My Favorite Films

The films in this list are in descending order and have a personal rating of 8/10 or higher.

Check out the other films I've watched recently in Dial M for Miscellaneous.

Check out the films I didn't like in
Films that are disappointing, overrated or just plain bad.
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Spring Breakers (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
Four college girls hold up a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation. While partying, drinking, and taking drugs, they are arrested, only to be bailed out by a drug and arms dealer. (94 mins.)
Director: Harmony Korine
“ This review is in a constant state of flux:

Spring Breakers is a glorious accident, not unlike winning 10 million dollars at a lottery. It shouldn't have happened, given the fact that I despise Harmony Korine's Gummo, but it seems that he finally got mature. Spring Breakers is an event that could only happen because every person involved turned out to be either a creative genius or a fitting match within this orgy of creativity.

Right after the cinema wishes you to enjoy your film, a 'big bang' wakes you up immediately when the first logo appears. This was enough for some girls in the audience to start giggling and playing with their mobile phones right off the bat, while not looking seriously at the film anymore. Then the intro credits pop up in the weirdest font you have ever seen, sparkling and radiating flashy colors and shapes. This was enough for some guys in the audience to start discussing the option of leaving the film, for at this point they must have felt cheated out of the t*ts they bought for 9.80 euros per ticket. But then the film starts teasing precisely those guys, by showing them some nice looking teens dancing sexy on spring break, although they had to look past the shaking cellulites *ss immediately after, only to be teased again when Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites suddenly changed from glossy electro into loudly screaming drones ("Oh my God!!"), while seeing one of the most gorgeous pair of t*ts ever to grace the earth totally soaked in beer, filling the entire cinema screen, rotating in slow-motion, in perfect pace with the rhythm of the music, for what were only a few seconds, yet felt like an eternity! It seems they got what they wanted, and in a way they did... and yet I bet they must have been freaked out in the wrong way. They would rather not have been woken up by t*ts, by putting them so close by, but they would rather have wanted to enjoy them comfortably, normally. Then the girls sucking on those colorful ice lollipops like they were sucking on something else entirely, freaked them out as well, because this was not realistic: the film preferred audiovisual qualities above thick and realistic storytelling, and "that sh*t ain't normal".

Spring Breakers is indeed not normal. It is more an experience to undergo, than a film to watch. It is a radical work of audio-visual poetry that is extremely immersive and dream-like ("feels like a dream... feels like a dream"). At first, the film may appear to be either completely lacking in meaning or to be completely obvious and one-dimensional in that regard, but on repeating viewings it becomes clear that it is in fact extremely layered, diffuse and inscrutable. On the one hand it sarcastically contrasts the caricatured spring break 'authenticity' spoken mostly through mobile phones, by its opposite reality, yet on the other hand explores the spring break lifestyle from within, by letting us inhale its vibe as if it were some strange religious drug experience. It is not reducible to a one-dimensional critique or condemnation, as it seems first and foremost to be an attempt to listen and to understand what is happening. If Hegel were alive now, he might have thought of cinema as "your time captured in sound and image." I think that this is what Spring Breakers is. Yet Korine also seems to transcend the one-dimensional post-modern "I'm not allowed to judge" attitude he is usually identified with. It is not entirely neutral, as there is an edge to it, and it is also not reducible to a simple love-letter to the spring breakers, even if it sometimes appears to be. During the scenes where Korine displays the contradictions inherent in the spring break lifestyle, we get a feeling of melancholy mixed with sarcasm, mixed with humor, mixed with a warm and even religious vibe. This is only a small sample of the emotional trip that film unleashes. The melancholy represents the love, sympathy, understanding and sadness that Korine feels for those crazy and confused kids, the sarcasm a critique on the illusions they are caught in, the humor a way to partially undercut the seriousness of that critique by making us laugh about it, the warm religious vibe, on the one hand a way to put us into their shoes and to make it all feel like a love-letter, but on the other hand a way to overdo it so completely as to raise questions again. The meaning of the film is incredibly layered and diffuse for such a seemingly simple and empty story. No easy answers suffice. There are many layers of meaning, and the most obvious ones (the relation between spring break and violence) ultimately seem to be the least interesting and the least important ones, almost as if they were deliberate 'red herrings'. There are more and less central layers, but none of them contains "the meaning" of the film on its own. Moreover, as the film is first and foremost a visceral, audiovisual piece of transcendental art (which is where the film succeeds most unproblematically), the meaning of the film does not take center stage, but constantly resides in the background.

After the first scene is finished we hear a guncock and we are transported to quieter settings. Two girls, Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) tease each other with highly sexualized gestures, so that they won't be bored to death by their history lesson, but the background tone is completely different here. This is mostly because we hear Cliff Martinez on the score, who does what Thomas Newman did for American beauty: to create a deliciously delicate atmosphere that you can almost breathe in. And what a great job does this man do! I think he out-Newmans Thomas himself, especially on the point of integrating the score in the whole of the film. If it is true that cinema has a visual language, where images carry meaning, it stands to reason that there must be an auditory language as well. If so, then the task of making a film would partially be to integrate those two types of meaning as fully as possible. This is what Spring Breakers does extremely well. When the four Disney girls decide to collect all their money to go on spring break, they celebrate this plan by "experimenting" a bit in their dormitory, but the sensual undertones are not raunchy here: instead, Cliff Martinez makes it sound like poetry, while Korine and Benoît Debie (the cinematographer) make it look like a bunch of spring flowers blosseming. Debie also did Enter the Void (and Irréversible and Calvaire), which is as clearly recognizable as the fact that this outshines all of his earlier work. Legs are thrown in the air with Kubrick-like precision, but then more dynamic and with a more Lynchian Mulholland Drive type of atmosphere. The camera is shaking a little and moving dynamically, but somehow it feels extremely precise.

Pretty soon we start hearing repetitions. There are repetitions in sounds (guncocks on almost every cut) and in one scene we hear the very religious Faith (Selena Gomez) talk about how they see the same things all the time (while seeing Candy faking a pistol with her hands for the tenth time), how the grass is not even green but brown, and how they need their chance to "see something different", and later on in the film we hear a lot of repetitions in lines, which at one occasion felt like twenty (though actually six) times the same lines repeated. Now, all this repetition is the most difficult aspect of the film. It is easy to dismiss the film for this and say that it is symptomatic for a bad script or poverty of ideas, that it is simply filler. After my first viewing I was unsure of what to make of this. But seeing it several times made my views on it more articulate. The repetitions serve several goals. In the scene I just mentioned it serves the goal of radically confronting the cinema viewer with the routine of daily life, from which the spring breaker wants to flee, by breaking the comfortable immersion of an 'enjoyable cinema visit'. Korine did his best not to make us feel comfortable at any point in the film. This is no easy viewing simply to enjoy t*ts for free (or 9.80 euros), even though they often are enjoyable nonetheless. Sometimes, the repetitions are very hypnotic, and serve to increase the absorption into the film. But at other times it has the opposite effect. The hypnotic flow of Korine's Spring Breakers is just as interrupted as Godard's Week End ("Just pretend it's a f*ing video game! Just act like you're in a movie or som'ting!"). Often the repetitions work like tension-builders, holding off orgasm extremely long, making you feel "no not again", while feeling that the sound underneath is swelling up and moving towards a climax, such as the first violent scene of the film. Although I won't spoil its contents, it features one of the best tracking shots I have ever seen, already intensifying the color palette as it is seen later in the film. This scene is similar to the last one, in the sense that tension is built up in the same way, although in preparation for the final scene, we hear the most irritating repetitions of the whole film ("Are you scared? Yeah... I'm real scared.", "Scardipants! Yeah... I'm a big ol' scardipants..."). At this point I saw several people leaving the cinema right before the end. They just couldn't take it anymore. And I understand that. Perhaps it was wrong, and perhaps Korine went over-the-top here. I am still not sure. But I do know that the film can neither be thrown in the trash can because of it, nor even be held back much by it. Because somehow it serves as a backbone, making the film less delicious, thereby reminding me that this film is not to be unproblematically enjoyed. I do not always like these repetitions, but they are no longer an obstacle for me in judging the value that the film has to me. But sometimes the repeated lines were also thoroughly enjoyable or even funny as hell: when the silver-toothed gangster-rapper called Alien (James Franco) said "look at my sh$$tt" with two machine guns in both hands for the tenth time, I couldn't help laughing. ;) The performance and transformation that this guy managed to pull off has to be seen to believed! And this makes the film partially a comedy as well.

When the girls arrive at spring break we see a bunch of people partying wildly and loudly, contrasted by a more quiet, poetic display of after-party relaxation. These things often happen at about the same time, as the time-jumps are so frequent that the divisions between past present and future, are not always clear. This breaks open the narrative structure of the film, as those jumps occur not only between scenes (Pulp Fiction), but also within scenes: the effect is more hypnotic (like in a music-video) than confusing. Skrillex's With You Friends (Long Drive) is played in the background (representing the partying) with a softer nostalgic hum over it, probably done by Martinez (representing the poetry). The beautiful movements of the scooter-lights somehow make it believable that Faith calls Spring Break the most religious place she has ever been in. Faith never wants to leave this place as everything is so nice here. The people are so warm and friendly. At the same time we see Cotty (Rachel Korine) representing the wilder, raunchier side of spring break, in a very brave and respectable, possibly career-damaging, performance that is probably born out of faithfulness to her husband, albeit in paradoxical ways. Often, the religious/nostalgic feelings turn into a melancholic/sarcastic social critique that is also funny: "Yeah, we saw some beautiful things out here", while we see the Disney girls peeing on the side of the road. The spring break notion of authenticity is exposed for the lie that it is: "yeah, we truly found ourselves here! We finally got to see some other parts of the world". And yet the flow, the mood and the utter horniness of the film are so strong that it is hard to see this as a simple generation critique by a grumpy old guy. There is more than enough to enjoy here. Sometimes even so much, that the viewer may feel guilty and besmirched and feel like he or she is watching a stupid exploitation flick. This is all part of Korine's mind-f*ing: it confronts us with the fact that to one-dimensionally condemn the spring breakers for their sex-crazedness and superficiality would be deeply hypocritical, as we are all equally guilty as charged when enjoying the film, whether that enjoyment stems from heavenly audiovisual qualities or from mundane sexual enticement.

When Skrillex's Goin' In starts to play, the partying gets really wild. Lots of *ss shakin', beer drinking, coke snortin' and bodylickin'. Once again, the music and the images form a coherent unity, as the shakin' always coincides with the rhythm of the music. Certain events lead to the introduction of the Alien character. This is where the film introduces more conventional (i.e. comedy) story elements, but certainly does not give up its Malickish liquid narrative. But unlike Malick, Korine combines poetry with dirt, high-art with low-art, beauty with raunchiness, light with darkness. This makes it all so much more palatable. Malick's films are often all sky and no earth, making it float away, causing us to dissociate with it in the long run. By creating this balanced contrast, Korine out-Malicks Terrence himself by a long shot. When we hear this creepy Alien's thoughts, we learn that poetry is on his mind ("These three girls, in front of me... Can't believe what I see. How can this be? The're like mermaids, come up from the sea... Everytime I look, they're like old-fashioned b*tches straight from a book."), and even though this ought to be preposterous (and in a way still is) it somehow manages to be deeply touching. Brit and Candy ("ooh, let me smelll it", "seeing all this money makes my p*ssy wet") slowly unveil the true extent of their psychopathic side and it seems that Benson and Hudgens are a perfect match for Franco, who are all giving the definitive performances of their careers. What a bunch of gorgeous freaks! This compromised poetry culminates in the scene with Britney Spear's "Everytime", with the pink balaclavas, black Down To *beep* trousers and colorful sneakers, making those girls look like strangely cute yet dangerous little bunnies, while the music calmly soared, and my God, how beautiful this was! This would have been my favorite scene of all time, if it were not surpassed by the final scene by a nose length. This final scene is a truly gorgeous audio-visual spectacle in slow-motion, not unlike the finale of 2001, although within the framework of the story, and with a washed-out score underneath. The balaclavas in that scene were fluorescent, neon-colored this time, varying from pink, to blue, to (KKK) white depending on the lighting. And against the background of the pitch-black night, and the bright purple pier this was simply to die for! ” - Auke Briek
Magnetic Rose (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
"Magnetic Rose" is about what happens when a deep space corporate freighter is called upon to investigate... (45 mins.)
Director: Kôji Morimoto
“ (Check out the edit below!)

Although this is part of a triptych anime film called Memories (Memorîzu, 1995 by Studio 4°C), and is usually not reviewed separately from the rest, I would have found it rather unfortunate to have to review the triptych as a whole, because although the second and the third film are very good too, they would have dragged the whole down considerably. This would have been all the more problematic given that part 1 of Memories, "Magnetic Rose" (directed by Koji Morimoto), is quite simply the best animation film I have yet seen, surpassing Angel's Egg (Tenshi No Tamago). Although Angel's Egg is still the greatest example of anime as a pure art-form, and is done with more reserve, subtlety and complexity of imagination, Magnetic Rose has a more overwhelming emotional impact, and establishes a visual supremacy, both in terms of technique and richness, and extends the scope of its vision about as far as 2001: A Space Odyssey, where it has been inspired by, juxtaposing sci-fi with classical architecture and opera. It starts off rather modest: the way the space ships and characters are drawn at that point fails to impress. But when the scenes with the classical architecture come up, the colors spring to life and the details burst open dramatically. The scene with the dead piano and it's living counterpart is one of the most powerful images ever crafted in the history of cinema, and so is the scene with the glass bowl and the cosmic maelstrom around it, or the one with the rose and the space helmet... There are many unforgettable moments here. But truth be told, Magnetic Rose completely goes for lyricism, nosthalghia and anghuish in quite unreserved quantities and in pre-established cultural modalities, and is in that sense not as subtle or daring a statement as Angel's Egg. But on the whole, the film is so overwhelming to the senses that I'll put Magnetic Rose above Angel's Egg. Not only does it get the the golden medal for best animation film, but also for best short film out there, beating Elégia. Nice!

Edit after a rewatch: Judging a film is not primarily a matter of abstract theorizing about possible merits and weaknesses, but first and foremost about emotional impact. If a film takes you on an audiovisual ride that - once it takes hold - doesn't let you go, overwhelms your emotions, overpowers you, attacks your senses with unadulterated beauty in full force, then that takes priority over every weakness your intellect might be able to spot. I do not fully understand why Magnetic Rose has such a strong impact on me, this time even considerably more: I was completely floored by it. The simple drawings in the beginning have little to offer, but the Opera music works wonders already. That music is probably a large part of the magic. But I'm not even a big fan of Opera. Why am I taken so much by it here? Possibly because it is correlated perfectly to the images, especially in the scenes with the classical architecture: that it works together with them to create a magical whole. But even the images themselves at their highest peaks, are so limpid and baroque, that one might begin to wonder why this isn't kitsch? But the fact of the matter is, that it isn't. It's art. But looking at a table full of food, with a pink table-cloth, I see much richness, but why does it have so much impact? Or when I look at a scene with green grass and a blue sky, why am I gasping for air? Isn't this precisely the cliche every overly romantic wannabe poet comes up with? I just don't know. Something in the color toning is just right, the music swelling up hits me at precisely the right moment, where it might not have touched me so much if the colors were slightly different. Possibly it's something like that, but that is a far cry from completely understanding it.

Finally, there remains the question: where to place this film? 2001: A Space Odyssey is a fascinating, beautiful and timeless film, but it does not have the same relentless impact on the emotions and the senses as Magnetic Rose. ” - Auke Briek
Hail Mary (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
In this modern retelling of the Virgin birth, Mary is a student who plays basketball and works at her... (72 mins.)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
“ It is often said that Godard's golden age lies between 1960 and 1967. This may foreclose any serious attention to middle and late Godard, which is a shame really. Because Hail Mary isn't just in the same league as Le Mépris and Week End; in my opinion it's actually better!
Godard doesn't seem to be the most religious person in the world. In fact his Maoist and Marxist affiliations would seem to make him prone to atheism. How strange it is then to see him make such a transcendent work of art as Hail Mary. It's certainly not straight forwardly religious as it often mocks holy icons. With Week End he already established himself as the purest iconoclast of Cinema. This iconoclasm is now directed at Catholicism, and its myth of the Immaculate Conception. But what is extraordinary is that it is not just empty mockery and recalcitrance, which would be predictable and boring. It's also fascination and reverence. This is Godard's most poetic film. The whole film can be interpreted as a poem dedicated to the miracle of birth and the creation of life, which transcends the limited sphere of human action and comprehension. I have never seen the naked body of a woman portrayed with more nuance and delicacy. The way the soft lighting accentuates it is simply gorgeous. The symbolism is very strong and poignant: for instance, the heavenly bodies are likened to lamps, both verbally and visually, thereby linking the mundane with the ethereal; the rubickx cube represents the tension between chance and creation, and the body of a woman is both a house of banal pleasure and a site of holiness. Side characters are sometimes characters, at other times mouthpieces of a universal poetry: traditional narrativity is transcended not by kicking it in the nuts, but by elevating it to a higher plan. I have never seen a film that walks the fine line between ironic atheism and negative theology better, without being reducible to either. Visually, Le Mépris is better, historically, Week End is more relevant, but personally I'd say that this is Godard's purest and best film.

Edit after a rewatch: Position confirmed. There are a few great moments in the beginning, but in the middle part they become much more thinly spread, mixed with some rather mediocre moments. However, patience and openness will be rewarded from the the 50th minute or so on. The final 25 minutes of this movie are nothing short of breathtaking, pure poetry instead of the usual prose. This is what I look for in a movie!

Edit after a rewatch: Upon several rewatches, more and more details of this complex masterpiece have fallen into place, and the film feels more and more integrated and consistent as a whole. A top ten position is called for.

Edit after a rewatch on Blu-ray: The more I see this movie, the more I fall in love with it. This is audiovisual poetry from start to finish, edited like no other movie has been edited before or after! ” - Auke Briek
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest. (149 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ To my mind, this profound visual-philosophical masterpiece by Stanley Kubrick is the best film ever crafted! Instead of giving us all the answers through a conventional narrative, 2001 uses gorgeous imagery to raise questions that actually made me think about the development of mankind, the limits that technology and instrumentality impose on it and about the possibilities of transcending those limits.

For a more extensive philosophical review in Dutch, see:

Edit after a rewatch: new position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d'Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions. (110 mins.)
Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
“ A heart-wrenching piece that affects me on an even deeper level than its already brilliant cinematic accomplishments would have suggested. Maria Falconetti's performance as Jeanne d'Arc is nothing short of sublime. Just to see the picture of Joan with the crown on her head is almost unbearably moving. In her tears we can see the suffering of the world reflected. This is one of the very few films about which I do not have even the slightest bit of doubt regarding its status as a work of art. The emotions, the cinematographic techniques and the decors all possess the clarity and precision of a perfectly polished diamond, that does not appear to be the product of a merely human technē. And even if it is the product of a human technē, it concerns technē (and truth) in the apophantic Heideggerian sense of the word as unconcealment or world-disclosure. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc doesn't try to be a work of art: it simply is.

Edit: a re-watch confirms this position above Napoleon, although I'm not entirely sure anymore it needs to be below 2001. It might very well be the best film ever made. I also want to point out how heart-achingly beautiful Einhorn's music is, especially when combined with the film. I have watched it twice now with his music underneath it, but I will also have to watch it in complete silence at some point. Also notable are the carves, lines and subtle nuances on everyone's faces that help to constitute very powerful facial expressions, underlining the fact that this is the first film where the actors didn't have to hide their faces underneath thick layers of make-up. Whereas the claustrophobic close-ups and the overwhelming emotions take center-stage on first viewing, on second viewing I payed more attention to the actual conversations that were going on and they are also marvelous: the interrogators play a game to get her convicted by making her confess, and they take on false identities by playing this game, but while Jeanne also participates in that game in order to undercut their traps, she doesn't exactly take on a poker-face to hide who she really is: she retains her true identity and at the same time she plays the game like a grand-master:

Interrogator: "Do you not feel that these learned doctors are wiser than you?"

We see Jeanne wisper "oui" and then she says: "but God is even wiser!"

Edit after a rewatch in silence: La passion de Jeanne d'Arc without Einhorn's Voices of Light is, regrettably, less lyrical, less emotionally intense and less good. When I tried to watch it recently I was a bit tired and I wasn't drawn into the film at all, so I turned it off quickly. Now I tried it again. And indeed the first fifteen minutes or so are somewhat difficult to fully concentrate on. You have to invest a lot of effort and concentration into it, because silence is truly very... well you know... silent. Being well rested and drinking lots of caffeine beforehand is perhaps a prerequisite for watching a silent movie in silence. But the interrogations slowly draw you in and after a while the emotional ties are forged again. Later on in the film, the immersion becomes very strong again, and relies less on personal effort to keep it in tact. The lack of sound matters less and less, the more the story progresses. I was still very much touched by this film. It remains profound and meaningful and it has lost none of its dignity. And it remains quite an overwhelming experience, the best example of realized mysticism in film I know. The story and the dialogue remain untouched and very pure. And the expressive power of the images is extraordinary, very minimalistic and honest: and that carries a lot of weight. In silence the film is more restrained, less over-abundant in terms of emotion. It forces itself less upon you and invites more of your own participation. And that is not necessarily always captured best in terms of better or worse. Also, without sound the screams of the interrogators are heard more intensely in your imagination, because there is more room for them in your head. This adds to the horror. Still, there is no denying that Voices of Light is a highly valuable addition to the film that ultimately makes it significantly better. But it is also clear to me that it retains its position above Napoléon, which is, when all is said and done, a relief. ” - Auke Briek
Napoleon (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A film about the French Field Marshal's youth and early military career. (240 mins.)
Director: Abel Gance
“ Abel Gance's Napoléon is the most ambitious film ever made. It is a totally crazy, megalomanic and ultimately glorious attempt at the realization of the essence of film, conceived as the old Wagnerian dream of the "Gesamtkunstwerk". It is a total attack on the senses, making Kubrick's 2001 appear almost modest in comparison. In that regard Abel Gance resembles Napoleon himself, whom he also glorifies without bounds. One could argue that the film oversteps itself in the will to show the rise of Napoleon from a total, absolute, or God's eye perspective: "the world-spirit on horseback" as Hegel called this little general. One of the ways in which the film arguably oversteps itself is the three way split screen at the end of the film: it tries to show a total perspective of the war on Italy, but even though it is more than glorious, it actually provides more of a scattered and disorienting view, although this might be due to Coppola's reduction of the three different theater screens to three small blocks on a small stroke on your television screen which obscures many of the details. Also the abundant use of the blending of images, for example the image of an eagle onto the face of Napoleon, isn't a sure sign of subtlety in taste, although this particular instance does reveal something important about Napoleon. Yet despite these 'faults' if one could speak in such terms, the film is positively roaring with energy, liveliness and grandeur in every frame: and even at the moments it 'fails' because of its proportions, it paradoxically also succeeds, because the ridiculousness of these proportions suit the main protagonist of this film very well. Imagine to see the final scene on three different theater screens! How wonderfully megalomaniac would it be to experience that! The snow-ball fight scene at the beginning is almost surrealistic in its drunken dynamism. If modern viewers are disoriented by it, then viewers in 1927 must have been positively freaked out of their minds by it! Then there is a brilliant chase scene using rapid-fire cutting and handheld-cameras for the first time in film history complete with a camera on top of a horseback to show Napoleon's own perspective, culminating in Napoleon's escape by boat, fighting a sea storm that blends together with images from a chaotic Paris Convention, with the camera rocking on the waves of the boat as it moves freely and violently through the shouting masses at the convention. In the siege of Toulon, the composition of every frame is majestic and brilliant. At all times we can feel the weight of enormous historical forces working through this little man on the screen, culminating in such proclamations as: "I am the revolution!" His eagle-like eyes alone are able to silence his opponents and his over-ambition, his complete disregard for authority and his brilliant eye for military tactics ultimately made him into a revered general. The reign of terror by Robbespierre (causing the imprisonment of Napoleon) is the only part where the film tempers its energy, but only a little bit, which is recovered as soon as Napoleon is released to save France. A dance scene at one of the ensuing festivities, isn't just a dance scene: we see through a drunken camera, moving in a chaotic yet controlled manner that is way ahead of its time, waltzing through a crowd of dancing men and women, while some of the women are showing a dangerous amount of flesh for a film made in the twenties. The film never lags or bores, despite its 4 hour running time. It goes on and and on with a constant, mythical enthusiasm. When Napoleon rides in a coach towards Italy, it doesn't go fast enough for him, so he starts to ride on a horseback instead to further the energy of an already energetic scene. Throughout the movie we hear nationalistic music, and the three-way split screen ultimately culminates in the blue white and red colors of the French flag. The film conveniently forgets to mention the crimes of Napoleon and shows him not as the oppressor, but as the liberator of Europe. That is not very truthful, but without this blindness the film could never have been as big as it is now, and its proportions are not only the cause of its 'faults', but also of its major and overwhelming success: it is - save Kubrick's 2001 and Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc - the most brilliant cinematic achievement ever!

Before I stop, let me quote Roger Ebert, because he has something very important to say about this film and about silent films in general:

"One thing we members of the talkie era forget is that characters in a talking movie are forced, by and large, to speak in everyday language or risk sounding ridiculous. And their realistic speech tends to anchor the movies themselves in the realm of literal possibility. Gance's "Napoleon" has no such limitations. The movie boldly uses symbolism, highly dramatic cross-cutting, spilt-screen images and special effects to pound us over the head with its fantasy and idealism."

Note: This review is based on Carmine Coppola's highly crippled 1981 version which is the only one allowed for U.S. distribution by his son Francis Ford Coppola, which is cut down to 4 hours and given a faster frame-rate in order for Carmine's score to fit under it. The bastards! Unfortunately a large part of the original 9 hours is forever lost, but Brownlow re-edited the film in 1980 and later in 2000. He has added some lost footage to it and restored it to 5 and a half hours and corrected the frame-rate. I will have to see that version somehow, as it is often remarked that this one is so much better than Coppola's, although it has never been released for home-viewing and most likely never will be. This is due to Coppola's stupid restriction that the film should have his father's score under it: he has managed to legally suppress Browlow's superior version for more than 30 years, but recently it has been screened in the Oakland theatre with the finale on three different screens! However, it is not certain that I will be able to see it. The last screening of it in the Oakland theater - complete with a huge live orchestra - was precisely yesterday! I should have been there *beep*dammit! However, maybe it will be screened again in London on November 30th, 2013.

Note2: After watching the (80's?) Brownlow edit with Carl Davis' score on VHS-quality, I can definitely say its an improvement, although the triptych is excluded in this one, so I also rewatched this last scene in the Coppola version. But its got clearer pictures, a more natural frame-rate, more logical continuity qua story and less nationalistic and more fitting music, which makes the film more subtle. On the whole it gives an even better view at an already magnificent film, although it does not become an altogether different film. The cinema version should be great though. For now, position confirmed.

Edit after a rewatch in the Royal Festival Hall in Londen: A magnificent experience! See my review on, as the review-entry on IMDB is getting too big. ” - Auke Briek
Possession (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister. (124 mins.)
“ Dear god... This film is totally off the charts!!! It is absolutely weird, shocking, original, disturbing, dumbfounding, ridiculous, irritating, deep, pretentious, nauseating, laughable, breathtaking, surreal, nonsensical, excellent, amazing and a whole lot more... But for all that, it manages to be a great flim (though not a horror film as I first thought). If you want some points of reference, think of Lynch (Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Inland Empire) mixed with Cronenberg (Videodrome, Eastern Promises), mixed with Carpenter (In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing), mixed with Polanski (Repulsion, the Ninth Gate), mixed with something you don't wanna know... Ehm... ever heard of Japanese tentacle erotica?

Edit: As it lingered on in my subconscious (It seems like I am possessed as well) this film steadily worked its way towards the top 10. Not even the godawful acting of Heinz Bennent was able to stop it!

Edit after a rewatch: A personal favorite if there ever was one. This speaks to me on such a deeply personal level, I can't even begin to explain. I felt I was able to embrace it - and its imperfections - completely this time; having seen quite a bit more weird/trippy *beep* after my first viewing made it 'easier' to watch, even though this is probably as far away from easy viewing as you can get. This film is extremely raw, unpolished, intense and beautiful, pounding you over the head with a sledgehammer several times, with out-of-the-roof performances by Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neil. The ultimate film to watch on your first date. ;) ” - Auke Briek
Dolls (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Three stories of never-ending love. (114 mins.)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
“ Let me start off by warmly thanking Onderhond for putting this wonderful film in his top 10 (in the third place), thereby bringing it to my attention. Judging by the cover-art and the IMDB-rating (7.7) you might think that this is just your average art-house approved Hero-clone, as in beautiful-but-recycled colors paired to a decent story adding up to something fairly enjoyable but nothing all too memorable (although Hero itself is better than that). You'd be wrong. Even apart from the stunning visuals and the unique style, this film is intensely sad and sensitive: in those last regards it is only rivaled by La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, although Dolls has little else in common with Dreyer's silent masterpiece. What it reminds me of most is Miyazaki's animation. Kitano creates the sort of dream-like atmosphere only seen in the finest of Japanese animation, although it is not surrealistic in the Lynchian sense of the word. In fact the film is quite brutal in its realism: often using only the simplest of tools, this film is so sad that it is totally devastating, without ever becoming over-sentimental or even remotely conventional. Still, you shouldn't be surprised or ashamed if you cannot keep your eyes fully dry: it proves you're still human. And don't write it off as a generic emo-tearjerker either, for it is highly profound; when Sawako sheds her tears at the end, she came to understand something on an emotional level which her mind could not grasp yet, which supports Heidegger's thesis that mood is more intelligent than reason: "Vielleicht ist jedoch das, was wir hier und in ähnlichen Fällen Gefühl oder Stimmung nennen, vernünftiger, nämlich vernehmender, weil dem Sein offener als die Vernunft" (Ursprung des Kunstwerkes 1960: 9).

Edit: rewatching Dolls was every bit as intense as the first time, if not more. I knew what was coming, but still I was devastated by its atmosphere, colors, landscapes, music, symbolism and extremely concise moments of excruciatingly painful yet serene drama, like strokes of a samurai sword straight to the heart. Also, the parts that didn't fall entirely into place the first time seemed much more appropriate and meaningful the second time: there were no real lesser parts or boring parts, only less and more intense parts. The fact that I am more used to the typical style of Kitano was also helpful: things that appeared to be slightly flawed disruptions of drama the first time, seemed more like unconventional yet successful juxtapositions of dramatic atmosphere with typically Kitano-style hardly-noticable humor. Often Kitano repeats two thematically isomorphic scenes, one wryly humoristic and one intensely sad, and somehow manages to intensify and deepen both through relating and contrasting them, which also makes both scenes less one-dimensional and the film less safely art-house approved (think the pop song in the middle). He even succeeds in presenting both scenes as two sides of the same coin, because in Kitano's universe, fate definitely has a sense of irony. ” - Auke Briek
Su-ki-da (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A high school student named Yu has a crush on one of her classmates, Yosuke. The boy spends most of his time sitting outside and playing his guitar... (104 mins.)
“ The maker of the beautiful Tokyo.Sora has outdone himself with what is one of the most touching love stories ever made. The film starts with two teenagers who fall in love but are unable to express themselves romantically. Every (awkward) silence seems filled with meaning and things left unspoken, accompanied by a guitar play which is constantly repeated but never fails to beguile us. Years later they meet again...

Edit: rewatching Su-ki-da was an amazing experience. All my lingering doubts about the second part being significantly less good, or the silent moments perhaps being a bit too much stretched out have vanished into thin air. What a glorious film! The meaning of the film has become much clearer now. Ishikawa creates meaning not by plot complexities, but through the perfect simplicity of atmosphere, perfectly precise framing, perfectly subtle coloring, perfectly natural acting purified of all the remnants of theatricality which the medium never succeeded to fully shake off (not even through the work of Ozu), and by letting the open sky envelop the main characters as a rejuvinating force, that can grant us warmth and happiness on the one hand, yet can overwhelm and numb us on the other hand, if we fail to open ourselves up to it entirely. In the latter part, the sky is covered up by the drabness of city-life. Life is but a mere shadow of the past now and possibilities are reduced to the roads that lead only to the familiar. The more we yearn for the past, the more it slips out of our grasp. But even then, there is hope. ” - Auke Briek
Satantango (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Plotting on a payment they are about to receive, residents of a collapsing collective farm see their plans turn into desolation when they discover that Irimiás, a former co-worker who they thought was dead, is coming back to the village. (450 mins.)
Director: Béla Tarr
“ A 7 hour long film, whose long takes slowly start to creep under your skin. In an almost abandoned village, the remaining villagers plot and scheme to get away with the money, but are all conned out of it by the false prophet Irimias. The story might appear to be about the end of communism or the exploitations of capitalism, but this is not the case. At the heart of this story lies the plight of a traumatized child (Estike) and an old recluse (Doctor). They are the true victims of a monstrous scheme which deprived them not of their money, but of their hope for a full, rich and human life and ultimately of their lives as such. What they were confronted with was a picture of a society in which cold, heartless human beings destroyed their own lives and those of others through their low-life plodding, drinking, fornicating - in short - through their unrelenting, drunken dance of satan. It was this picture that killed them.

What is perhaps most striking is the relation between this film and Tarkvosky's work. I think that, although this remains highly speculative, Tarr has taken up Tarkovsky's work as the thesis of a Hegelian dialectical triad. The thesis is the subjective, poetic and intimate splendour of a girl, Estike, sitting perfectly still with a purring a cat on her lap, a scene which lasts for minutes! So far Tarr's images are the offspring of Tarkovsky's work, although Tarr's long takes seem to capture the core of someones existence with concrete textures in an almost sculpture-like way, whereas Tarkovsky's images seem to be focused entirely on their poetic nature. The antithesis however is the introduction of an ethical dimension: we learn that Estike is not only a deep girl who has an openness towards the sublime, but is actually a traumatized child with very very deep psychological problems, because we actually see her torturing and killing her cat and finally killing herself. Thus the poetic image is interrupted by an objective antithesis: this is perhaps Tarr's critique of Tarkovsky! This ethical moment ultimately solidifies itself as a social and political moment, in that society's nihilism is identified as the cause of Estike's tragedy. However, the ethical, the social and the political are ultimately dismissed as one-sided, because the conduct of Irimias and the total abandonment of Doctor shows us that the ethical fate of society and the individual human being, cannot ultimately be determined by political means alone, but also demands a more radical transformation of man, perhaps an openness towards the sublime, which yields a synthesis between, the poetical, the intimate and the sublime with the ethical the social and the political. What is thoroughly un-Hegelian however, is the way in which Tarr ultimately sketches a very bleak picture of society, in which this synthesis is far from realised, and gives us nothing in the way of assurances that it is in fact realisable: on the contrary, it shows us only the dance of satan.

Edit after a rewatch: I thought that after my recent devaluations of Tarkovsky (which will probably extend beyond Stalker) and Bergman, it would only be fair to put Satantango to the test.

I said that Stalker could have done with some serious cutting in the final hour. Satantango could have done with some serious cutting as well: from the fifth and the sixth hour, 30 minutes or so could have been cut, as the film started to wear me out at that point a bit too much, although the final half an hour was a return to form. What is remarkable though is that up until the fourth hour I wouldn't have cut a single frame. Yes, the film is painfully slow at times, but in the first two acts this is almost always for a reason: for instance to show the abandonment of Doctor we stay a long time with him, hear him breathe, see him walk which hurts his over-sized body, see the detailed living-room (in other words: the booze-dispensing machine) he has grown together with like a tree planted in the ground. Normally this would have been cut away, but it is precisely the 'economic' mindset behind this cutting that is most damaging to people like Doctor. The cinematography in many of the early walking scenes is gorgeous, often even awe-inspiring. When the theme music is heard for the first time, the tracking shot that accompanies it is jaw-dropping. The walking scene with Irimias in the town with the storm blowing away all the papers is overpowering. The scene with Estike sitting with the purring cat on her lap is sublime (although I'm not very comfortable with what happens next). The shot with her sitting in front of the barn is a work of art, with the little white smudge of dirt on her left boot having precisely the right shape needed within the composition of the frame. This is why the first four hours are so brilliant.

I criticized Stalker for imposing Tarkovsky's world-view on the viewer: contrary to my earlier review, it is not the introduction of an ethical dimension which distinguishes Tarr from Tarkovsky, let alone seeing that as something positive. The positive difference lies however in the way that Tarr handles this compared to Tarkovsky. Although Tarr tells a moralizing tale and singles out the victims, he mostly uses very powerful images to do so, which makes it more palatable than most moralizing tales: to see the look in Estike's eyes after she peeks through the window is unforgettable, knowing what this meant for her. Tarr isn't trying to teach us something about the "selflessness of art", but simply tries to make us feel the negative effects of neglect and abandonment and tries to investigate its causes: this is not altogether inhuman I would say. Although humor is used to criticize the greed and the pig-like nature of the towns people, Tarr ultimately points towards larger social issues which makes this less a condemnation than a diagnosis. Also, the ambiguous role of the scene with the type-writer, gives the film a certain amount of open-endedness which counterbalances some of the more judgmental aspects. All in all I didn't get the feeling that Tarr wanted to shove something down our throats: he wanted to raise questions more than answer them, even if he provided some of the answers.

Where to place this film? Ultimately, the story is a bit anti-climactic when the fifth and the sixth hour have less intense cinematography and more story (which isn't the greatest aspect). This is where the film loses points, because anything short of greatness becomes tiresome and painful after four hours. Still, the film also gains many (but not all) of those points back in the final hour where especially the final scenes with Doctor are top-notch again. What is the impact of the lesser hours on the current position? Although it would make sense to lower the position slightly, there is also something about the long duration that adds to Satantango's greatness as a movie. Short movies are often featherlight and have to impress in every in minute to gain some weight. Ultra-long movies can build up weight over time, and are able to deal with the impact of its lesser moments to some extent, because weight is also inertia: the more overwhelming impressions in the beginning keep their pull over the lesser ones in the end. Satantango is the heaviest-weighing movie I have ever seen, like a dilapidated cathedral, its extension over time has become an integral part of the stone-like presence of its images.

Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In future Britain, Alex DeLarge, a charismatic and psycopath delinquent, who likes to practice crimes and ultra-violence with his gang, is jailed and volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy developed by the government in an effort to solve society's crime problem - but not all goes according to plan. (136 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ Kubrick's controversial Clockwork Orange is packed with beautifully rendered "ultra-violence", yet despite this aesthetization of violence, it does not glorify it. Instead it raises a question: what if the attempts to control violence usually stem from a source that is even more corrupt and despicable than Alex and his droogs? From a society that has become mechanical to such an extent that it has lost its humanity altogether? Is Alex, despite his monstrosities, perhaps more alive, more human, more in touch with the sublime - exemplified by his love of the "glorious ninth" - than this Clockwork Orange? Such is the bleak picture of society that lurks behind the candy-coated colors of this film.

Edit after a rewatch: No doubt this masterpiece by Kubrick is one of the most stunning, visionary pieces of cinema ever crafted. But my top 10 is getting crowded now, and I had to let a favorite film go to let another one in. There are no free tickets anymore, not even for Kubrick. Still, what makes this film so great is the perfection and the vision behind the compositions of many shots, the strangely beautiful color-explosions wrung out of an otherwise ugly and stale seventies aesthetics, the quircky and captivating performance by Malcolm McDowell, through whose distorted glazzies we viddie the world, created by Bog, uhm... I mean Kubrick. But even Bog makes mistakes. Let me name a few:
- A Clockwork Orange is not a timeless film. It is a product of the seventies. Its 'modern' interior designs are dated.
- Even though the ugly seventies aesthetics is transformed into something much more engaging, it also seeps through often enough.
- The stiff/old-fashioned acting by many side-characters is often painfully ineffective and often also unfunny when it desperately tries to be funny. Think the first scene with Mr. Deltoid and the ham-handed denture-'joke'. This is probably the dark side of perfectionism. It is difficult to allow funny moments or spontaneous acting to happen, when you're such a control freak like Kubrick. You have to be able to let go as well and he couldn't do that. Still, he was a genius enough to try to build this fault into one of his strengths. Because we see the world through the eyes of Alex, we see everything enlarged as it were. But the ineffectiveness on this domain remains.
- The philosophy behind the film is sometimes too literally mentioned by the characters. A more open-ended approach would probably have done the film good, although it would then probably also have been even more misunderstood than it already was.

Ok, what does this all boil down to? Well, to be perfectly honest, the criticisms above don't make a whole lot of difference in the final assessment. Such is the strength of the glorious vision that inspired Kubrick to make this film. Still, time wears on all things, even those things we once deemed timeless. ” - Auke Briek
Umfeld (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
(56 mins.)
Director: Scott Pagano
“ Well, to start off I must say I was a bit sceptical about this film, position number six of Onderhond's top ten. It's basically a custom-made visualization to Autechre-like IDM, or to put it another way: it's like the cover art of an Autechre album, but then in motion and synchronized to the sound. I thought it would be amateurish, boring and jarring. But instead this film is very professional, even though the makers let you acquire the 5.1 DVD (or a smaller stereo version) for free under a creative commons license (see: I haven't heard the 5.1 version, because I don't have the setup for it, but the stereo version is already very impressive. I mean, sure you have to like the kind of music Autechre makes, because otherwise you'll probably just hear irritating noises and cracks instead of music, but I am pretty fond of this kind of music and so I was very much able to enjoy the way the visuals and the music melted together to create not so much a static as a dynamic, flowing experience. The effects (often mixing in architectural scenes from Rotterdam) are not so much jarring as they are ingeniously crafted: they are perfectly synchronized to sound, creating a true synaesthetic experience, that is somewhat mind-bending. It is like a work of art, but nihilistically so, in the sense that it is purely there for our entertainment, not for us to learn anything from it, not for us to become better or more intelligent persons by it. It is simply there to freak or stretch our minds out with weird visuals and loud sounds, and as such it is a success. Still, it remains a tiny bit generic, random and kitschy, but I think those limitations are practically unavoidable with a film like this. Some might question if this is a film at all, but I think this only underlines it's ability to seek (or perhaps stretch?) out the limits of the medium. If Brakhage is allowed to do it, then why not Pagano?

Edit: After a re-watch in more ideal conditions (with darker surroundings and the immersive effect of headphones, without having to lower the speaker volume for the neighbors) I was even more impressed than the first time! To put it bluntly: this is just fu|<ing brilliant! So what if it's also bad taste? I don't care, 'cause I love it to bits. When the closing credits appeared after 56 minutes I was really disappointed that it was over: I could probably watch this for ever and ever without ever getting bored! How often do you come across a film like that? Only when you know you've watched a really great film!

Edit2: What has become apparent after several re-watches is that a large part of the success of Umfeld is dependent on the co-originarity of sound and image. In the process of its making, the images were not only synchronized to the sounds, but the sounds also to the images. This was done in close reciprocal cooperation between Pagano and Paap, in such a way that both image and sound have become part of an inseparable whole, that seems to be prior to both: they both seem to stem from a source that is wholly indefinable and incomprehensible. The distinguished film theorist Rudolf Arheim thought that the transition from the silent film to the talkie would cause the demise of film as art, because a talkie is an incoherent compromise between two distinct art forms. Perhaps Umfeld is the answer to Arnheim. Perhaps the highest potential of the sound film is not to find an agreeable compromise between image and sound so that both can live together quietly, but to let both of them stem from a source that is prior to and more originary than both, in order to truly guarantee the coherence of the artistic medium.

Edit3: Finally added to IMDb! Also watched for the first time on DVD, which is like watching it for the first time. A shame that I had to remove this from my top 10, as this is still the most progressive film I have ever seen. Though certainly not perfect in execution, and surpassed by several more competent but slightly lower aiming films, Umfeld is, more than any other film I have seen, a conceptual blueprint for the kind of things that the ultimate film should do, and considering that Umfeld leaves lots to be desired, it follows that there must still be a vast undiscovered territory out there. Cinema is still in its infancy. ” - Auke Briek
Eraserhead (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child. (89 mins.)
Director: David Lynch
“ This is David Lynch' most intense nightmare transported magically onto celluloid. "In heaven, everything is fine". True, but what about on earth? Well, everything is not fine.

Edit: Fractured images of a disturbed sociality, straight from the deranged mind of David Lynch. A direct confrontation with, pure, unadulterated fear. The boredom and the horrible concreteness of have-to's and cannot's weighing like an elephant upon your shoulders. Eraserheads, rolling out of the factory, one by one, while you can't even remember when last you had a good night's sleep.

Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Buffalo '66 (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
After being released from prison, Billy is set to visit his parents with his wife, whom he does not actually have. This provokes Billy to act out, as he kidnaps a girl and forces her to act as his wife for the visit. (110 mins.)
Director: Vincent Gallo
“ Just a film without any b*llsh*t. That doesn't sound like a big compliment but it really is, because there are so many fantastic films out there that are still not entirely free of b*llsh*t. It breaks though the American Dream like American Beauty, but without the polished surface and the neat voice-over. Its freestyle, sarcastic and cynical like Pulp Fiction, but without any of the teenage jokes. Its gritty, violent and real and yet it is deeply touching at the same time. Vincent Gallo is a true genius, because both his directing and his acting are really great.

Edit after a rewatch: Once in a while you come across a film that may not be perfect, but nonetheless perfectly defines what you look for in a film. A film that is completely yours. Buffalo '66 is one of those films. Gallo commands the screen, and manages to be likable even at his most despicably narcissistic moments, even when he is repeating himself constantly, while behaving like an absolute *beep*hole. But it is in the quieter moments that the film is truly heartfelt. An impossible romance is created not by direct physical consummation, but by distance and the slow melting of ice caps of pain, built up over the years, starting from Billy's youth. The relationship to his irresponsible trailer trash parents feels extremely personal, as if they were caricatures of Gallo's own parents. The cinematography and especially the color design of the film is impeccable, contrasting warm, beautiful colors with scruffy, greasy surroundings. Many single images could be hung up on a wall or win prizes at professional photography competitions. The music selection is also outstanding. It is indeed a shame that Gallo stopped making films and that his latest film Promises Written in Water would not be released but would, instead, be "allowed to rest in peace, and stored without being exposed to the dark energies from the public." He pulled off a similar thing before: "I stopped painting in 1990 at the peak of my success just to deny people my beautiful paintings; and I did it out of spite." Gallo is indeed an arrogant, chronically narcissistic *beep*hole with very very deep issues no doubt. But from his tormented soul at least one glorious piece of cinematic art was born. ” - Auke Briek
Barry Lyndon (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England. (184 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ A story about opportunism, luck, coldness and misfortune, played out on a moving and visually exquisite painting from the 18th century, whose characters are completely defined by the canvas which they can never leave. ” - Auke Briek
Symbol (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A man wakes up alone in a brightly illuminated white room with no windows or doors. When he presses... (93 mins.)
“ This is some really (and I mean really!) crazy stuff! It's not really violent (as this kind of craziness usually is): this time around it is more like playful, silly and cute! But mostly it's just hilarious! Believe me, you'll be laughing your ass off, without always knowing why. I know, I know... in the end even kids need to grow up... but just let me play for a little while longer, will ye! :)

Push the button!
| ,___)

| ,__, \
|....\\ /

p.s.1 Don't read any summaries or watch any trailers, because they can only spoil the fun. Just go there with a totally blank mind!
p.s.2 We Dutch have saying: "leedvermaak is het leukste vermaak!" (!&sugexp=chrome,mod%3D6&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wT)
p.s.3 Click on the following link to watch the trailer:

Edit after a rewatch: still very funny the second time. Very cool that a film can make you laugh out loud and think at the same time. A philosophical and comical exploration of the more or less Hegelian hypothesis that world-history and all its follies is nothing but the playground of God's existential struggles towards self-becoming. Perhaps the biggest reason why I like this film so much and find it cathartic even, is that it unifies two disparate, seemingly incompatible elements of my own personality: a love for "onderbroekenlol" (toilet humor?) and philosophy. ” - Auke Briek
Ritual (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A disillusioned filmmaker has an encounter with a young girl who has a ritual of repeating "Tomorrow is my birthday" everyday. He tries to communicate with her through his video camera (128 mins.)
Director: Hideaki Anno
“ This is really impressive cinema. Contrary to Dolls, there is a bit of emo going on in this one, but luckily nothing generic. The colors, while a tiny bit too flashy for my taste, are actually really well done and reminded me a bit of Godard. There are also some references to Tarkovsky, most notably a direct spatial reference to Stalker. The drama and the acting vary between fairly believable to completely heart-breaking and the film squarely confronts us with the pain of loneliness, while criticizing its own visual flashiness and dramatic overtures as an inauthentic release from that pain, just like all idle entertainment. It is also worth mentioning that the film avoids cliché at the most crucial moments.

Edit: After a rewatch I placed this higher. Being a little more used to Japanese films, I am no longer slightly bothered by the visual flashiness of the film, and am able to appreciated it for what it adds to the mood and the story. This is a very pure and cathargic story with a lasting impact. The acting performances, especially that of Ayako Fujitani, are outstanding and the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Edit after a rewatch: Remains one of my strongest personal favorites. Moved this up a few notches. ” - Auke Briek
Enter the Void (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A U.S. drug dealer living in Tokyo is betrayed by his best friend and killed in a drug deal. His soul, observing the repercussions of his death, seeks resurrection. (161 mins.)
Director: Gaspar Noé
“ There are essentially two kinds of perfection if you ask me. Lets call 'm negative and positive perfection (for the record: I don't know if these terms already exist). Most conventional narrative masterpieces fall under the category of negative perfection, but only few of them are positively perfect. On the other hand, few films that are not entirely narrative-based, fall under the category of negative perfection, even though they may be positively perfect. Under negative perfection I understand the absence of identifiable faults, mistakes or bad directorial decisions. Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, etc., are all plausible examples. Still, they are not on the absolute top of my list, because while its very hard to find any clearly identifiable faults with them, it is not clear that their qualities are the ultimate in what could be desired of cinema as such. Films like 2001 or La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc seem to me to be rare cases of films that share both negative and positive perfection (lets call this absolute perfection). Under positive perfection I understand the presence of certain qualities that are of such tremendous (subjective) importance, that, whether or not there are any faults present, the films under this category may on balance still equal or outweigh films that fall only under the category of negative perfection. Films like Possession, Dolls or Umfeld are good examples of positive perfection, but not of negative perfection. Enter the Void also falls into that category. There are a lot of things that it does wrong. For instance, the film is too long. At least half an hour, but probably more should have been cut. While the visual trip goes on and on, I feel that at times it loses some of its effectiveness, and there are some repetitions in the scenes and there is some superfluous material. Also, the film is a tiny bit pretentious, though not nearly as much as I thought on first viewing. Actually, the theme of reincarnation truly rang home this time, and I found the ending tremendously meaningful and touching this time, which effectively balanced some less meaningful material in the middle parts. Also, the coherence of the material is lacking, not all characters are as interesting as they should be given the time spent with them, the story as a whole is somewhat confused and not as meaningful as it pretends to be. It is therefore pretty clear that it cannot be an instance of negative perfection, and I have no quarrel with that. It is also clear to me however, that it is an instance of positive perfection. The cinematography is so unbelievably good, that it constitutes a visual trip that is on par with that of 2001. It delivers for 2 and a half hours of almost non stop visual gorgeousness. This in itself is an absorptive experience unlike anything in the history of cinema. This is the kind of film that breaks through unknown barriers, towards uncharted territory, finds new ways of expression and leaves the viewer in awe. Although its faults are not merely rational afterthoughts that can be easily shut out during the experience of watching the film, the positive qualities of the film are so unbelievably good that they can survive the diminishing impact of the film's faults, and even beat many faultless films. If one lets the criteria of negative perfection one-sidedly determine the scope of one's concept of perfection, than Enter the Void is a 7/10, or a rather low 8/10 at most, which was basically what happened after my first viewing. If one broadens that scope, well, then one may find that it is actually a 10/10 and pretty close in quality to the aforementioned examples of absolute perfection.

Edit after a rewatch: the story has grown more on me and I felt more absorbed in it. It could still gain from some cutting, but I no longer feel it is absolutely necessary. It also felt more meaningful and less pretentious this time. Debie's cinematography still has the wow factor, but a little less this time, because Spring Breakers is clearly more beautiful (though less trippy) in that department, combined with a much better soundtrack/score and audiovisual integration which makes for a much more absorptive experience. Both the gains and the losses cancel each other out, so Enter the Void retains its position. I don't think that the distinction between positive and negative perfection works though, because that would confuse us by deviating too much from standard usage and because it would imply that something with faults can be in a sense perfect, which is false. But personal favorites don't have to be perfect to get the maximum score. They just have to feature lots of your favorite cinematic qualities, that's all. And Enter the Void remains most generous in that department. ” - Auke Briek
Survive Style 5+ (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Five bizarre stories with no apparent connection to one and other eventually become intertwined, resulting in surreal circumstances. (120 mins.)
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
“ It's like this film is saying: "Alright, I'm gonna admit it flat out: I'm not original, it's all been done before by Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, The Shining), Godard (Week End, Pierrot Le Fou), Tarrantino (Pulp Fiction, Resevoir Dogs) and Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). But now shut the *beep* up and enjoy this *beep* hilarious film!" ” - Auke Briek
Mother and Son (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A slow and poignant story of love and patience told via a dying mother nursed by her devoted son. The... (73 mins.)
“ I used to think that Sokurov was gifted but not nearly as good as Tarkovsky. However, with Mat i syn, the student has actually outdone the master! What he achieves here is of monumental importance: he uses a camera in much the same way as painter uses a canvas, breaking through the mimetic ideal. Using the camera as a canvas was done before in Barry Lyndon, but that film stayed squarely within the mimetic ideal of Rococo. Sokurov may also not be the first to break with the mimetic ideal: the beginning of Lynch's Eraserhead is certainly not ideal in the mimetic sense of the word. However, that kind of breakthrough depends more on what is filmed than on how it is filmed. Apart from the grainy picture quality and the sometimes indescribable objects Lynch filmed, the way the pictures were registered still seems to fall within the mimetic ideal. Man with the Movie Camera registered different pictures at different places and showed them at different time-frames, but each picture taken on its own was still mimetic. The ending of 2001 was of course non-mimetic but the sharpness of the images still allowed for a continuity between those scenes and the mimetic scenes seen before and after it: in a way it still remained bound to the mimetic ideal because of the latent but always present capacity of the Nasa lenses to register the outside world in sharp mimetic detail. The same goes for Brakhage and similar experimentalists, who still used relatively sharp cameras to create their strange effects that were more abstract in terms of content but not in terms of the devices that captured the content. Sokurov does something altogether different: through painted glass filters, mirrors and other ingenious devices he diminishes the sharpness of the images and uses the lowest quality camera he can find to distort reality in much the same way as Van Gogh or Monet painted reality in broad strokes instead of minute detail. Some have compaired this to oil painting, and although that may be aesthetically accurate and even though Sokurov claims to have been inspired by Romanticism (he mentioned David Caspar Friedrich), I think that in the deepest sense Sokurov was really after the subjective impression of reality that separated early Modern art from Romanticism. Of course, Modern art had a long way to go from Van Gogh to a total breakthrough of the mimetic ideal in abstract art, but it was a highly important first step nonetheless. The result of Sokurov's breakthrough is extremely beautiful and poetic, reminding us of all the virtues of a good Tarkovsky, but with a distinctly recognizable style. It has reduced dialog to a bare minimum which is probably for the better, because dialog and narrative aren't Sokurov's strongest points: he is a painter using a camera.

Edit: after a re-watch I was surprised to see how much of the film is actually carried by the story and the (often non-verbal) dialog after all. Taken as stand-alone paintings many of the images don't work half as well compared to the way they are integrated within the atmosphere of the story, a deeply touching story about a son taking care of his dying mother in the most sensitive way imaginable.

Edit after a rewatch: Mat i syn remains every bit as powerful. It's images are of an otherwordly beauty and the story is very minimalistic, heartfelt and powerful. The film cannot be accused of plain moralizing or mere sentimentality, as it taps into something far more basic: the primal love between a mother and a son.

Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Come and See (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II. (142 mins.)
Director: E. Klimov
“ In one word: devasting! Granted, the quality of the acting varies. Although many performances are deeply moving, there are moments when it feels like you are watching a B movie. However, its absolutely shocking depiction of Nazi crimes, reinforced by a suffocating atmosphere, will leave its mark on you for the rest of your life. The film is like a black hole, destroying all the light that comes into its path. ” - Auke Briek
Trouble Every Day (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Shane and June Brown are an American couple honeymooning in Paris in an effort to nurture their new life together... (101 mins.)
Director: Claire Denis
“ This is the best in art-house horror! Its not for people with a weak stomach though. Again Vincent Gallo delivers in spades in terms of inspired acting. I was also pleasantly surprised by the music of the Tindersticks: I never heard of them before but they really create a fantastic mood for the film. Reminds me a bit of Massive Attack, my second best band. The direction of Claire Denis is also great: the camerawork was really accurate and disturbing and although the story was perhaps a bit confusing at times, that was probably just me not paying enough attention. I think that the transitions between the slow build up and the all-out freaky scenes are remarkably well done: it feels like a coherent whole. About those freaky scenes: they are completely over-the-top but they actually seem to contribute to the subtle atmosphere of the film. This is really great stuff, but I guess its pretty hard to swallow for most people.

Edit: This is Claire Denis' lowest scoring film. I also watched L'intrus and Beau Travail which score much higher but I couldn't care much for them. Cannes audiences and critics loved those two films while panning Trouble Every Day. To me this proves that most art-house fans - who rightly criticize Hollywood for its many generic feature-films and its quick money-grabbing culture - are themselves also much too afraid to step outside of their comfort zone: if it's not a painfully slow politically correct Iranian film about women's rights, mostly showing their totally uninteresting daily activities without any cinematographic quality whatsoever, they feel like it's not "relevant" or not "touching" enough. Bleh!

Edit after a rewatch: On the surface, Trouble Every Day's narrative appears to be deeply flawed. It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, and it doesn't progress much. And yet the mood of this film is so beautiful, horrifying and intense that it starts to make sense again on an instinctive, animalistic level. The music by the Tindersticks creates a meditative atmosphere. And when we see Béatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo struggling together in one scene, we see perhaps the two strangest creatures inhabiting the world of cinema. Gallo, the arrogant and deeply troubled, narcissistic prick, and Dalle, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Beast all in one. The thing is that they have such a unique personality, that, when casted right they don't have to act: they have been 'method acting' for their whole lives, because they really are the *beep* up people the film makes them out to be. But ultimately, it is Claire Denis who is the genius behind all this. She chose to film it all with a poetic sensibility. She chose to let Dalle paint a Jackson Pollock in blood on the wall and make it look like the best modern piece of art ever created. She chose to let Dalle walk in front of this wall, with a dreamy, meditative expression, feeling invigorated by having the forces of life and death squirt freely in all directions . The lowest and the highest impulses of human nature are in perfect harmony here, while the viewer is always sitting in the eye of the storm, calmly registering.

There is still room for a significant upgrade. ” - Auke Briek
Elégia (1965 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
From times immemorial, man has enjoyed the horse in all manners, as art object, speed racer, cart-puller... (19 mins.)
“ Elégia is a fearlessly abstract color film that actually continues to explore the possibilities of rapid-fire cutting invented in the silent era, a technique left behind at the transition to the talkies, where images were no longer thought to bear the responsibility of expression, because the spoken word would be able to take care of that department. Although this does not start immediately, Elégia consists almost wholly of an hypnotic string of rat tat tat images, moving from cracks in the dried earth (accompanied by electronic cracks) to horses walking in stunning landscapes, or horses blinking their eyes, sometimes filmed behind glass filters. There is one scene however, that I feared would come, but knocked me over the head with such brute force, that I wasn't even prepared for it at all. Beware: this film is positively draining! I had some internal moral conflicts about that scene, but this is just how the world really is and I can't blame the film for showing it to us with brutal honesty. In the end I have to conclude that it's a masterpiece unlike anything you have ever seen.

Edit after a rewatch: Moved this up, as this is right up there with Eraserhead and Idi I Smotri in terms of devastating impact. As such it is the best short film I have yet seen. ” - Auke Briek
Avalon (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
In a future world, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) battle simulation game called Avalon... (107 mins.)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
“ This is Onderhond's favorite film. I hear you asking "Who the *beep* is Onderhond?" Well, he is a Japanese-film-loving-western-classics-basher, whose reviews both fascinate and amuse me (see my comment on Casablanca). Its as interesting to see which films he likes as it is to see which ones he hates. I already saw Tokyo.Sora (also in his top ten) and it was surprisingly good. Now I have seen Avalon, and... its ok. Its neither perfect, nor brilliant, but its not bad either. It could easily have been vulgar wank-material for special-effects loving teenage gamers, but luckily its a lot better than that. Narratively, visually and musically it ranges from generic to highly original. Its a film in the same category as The Matrix and Inception and although its not as good as those two, its not a whole lot worse either.

Edit after a rewatch: I'm at a loss here. I don't know how to rate this one. Current range of possible ratings: 7/10 to 10/10, possibly scoring higher than Angel's Egg! This might very well be Oshii's masterpiece. The problem is as follows. Taken in complete isolation, the first part is a 7/10, which lasts for eighty minutes. Taken in complete isolation, the second part is an 8/10 which lasts for 15 minutes. If each moment were equally important, then the first part would tip the balance for the total score to a 7/10. But why then, is this a potential 10/10? This is because we do not watch the first and the second part in isolation. It is their contrast which does all the magic. So after having watched the first part I would have given a 7/10 for the film. Then the second part starts and the inevitable contrast with the first part lifts those final 15 minutes to a 10/10. But then, the first part would still be a 7/10, right? So then, if time were equally weighed, it would still not be possible to get to a 10/10 in total (an 8/10 at best), right? Now, there are three possible strategies to tackle that claim. The first one would be to deny that time should be weighed equally. So then you could say that the final fifteen minutes weigh, for instance, five times as much per minute as the first part. In that case, they would weigh equally, and perhaps the total score could tip over to a 9/10. You could also say that time should not be measured or weighed at all, but that scoring is all subjective and related to the meaning of the whole of the film, and not to a calculation of its constituent parts. That would, probably, be my response. Yet this solves the puzzle only partially, because does the first part not remain a millstone hanging on the feet of the film, dragging it down? It ought to count for something, foreclosing at least a top 100 score, right? And here the last strategy comes in. Because I would say, that despite the fact that the first part was a clear 7/10 after I saw it, it might very well be that this score gets an upgrade after the fact, by being contrasted with the second part. There are two reasons why this is probably so. The first one is that the first part, despite all the audiovisual gamer's fetish and virtualized ugliness (mixed with beauty) that weighs it down, is ultimately revealed as an absolutely necessary condition for the possibility of lifting the experience of the final fifteen minutes from an 8/10 to a 10/10. So that part is no longer a mistake, bad taste or what have you, but completely intentional and also justified. Does that not heighten the score for that part by at least one point? Then the second reason is that the scenes themselves become better by being contrasted with the second part, not only as conditions for experiencing the second part properly, but also in light of the second part. For instance, the very same seemingly generic gamer's score, gets a whole new level of depth in retrospect, by being presented in a totally different context. Something similar goes for the visual genericness. So could the first part not be a 9/10 in retrospect as well? Possibly. That would make it perfectly conceivable that this film scores higher than Angel's Egg. But of course one could easily object that this is all so far-fetched. Indeed it seems to be. And therefore, the 7/10 remains a possibility as well.
To be continued...

Edit after another rewatch: the first and the second part have grown a little towards each other, making the rift a little smaller and the film 'easier' to rate. What stands out here is vision, not beauty or emotion per se, although that is there too. The line between computer game special effects and real shots has faded, sepia ugliness and beauty intertwine and this creates bewilderment and alienation. The story feels like it came straight out of a computer game, and yet there are deeper layers as well and it takes time for quiter moments. The real beauty is in the way the girl prepares food for her dog, or in the mysterious expression of the ghost, the music that feels generic first and deeply touching in the end. And then of course the brilliant transition scene. But the final shots are also gold. I think that the vision lifts this above Jin-Rôh, although Tenshi No Tamago remains Oshii's unbeaten masterpiece, mostly because I have a stronger personal connection to that film as a whole.

Edit after a rewatch: Avalon is definitely a grower. Visually, it totally upsets conventional relations between (filtered) live action, anime and cgi, for instance by combining them in strange ways, using the one as if it were the other, or by blurring the distinctions between them. Many of the visual effects may appear like cheap gamer fetish on first sight, but on repeated viewings I began to see the in-the-fleshness (Husserl: 'leibhaftigkeit') of the reality underlying them, which is also the reason why this film isn't dated. I now see a lot of beauty in those effects. The atmosphere is really intense, and the score contributes a lot to this as well. The film also has much philosophical depth in the way the reality/virtual reality theme is worked out. The fact that Oshii was willing to risk his film being mistaken for something generic shows that he had a lot of balls: someone like Tarkovsky would never have dared this, always catering to the same public with the same themes and kinds of conversations, being granted "depth" almost by default. The fact that Oshii chose to hide the deeper layers of Avalon in one of the supposedly most superficial phenomena out there (a first person shooter computer game and all the technical jargon that comes with that) gives the film a lot of backbone. I am not at all sure if this is better than Angel's Egg, but the latter film definitely needs to go up on a rewatch if it is to stay ahead of Avalon. ” - Auke Briek
Mouchette (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Mouchette is a young girl living in the country. Her mother is dying and her father does not take care of her... (78 mins.)
Director: Robert Bresson
“ A very sad story about a girl, Mouchette, who learned the hard way that innocence is only greeted with cruelty. The things that happen to her are quite terrible, yet they are not isolated events, but part of a larger context, which tells us that she has not been treated as a full human being for years; this is also the way in which she came to understand herself. Yes, she also acts cruelly towards some others herself, but understand this: traumatized people are usually not the meek lambs we want them to be. It is precisely their trauma, which usually makes them very difficult to deal with. To be able to feel genuine sympathy and sadness for her instead of anger for her own misbehavior is to transcend the mass-produced abstract thinking - as Hegel would call it - of looking only at specific situations and actions and condemning her for it, while forgetting the social context in which her psychological trauma and - consequently - her own misbehavior arose in the first place. I suspect that Bresson was testing the moral strength of his audience with this film.

Edit after a rewatch: I lowered the position for Mouchette recently, after lowering Au Hasard Balthazar (which in itself was slightly too harsh, because the film does linger on my mind for a long time). I was curious if lowering Mouchette was a right decision and decided that I had to rewatch it. Au contrare. The second time I was totally blown away by this film! Perhaps seeing this in the double bill with the schmalzy Hachiko, brought out its strengths more. While Mouchette has less iconic imagery than Au Hasard, the individual scenes are far more powerful and fitting to me, as the film has a flow to it that Au Hasard lacks, and does not wander off or lose focus for once. It is tragic down to the core and as pure as film can get. What is so powerful is how we are put in Mouchette's shoes, if only by the clunking sounds that those wooden lumps make, feeling the shame that is accompanied by her low self-esteem, for which only the circumstances were to blame. The way Bresson imposes the harsh concreteness and materiality of his world upon the viewer is breathtaking: it is part and parcel of the cinematography (especially the dark contrasts) and the hard-hitting sounds that different objects make, while often interacting with each other to create a tormenting rythm. This concrete world kept hitting Mouchette over the head for no reason, with an unrelenting force, and she kept hitting back at the world, and when we open ourselves up to the tragedy of her situation, this is hardly a mystery. But no matter how hard she hit back, the world kept hitting her harder. And then there is the end scene, which is Bresson's most powerful scene. To surpass the end scene of Au Hasard, which carried a lot of weight for that movie, was a difficult task indeed, but Bresson showed that he was capable of doing so. To me, Mouchette is Bresson's ultimate masterpiece. ” - Auke Briek
The Shining (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. (146 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ "Here's Johnny!" What's scarier than a stranger chasing you with an axe? Your own husband or father chasing you with an axe.

I find it difficult to say anything substantial about this film, since I feel like it's all been said. You can say for instance "look what a crazy and out of this world performance Jack Nickelson gives", but why bother stating something so bloody obvious? Of course you can disagree with the consensus, but everything that I find great about the film tends to have an all too familiar ring about it. What I wrote above is a case in point. A statement like "Here's Johnny" has been repeated often, perhaps too often for its own good, in the sense that it is has become difficult to separate the legendary from the cliché. Everytime I watch it again, the more familiar everything becomes. After only a few repeated viewings, you'll soon be able dream the entire plot, and perhaps almost every line. And yet none of this undermines the film in any way. It feels just as exciting and intense as it did the first time. It's just that I don't feel like reviewing the film in any substantial way. Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Twin Peaks (1990 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks. (47 mins.)
“ As a rule I won't add TV series, but it would be a shame not to mention this high point in Lynch's carreer! The world of Twin Peaks is like a magical river to drown yourself in. Now and then I yearn to go back into it. ” - Auke Briek
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality. (147 mins.)
Director: David Lynch
“ Pictures and atmosphere melt together into a polished dream-world. It is dark, mysterious, sensual and very beautiful. ” - Auke Briek
Visitor Q (2001 Video)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A troubled and perverted family find their lives intruded by a mysterious stranger who seems to help find a balance in their disturbing natures. (84 mins.)
Director: Takashi Miike
“ In my mind's eye I see a bunch of 50 year-old cleaning-ladies on a tiger-skin couch, collectively shaking their heads while having accidentally watched ten seconds of Visitor Q on tv, after which they scream their fat asses off in indignation (like only cleaning-ladies can) while saying things like "scandalous!" and "ohh!", zap and watch a program on Dutch television called Echt Scheiden (Real Divorce) while eating some home-made cookies or doing a knitting job, sobbing intensely while little children are being told that their parents are actually going to get a divorce (for real), while snorting and cleaning their eyes with greasy tissues because Natasja Froger is so "real", so "heartwarming" when she takes sides with the mother against the father and because the children look so cute and helpless when they cry. To me that's the world turned upside down. But maybe that's just me. Well, Visitor Q's some got some True Bullying, True Incest, True Domestic Violence, True Murder, True Necrophilia, True Lactation, True Q. How's that's for "real" and "heartwarming"!? You like that as well? Thought not... But Visitor Q is wrooong because it's reeeeally for real, right? They're not actor's: oh no... it's a real family and it's reeeeeal violence right? So that's baaaaaad!!

P.S.: Don't watch this while eating your own home-made cookies, because you'll probably just puke them out all over your knitting-jobs anyway. ” - Auke Briek
Angel's Egg (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A mysterious young girl wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying a large egg. (71 mins.)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
“ This is the best thing I've seen Oshii do so far. I can't say I understand it fully, but the egg is every bit as mysterious as the black monolith from 2001.

Edit after a rewatch: The first time I saw Angel's Egg, I did not get entirely what I wanted. I longed for the soft insides of the egg, but found myself bouncing off its outer crust again and again. I found the animation style bewildering, alienating and perhaps even slightly ugly at times, and while I also saw its otherworldly beauty occasionally, I thought that the sense of bewilderment prevailed. I thought that this film must therefore not have been entirely "my thing", and while certainly intrigued by its mystery, I gave it a fairly modest position on this list. But the film stayed with me. I began to wonder: what if it was me and not the film? Now that I have seen it again, I can definitely say that I have vastly underrated it before. The film has an impenetrable aura of dignity around it, which transforms its own bewilderment into angst, its alienation and 'ugliness' into inscrutability. This film does not give itself easily. It is not just hard to get. It plays hard to get, like an enchanting seductress. Many Ghibli's offer next to no resistance, and give themselves almost too easily, which is often instantly gratifying, but over-familiar in the long run. But Angel's Egg slowly sucks you in, and then throws you back, only to draw you in and back again, and in that quiet rhythm it proved to be much greater and meaningful than my own petty list of things that I wanted but did not get on a first viewing.

Edit after a rewatch: current position (below Avalon) confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Gerry (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A friendship between two young men is tested when they go for a hike in a desert and forget to bring any water or food with them. (103 mins.)
Director: Gus Van Sant
“ Together with Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant was one of the two most well-known Hollywood directors explicitly influenced by Sátántangó. I think Van Sant was the one paying the most attention, while making Gerry. For a well-known Hollywood director this is unbelievably daring in its contemplative air and narrative simplicity and some of the shots of this film are truly wonderful and serene. Its about two American guys just meeting themselves really. They finally learn that the sky is not the *beep* limit. The limit is when the sky, gorgeous as it may be, just doesn't deliver the goods anymore. And that was a free gift anyway. Beautiful! (please note that this review may be biased, considering the fact that I watched this film while drinking a whole bottle of cheap 2004 Haut-Medoc just by myself, which tasted better than expected by the way)

Edit: I placed this higher after a rewatch. This film really works. The way it explores the rhythms of walking audio-visually is just fantastic. Especially the dancing heads scene is impressive. The characters really undergo a transformation, from a false sense of direction, towards a steady acceptance of being lost, from an inauthentic sense of mastery and control over nature, towards a more authentic understanding of nature, as that which gives or holds back freely and from empty chatter, to a meaningful silence that is purified by the desert's nothingness. ” - Auke Briek
Natural Born Killers (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media. (118 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ Now this is cinema! Its as over-the-top and crazy as Possession, trashier than Wild at Heart and ballsier than anything I have ever seen!

Edit after a rewatch: Position confirmed. The scene with the 'happy family' + gag reel is perhaps the most devastating form of social critique I have ever seen on film. I think this shows that the film is not an immoral celebration of violence, as the the final scenes might be mistaken for. As a whole it is extremely immersive and powerful. The cinematography is a bit coarse or dated perhaps, but creatively inspired nonetheless. ” - Auke Briek
Lost Highway (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life. (134 mins.)
Director: David Lynch
“ This is a darker, rougher and more aggressive counterpart to Mulholland Drive. It deserves credit in that it is more original - it was made earlier -, more uncompromising, scarier and overall more intense than Mulholland Drive. Yet Mulholland Drive is more polished and its atmosphere more subtle and refined. It is like the ultimate mexican standoff. I personally prefer Mulholland drive over Lost Highway, but it isn't a huge difference.

Edit after a rewatch in HD: Lost Highway hasn't lost one bit of its power. In fact, the additional picture quality revealed a slightly less rough or slightly more polished picture, which puts it closer in that regard to Mulholland Drive than I remembered. Some of the music choices in this movie are so brilliant: Bowie's I am Deranged is a part of the movement of the yellow stripes on the road, and Song to the Siren connects Lost Highway back to the mood of Twin Peaks. The story plays out like a Moebius strip, and it definitely feels absurd, but ultimately I believe that every event in the movie can be explained quite rationally, except for the idea of demonic possession. But be that as it may, the power of the movie lies in showing off Lynch's ability to constantly paint precisely the right mood in sound and image. ” - Auke Briek
Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A businessman accidentally kills The Metal Fetishist, who gets his revenge by slowly turning the man into a grotesque hybrid of flesh and rusty metal. (67 mins.)
“ I used to think I already saw the original Tetsuo before, but I was mistaken. I saw a different film, probably one of the sequels, though I'm not yet sure which one. The original is much better actually. It can be described as a surreal cyber-punk art installation with elements of extreme human-machine fusion, fetish-porn, and lots of other sorts of dirt, grit and dehumanized filth and lowliness. It is not unlike Eraserhead on XTC with lots of metal sounds and hysterical, illogical (non)happenings. It is well created though, considering the unavailability of CGI and the total reliance on real artifacts and stop motion techniques. I appreciate the film's uncompromising innovation, it's balls of steel and it's craft, though I'm not sure if it means anything and I can't say that I wholeheartedly like or embrace it.

Edit after a rewatch: I already knew this was a great film, but the cognitive dissonance (stemming the lack of 'humanity' or 'recognizability') was just too high the first time I saw it. It's a bit like trying to climb the Mount Everest and failing to get to the top: it's not the fault of the mountain. This is one of the ultimate Japanese films, indeed the Japanese Eraserhead. Fiercely creative, extraordinarily energetic, brutally uncompromising in its vision and scope. The use of stop motion techniques is done in such a way that the technical limits of the effects (the stuttering) become part of the rhythm of the clunking metal sounds, so that the effects don't get dated. But what's most important is that I didn't feel the cognitive dissonance this time, that I was able to be completely absorbed in it, not undisturbed or easy-going, but more like a surrender to the hypnotic machine-like operations, sounds and imagery, almost as if it is my own body that fuses with the scraps of metal. ” - Auke Briek
Tekkonkinkreet (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In Treasure Town, life can be both peaceful and violent. This is never truer than for our heroes, Black and White... (111 mins.)
Director: Maikeru Ariasu
“ I was prepared for a good film, perhaps even a great film. I was not, however, prepared for a perfect film, let alone for the best animated film I ever saw. The animation style is situated somewhere in between the rich and accessible style of studio Ghibli (which I like) and the violent, ultra-angular style of Dead Leaves (which I dislike), and somehow it manages to capture the best of both worlds. I appreciate the uncompromising innovation and audacity of Dead Leaves, but I am also turned off by what I perceive as its overbearing ugliness. I am also often entranced by the lavish and rich style of studio Ghibli, yet I think it is still somewhat held back by their desire to please everyone in the most unproblematic manner possible. Tekkonkinkreet doesn't please everyone as its style and content is already much too violent and angular for some, yet it doesn't alienate me by going over-the-top and it has an undeniable human core that is downright heartbreaking. The story is often intercut with visualisations of dreams and desires (mostly of white) and the script is very precise and often seems to reinforce the power of the images. The flow and the pacing of the action scenes is immaculate, which really pulls you into the film. The balance between accessibility and audacity is also struck perfectly when it comes to the story. At one point you may feel turned off by one of the main protagonists, but this serves a purpose and in the end it makes the film much stronger. There may be some conceptual constructions here as well (the yin and yang thing), but this never feels contrived because we really feel for the main characters and they are alive to us as if they were friends we've known our whole lives. ” - Auke Briek
Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Zebraman awakens fifteen years in the future, unclear on what has happened to him, and quickly discovers that the evil Zebra Queen has a hold on Tokyo. (106 mins.)
Director: Takashi Miike
“ Zebraman 2 is simply fantastic! Zebraman 1 had a lot of potential but failed to cash it all out because of a very boring middle part. But this one is a huge improvement on all fronts! It is very funny, highly unique and fearlessly creative. The Lady Gaga mockery is spot on, and the paraphrasing of her music used is extremely impressive, the humor is dry and fresh, the editing WAY more stringent, making it interesting for the whole duration, the black and white separation between good and evil never got a more satisfying explanation than the one given in this film and the balance between self-mockery and plain cool film-making is struck perfectly. Zebra-kick!!! :)

Edit after a rewatch: I doubted wether or not I placed this too high. On the contrary: it was way too low! One of the coolest and funniest flicks out there. Sure it sits a little strange here, sandwiched between serious masterpieces such as The Godfather and Citizen Kane, but ultimately this is only a testament to the greatness and off-the-charts craziness of Miike's imagination. ” - Auke Briek
Offscreen (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Actor Nicolas Bro reigns supreme in the role of Nicolas Bro # a man intent on making a film about himself. After his director friend Christoffer Boe lends him a camera, his selfmonitoring is so hair-raisingly private that it becomes impossible to separate fact from fiction. (93 mins.)
Director: Christoffer Boe
“ "If you stare long enough into the camera, the camera will stare back at you" Nietzsche (or something near enough)

Offscreen is a triumphant film! It shares many similarities to Beast, as it is about a degenerating love-affair causing Nicolas Bro to go mad slowly, but whereas Bro went just a little bit over-the-top now and then in that film, here he manages to keep the subtlety completely in tact: and when the film finally climaxed it was 100% convincing. The magnificent performance that Bro pulls off here has to be seen to be believed! The film also shares similarities to the Blair Witch Project, which showed that a handy-cam style can be more than a stupid gimmick and can create a very powerful realism that can send chills down your spine; because Offscreen has a more powerful plot with a much greater psychological scope, Offscreen makes even better use of this technique. Also, the fact that Boe plays in the film as Boe (the director) and Bro as Bro (the actor) adds a tremendous realism to the film that is practically unmatched! Also, by showing the process of its own making, the film plays with its own constructedness in a way that is much more powerful than Reconstruction. Reconstruction is admittedly more impressive in terms of cinematography and the subtlety of displaying inner lives and relationships through that cinematography, but Offscreen pounds us over the head with such brutality that I have to say that it is a more accomplished film. Especially the ending is noteworthy: it is here where the film is fully unleashed and rids itself of doubts and ambiguities that might have kept it out of my top 100 had the ending been different. Endings are tricky things: Allegro and Everything will be fine stumbled over it, but Offscreen triumphed through it.

Edit: In hindsight, Offscreen lacks the memorability of Reconstruction and is therefore probably less good after all.

Edit2: In resight, Offscreen pounded me over the head the second time, and I was caught off guard the second time, as I expected merely a confirmation that I indeed overrated it the first time. Perhaps this ping pong battle between hindsight and resight might be played for ages for all I know; perhaps tomorrow morning I may feel differently again, I don't know. But instead of anticipating my different assessment on another point in time by postponing this review, I'd like to accurately record these equivocations of mine. Instead of pushing those equivocations under the rug out of fear of appearing whimsical, I'd like to point my 'camera' straight at them. Why do they happen? Perhaps in hindsight we start worrying too much about what 'they' would think of the film? Or is it that in hindsight we are no longer enchanted as it were, by the crazy spell that the film casts, so that we are able to stand back and judge the film with a sober, 'rational' frame of mind? But is that kind of judgment then not more abstract, less sensitive toward the phenomena themselves? Now I don't want to claim outright that (re)sight is a priori superior to hindsight, as it often does happen that we delude ourselves, apply wishful thinking or turn a blind eye to certain faults when we are immersed in the film world, that are rightly criticized in hindsight. I don't think that there is a theoretical answer that would place either of them into a clear cut hierarchical relation. But it is clear that our being-in-the-film-world should not be scolded for its lack of objectivity, but that rather the other way around we should embrace its subjectivity, that in itself is a condition of possibility for standing back, i.e. of all 'objectivity', if that word is still to have any meaning outside of a traditional metaphysical hierarchy.

Now with regards to the film. I mentioned its lack of memorability on my previous edit. Why is this so? The film has very few typically 'great' scenes that spring to mind easily. The only scene that is truly great is the last one. The film also has a lot of repetition: when Nicolas says "Lene, Lene" all the time, it might appear as if there is a lack of plot. Also, the plot elements that are there appear to be wholly unspectacular, spending a large amount of time with Nicolas talking to his friends who keep telling him that he is on the wrong track and that filming everyone is annoying. Moreover, the cinematography appears to be much less beautiful than that of Reconstruction and Allegro. The camera-movements also appear random, so do the colors, and so do indeed the contents and therefore the whole story. These are all things that appear in hindsight. But in resight, all this appears differently. Indeed there are no great scenes except for the last one, but greatness is not necessarily compartmentalized into neat units we call scenes. Greatness may pertain to a slow, gradual movement (i.e. a movement not perceptibly consisting of concretely identifiable separate elements) of a deteriorating relationship and mind. Watching the slow decay of Nicolas Bro is indeed like watching a tragic piece of art, but this is not confined to a particular scene. Now with regards to the repetition: the film wasn't slow at all. If there was a lot of superfluous material it would have dragged. The fact that it didn't, showed me that it contained next to no filler. The repetition in Bro's lines was necessary to reveal the obsessive nature of Bro's transformation in a believable way. This is a way of comporting himself that fits his appearance perfectly: you can imagine him being exactly like this in real life, nagging on and on about the same things that he wants to happen, until he gets his way. This is part of what makes his character so disturbing and indeed compelling to watch. Also the unspectacular nature of the plot developments and the lack of traditional plot complexities was absolutely necessary to create the blood-curdling realism of the film: had we witnessed a Jason Bourne kind of story full of clever plot twists, we'd be stuck with a much more constructed and therefore much less convincing - and indeed a boring - kind of realism. And none of these unspectacular plot developments are badly written or simply filler; they are realistic and necessary constituents of a story about Bro's mental breakdown. Now with regards to the cinematography: there is none of Boe's trademark visual poetry here. Is that not a true lack? Indeed in a way it is. But that is not to say that the cinematography is ugly or unamazing. The fine grain, the switch to the rougher grain of the second camera, the tiny camera movements and the camera positions, the colors, the contents, none of them are random or amateurish, even when they deliberately appear that way. Indeed, all of these elements are in the service of the chilling realism of the film. They may not be beautiful, subtle or poetic, but they are often severely unsettling: had the camera work and the cinematography been accidental and amateurish, the film could never have had the tremendous impact that it had. But it is indeed the final scene that wraps it all up and makes all this into a truly great film. I do hope that I will be able to trust my memory on this in the future. ” - Auke Briek
Faust (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man's soul. (85 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ Murnau's Faust is an integral work of art, combining the tangibly dark mood of Gothic architecture with the wild energy of expressionist painting. The extravagantly brilliant compositions, the majestic portrait of a classic piece of literature, the utmost expression of the images to an extent we never see in a spoken film, the lighting, the decors, the tragic ending, all work together to form an inseparable whole that is breathtakingly beautiful. It is perfect in every respect and I could not find a single fault with it. Many regard it to be one of the best horror films. I have two problems with that qualification. The first is that it is not really a horror film, but a saga: the horror genre is far too limited in scope to encompass the epic proportions of this film. Also, it is not really scary like a horror movie should be, because it was not intended to be a horror movie at all, although its excellent storytelling does grip you by the throat. The second problem I have with the aforementioned statement is that Faust is not just a good horror flick, and not even one of the greatest films of a particular genre, but one of the greatest films of all time in any genre. ” - Auke Briek
Reconstruction (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A young man who thought himself already in love with a nice girl is drawn into a literary drama when he is captured by a deep and stimulating love affair. (92 mins.)
Director: Christoffer Boe
“ Christoffer Boe's Reconstruction is a fantastic film. It is a modern reinterpretation of films such Resnais' Last year in Marienbad or Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express, basically post-modern experiments with narrative structure and the constructedness of film as such. It may not be entirely new, but it is still very refreshing to see a film that steps outside of the familiar boundaries of Hollywood films. The visual effects, for instance in the sex scene, are utterly brilliant at times: in that particular scene it seemed to me that the visual element provided a rhythm for the music that accompanied the scene. Boe certainly knows how to create a flow for the film and understands the visual language of film perfectly. Also, the acting is often beautifully understated, rife with non-verbal implications brimming just below the surface: sometimes the characters look at each other as if they never met in this world, yet have met before somewhere in another life perhaps, in a different time and place and share an emotional connection that binds them together, not physically but metaphysically, because the rules of this particular universe are not nearly universal enough. The atmosphere of the film is very delicate, melancholic and rich, and although one might be inclined to object that some of the dinner party music and Samual Barber's Adagio for Strings are in fact cinematic cliché's, they don't kill the atmosphere and look like intentional directorial choices instead: it is like those cliché's provided the raw material of normal films which were then transcended through the film's narrative experiments, making the current feature more of a meta-comment on those cliché's than the ignorant embodiment of them. At the very least they do not undermine the brilliance of this cinematic tour de force.

Edit after a rewatch: placed this a few notches higher. ” - Auke Briek
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A young boy and his little sister struggle to survive in Japan during World War II. (89 mins.)
Director: Isao Takahata
“ A very sad anime-film, that rips your heart open. ” - Auke Briek
American Beauty (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend. (122 mins.)
Director: Sam Mendes
“ This was the first good film I saw, which made a very great impression on me at the time I saw it. This completely changed my understanding of what film could be.

Edit after a rewatch: Placed this higher, as it remains a very strong personal favorite. I noticed that the movie still looks, sounds and feels very fresh, and that the film is a coherent whole which is much more than the sum of the story elements. ” - Auke Briek
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A traumatized member of an elite para-military police force falls for the sister of a female terrorist courier who died in front of him on duty. (102 mins.)
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
“ Wow! I didn't see this one coming. I expected an enjoyable action-packed anime. What I got was something much, much more subtle. I get the feeling that Oshii's influence must have been very strong here. Oshii was the writer (also of the Kerberos saga manga on which The Wolf Brigade was based), but he hired Okiura to direct the film. In the quieter scenes, the emotional impact is often devastating, reminding me of Angel's Egg. Jin-rô has a much clearer story, so there is less mystery and ambiguity here (though still plenty of that), but this is well made up for by the sensitive use of metaphor. The Red Riding Hood story is well known, perhaps even slightly cliché, but the way this fairy tale is linked emotionally to the main protagonists of Jin-rô is simply jaw-dropping. Also the animation is very mature and self-assured. And then the ending was simply heart-breaking.

Edit after a rewatch: my previous ranking was still far too conservative. This is pure greatness. ” - Auke Briek
Tokyo.Sora (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Six women attempt to make it in current day Tokyo, living their everyday lives the best and worst they can... (127 mins.)
“ A film with hardly any story, which it doesn't really need because its aesthetic and atmosphere are gorgeous and original. The fact that it is very modern only seems to add to its originality instead of its genericity, because it allows the aesthetic to be explored in more refined ways. The colors are soft, faded and ever so slightly neon-like but actually a lot paler than that and they are not flashy or screamy at all: instead the whole film is soaked in the empty atmosphere of Tokyo skies. Despite the fact that a story is largely absent, there are fragments of daily life and meaningful moments abound. What binds them together is not a narrative thread but an atmosphere and a mood of painful loneliness contrasted with very rare moments of intensity. Also, the character studies are done with great sensitivity and spontaneity.

Edit after a rewatch: position here confirmed. Not as good as Su-ki-da (mostly because of the many-Japanese-faces-all-look-alike syndrome and the relative lack of focus), but the cinematography and atmosphere are almost as beautiful and the acting performances are astounding.

Edit after a rewatch: Watched this on Blu-ray now, which is not really an addition. The transfer is of an abominable quality: it's not even sufficient as a solid DVD release, let alone as a Blu-ray release. Watching this on a relatively big TV screen is not going to be optimal, anyway you cut it.

Quality of the transfer aside, the movie itself has lost none of its greatness. In fact, I think it has earned its place more solidly now. I used to have some difficulties with the many-Japanese-faces-all-look-alike syndrome, but this time I didn't have that problem and was able to differentiate quite easily between the main characters. Thematically, the movie clicked slightly better this time, picking up more of the subtle hints that Ishikawa has scattered thinly throughout the movie. For a movie that actually has something relevant to say, this must be the least preachy one out there! To say that this movie is understated, is an understatement, but Ishikawa has faith in the intelligence and patience of his audience. Patience is definitely needed, as the movie is very slow, often bordering on being boring, but it is astounding how much staying power certain scenes have based solely on thematic and audiovisual qualities. ” - Auke Briek
Blue Velvet (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child. (120 mins.)
Director: David Lynch
“ This might be Lynch's most subtle film - as delicate as blue velvet -, even though its violence can be nauseating at times. Some might argue that this is Lynch' best offering, yet I think that Eraserhead is better. I also think that Mulholland Drive and Lost highway are more engaging: they touch me on a deeper level, although I do have to admit that Blue Velvet is more original and strictly speaking a better film. ” - Auke Briek
Kimi no Yubisaki (2007 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Two japanese girls spend time together after-school, before one of them leaves town. (17 mins.)
“ Hiroshi Ishikawa is a bloody genius. I have his two only feature films in my top 100 and I have his only short film in my top 250. It would have been in my top 100 as well if it were a full-feature film, but as a featherlight short that would just be putting too much weight on it: it would crumble because of it. But dear God, I didn't even have to pay much attention to the dialogues; not that they were irrelevant, but their precise content didn't matter much at all. What mattered was the way in which the dialogues were aligned to a mood and then the mood sort of shines on you like a few rays of sunlight, caressess you, delights you, tickles you, I don't know what. It's the tiny imperfections in camera-movements and the subtle body-languague: its just like life, not dreary but.. more like a soft breeze. Perhaps its all in the silly finger-stretch thingy. But don't watch this film and expect some sort of masterpiece, because this can only work when its not blown out of proportions. It only works because it promises nothing and it can only work if you expect nothing.

Edit after a rewatch: My comments above are apt: through the uncompromising deconstruction of the absoluteness of intentionality (in film: the one-dimensional camera-directedness on concretely identifiable things, characters or plot-units) and of positing (in film: the self-conscious construction of concrete things, characters or plot-units), Ishikawa achieves through film what Heidegger achieved through philosophy, that is the unleashing of freedom and life, in the sense that by letting be, he breaks free from the chains of life-denigrating forms of objectification and abstraction. But my current assessment differs in this respect that I now think this film should get the credits it deserves. My intentions were to keep it small by keeping it out of my top 100, but now I think that something this great, no matter how small, deserves to be in the spotlights, even if it creates the wrong expectations. ” - Auke Briek
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep. (102 mins.)
“ An uncompromising nightmare showing us the less rosy parts of drug-abuse, without any light at the end of the tunnel. Warning: it is quite devastating to watch! ” - Auke Briek
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby. (86 mins.)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
“ One of the best Japanese anime films ever: its fantasy is genuinely wonderful.

Edit: A rewatch confirms this high position. When the little girl finds herself falling on the belly of this huge furry friend called Totoro she is so utterly charmed by its cuteness and cudliness that she just can't help herself but scream from pure enjoyment! I'm all with her on this one! To--to-ro To-toro! To--to-ro To-toro! :) ” - Auke Briek
Irreversible (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass. (97 mins.)
Director: Gaspar Noé
“ I decided to rewatch Irréversible, because was afraid that I might have placed it too low, simply by being totally numbed down by its initial dizzying impact. I underrated it indeed and that first fact may have contributed to that in important ways, but the main reason I put it lower the first time is in a way squarely justifiable, to such an extent, that I may be overrating it now. The problem with Irréversible is that it uses the same trick as Memento with the backwards time scale, only this time not nearly as effectively. In fact, this way, the ending of the film is one big anti-climax. In the beginning we are pounded over the head with some of the most severe and impactful scenes in the history of cinema, but we end with very subtle, beautiful yet subdued drama. In themselves there is nothing wrong with all the scenes. They are all of a much higher quality than Seul Contre Tous for instance. Yet the problem is that the structure of the film does not allow for the final scenes to work, because after the rape scene we struggle to find significance in the second half, and ultimately fail to find it properly. It would be wrong to deny all significance. For instance, by using this sequence, the rape scene cannot be appreciated as a climax, cannot be satisfying and cannot be a simple rape-revenge flick. This way we are also getting to know the characters more, seeing the flawed but likable human being behind the beautiful chick that got raped, seeing her flawed avenging boyfriend behave like a chimp in the disco, and like a somewhat irritating yet playful lover in bed. But on the other hand, with a normal time scale we would have also known them in the rape scene itself which was not the case now, so that last argument seems misguided, although placing the character development at the end does place more weight on this element of the film and makes the film a film about the humanity behind the horror instead of about the horror itself. In that last way it may have been somewhat justified. But the revelation that she was pregnant felt like an ineffective way to give it all a climax still. Then the reference to 2001 probably meant that the death of her baby signified the loss of humanities' capacity to evolve to a more noble state, but as a moral symbol this was particularly ham-handed and the notion of "time destroys everything" did not come off as very meaningful either. Then the final scene with the gods eye merry-go-round perspective around the water-sprinkler was beautiful as was the stilled transition to the sky-shot. But beautiful they may have been, those shots lacked significance and therefore only contributed to the growing sense of anti-climax. This may have been intentional, but being the human being that I am I cannot judge it any differently than it being a failure, a misguided directorial choice. And yet. The scenes themselves are so good that I cannot ignore this film, cannot put it away in a cabinet while saying to myself that it featured a bad directorial decision anyway, for this film, even with the anti-climax thoroughly shakes you up, freaks the hell out of you, inspires confidence in the idea that modern cinema still has what it takes, that there still is a way forward for film, even if Noé believes that there is no way forward for mankind.

Edit after a rewatch in Blu-ray: shot on 16 mm, Irreversible has a course, grainy picture quality that is perfectly justifiable as it underlines the rawness of the scenes, although the grain is also unacceptably exacerbated by lesser media (DVD or less). The Blu-ray is therefore no unnecessary luxury, and improved the movie viewing experience significantly, which is not to say that the movie all of sudden looked candy-coated smooth.

Quality of the Blu-ray aside, the movie also clicked better this time, and the unusual narrative structure felt more justified. I think that Noe wanted to focus not on the extreme case of sexual perversion shown in the beginning, but on the normal case, the sexual relationship between the two lovers at the end. I think Noe wanted to draw out the similarities between the extreme and the normal case, despite their obviously different moral significance. When we hear the guy playfully say to his girlfriend that he would like to have anal sex with her, we are instantly reminded about the unpleasantness we witnessed before and I think this is hardly a coincidence. What Noe wanted to say precisely may not be 100% clear and the quote at the end is still unnecessary, but I do believe that Noe succeeded more or less in giving an ominous feel to what normally would have appeared as a normal, run of the mill sexual relationship.

Position increased ” - Auke Briek
Contempt (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Screenwriter Paul Javal's marriage to his wife Camille disintegrates during movie production as she spends time with the producer. Layered conflicts between art and business ensue. (103 mins.)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
“ Boy was I wrong. Not so long ago I thought I hated Godard but just take a look at this film! It's not just a good film: it's a great film! From the sumptuous cinematography, to the intense colors, to the atmospheric music, to the spontaneous conversations, to the brooding but empty atmosphere, to Fritz Lang, to the Greek mythology, to the Hölderlin quote, to Brigitte Bardot's divine buttocks and her cute little feet: everything worked just perfectly! With this film Godard has indisputably proven that he is indeed a great master of cinema and I take back everything negative I said about him earlier. I'll have to rewatch Breathless and Vivre sa Vie, because Godard might be an aquired taste, but for now my negative assessments of those two films remain intact, although some of the elements of those films seem to fall more in place now.

The only thing that bothered me about Le Mepris was the ending. It was difficult to swallow and it reminded me of Breathless and Vivre sa Vie; but still... I think that what comes off as carelessness is actually an intentional and deep social critique. It's meant to be difficult to swallow, because it unveils one of the deepest tragedies of mankind: that love is more often than not a stage play, an illusion. Silencio!

Edit after a rewatch: the hd-quality did not add much, though I might try another version again sometimes. The film remains visually stunning though. It is cool how Godard contrasts modern culture with Greek culture and manages to say so many things at the same time, that your head almost explodes with little ideas and questions going into a thousand directions. Why is it such a difficult, perhaps even foolhardy endavour to make a film about The Odyssey? Does this reveal shortcomings in our own culture? Are we even worthy to put the Odyssey into film? Does it matter if Americans do it, or the French, or the Germans? Are Americans more vulnerable to the commercial suffocation of art? Is such a perspective on Greek culture somehow related to racism or perpaps even nazism? What do our lives look like when we look at them from the perspective of a Greek tragedy? Is there perhaps not more worthiness to be found in the view that sees the shortcomings, tragedies, or absences in our own culture, than in that culture itself? What did Holderlin mean with the comfort of God's absense? Were the Greeks not slaves for their Gods? Are we totally free in that respect or are we slaves too? What would it mean for us to be free from such slavery, and would we even be able to comprehend this? What is preferable: a meaningful death or a meaningless life? Why did the woman have contempt for the man? Did that have something to do with his lack of willingness to defend the interests of art? Or perhaps with the fact that he was a slave for money? ” - Auke Briek
Blade Runner (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A blade runner must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator. (117 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ I didn't like it at first. I used to think that this was due to my expectations which were too high. Yet after repeated viewings I came to realize that my expectations where not too high. I don't know why I didn't like it at first, but this film has definitely grown on me. I now regard it as one the best sci-fi movies ever.

Edit after a rewatch: Watching it on blu-ray really shows how amazing the special effects are and how well they have stood the test of time. It also shows how gorgeous the colours, sounds and atmosphere are. It is becoming more and more a matter of liking than of respect, although I think I placed it correctly here. ” - Auke Briek
Stalker (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes. (163 mins.)
“ A piece of visual poetry by Andrei Tarkovsky. I think that speaking too much about Tarkovsky's films only detracts from what can actually be seen.

Edit after a rewatch: Watching Stalker you can either focus on the content of the conversations to look for deeper meanings and enlightened philosophical ideas about the human condition, or you can just sit back, enjoy the dilapidated scenery, soak up the poetic atmosphere and let the philosophical meanderings carry the mood. If you go with the first option, you will find mr. Tarkovsky stepping up as a Christ-like figure, shoving his own over-simplified, depressing, dystopic, art-'n-spirituality-yearning world-view down your humble throat. I can't really recommend this, unless you are the type who likes to swallow. Going with the second option, you'll find iconic imagery, gorgeous cinematography, graceful compositions, a haunting score and a very delicate and bleak atmosphere that makes the sense of yearning in the film actually come to life. You might even find some actual meaning in the atmosphere this way. Still, even while going with the second way of watching, it will be impossible to block out the effects of the first way of watching entirely. On top of that the last hour could have done with some serious cutting. All things considered, Stalker contains enough moments of intense beauty to remain a very impressive film, but I cannot say that I find the man behind it very sympathetic or inspiring anymore. A small but significant devaluation to a 9/10 is in order. ” - Auke Briek
Confessions (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A psychological thriller of a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter's death. (106 mins.)
“ Confessions is like a(n) (a)moral whirlwind, that grips you from the start and doesn't let you go. Fairly early on in the film you'll won't know who to root for, what to think, how to judge or perhaps not to judge. You'll also won't know what will happen next: Confessions posesses that rare gift of genuine surprise that is made possible by the questioning of prevalent moral standards instead of their unreflective acceptance. The price it pays for that is that it is a somewhat twisted or sick film. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the visual style is impeccable and is also accompanied by fitting musical choices (although some songs are repeated too often). This style is an important part of the overwhelming impression that the film leaves behind. ” - Auke Briek
Weekend (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A supposedly idyllic week-end trip to the countryside turns into a never-ending nightmare of traffic jams... (105 mins.)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
“ Before I started watching this film I thought I would start my review with something like "I don't know why I keep bothering with this guy...". As (is)(was) evident in many reviews on this list I d(i)(o)n't like Godard: in fact I hate(d) him. But this was after I watched only two of his films, Breathless and Vivre sa Vie. I thought and still think they are very pretentious, dead and boring. Breathless tried to be spontaneous but was completely uninteresting. Vivre sa Vie tried to be deep, but was completely empty (in the wrong sense of the word).

I am afraid my harsh judgement on Godard might have been a bit too early. I have just watched Week End and I actually liked it! How about that? In fact its the best surreal-french-traffic-jam-cannibal-massacre-nonsense-comedy there is! Ofcourse there aren't any other movies in this highly prolific genre so its an easy win, but this film is a winner anyway. Granted, it still has a lot of the elements that bothered me in the other two films, but Week End has a few very important advantages: its over-the-top, crazy, funny, entertaining and (almost) always interesting. There is only one part in it that's boring (when they start rambling about politics for ten minutes), but that's about it. And ofcourse I'm not too fond of the animal killings (a pig and a goose) but at least they ate them, and at least it served a purpose, so I won't scream "Cannibal Hollocaust!" on this one. Judged by conventional narrative standards this movie is an incoherent piece of crap, but when judged by its own merits, its a wickedly funny and slightly disturbing (and often interrupted) ride, a welcome path off the beaten track. If only the colors were more interesting. Perhaps the difference between Breathless/Vivre sa Vie and Week End can best be explained in this way: after the first two films you ask Godard "are you trying to make a good film within your medium or are you trying to destroy your medium from the inside out?" and the answer would be "neither" and "a bit of both". After Week End however, you get the feeling that you have just witnessed the purest iconoclasm in the history of cinema: it doesn't make any compromises whatsoever and that's all for the better. I'm gonna watch more Godard to see what I really think of him, but this one is a keeper!

Edit: At the time I saw it, Week End represented a genuine turn-about in my appreciation of Godard, which therefore made the film a bit difficult to assess. In hindsight it is safe to say that this film is indeed fantastic! This is undoubtedly Godard's most important contribution to the history of cinema; only Le Mépris is a bigger personal favorite. ” - Auke Briek
Antichrist (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse. (108 mins.)
Director: Lars von Trier
“ Von Trier made a controversial film that is shocking simply for the sake of being shocking, but also shocking simply because it is shocking.

Edit after a rewatch: When I first saw it I was shocked and in awe. But after a while doubts began to emerge whether or not this was not simply shocking for the sake of being shocking. But now that I have seen it again I can surely say that my initial response was accurate and that my subsequent doubts were wrong. This is indeed a great film, Von Trier's best actually. It is atmospheric, suffocating, dark, shocking and beautiful. The acting performances of Dafoe and Gainsbourg are fantastic. They can be both tender and excruciatingly harsh to each other at the same time. Then the ambiguities surrounding the child's death and whether or not it could have been avoided, further complicate the dark psychological region Von Trier drags us into. This is not meant to shock just to boost the sales at the box office. This is meant to unveil the darkest cravesses within the human psyche and it succeeds in doing so. ” - Auke Briek
The Dark Knight (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the Dark Knight must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice. (152 mins.)
“ This ultimate superhero movie transcends its very limited genre, mostly through the superb portrayal of the Joker by Heath Ledger. Its larger than life Hollywood bombast is very effectively used to evoke an apocalyptic atmosphere. This is Nolan's best offering.

Edit after a rewatch: position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Only God Forgives (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's recent death. (90 mins.)
“ Unjustly booed away at Cannes. Nicolas Winding Refn's new feature, Only God Forgives is a good film, probably (though I'm not yet sure) his best offering I've seen so far. Like Drive, this is style over substance. But unlike Drive, it is not only style over substance, but (like Spring Breakers) also style as substance. A grim mood is created through long stretches of brooding red lights reflected on faces, while the violent outbursts seem to be discharges of visually overcharged surroundings, with electricity built up after long silences with lots of eye candy, stylized framing and an exciting electronic/ambient score by Cliff Martinez. All of this underlines the desires, motivations, and emotional experiences of a bunch of *beep* up characters. So you could say that, the mood and the meaning are meant to be "the residue" of the style, just as Korine explained his intention for Spring Breakers. This is why both films are not empty stylistic offerings, but resonate on a deep affective level. And, because a non-narrative substance can be incorporated into the style, to pursue the ideal of style over narrative substance is not superficial per se. What is also positive, is that unlike Drive (and Bronson), the narrative substance that remains is not messy per se, just lightweight. And this is more or less a prerequisite for me: I can deal with narrative lightness, but messiness requires (a lot of) compensation. Although the story is not really messy and even quite simple and pure in execution, it is certainly strange, abstract, and a little drawn out. Especially the beginning relies mostly on mood, leaving little time for traditional story-telling. This worked for me, but I can understand that many others find it tedious. There is a lot of ambiguity, mostly having to do with the mysterious motivations behind Gosling's character. He has the same elation on his face as in Drive, but more perverted and strange this time, less angelic in the straightforward sense, or perhaps more like an unwilling and confused angel of darkness. Apart from this there are a few abstract/absurd elements in the story: for instance, certain characters meet each other in paradoxical and inexplicable ways, for reasons that are not always clear. But to me this was more a matter of deliberate ambiguity and mystery than messiness. The film is also extremely violent. Not constantly, more like a series of intense hits after long silences. This is not used to either entertain or bludgeon the viewer, but more to convey the moral conflict going on in Gosling's character. And the final scene may have felt completely weird and ridiculous to many people (I heard much laughter in disbelief), but to me it made perfect sense, albeit in an absurd way, because it seemed to be the only resolution to the conflict going on in his mind. The song at the end just felt like the perfect continuation of the beautiful absurdity just before it.

Edit after a rewatch: The blu-ray looks bloody awesome! I felt the need to buy it on the release date, which I don't feel for many other higher scoring films, so this was an indication that my previous position was far too conservative. Indeed it was. Three things were different now. The first time I had expectations of it being in the same league with Spring Breakers, but was disappointed that it wasn't. In the cinema there were many irritated people making loud noises, especially one guy, fidgeting constantly with his pop-corn who should have gotten a visit from uncle Pansringarm. Another reason was that on first sight I could not wholly exorcise the feeling that certain plot details were a wee bit rushed over or implying more than could be justified even though at first I tried to convince myself that this wasn't the case, which made a somewhat sloppy or even slightly pretentious appearance at times which used to be slightly parasitic on the mysterious vibe of the film (though not very much). But those assessments have now been greatly diminished as more details have fallen into place and the more cryptic events felt more justified in terms of the general atmosphere in which I was more absorbed this time, letting the colors and sounds wash over me like a hot bath. On the whole, it is a very powerful cinematic experience. ” - Auke Briek
Drive (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman and mechanic moonlights as a getaway driver and finds himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbor. (100 mins.)
“ It is difficult to make up my mind about this film, as it dangles off and on this list [of favorite films]. The story is strange in that it is both a failure and a success. It is a failure in the sense that it failed to do anything substantial for the first 40 minutes or so and that it seemed filled with ambiguities and characters whose places in the story weren't entirely clear. It is a success in the sense that in the final minutes we noticed that we had slowly built up a real connection to the main protagonists all along, despite the plot ambiguities. The style of the film is much less ambiguous though: the excellent sound design and the fresh visuals create a polished atmosphere for the film, not altogether unlike that of Mulholland Drive. Although it is not at all Lynchian in the surrealistic sense of the word, I felt there was often a hidden sense of elation on the face of Ryan Gosling, that betrayed something indefinable just below the surface that I couldn't pin down. I think that this is probably the greatest strength of the film: that it cleverly uses its own narrative ambiguities to create mystery, even when those ambiguities also constitute failures.

Edit: A night's sleep often gives a little bit more perspective: 7/10.

Edit on a rewatch: Blu-ray makes all the difference! Watching it in bad quality as I did before makes no sense with this movie. The sparkling fresh colors, street lights against the black night, the precise and clear shots, the brilliant play with sunlight, the whole car and clothing aesthetics, the purple intro font, the cool soundtrack, the great score by Cliff Martinez, and the whole atmosphere... It is really quite something. Wow! I already appreciated this aspect the first time, but watching it in excellent picture and sound quality works so much better. The film relies a lot on mood, sound and cinematography to draw you into its world, more so than on the story. This worked perfectly this time. I didn't feel that the first 40 minutes were too slow: the film simply took a little time to set up the mood. And now to the story: sure it's lightweight, but is it also messy as I concluded before? Not really. It just doesn't try very hard to spell everything out clearly, and leaves room for ambiguity in character motivations. But this kind of ambiguity is not in itself a bad thing. The story does make sense though: the details fit. Perhaps the first time I wasn't drawn into the movie enough to catch all the tiny details properly and felt that the movie failed to make them clear. And perhaps I expected something with a little more action, a little more realism and something that was a little faster paced. Perhaps the final scenes would have felt a little more natural if they were faster paced, and they might have suggested a little more meaning than they really had to offer because of this. But I cannot call the story a failure, because to choose atmosphere over fast-paced action is a perfectly defensible choice. And so it turns out that this is Refn's best after all.

Edit after a rewatch: Aesthetically, this film kept lingering on in my mind, and I thought that a top 100 position would be called for. Indeed I was again blown away by the aesthetics, and purely in that department it deserves a top 50 position. But the point is that the final scenes feel slightly pretentious, especially with that horrible song "Oh my love" from Riz Ortolani, a huge stain on an otherwise perfect soundtrack. So, position confirmed.

Edit after a rewatch: one of the very few films I demand to see on Blu-ray: no inferior formats will do it justice. Narrative imperfections may still exist, but the end scenes are not sloppy: the movie is a bit brief in mentioning a whole family we never see in order to supply a motivation for crucial events of the movie, but this motivation is not non-existent. Be that as it may: if this list 'measures' anything it is enthusiasm, not the lack of imperfections, and it is the aesthetics of this movie that I am really enthusiastic about. ” - Auke Briek
Hardcore Henry (2015)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Henry is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers. (96 mins.)
Director: Ilya Naishuller
“ See my review on

"Zelden een film gezien waarin je zo sterk wordt meegesleurd, waarin de flow zó sterk is. De film is zeer radicaal in de mate waarin de first person perspective is doorgevoerd. Er loopt niet iemand met een camera rond, maar jij ziet gewoon precies hetzelfde als de hoofdpersoon.

De keiharde actie is non-stop. Er is geen adempauze en er wordt ook geen tijd genomen om het 'verhaal' uit te diepen wat je ongetwijfeld weer uit de flow zou halen. Niets van dat alles. De film beukt gewoon genadeloos door en zo zie ik dat graag!

Het camerawerk is zeer dynamisch en shaky, maar bepaald niet het werk van een amateur met een handy cam. Het vergt juist zeer veel behendigheid om het camerawerk onder dergelijke omstandigheden de juiste mate van beheersing en professionaliteit mee te geven, en als dat dan geslaagd is maakt dat des te meer indruk. Net als in Cloverfield is dat ook hier zeer geslaagd, al was het spel van kleur en licht daar wellicht nog iets preciezer en doelbewuster.

Sharlto Copley weet als geen ander kleur te geven aan dynamisch gefilmde werkjes zoals deze (zie ook District 9). Ook zorgt hij voor de nodige luchtigheid en zelfrelativering. Het verhaal slaat verder nergens op, maar het is allemaal heerlijk droog gebracht, dus who cares.

Klein puntje van kritiek is toch wel de overdaad aan continuity errors. Niet omdat het verhaal daardoor minder geloofwaardig wordt: dat was het toch al niet en dat maakt ook niet uit. Wel omdat je daardoor soms weer een heel klein beetje uit de flow wordt getrokken. Gelukkig wordt dit ruimschoots gecompenseerd door de overweldigende dynamiek van de film. Dat is toch vooral hetgeen wat bij mij blijft hangen.

Intens van genoten!" ” - Auke Briek
More (1998 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A worker in a factory learns a lesson about life. When is enough? (6 mins.)
Director: Mark Osborne
“ Wow!!! Did I just see that? A short film of only 6 minutes beating loads of full-feature masterpieces? Yes, its for real! Clay Puppets and New Order's "Elegia" have been molded together into the best short film ever. It is a mind boggling existential heavyweight that knocked me totally of my feet!

Note: please forget about the sleazy poster that goes with this film-entry, because it has nothing to do with it. Also try to watch this with the aformentioned New Order song and not as the shortened video clip accompanying Kenna's Hell Bent, because the latter song, while not bad on its own, does not fit nearly as well and its lyrics are way too distracting to become truly involved in what you see.

Edit: Somehow it lost some of its initial magic. ” - Auke Briek
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Four fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to one hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture. (116 mins.)
“ This could very well be the most difficult film to watch, save perhaps Cannibal Holocaust. The latter film was clearly immoral in the way it showed the torture and murder of real animals, for what was ultimately a pointless and tasteless exploitation movie, pretending to teach us something about the hubris of man, while actually providing us with the enjoyment of suffering and cruelty. Can we apply the same argument to Salò? Many would do so, and not without some justification: what we see in Salò is simply the (acted, not real) torture of children in graphic and horrifying detail, according to the story of Marquis de Sade by the same title. One would indeed be tempted to dismiss this film as sadistic and vile, yet I do think that would miss the point. I have long doubted the moral purity of the director, Paolo Pasolini: the sadistic "humor" of this film, if one could call it that, appears to indicate a wish on the part of the director that the audience should feel a kind of nasty and immoral pleasure while watching it. I do think that this was indeed his intention, however, I also think that the director wanted this to happen not simply for the sake of some immoral pleasure, but in order to show us the nastiness, the beastliness within all of us, through the establishment of guilt. I think he wanted to show us what a mess we have made of things here on earth, that even the so called "good" people (the people in the audience) have sadistic pleasures buried within them. Therefore it is not immoral at all. On the contrary, it provides us with a valuable lesson, learned only at a very high price. To be able to sit through this film is quite an ordeal and quite an achievement at the same time, and you may feel you have lost a tiny bit of your humanity - and if not at least a bit of your innocence - after seeing it. On the other hand you have gained an insight into the human condition that is much deeper than the rabbit hole Alice tumbled into. ” - Auke Briek
Scarface (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In Miami in 1980, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel and succumbs to greed. (170 mins.)
Director: Brian De Palma
“ "I've got Scarface on RE-peat!... Scarface on RE-peat! CONstant y'all" Alien

Scarface finally nailed it for me! My relationship with the good ol' Gangsta classics has been shaky at best. When I see them I usually like them a lot, but then they fade away from memory far too quickly and when I think about them a few months later, my mind turns them into this unfair caricature, where they feel alien and foreign to me, as if everybody else's opinion is encroaching upon me and I start to feel the need to 'punish' the film for that and I start to think that I merely respect them, without liking them all that much. Now, these Gangsta classic are usually fairly similar in their focus on traditional narrative structures, the same old gangsta stereotypes, the same old rise and fall stories, the same actors, etc. etc. It is these aspects that make me dislike those films in the long run, while slowly forgetting about their greatness at the same time. Scarface is a case in point.

Now that I have rewatched Scarface I have to say that it's just an absolutely great film, which I criminally underrated before! That final scene with Pacino going all out his *beep* mind is one of the most powerful action scenes in movie history that also happens to function as a fantastic climax to the story. But the build up is also flawless. The performance of Pacino is definitely the best thing in the film, he commands the screen like a total maniac. Snorting Mountains of coke, screaming his ass off all the time, constantly struggling in a rat-race for money and power, absolutely determined to come out on top. While the cinematography and the music selection vary from dated to great, the sound design itself is excellent. Although this film invests mainly in the kind of values that are not my personal favorites, it succeeds in such a grand way that I love it despite these preferences. ” - Auke Briek
Psycho (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. (109 mins.)
“ This used to be the proverbial good horror film. Nowadays it is somewhere in a no man’s land between horror and thriller, because our sense of horror has been gradually desensitized over the years. Whatever it is though, it is undeniably great.

Edit after a rewatch:

Anthony Perkins is such a wonderful actor! Next to Vince Vaughn you can really tell what a strong performance it is, as he had to walk a very thin line for it to work. In the beginning he is subtle, subdued, arousing both pity and sympathy. He is ever so slightly funny (but nothing over-the-top), natural, with only small hints of something more disturbing brimming beneath the surface, whilst not undermining the sympathy. He could put you at ease and make you believe something that no one else could have, just by looking a certain way, even though another part of you might be on alert. His performance gradually increased in intensity and the final image is as believable as it is over-the-top. What a range! Janet Leigh is a very good Marion too. Her performance remains human and interesting enough to follow anxiously, despite the actions of her character. Some of the other actors give slightly theatrical performances, but this hardly matters, as all performances fit in nicely with the dark atmosphere of the movie, nicely accentuated by beautiful black-and-white shots.

Hitchcock took huge risks in terms of turning over the story half way through. In the hands of inferior directors this would easily break apart into two movies, but he kept things together as a coherent whole. Every plot-twist works just as it is intended and the suspense always works, even while watching it the second time. In fact, I was more ‘surprised’ by what happened in the rewatch of the original than in the first viewing of the remake the day before. ‘Surprise’ is not the right word of course, but what I mean is that somehow, knowledge of the plot-twists do not really undermine their effectiveness.

Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Man with a Movie Camera (1929 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention. (68 mins.)
Director: Dziga Vertov
“ Man with the Movie Camera is no documentary; it does not merely record the dry facts of the world. On the contrary, it achieves transcendence, by weaving a thread through all those facts, by integrating them into a disorienting yet mysteriously meaningful world, breathing life into them and thereby restoring their full potential: "Transzendenz zur Welt". It sets out to create an entirely new cinematic language and it succeeds marvelously in doing so. If it is still to be called a documentary, then it is a documentary about cinema recording its own transcendence.

Edit after a rewatch: Man with a movie-camera is undoubtedly a remarkable film, a leap far beyond its time. At the time I first saw it, it was also at the absolute forefront of those rare films, that happened to quench my thirst for a kind of cinema that boldly seizes upon the possibility of embodying its own essence, by transcending a more derivate kind of cinema. But then I saw Umfeld. Like Umfeld, Man with the Movie camera indeed attempts to embody the essence of cinema and in many ways they both succeeded in doing so, but unlike Umfeld it offers only the appearance of an equiprimordiality of sound and image, because the brilliant score was added after the images were made, although I have to admit that it is far more subtle than Umfeld. But if Umfeld proved one thing, it is that subtlety isn't everything. ” - Auke Briek
Calvaire (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A singer's car breaks down deep in the woods. (88 mins.)
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
“ A horror film that starts out pretty normal. Guy gets stuck with his car in the woods. Sleeps in an all but abandoned hotel with a strange owner who desperately tries to prolong his guest's stay. Because of certain horror clichés we all expect the owner to be of the unsavory, dangerous kind, yet he is not altogether unlikable and his voice has an endearing rasp to it. Up until half the duration of the film, everything feels pretty straight forward. But when things do start to get out of hand they really do. Oh my. Now the owner used to be a stand up comedian, but he lost his enthusiasm after his wife left him. Let me tell ye that he gets his enthusiasm back alright, and we are allowed to share in that enthusiasm, making him a lot more sympathetic than before, even though this should definitely have been the other way around from a moral point of view. The film also becomes more enthusiastic about it's own experiment with how to derange a fairly logical plot into an unsavory orgy of totally crazy and vile, demented pleasures. The merits of this film are appreciated not unlike one appreciates a good solid dinner with lots of pork.

Edit after a rewatch: placed this a few entries higher. The first part of the film gets a lot better once you know how the film is going to end. You can already anticipate on what is to come, and somehow this makes it all so much more sarcastic and funny. This is the kind of film you shouldn't laugh about, yet you'll find yourself unable not to laugh. Also, a genuine pleasure to recognize the typical style of Benoît Debie as the cinematographer. What a magician! Wow! He is as much deserving to be called the author of the film as Fabrice Du Welz, if not more. ” - Auke Briek
3-Iron (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A transient young man breaks into empty homes to partake of the vacationing residents' lives for a few days. (88 mins.)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
“ What an incredibly good movie! Perhaps a little bit more 'democratic' than most Asian entries in my top 100, but this is totally honest and beautiful. For all its minimalism it is not stripped to the bone, and in its core there is a heartwarming humanism (in the non-legalized, non-standardized sense of the word). The references to Buddhism feel wholly sympathetic here, instead of subtly manipulative, and they add to the extremely delicate mood of the film. The total lack of communication between the two lovers is neither contrived, nor inhumanly difficult to endure for a viewer who is not overly demanding in terms of fast paced action and standardized narrative structures, as the film speaks very clearly through bodily expressions, daily activities, images and mood, all backed up by just the right about of background story. The final scenes of the film were such a pleasure to watch, as it was very cathartic and graceful. ” - Auke Briek
Ran (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him. (162 mins.)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
“ This Japanese adaptation of Shakespear's King Lear is slow, nihilistic and cold for the most part. The bulk of the film is difficult to fully concentrate on but still quite good. Yet at the heart of this film lies one scene that I regard to be the best ever! It is a battle scene fought out without screams and roars: as far as the soldiers are concerned it is fought out in complete silence. Instead, this scene is accompanied by a brilliant piece of music that will stay with you forever. There are images here that are so sublime that they cut directly into your heart! ” - Auke Briek
Perfect Blue (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A retired pop singer turned actress' sense of reality is shaken when she is stalked by an obsessed fan and seemingly a ghost of her past. (81 mins.)
Director: Satoshi Kon
“ This is anime for adults. Not that it's an "adult film" (although it does have some explicit scenes), but it deals with themes, feelings, identity-crises and ways of expressing violence that's not really suitable for children, although I suppose teenagers will already be able to enjoy it. But mostly it feels like a script for a non-animated full-feature film made into an anime. It has some Matrix-like reality-questioning, although Perfect Blue was made earlier, and this questioning is used in a much more intelligent and ambiguous way: it is not so much a cool effect as it is a fully integrated plot-element, that really manages to toy with the audience, not in an arrogant way, but in an impressive way. The original music is also used to great effect and so is the animation, but those who are only used to the top-notch and highly rich Miyazaki-animation of Spirited Away might feel that the animation is a bit simple or normal in the beginning, but patience will be rewarded with a highly intelligent plot and animation that ultimately suits that plot very well.

Edit after a rewatch: moved this up as this is one of the very best anime films out there. ” - Auke Briek
Izo (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
An executed samurai takes an existential journey throughout time, space and eternity in search of bloody vengeance. (128 mins.)
Director: Takashi Miike
“ What's cool about most Miike films is that anything can happen: there are no rules circumscribing what is "logical" and what is not. Still, his films are never random: they make sense even when they don't. This is especially true for Izo: don't even try to make sense of it in conventional terms. Just let it happen. Miiki's absurdities often serve purely stylistic goals, but this film seems to ruminate on a somewhat deeper existential level. I'm glad there are people like Miike who don't give a rat's ass about conventions or normalcy: we need people like them to show us the stupidity of all the rules, dogma's and myths we surround ourselves with.

Edit after a rewatch: "I hack-n-slash therefore I am" That is how you could sum up the philosophical side of Izo. I think this is Miike's most challenging film. Visitor Q is challenging too and is a better film, but it challenges in more typical ways by focusing on taboos and family life. Izo's sword slashes not only through genre conventions such as those of the samurai or the yakuza genre, but also through the overarching logic of narrative film itself, including basic spatiotemporal orientation, as well as the dogma that philosophical depth is incompatible with mind-numbing hacking and slashing and that it would require typical (Tarkovskyesque) art-house settings instead, as well as through the more universal ideas of authority, order, state, democracy, God, transcendence, love and redemption. But, in order for this serious, perhaps even suffocating side of Izo to sink in, the viewer needs to sink through several levels, and it takes a huge 128 minutes of hacking and slashing to progress from provocation and fun towards a kind of existential weariness. ” - Auke Briek
I Am Cuba (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Four vignettes about the lives of the Cuban people set during the pre-revolutionary era. (108 mins.)
“ Never mind about the ham-handed communist propaganda story. Just look at the pictures! A cinematographic miracle! You won't believe your eyes! ” - Auke Briek
I Stand Alone (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A horse meat butcher's life and mind begins to breakdown as he lashes out against various factions of society while attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter. (93 mins.)
Director: Gaspar Noé
“ Seul contre tous is a difficult and *beep* up film. The constant stream of depressing, life-denying thoughts of a washed up butcher, becomes a little bit overbearing at times, but it is also here that the strength of the film lies. We are constantly inside his head, putting us in his shoes even at his most horrible moments. Even though he is a totally egoistic *beep* we feel some kind of misplaced sympathy for him and the web of self-deception he has spun around him starts to entangle us as well. This is not Noé's most visually outspoken film, but I think it is his most realistic one, with a deep inner character study complementing the outwardness of the extreme violence that is his trademark. ” - Auke Briek
Cloverfield (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack. (85 mins.)
Director: Matt Reeves
“ I'm sad I didn't go watch this in the cinema, because it would have been even better that way. Yes, I liked Cloverfield. A lot, actually. Still, there were lots of irritations as well, but they didn't feel that important at all compared to the things I liked. Let me break it down into several sections:

1. The shaky cam: some felt it was generic and dizzying, just not good. I think they sort of have a point. It's generic in the sense that it's not very original, as it has been done before in much more subtle and refined ways. But as long as it's done well that shouldn't necessarily be a problem, and I do think that it is well done, even if it lacks subtlety. Yes, it is also generic in the sense that it has a typical big-buck Hollywood blockbuster appeal that is blown out of all reasonable proportions. But that larger-than-life quality is also precisely one of the things that's so cool about watching a big budget blockbuster like this, where no money is being spared just to give you an all-immersive experience. And it definitely succeeded at that level. Yes, it is also dizzying, but that's not a problem for me. On the contrary, I thought it was a great thrill! This was by far the best aspect of the film. This roller-coaster-like cinema may feel shallow and nihilistic compared to all the great and sober classics of old, but is it really so bad to thoroughly enjoy a modern roller-coaster experience like this? I don't think it is, and I don't feel the least bit bad about it. Time flies when you're having fun!

2. The bluish color filter: Some have complained about it being ugly. I don't agree. I don't think that it is particularly beautiful either, but it does add to the already hallucinogenic nature of the camera-movements. In that sense I thought it was a good choice.

3. The characters: Now this is where I like the film less. All of the characters were basically stupid, unlikable, generic brats. I couldn't care less if they would have all died at once, half-way down the film, right on the spot. Especially the camera-man was irritating. Then again, they mostly didn't break the immersive experience, and although they acted pretty bad, none of them went so far as to break the spell of the film completely: they were all equally generic, so they were all equally forgettable and irrelevant (in the sense of not being obstacles, except for the camera-man that is).

4. The plot: Same thing as the characters: cheap, thin plot with no real character development, just nothing to like really, although there were lots of irritations. But do we really care that much about the plot in an action-oriented blockbuster like this? Not necessarily. As long as the visual trip was going on (and that was from start to finish), I had many other things to focus on. In fact, it may have been positive that the plot was thin: that way it didn't get time enough to ruin the immersion.

5. The cause of all the mayhem: The CGI related to this cause was pretty bad. The cause itself was just stupid and unbelievable. In fact, it made the whole film stupid. This did indeed ruin some of the immersion, but never enough to start disliking the film. It was all within reasonable bounds of damage control.

So, there you have it: Cloverfield is just an extremely immersive, nihilistic and dumb roller-coaster experience, that happened to be an amazingly thrilling ride to such an extent that I couldn't care much at all about it's obvious faults as a film, or even about its precise content. Does anyone actually care that the theme of one particular roller-coaster in one of Holland's more famous theme-parks has got something to do with Robin Hood? To me that seems to be a totally irrelevant fact. Cloverfield may not be a film in the classic sense of the word, in the sense that it's all about the ride and not about the content. But I don't have a problem with that. Content is often overrated anyway. And I don't mind still calling it a film either, as long as we can all still agree that King Kong (either the new one or the old one) counts as a film.

Edit: Little revisions after a rewatch. Firstly, the shaky cam is less unsubtle than I thought at first viewing, especially when compared to many other shaky cam films and also when judged by its subtle interaction with the many brilliant lighting effects. Secondly, the characters were indeed all generic, but not all of them were irritating. Thirdly, the thing, while stupid, was less stupid than before. Fourthly, the running time is just about perfect, short enough to contain absolutely no filler whatsoever, which goes a long way in explaining the film's visceral impact. ” - Auke Briek
Miami Vice (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Based on the 1980s TV action/drama, this update focuses on vice detectives Crockett and Tubbs as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined. (134 mins.)
Director: Michael Mann
“ Style over substance, but the style is, despite its superficiality, quite substantial. The story is of your typical gangster-cop variety. No surprises, little focus, no depth, mediocre acting etc. etc. It's also difficult to pay attention to it, because of that. But the style is a whole different matter. Mann shows off here. Rich, textural atmospheres, cool breezes of blue, slick city lights, don't f*k with me m'f*rs cruising on fast cars or speedboats on a hot summer's day, surfaces stacked upon surfaces, pop and rock songs, Mann's typical, slightly pornographic but chilled-out ambient in the background and subdued neon-colors almost coming to the surface (Korine watched it often in preparation for Spring Breakers). A lot of richness and yet the style feels superficial, cheap and empty at the same time: and it at its best moments the style isn't entirely overwhelming either, just good. And the conversations are so unfocused and the script so mediocre, if not bad, that it was a little boring for a large section of the film. So ultimately, we are left with a very high 7/10.

Edit after a rewatch: Watching this on dvd now, I have to say that the cinematography is just stellar. Mann shows that digital video is not inherently ugly, but that it can look gorgeous and that it can ooze atmosphere if used properly. This is far more stylish and successful than Public Enemies. The night-time shots with all those lights are just fantastic. Also, the story and the acting were much easier to digest this time, and I was able to follow the plot completely this time, so no real obstacles here anymore.

Edit after a rewach: Forget the dvd! Watch this on Blu-ray! The print may be grainy and messy, but it is gorgeous! All remaining doubts about the use of the digital camera in this project have been washed away now. Together with Enter the Void, Miami Vice is the closest neighbor of Spring Breakers and has steadily climbed towards being a very solid personal favorite. ” - Auke Briek
Elephant (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Several ordinary high school students go through their daily routine as two others prepare for something more malevolent. (81 mins.)
Director: Gus Van Sant
“ Best decision for a rewatch ever. Last time I saw it back in 2003 I was not nearly as focused on cinematography as I am now and back then I basically wanted my films to have clever stories and cool twists at the end. At that time I wasn't impressed by Elephant, to say the least: I found it boring and tedious except for the end, because it didn't have a clearly defined story. Now I'm convinced that Elephant is an excellent film. Actually, the first part is the most impressive: we are walking around for a long time with those students and the camera was often focusing on the spaces in between people, on the spaces of the school building, often with slightly out-of-focus camera's capturing cathedrals of light when stepping outdoors, registering mundane conversations with distorted focus, capturing moods with bright washed-out reds, oranges, blues and yellows, etc. etc. Although I was impressed to see so much focus on atmosphere and so little on potential moral messages, it could still have been more radical in rooting out moralizing tendencies.

Edit: In hindsight I think that I was wrong about the fact that this film should have been more radical in rooting out moralizing tendencies. I misunderstood it. In fact, every potential explanation of the major event is being subtly compromised by certain small events, as to rule out any one-dimensional explanation. Take for instance the gun they got from fed-ex. Another guy also went shooting with his dad but he didn't kill any people. Take the fact that one of the shooters was being picked on. Another girl was also being picked on, but she didn't kill anyone. Take the shoot 'm up game: only one of the guys played it and was partly motivated by it but he was probably in love with the other one who masterminded it all and then got himself killed by the mastermind whose motivations remained totally unfathomable right until the end. The clouds and Für Elise seemed to be the best motivations we got from him. I think that this is in fact one of the best ways to root out moralizing tendencies that I have ever seen on film! It deserves an extra point for that!

See also these quotes to reinforce my new interpretation:
"Van Sant says that meaning is also applicable to his own film, but that what he had in mind when making it was the old parable about the five blind men who touch different parts of an elephant. "One thinks it's a rope because he has the tail, one thinks it's a tree because he can feel the legs, one thinks it's a wall because he can feel the side of it, and nobody actually has the big picture. You can't really get to the answer, because there isn't one."

"As for it being pointless, he says, that is the point - the whole thing is pointless. "Modern-day cinema takes the form of a sermon. You don't get to think, you only get to receive information. This film is not a sermon. The point of the film is not being delivered to you from the voice of the film-maker. Hopefully, there are as many interpretations as there are viewers."

Source: ” - Auke Briek
Spirited Away (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. (125 mins.)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
“ Beautifully animated anime about a charming girl confronted with strange creatures.

Edit after a rewatch: Spirited Away remains a beautifully animated movie. The weaknesses were as I remembered them. The movie is on the safe side, with the sharp edges taken off. Nice round faces, a relaxed presentation and - of course - a big, expensive studio production polish. All the strange creatures are balanced out by other, more safer elements. Also, the movie is quite messy, as the ending moved towards a catharsis that was far from earned and actually came pretty much out of the blue. But all this hardly detracts from the richness and expansiveness of the animation style, the lavishness of the backgrounds and colors, and the overall pleasure of watching a top notch anime movie. ” - Auke Briek
Citizen Kane (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance. (119 mins.)
Director: Orson Welles
“ How to watch a movie like Citizen Kane? It's supposed to be the best film ever made according to the most prestigious poll in the world, for decades in a row, only recently being surpassed by Vertigo. It seems to me that there are potentially two major factors related to this fact, that might bias and distort our judgement of the film itself, our naked experience of it so to speak. The first one is the most obvious: either a fear of being excluded from the cinema in-crowd, or otherwise just being overwhelmed by all those respectable opinions of all those respectable critics who surely must know what the're talking about, or just plain unintelligent herd-mentality, might cause you to think that this film is much better than it actually is. There is also a less obvious possibility: the fact that this film is so highly revered might cause you to think that you are only bullied into thinking that it is so great, and that you start to think that the only way of preserving your authenticity is to denounce it or to greet it with a lukewarm response. Personally, I know I’m susceptible to both distortions, both based upon the a priori fact of 'Kane' being canonized as it is. A fact that, in these cases of distortion, will determine your opinion of the film, regardless of whether or not you have actually seen it. A fact that may very well blind you completely to “die Sache selbst”. I think that a phenomenological reduction is in order here. A commitment to completely shut out the knowledge of Kane having the reputation that it has, while watching it. Only then are you perhaps able to actually see the film, let alone judge it. But this is no easy task. In fact it is an impossible task. Therefore, it would seem to follow that it is impossible to watch it. That may be true strictly speaking, but of course not all things are as black and white as the film itself. It is all a matter of degree and a matter of at least trying, or perhaps not of trying, but of letting go, much like 'trying' to sleep cannot be successful when it is literally a matter of trying. But if that is what you shouldn't do, then what should you do? I think that you should let yourself be immersed by the film, let it touch you if it gives itself to you and let it fail to touch you if it tries too hard, if it pulls on your heart like it were only a puppet on a string. All in all, it is your heart that provides you with the most reliable compass. That is not to say that your heart should be opposed to your mind and that if it would ‘merely’ blow your mind it wouldn’t be good enough. Again, things aren’t as black and white.

But enough about all the preparations. To the film itself! Was I touched by the film? Yes I was. In fact at times I was touched deeply by it, more than I remembered from the last time. Especially by some of the scenes with Kane’s wife in the opera house and the scenes in Xanadu, where the true nature of their relationship was revealed. But is Kane a manipulative film? Yes it is. I think that Orson Welles perhaps suffered from many of the same faults as Kane himself, like Leland said: “You don't care about anything except you. You just want to persuade people that you love 'em so much that they ought to love you back. Only you want love on your own terms. Something to be played your way, according to your rules.” Citizen Kane is a film that self-consciously wants to be loved. No, it demands to be loved, to be taken before anything else. Very, very hard work went into the making of it to ensure this. It avoids extremities and one-sidedness so as not to exclude any viewers. It includes beautiful and innovative shots in order to appeal to critics and formalist, but mostly not so obvious as to become elitist. It tries to be deep, profound and mysterious and takes itself dead-serious. There was one scene that didn't touch me as much this time, even if it did before, and that was the Rosebud scene at the beginning: it was so intensely self-serious that for a fraction of a second it went over the top for me and became almost comical, like a self-parody (and the fake mustache didn't really help there). But mostly the film is absolutely perfect in terms of editing, narrative and dramatic development, composition, cinematography and an undefinable feel of greatness and precision permeating almost every shot that can only be the product of extremely hard labor and loads of talent. There were also less than perfect qualities, such as the somewhat slower development of the middle part, the acting that varied from great to constructed, even from Welles himself. Also the atmosphere is strange: mostly the film smells like newspapers, money and power-grabbing. Of course that is what the film is about, but as an atmosphere that is normally not really a virtue. Still, this dry and somewhat suffocating atmosphere becomes part of the tragedy of the film, just like the fact that the film is just as manipulative as Citizen Kane himself, becomes part of that tragedy and actually deepens it. Just by not succeeding to create a beautiful atmosphere, the film tragically makes us wish to be released from it and makes us yearn for something lost. Just by the fact that it tries to manipulate us, tries to pull our strings too hard, and fails to touch our hearts because of it, the film becomes the very deadness and emptiness that sends chills down our spine, from the top of our heads, straight to our hearts.

Edit after a rewatch: Above review makes judging Citizen Kane look like something really difficult, but this is misguided. When all is said and done, it's not a matter of how good I think Citizen Kane is, whatever that may mean. Its just a matter of favoritism, however unfair or unreasonable that word may sound. The question is really simple: do I like Citizen Kane more than than Elephant? No I don't. The same goes for a few other movies. ” - Auke Briek
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery. (161 mins.)
Director: Sergio Leone
“ I used to think that The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had a brilliant ending, but that its build up had quite a few boring moments I had to "chew" myself through. The western has never been my favorite genre, it being a little dry in the cinematography, a little too simplistically masculine (I never fell for the whole gun romance crap), too much contained by genre clichés. In a sense I felt I might have overrated the film a little in the past, because of the brilliant ending and of letting myself be overruled by its grand reputation, as if it were somehow reflected back by the experience of watching the film but not actually founded in true cinematic qualities. However, after a rewatch I noticed that the contrary was the case. Scenes that I may have found a little boring before didn't drag on me at all, and were actually very good. The only scene that was less than optimal was the one with the bridge, where they got caught by the yanks for the second time, which was just one time too often and felt a little too much of a stupid bonding thing, although that was probably sarcastic. Another thing was that while the story always contained its grip, it relied for 85 percent on plain old fashioned story-telling and only for a small part on cinematography, except for the gun standoff moments, but I felt that the story was brilliant enough to justify this. Yes, one could argue that the story is a bit on the constructed side (many coincidental meetings and stuff), which was necessary to get towards the mythical proportions at the end, but that didn't bother me one bit, because it was buried underneath the dirt and grit of human, all too human greed and nastiness, which made sure that it didn't feel too neat or too tidy, while it actually made the story tight as hell underneath. One could remark that Eli Wallach isn't a very good actor, who can't do a whole lot more than put on a stupid grin, but at the same time you can't deny that he was perfectly casted for his role as Tuco and ultimately I wouldn't have wanted the film without him. No matter where you try to look for weak spots, it can't hurt the film much, it is simply too good. Way too good. ” - Auke Briek
The Godfather (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (175 mins.)
“ Part one of The Godfather is getting better with each viewing. The first time I saw it I thought it was overrated, and frankly just a little boring. I couldn't care much for all those stereotypical unsympathetic gangsters, I wasn't interested in them, I didn't care if anyone of 'm got killed (thought it served them right) and I thought that this was just not my kind of cinema. This disinterestedness also made me lose attention again and again, which is why I didn't pick up many important elements of the plot and didn't remember the names of all those gangsters so I got them mixed up all the time. This made me lose my interest in the plot even more and reinforced my opinion of it being a little boring and overrated on top of just being a heap of old fashioned gangster clichés. But with each subsequent viewing, I paid a little more attention and got to know each character a little better. But this time I was really dragged into the film; I couldn't spot any boring parts anymore. I felt for many characters, especially Michael Corleone. The acting, the plot, the music, the cinematography were just outstanding. Perfect, really. I still don't think that this is the ultimate kind of cinema, but this is nonetheless pretty much what perfection looks like. Contrary to my earlier viewings, I now also think that it is better than the second part, because while the second part has better cinematography and a more expansive atmosphere, virtues which I hold in very high regard, I do think that the best things one can take home from The Godfather trilogy are the stories and the way they are told. In that sense, the first part takes the cake, because it has by far the most memorable story and its 'boring' parts turned out to be very exciting after all. ” - Auke Briek
Dogville (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away... (178 mins.)
Director: Lars Von Trier
“ A powerful film that saves the best for last: deep down we are all dogs. This is Von Trier's best.

Edit after a rewatch: I lowered the position for Dogville some time ago, in anticipation of a worry that there was a considerable weakness to the movie I overlooked earlier. That Dogville may not look like an unduly moralizing film, as it attempts to undercut every belief in the moral strength of humanity, but that it is in fact one of the most arrogantly moralizing films: to condemn all human beings as nothing more than dogs requires an extreme moral high ground, from which each and every human being may be judged and found wanting, because of some superior yardstick, some superior intellectual insight, which Lars "Von" Trier needed to teach to the rest of the world, a world inhabited by naive creatures who still believe in fables such as love, friendship and sincerity. Paul Van Tongeren once wrote a book called "Die Moral von Nietzsches Moralkritik". One could also easily write a book called "Die Moral von Von Triers Moralkritik". I guess there's just one "Von" too many in that last title.

It seems to me that a case such as the one above might very well be made. But does that really make Dogville a lesser movie? Ultimately, I have to say no. However much one may want to object to the point of the film, I do think it is brilliantly made. It is a piece of deception, but a brilliant one. The most important part of the deception is that Von Trier is telling a plausible story: we know that something like this could have happened and that a whole town might have behaved like this (which may not stretch out to all particulars of the story, but at least in broad outlines to the morally relevant ones). From this plausibility, one may be tempted to conclude that Von Trier is right and that deep down, all humans are ultimately dogs. However, from the plausibility of one scenario, one cannot generalize to the whole of the human condition: here lies the deceptiveness of Von Trier's strategy. But he will have you fooled on an affective level, because we are allowed to see the world's backside so to speak and its realism is hugely unsettling. The film is emotionally draining, brilliantly paced, its cinematography and decors are as original as they are functional, and the acting performances are outstanding. One rarely encounters a film that hits so hard in every respect. This is what matters most in the final instance.

Moved this up considerably. ” - Auke Briek
The Third Part of the Night (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Set during the occupation of Poland during World War II. Some German soldiers, slaughter a woman, her son and daughter-in-law... (105 mins.)
“ The strange thing about this film is that it is impenetrably obscure on a logical level, while it manages to be profoundly meaningful and disturbing on an intuitive level. ” - Auke Briek
Apocalypse Now (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe. (153 mins.)
Director: Francis Coppola
“ It is like the gritty, earthy and more violent counterpart to Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes. Its slow development adds only to its greatness.

Edit: position confirmed. A great start, a bit lagging in the middle part (especially in the French scene), but delivers in a grand finale with Marlon Brando that is really chilling to watch, though he shouldn't have said "the horror" twice, let alone four times. ” - Auke Briek
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate. (202 mins.)
“ Part two of The Godfather is an excellent sequel, that has a more subtle and expansive atmosphere, more beautiful cinematography throughout, and has both Pacino and De Niro at high points in their careers. We have got a story here that is perhaps even grander in scope as part one and in many ways it is just as satisfying and meaningful. The way in which the film portrays Michael Corleone as he runs the family is very impressive and significant, especially towards the end of the film where we see him take a more firm control over his business, yet lose his involvement with his family, his wife and kids and finds himself more alone than ever. However, towards the end of the film it also becomes clear that the story is not as tight as that of part one (compare for instance the tightness of the final killing scene of part one with that of part two), and above all it stays significantly behind when it comes to memorability. Every time when I think of The Godfather trilogy, scenes, characters and lines from first part pop up immediately. Then, when I try to think of the second part, I find it hard to remember any particular scenes, or most of the characters and I cannot remember any lines whatsoever, except those that were already drawn from part one. What I do remember are some beautiful images and a great atmosphere. In particular I remember some pictures of Vito Corleone walking through America in his youth and the way those scenes felt. But that's about it. Although I think that part two is a great film on its own, I do think that the relative lack of tightness and memorability make it less good than the first one. But that shouldn't be taken out of context, as we are already dealing with a battle of titans here, in which the winner is still almost too close to call. And for a trilogy to come off with two films this strong is just an amazing feat. ” - Auke Briek
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke. (124 mins.)
Director: Irvin Kershner
“ This is the best episode of the whole series. The story is the tightest, the most exciting and the cleverest of them all. Compared to part IV it isn't old fashioned at all anymore: although some of the costumes still are, the special effects have truly evolved and are almost unobtrusive. The character development is much more precise and meaningful, the presence of Darth Vader and his theme music more menacing and the cinematography and ship-design is notable as well. The lack of funny looking aliens is also pleasant. In that sense Yoda was the strangest of them all, almost a little infantile in the beginning, which is possibly the only weak spot of the film. But that is only a minor quip. The film shines in quite a few brilliant moments, most notably the Imperial Walker scene and the light saber fight at the end, culminating in a terrific and revelatory climax, that is nothing less than the apex of the entire series. There already was a conflict in Luke's soul between the stoic Jedi religion, teaching complete detachment from all affects and a total embrace of one's cosmic duties, with his more human desire to save his loved ones whatever the cost, only to find his tormented soul almost ripped apart in the final scene. In most films, all of this would have led to pretentious nonsense cinema. Not so with this great film. ” - Auke Briek
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre. (75 mins.)
Director: S.M. Eisenstein
“ A classic communist propaganda movie. The famous Odessa Steps scene does complete justice to its reputation: it is awe-inspiring. ” - Auke Briek
Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
In medieval Japan, a compassionate governor is sent into exile. His wife and children try to join him, but are separated, and the children grow up amid suffering and oppression. (124 mins.)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
“ This masterpiece by Mizoguchi is the greatest of all the Japanese classics. It combines the subtlety and humility of Ozu with the epic proportions and the historical canvas of Kurosawa. On top of that it is more lyrical, intense and cathartic than either of them. ” - Auke Briek
The Wheel (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (who Sisif rescued from... (273 mins.)
Director: Abel Gance
“ Although La roue is not as dramatic and not as ambitious as Napoléon, it is still an absolutely grand film. Moreover, compared to Napoléon it has the advantage of being more human, more tragic and relatively more subtle, although it is unfortunately still not quite subtle. For example, the blending is used more subtly and the cross-cutting more sparingly: both techniques are applied in a way that is more naturally integrated within the whole. The film has some unforgettable scenes, among which are a train accident, a train moving at an extremely fast pace with a climactic use of cross-cutting between different parts of the train. Especially memorable however, are the tragic emotional confrontations between the main characters. Although I don't want to give too much away about the story, the picture of an almost deranged Norma standing outside in the cold with snow in her hair is haunting, and the 'cliffhanger' in the second part which preceded it is blood-curdling. The emotions of La roue, although perhaps not as grand in scale, feel much more honest and alive than those of Napoléon, because the latter feeds on the public 'emotions' of chauvinism, whereas the first is at times almost claustrophobic in its intimacy, stemming mostly from its intensely private subject matter, which is reinforced by the subjective meanings and perspectives that permeate the film. In that last regard the film is very innovative: we get to know the characters in an intimate way because we often see their memories, desires, associations, appearing visually in the screen mostly through the use of blending, although this was already used, albeit in a less developed form, in J'accuse. These subjective meanings are effectively supplemented with more ephemeral, symbolic meanings, such as flowers, or train wheels penetrating the screen in all sorts of abnormal ways, although I did feel that the symbolism should have been less obvious at times: sometimes Abel Gance is simply not so subtly French. Somehow the the film manages to bring the characters much closer to the screen than ever seen before in the history of film. It appears that the barrier between the outward appearance of bodily and facial expressions, which are revealed more clearly than before (perhaps because of a more lucid picture quality), and the inner life revealing itself through those expressions and the techniques mentioned above is effectively annihilated, which is reinforced by quite a few more than excellent performances. The character of Sisif behaves in an immoral way to such an extent that he would have been treated as a villain in most movies, yet he does it in such a human way that you cannot help feeling sympathy for him. That is quite an achievement, stemming both from the brilliant performance by Séverin-Mars and the even more brilliant direction of Abel Gance. To conclude, La Roue is emotionally intense, lyrical and profound. On top of that it uses many innovative techniques which are far ahead of their time and which have profoundly influenced the likes of Eisenstein or Kurosawa. ” - Auke Briek
The Faithful Heart (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Marie wants to escape from her job and also from her lover, Paul, an unemployed drunk. She dreams of going off with Jean... (87 mins.)
Director: Jean Epstein
“ We all know that the eyes are mirrors of the soul, but very few film makers have been able to capture it. Also, where Gance blended turbulent waves with an uproar at the Paris Convention in Napoleon, Epstein blended a quietly yearning face with rippling water in Coeur fidele. Where Gance went for shock and awe, Epstein went for subtlety and texture. And then there is a scene on a carousel that is so ridiculously good that it almost hurts: we are almost literally transported on to that carousel. This film strikes the perfect balance between sublety and intensity, experimentation and Gründlichkeit. Its films like these that make me fall in love with the silent era. ” - Auke Briek
Forbidden Games (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A young French girl orphaned in a Nazi air attack is befriended by the son of a poor farmer, and together they try to come to terms with the realities of death. (86 mins.)
Director: René Clément
“ Symbols and rituals are ways for us to express our deepest emotions in such a way that they break the confines of the merely personal - which we experience as unreal - and enter a realm of public meaning - which we experience as real. They help us deal with grief: that is something a little girl called Paulette desperately needed. The amount of grief she had to bear is unbearable even to think of. Jeux interdits is one of the most heartbreaking films I ever saw. ” - Auke Briek
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (118 mins.)
Director: Jonathan Demme
“ A classic horror film. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector is breathtaking! ” - Auke Briek
Basic Instinct (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A violent, suspended police detective investigates a brutal murder, in which a manipulative and seductive woman could be involved. (127 mins.)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
“ Sexy, mysterious and suspenseful. ” - Auke Briek
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
An innocent young man witnesses violence breaks out after an isolated village is inflamed by the arrival of a circus and its peculiar attractions, a giant whale and a mysterious man named "The Prince". (145 mins.)
“ This film with occasionally sublime imagery and a few great scenes, could have been monumentally good if only its story was up to par. Unfortunately the story is a bit shabby at times, and also comes of as a bit pretentious, even though all the elements are there. However, this is still a visionary film by a visionary director.

Edit after a rewatch: The first time I saw Werckmeister harmóniák, I was expecting something on par with Sátántangó. That it ain't, and I was rather disappointed about that at the time, although I was also able to see its qualities, its gorgeous cinematography and its impressive individual scenes. The second time my assessment has changed. Not that its faults have disappeared, but they now appear in a different perspective. But still, it remains a very difficult film to rate it; my judgment could have easily been the same as before. But let me explain why I put it in my top 100 this time.

Werckmeister is first and foremost a film about the conflict between worldliness and otherworldliness. This is not only thematized by the content, but also applies to the structure of the film. Its plot is told in an otherworldly manner. At the heart of the story lies a giant whale, and yet this whale also exists outside of the story. It serves no functional role, it is simply there in its majestic, otherworldly presence. In a normal story this element would have been excised, but here it creates an enchanting atmosphere for the film and even though we do not know why we yearn to go back to it, especially when the more worldly plot elements begin to take center stage. The major worldly plot element is about a 'prince' scheming to create a riot and wreck the town. Then there are also people trying to use the main character, the otherworldly János, for their own worldly purposes. It is through János's eyes that we see these events happening. When the riots finally do occur, we see one scene that is marked by one utterly unforgettable image, but which changes almost immediately into an utterly unrealistic scene. At that moment you can either follow the path of worldliness and reject the film because of the impossibility of what you see. Or you can let the otherworldliness of the image before it run its course, and still be overwhelmed by the powerfulness of the entire scene, in the knowledge that it is through János's eyes that we see this, and that its lack of realism only underlines the tragedy that the world does not offer the ideal possibility of redemption that János has dreamed up in his naivety, that we have witnessed a false dream that János needs to hold on to in order to retain his sanity. The same goes for the whale: you can either reject it as a superfluous plot element, or you can embrace it and its melancholic eye as an otherworldly saving grace. ” - Auke Briek
Millennium Actress (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A TV interviewer and his cameraman meet a former actress and travel through her memories and career. (87 mins.)
Director: Satoshi Kon
“ Kon is a genius! Like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress is an anime for adults. It's a hommage to classic films, like Ran, Kumonoso Jo, Sansho the Bailiff, 2001: A Space Oddyssey and many others. It takes painstaking care to take only the best of those films (leaving out all the boring parts) and weave it seamlessly into its own plot: and what a plot it is! It's just brimming with intelligence and sensitivity, and a deep respect for all the classics it references. The story of a lost love is highly mysterious and binds your attention to the screen and although the border between the film roles played by the "Millenium Actress" within the film and the story of the film itself are often intentionally blurred, this never becomes an abstraction: on the contrary, it makes the story only more original and fascinating! If anyone wants to claim that anime films can't compete with "serious" films, they should watch Millennium Actress: that should shut them right up!

Edit after a rewatch: position confirmed. Especially the chasing scenes are simply fantastic, with the energetic score matching the fast movements on the screen. ” - Auke Briek
Fight Club (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
An insomniac office worker, looking for a way to change his life, crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker, forming an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more. (139 mins.)
Director: David Fincher
“ "You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your *beep* khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world." That sums it up quite nicely I think. ” - Auke Briek
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad. (175 mins.)
Director: Sergio Leone
“ What makes this classic western great besides the story is the mood and the music. Ennio Morricone has outdone himself on the score for this film.

Edit after a rewatch: A great movie with a rich, expansive atmosphere, an iconic score and a highy memorable and effective story. Its status as a masterpiece is well deserved. The score and the atmosphere are also a big leap over The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, in terms of expansiveness and immersion. The reason why I am putting this significantly lower though, is that the story was less iconic to me, its slightly less brilliant climax more sudden and less a release of built up tension, and because the presence of the woman seemed to introduce elements slightly foreign to a pure Western: her presence was a constant reminder of civilian life made impossible through violence. That reminder was also in the score: when the score was not iconic, creepy and haunting (although it often was), it incorporated more civilian notes at times, albeit mixed with nostalghia and irony. Now the contrast between civilian life and violence carries meaning and is in that sense justified; but aesthetically speaking I would have preferred if the references to civilian life weren't there at all. This is only a small blemish of course, and doesn't really undermine the brilliance of the film, but it does account for my preference of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly over this one.

Position confirmed. ” - Auke Briek
Das Boot (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror. (149 mins.)
“ A very long movie about German soldiers on a U-boat that starts to creep under your skin after a while. Will the torpedo miss again? Will the hull remain intact if we dive any deeper? And still deeper? ” - Auke Briek
Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In a strange and isolated chateau, a man becomes acquainted with a woman and insists that they have met before. (94 mins.)
Director: Alain Resnais
“ This post-modern film tried to push the boundaries of what film can be. There is no fixed story. Every viewer creates his own story as it goes along. Very original and quite enjoyable. ” - Auke Briek
Straw Dogs (1971)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A young American and his English wife come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment. (113 mins.)
Director: Sam Peckinpah
“ This ought to be in the IMDB Top 250! It is raw, uncompromising, captivating from start to finish with excellent storytelling, great suspense, creative editing and memorable performances, especially by Dustin Hoffman. I think this is the best performance of his career. The film starts off with delightfully coarse and naughty humor, that feels very fresh today, and slowly progresses towards more darker territory, where relationship difficulties find perverse outlets, until things spiral into a maelstrom of chaotic violence. The final act is nothing short of amazing and the suspense will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. ” - Auke Briek
Cremator (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Set in World War II, a demented cremator believes cremation relieves earthly suffering and sets out to save the world. (95 mins.)
Director: Juraj Herz
“ The Cremator is an absolutely horrifying film! And not because it's a horror film, or because it's got scary moments, but because we are slowly descending into the disturbing mind of the cremator Karel Kopfrkingl. The mass extermination of Jews in the gas chambers is undoubtedly the greatest horror of the twentieth century, but precisely because it happened on a such a large scale it is hard to wrap our minds around it. The Cremator is about that same horror, but scales it all down to the smaller proportions of one's own closest family, and this is what makes it so chilling to watch, especially in the last half an hour. Rudolf Hrušínský does a fine job of playing the main character who is of course a villain, and yet in a way you almost get the sense that he has been given the twisted allures of a 'hero' freeing souls for a greater spiritual cause. And that last bit is what makes his character so much more fascinating, complex and real than most villains. The film also features impressive editing, and stylish direction overall. The only minor quips I have is firstly that the film - while always more than decent - takes quite a while before it unleashes its full potential and secondly, that every time when a physical object hits a human being it looks and sounds fake, which hampered the climax of one particularly brilliant scene. But apart from that this is a great film! ” - Auke Briek
Pi (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature. (84 mins.)
“ It has been a long time since I last saw Pi. At that time I never saw a surreal film before and could not quite deal with what I saw. I thought it was alright in a sense, but preferred a more conventional story to this. Now it's more the other way around. Pi is an intense, nightmarish and surreal film with a gritty cinematography and disturbing camera-work. It shows a mathematician struggling to unlock the numeric secret behind what is perhaps the most fundamental pattern in the universe, but slowly descends into a more and more abstract space, where ideas take over and his brain is being punished for being too mushy and soft, too limited compared to the infinite ideas he is struggling to perceive. Ultimately, the light of truth is too blinding for his human eyes to see. ” - Auke Briek
Casablanca (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications. (102 mins.)
Director: Michael Curtiz
“ This was my original review:
"Together with Citizen Kane, this is the proverbial good film. It does nothing wrong and everything right and at the end also touches the heart."

However, as I was reading the reviews of a Belgian guy nicknamed "Onderhond" (Underdog) on, I was struck by both the extremity of his opinions as well as by their uncompromising intelligence. He has the weird (and to many infuriating) tendency to rate almost all IMBD Top 250 masterpieces with 0.5 or just 1 star out of 5. I often disagree strongly with his ratings of classics, but still he makes me think and he doesn't infuriate me. Instead, some of his reviews just fascinate and amuse the hell out of me. Just take a look at his over-the-top review ( of Casablanca:
"Ik begin de rode draad te zien in die oude hooggeprezen Hollywood klassiekers.

Steeds weer die houterige klazen met hun opgedreunde inelkaargeknutselde dialogen die eruit komen alsof ze dagenlang ingestudeerd zijn. Nu heb je ook mensen die in het echt zo zijn, maar die behoren allerminst tot mijn favoriete soort.

Bogart heeft nog het nadeel een vreselijk stemgeluid te hebben, waardoor zijn personage al vanaf de eerste seconde totaal oninteressant is. Bergman kan daar eigenlijk niks tegenoverstellen en is niet veel meer dan de wijfelende liefdesvod.

Dat sleept zich dan voort naar een conclusie die pas veel te laat zich ontvouwt. De muts met het stalen gezichts en met het onvermijdelijke peperkoeken hart doet wat een held dient te doen waarmee meteen de film ook afgelopen is. Zowat 102 minuten te laat naar mijn mening.

Saaie film die echt nergens interessant weet te zijn. Voor fans van de oude dialogen, wat mij betreft zowat het sufste wat ik in het wereldje van de cinema al aangetroffen heb."

Translated in English it roughly says:
"I am starting to see the connecting thread between those old acclaimed Hollywood classics.

Again and again those wooden muffs with their gabbled over, makeshift dialogues that come out like they've been rehearsed for days. Now there are people who are like that in real life, but they hardly belong to my favorite kind of people.

Bogart has the added disadvantage of having a terrible sound of voice, which makes his character uninteresting from the get go. Bergman cannot put anything up against that and she is actually not a whole lot more than a love-doll in doubt.

This drags on to proceed towards a conclusion which unfolds much too late. The cow with the steel face and the inevitable gingerbread heart does what a hero should do at which point the movie is over. Approximately 102 minutes too late in my opinion.

A boring film which never manages to be interesting. Its only for fans of the old dialogs, which for me is practically the dullest thing I've encountered in the world of cinema."

I don't agree with this opinion of Casablanca. But still. I think that in some twisted parallel universe Onderhond does have a point, even though I can't put my finger on it and even though I am sure that Casablanca is a great film which deserves a high spot.

Edit: As it turns out Onderhond also has a vast number of beautiful recommendations, especially when it comes to Japanese films:

Edit2: After a rewatch this went up some 40 places again. Yes, Casablanca is indeed a great film, which deserves a high spot. And indeed it is one of those faultless masterpieces that is not one of my absolute favorites. Yes, its great performances and dialogues are on the constructed side, yes its atmosphere is somewhat buried underneath the dust of its own cleverness and yes I think that Bogart has an irritating sound of voice and his acting is somewhat wooden to me. But in the end I cannot but feel sympathy for the character he played here, which mostly came from the impeccable craft behind the story. Casablanca has a few gorgeous moments, especially at the end, that are impossible not to love, just the way the camera captured Bergman's look in her eyes in terrific black and white contrasts, while the Nazis, those forces of evil were about to catch up on the plane. Yet in the impossibility not to love those scenes, also lies a certain manipulative quality, not unlike that of Kane, but the fact remains that I love it nonetheless. ” - Auke Briek
Vertigo (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. (128 mins.)
“ A perfect example of sturdy, impressive film-making. Everything is balanced just right. And there is mystery here.

Edit after a rewatch: Vertigo is one of those paradoxical films that scores a 10/10, whilst I'm not even 100% sure that it is strictly speaking a "favorite film", and, by implication, whether it belongs on a list that is called by that name. I'm sure it is extremely well made and I have great respect for it as a whole (though not necessarily for all its parts). But as the second criterion on this list specifies, respect isn't enough. Now do I like it? Overall, I do. But do I also love it? Now this is a more difficult question. I would say that I love it unambiguously only at its highest aesthetic peaks. I love the awe-inspiring shot of the church building from birds eye perspective, I love the shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, I love the neon-like Technicolors in the semi-final scene, I love the final church tower scene and the release of tension in it. There are several other moments that I love, but that doesn't go for the whole film. For instance, I don't even like James Stewart's acting performance, let alone love it. I think his face looks unsympathetic (almost as much as Bogart's face), I don't like the way he dresses his hair (I'd like to say "no, your hair looks all wrong"), the way his suits look (I'd like to say "that's the wrong suit, put on another one!"), but his sound of voice takes the cake: it sounds like he has a hot potato in his mouth all the time. As a consequence I care little for his character. And it doesn't help that his character's actions aren't always the most sympathetic ones either. Now, Kim Novak's acting performance I feel rather lukewarm about: I don't find it irritating, just passable. So when the two of them make out with strings swelling up underneath, I'm more or less bored: so much for the romance. Now to the mystery: do I love it? I'd say more like than love. I don't particularly care about the details about Carlotta and solving the puzzle and stuff like that. I do like and perhaps even love the atmosphere that the mystery creates though. It counterbalances Stewart's dusty appearance with something more rich and expansive and in this sense, Novak's appearance contributes much to the film. Now to the suspense: do I love it? This is the most difficult aspect to judge. The first part of the movie, let's say the entire part before the Golden Gate scene kicks in, isn't too special for me, although it gets better after that. Half-way the movie, the suspense works, but I'm not overwhelmed. And giving the game away just half an hour before the finish line felt like undermining a part of the mystery and the suspense. But still, Hitchcock managed to bring it all together in a blood-curdling finale that was truly suspenseful. And it wasn't just the finale: the entire final twenty minutes or so were gripping (which also goes for the first tower scene). So the suspense did work in the end. But mostly it is the haunting power of the film's strongest images and a vague indefinable feeling of having watched something great that pushes me over the line. And so, although I'm not entirely sure how it would count as a "favorite film" strictly speaking, I am certain that putting it much lower than it is now wouldn't feel right either. And so it's still got one hell of a high position for a film whose leading actor I don't even like.

Edit after a rewatch: Above review is mostly correct, but I thought that the position was still too high, considering the fact that I don't really love this movie. ” - Auke Briek