In alphabetical order…
1. L’Armée des ombres [The Army of Shadows] (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)
2. Le Cercle rouge [The Red Circle] (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970)
I shook off years of pointless procrastination over getting to the work of Jean-Pierre Melville (other than a couple of titles) with this absolutely perfect double bill, making up nearly five hours viewing together but hours without a single drop in my interest. A Resistance drama followed by a sublimely tense caper film, both of which may be the very best of their kind.
3. City Girl (F.W. Murnau, 1929)
Astonishingly pristine film stock transferred to crystal-clear Blu-ray by Masters of Cinema. A precursor to Malick’s Days of Heaven in its lyrical depiction of rural America, the moving-camera shot following the newlyweds as they run through the fields back to the homestead ranks as the most radiant moment in my film year.
4. Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974)
Possibly the best film ever made about a painter, this four-hour docu-drama made for Norwegian TV by iconoclastic British filmmaker Peter Watkins overflowed with poetic textures and an extraordinary sense of intimacy – but is underscored with fierce social criticism about the state of things in late 18th century Norway.
5. Une femme mariée (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
One of the key films of the Jean-Luc Godard/Raoul Coutard partnership that I had yet to see, so another amazing release from Masters of Cinema. Godard at his most Godardian: a kaleidoscopic and invigorating critique of love and materialism.
6. Late Spring [Banshun] (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
I missed the full Ozu retrospective while travelling in the States, so will be snapping up each of the BFI’s full Ozu Blu-ray collection as they get released. Late Spring is the perfect entry point in his work, and perhaps even more heartbreaking than the more famous Tokyo Story.
7. Plein Soleil [Purple Noon] (René Clement, 1959)
As a fan of The Talented Mr Ripley (novel and Anthony Minghella film), not to mention of yachts, blue skies and the Mediterranean, I was keen to catch this first adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s book when it screened as part of a retrospective celebrating Italian film composer Nino Rota. It lived up to my expectations – perhaps not as faithful as the Minghella film but an equally indulgent pleasure.
8. Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
Another Godard/Coutard film, and even better than Une femme mariée thanks to the presence of Anna Karina, who is a more adequate foil for Godard’s probing misogyny than Macha Méril. Méril’s character is as frivolous as Godard suggests, but there are depths in Karina that are forever mysterious to him.
9. Das weisse Band [The White Ribbon] (Michael Haneke, 2009)
Period drama made with a scalpel, Haneke’s masterpiece is a subtly creepy lifting of the rock on an ostensibly contented village community in rural Germany in the years before World War I.
10. Werckmeister harmóniák [Werckmeister Harmonies] (Béla Tarr, 2000)
Starting with an impromptu barroom demonstration of the movement of celestial bodies (one of the great movie openings), this deeply mysterious film from Hungarian maestro Béla Tarr hinges on the events occurring in a community after a circus of attractions brings the body of a whale into town.
Next ten: Cabaret (Bob Fosse), Comrades (Bill Douglas), Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog), Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey), The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Albert Lewin), Profound Desires of the Gods (Shohei Imamura), Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock), Winstanley (Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo), Whirlpool (Otto Preminger), The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)