, 1978)
036. Goodbye Again (Anatole Litvak, 1961)
037. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
038. How I Got into an Argument (My Sex Life...) (Arnaud Desplechin, 1996)
039. Humanity and Paper Balloons (Sadao Yamanaka, 1937)
040. The Hunt (Erik Lochen, 1959)

041. The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (Raoul Ruiz, 1978)
042. I Can't Sleep (Claire Denis, 1994)
043. Images of the World and the Inscription of War (Harun Farocki, 1989)
044. India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975)
045. Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996)
046. The Insect Woman (Shohei Imamura, 1963)
047. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
048. Je t'aime, je t'aime (Alain Resnais, 1968)
049. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
050. Kaïrat (Darezhan Omirbaev, 1992)

051. Khandhar (Mrinal Sen, 1988)
052. Life of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1952)
053. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)
054. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
055. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem, 1998)
056. Made in Hong Kong (Fruit Chan, 1997)
057. The Match Factory Girl (Aki Kaurismäki, 1989)
058. Midnight Lace (David Miller, 1960)
059. Monsieur Hire (Patrice Leconte, 1989)
060. Mother Joan of the Angels (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961)

061. Naked Island (Kaneto Shindo, 1962)
062. News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977)
063. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
064. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
065. Ornamental Hairpin (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1941)
066. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
067. Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
068. A Patch of Blue (Guy Green, 1965)
069. Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, 2000)
070. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

071. Le Pont du Nord (Jacques Rivette, 1982)
072. La Promesse (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 1996)
073. The Railroad Man (Pietro Germi, 1956)
074. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
075. [Safe] (Todd Haynes, 1995)
076. Sans soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
077. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
078. The Second Circle (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1990)
079. Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)
080. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Sergei Paradjanov, 1964)

081. Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
082. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
083. Sunflower (Vittorio De Sica, 1972)
084. Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
085. El Sur (Victor Erice, 1983)
086. The Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
087. To Live (Zhang Yimou, 1994)
088. That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Buñuel, 1977)
089. Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
090. Twenty-Four Eyes (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1954)

091. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
092. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
093. Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)
094. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
095. Voyage to Cythera (Theo Angelopoulos, 1984)
096. Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967)
097. The Wedding March (Erich von Stroheim, 1921)
098. What Time is it There? (Tsai Ming-liang, 2001)
099. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
100. Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige, 1984)

Posted by acquarello on Jan 12, 2006 | | Filed under 2006


This is a fantastic idea, Acquarello--I feel that I should steal it--and your list is a wonderful one.

Posted by: Matt on Jan 13, 2006 12:15 AM | Permalink

"Admittedly, I've never been a big proponent of list-making..."
No of course not.
This is only the biggest list I've ever seen. :-)
But seriously, it's a great big beauty--I luuurve it.
Flawless taste, A.

Posted by: girish on Jan 13, 2006 12:51 AM | Permalink

Thanks everyone. At first, I just thought about making an update of that canon list, but even though there's a bit of overlap, it was written as a roadmap rather than a "time capsule" of what I like now.

Matt, by all means, feel free to "steal" it; I can't be the only one goaded into making one up. ;)

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 13, 2006 8:33 AM | Permalink


Posted by: fredp on Jan 13, 2006 11:03 AM | Permalink

Thank you for making this list acquarello! I had many titles on your canon to catch up with I see I have more work now... I'll be checking what's new and what's gone between the 2 lists.

Interesting choices, not always the most obvious critically acclaimed masterpiece by the director.

Is it your 100 favorite directors then?

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Jan 13, 2006 11:25 AM | Permalink

Yay! Someone else giving DEATH BY HANGING props!!! I have been anxious to see this film again after being totally entranced by it 5 years ago. It's been one of many reminders about how many great films are still quite inaccessible to the audiences that wish to see them.

Posted by: Adam on Jan 13, 2006 12:20 PM | Permalink

Given that Sans Soleil is far-and-away my favorite film of all time, any mention of Sei Shonagon is going to draw me in.

A really nice list and some interesting choices given the decision to limit yourself to one film per director....

Posted by: Chuck on Jan 13, 2006 1:29 PM | Permalink

No Oliveira? No Ferrara? And can someone please explain to me once and for all why everyone seems to think I Can't Sleep is Denis's best film? Surprised and pleased to see El Sur make the list, though. Will we ever get a subtitled DVD release? Good call on the Wong choice, too. And, yes, Code Inconnu is definitely Haneke's best.

Posted by: Nathaniel on Jan 13, 2006 3:48 PM | Permalink

Harry, I wouldn't say that this was my 100 favorite directors at all; some are there purely because I really admired the performances. It's also different from the canon list in that when I did the canon list, it was slightly geared towards a road map to suggest films to expand on one's cinephilia.

Oshima's films among the toughest to single out, but I love the macabre humor of Death by Hanging, and it's the one film that made me re-evaluate his films in general (before that, I had only seen his post In the Realm of the Senses work).

The Marker choice was a pretty easy one, it was my entry into his films, and even though I pretty much connect with everything that I've seen of his work, Sans soleil was the epiphany.

Oliveira was a tough call, same as Renoir. I like their body of work in general (from what I've seen anyway), but I don't know that there's one definitive film that stands out as a eureka moment. As for Ferrara, I've only seen The Funeral and Bad Lieutenant, and I'm not big on criminal underbelly films, so I can't say that I connected with them at all.

As for I Can't Sleep, I think it's her most atmospheric and mood-driven film, almost Wong-ish. El Sur reminds me a lot of a Theo Angelopoulos film, allegorical like Spirit of the Beehive, but also melancholic.

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 13, 2006 6:04 PM | Permalink

Cool list, Acquarello. Very pleased to see two Shabana Azmi films mentioned. Incidentally (or maybe not so), both contain her best performances.

Posted by: mubarak on Jan 13, 2006 9:51 PM | Permalink

Nice to see Monsieur Hire on your list, by the way! I saw it a couple of years ago and, while my memory of it is somewhat hazy now, it moved me greatly at the time.

Posted by: Matt on Jan 14, 2006 1:25 AM | Permalink

limited to one film per filmmaker

Talking of finite, arbitrary parameters... :) I can never entirely bring myself to do these things, partly because I don't consider that art is something that can be measured and therefore ranked, partly because I have no idea how to reduce my entire film-watching experience to just a small selection. I may try something in this vein, though.

Anyway, interesting list, out of which I've seen exactly 24 films (though I have a few more on the list waiting for me on video and DVD). I'm particularly curious as to why you picked that particular De Sica film out of his entire oeuvre, as it's not one I've even heard of.

Posted by: James Russell on Jan 14, 2006 8:38 AM | Permalink

Heheh, I didn't even notice the "two Azmi" connection. Add to that the fact that I actually saw both of them for the first time on the Shabana Azmi tribute sidebar for the NYFF where she also appeared in person for an hour-long discussion, and it isn't too tough to see why I became an instant Azmi fan. :)

Mmm...Monsieur Hire! I can probably recite every scene word-for word; I even bought the unsubbed DVD from Japan just to queue to certain scenes over and over again, like when Alice leaves his apartment and Hire tries to "memorize' her scent, or when the Hire secretly follows Alice and her boyfriend into a bus (train?) and she "accidentally" grabs Hire's hand while trying to grab a handrail. That film really nails that sense of helpless (and hopeless) longing.

Sunflower was the first De Sica film I saw in the mid 70s (must have been a second run theater) when I was a kid. I didn't understand much of what was going on, but I do remember very strong visuals, like the sunflower fields and the train station scene. I've only seen it a couple of times since and it's a more melodramatic rather than neorealistic work, but I still have a strong personal connection to it.

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 14, 2006 11:09 AM | Permalink

I remember when TV first came to India, in the mid-70s. We went to the only house in the neighborhood that had one. We were all (like 40 of us) crowded into the living room. Because I was just a kid, I was in the standing room section in the back. The first ever film they showed that night was Benegal's Ankur. It was also the first Indian "New Cinema" film I ever saw. Branded for life.

Shabana is an icon in India. Alas, I've never had the fortune to see her in person.
At Rotterdam a few years back, I saw a great Benegal film called Samar, which I haven't heard from since. Netflix carries a few of his films.

Posted by: girish on Jan 14, 2006 6:18 PM | Permalink

Well, I've put myself through some not-so-great Bollywood films just to see Azmi walk across a room! I'm very envious that you actually saw her in person, Acquarello. :)

Nice anecdote, Girish. I have seen a few Benegals (my favourite being the Smita Patil-starrer, Bhumika) but not Samar, so I'll try to track it down (if it's available, that is).

Posted by: mubarak on Jan 14, 2006 8:11 PM | Permalink

Heheh! Girish's comment reminded me of the boys in Ozu's Ohayo sneaking off into the bohemian neighbors' house to watch sumo wrestling. :)

And go figure! Meanwhile, I wasn't even trying to see Azmi; I just wanted to see the Benegal film and her appearance just happened to come with it. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Jan 15, 2006 1:59 PM | Permalink

That's funny, A.
I had forgotten all about that.
We didn't actually get our first TV until a few years later, when I was a teen.
My sister and I should've thought of the hunger strike idea--it might've worked. (Hunger strikes were exalted forms of Gandhian protest in our school history books!).

Posted by: girish on Jan 15, 2006 3:49 PM | Permalink

I have seen only 21 of these and only some of those would be my favourites. For example I would choose different films by Hawks, Resnais and Kieslowski. Cool! Always good to be challenged. And I am glad to have it confirmed that there are enough films for me to watch into my dotage.

Posted by: robin on Sep 04, 2011 7:19 PM | Permalink

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