Film Forecast

2022: Year Of The C.U.C.K.

This is the tentative C.U.C.K. watchlist for 2022. With any streaming platform, the consistency of streaming availability is subject to change. As some films are pulled, however, others are added. My hope is to that should a film need to be replaced, a thematically appropriate film is swapped in. All descriptions pulled from the Criterion Collection website or the Criterion Channel.

January 2022 – Bang Bang Shoot Shoot

Thrillers, Chillers, and Pillars (of cinema, that is!)

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime—and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances by Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles; Anton Karas’s evocative zither score; Graham Greene’s razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker’s dramatic use of light and shadow, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, only grows in stature as the years pass.

The jaw-dropping set pieces fly fast and furious in Jackie Chan’s breathtakingly inventive action comedies, two smash hits that made him a worldwide icon of daredevil spectacle. The director/star/one-man stunt machine plays Ka-kui, a Hong Kong police inspector whose methods are, ahem, unorthodox; the phenomenal Maggie Cheung, in a star-making role, plays his much-put-upon girlfriend, May. Packed wall-to-wall with astoundingly acrobatic fight choreography, epic explosions, charmingly goofball slapstick, and awesomely 1980s electro soundtracks, Police Story set a new standard for rock-’em, sock-’em mayhem that established Chan as a performer of unparalleled grace and daring and would influence a generation of filmmakers, from Hong Kong to Hollywood.

February 2022 – African-American Classics

Celebrating Black History Month. (This category features half of the African-American directors that are in the Criterion Collection as of August 2020) Check out additional films from Black filmmakers on the Criterion Channel here.

One of the first feature films directed by an African American woman, Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground tells the story of a marriage between two remarkable people, both at a crossroads in their lives. Sara Rogers (Seret Scott), a black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest to understand “ecstasy” just as her painter husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), sets off on a more earthy exploration of joy. Over the course of a summer idyll in upstate New York, the two each experience profound emotional and romantic awakenings. Applying a deft comic touch to a deeply personal exploration of love, race, and gender, Collins crafts a charming, complex tale of personal discovery that, after decades of neglect, has reemerged as a still-fresh landmark of independent cinema.

In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, the pioneering William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them to try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making. A couple enacts a breakup scenario over and over, a documentary crew films a crew filming the crew, locals wander casually into the frame: the project defies easy description. Yet this wildly innovative sixties counterculture landmark remains one of the most tightly focused and insightful movies ever made about making movies.

March 2022 – Saoirse Ronan Voice “Women”

Celebrating Women’s History Month. For more Criterion co-signed films by Women, check here.

Leslie Harris’s indie touchstone made a splash when it won a special jury prize at Sundance in 1993, offering a window into a world still sorely underrepresented in mainstream cinema: that of an ambitious, outspoken, and hilarious young black woman growing up in Brooklyn and navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Boasting a charismatic performance from star Ariyan A. Johnson and a killer hip-hop and R&B soundtrack (with an emphasis on women artists), JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T. is both a vivid time capsule of 1990s New York and a bracingly raw and real coming-of-age portrait that’s lost none of its vitality.

With her first and only feature film—a hard-luck drama she wrote, directed, and starred in—Barbara Loden turned in a groundbreaking work of American independent cinema, bringing to life a kind of character seldom seen on-screen. Set amid a soot-choked Pennsylvania landscape, and shot in an intensely intimate vérité style, the film takes up with distant and soft-spoken Wanda (Loden), who has left her husband, lost custody of her children, and now finds herself alone, drifting between dingy bars and motels, where she falls prey to a series of callous men—including a bank robber who ropes her into his next criminal scheme. An until now difficult-to-see masterpiece that has nonetheless exerted an outsize influence on generations of artists and filmmakers, Wanda is a compassionate and wrenching portrait of a woman stranded on society’s margins.

Lena Dunham got her start making YouTube videos, but she emerged as a major talent thanks to the breakthrough success of this exceptionally sharp comedy, which garnered the twenty-four-year-old writer-director-actor comparisons to the likes of W**dy Allen. Dunham plays Aura, a recent college graduate who returns to New York and moves back in with her mother and sister (played by the filmmaker’s real-life mother and sister). Though Aura is gripped by stasis and confusion about her future, Dunham locates endless sources of refreshing humor in her plight. As painfully confessional as it is amusing, Tiny Furniture is an authentic, incisive portrait of a young woman at a crossroads.

April 2022 – Fool’s Month

Capital-C Comedies

As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. To Be or Not to Be is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production right before the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled.

The most popular film by Robert Downey Sr. is this offbeat classic about the antics that ensue after Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson, his voice dubbed by a gravelly Downey), the token black man on the board of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, is inadvertently elected chairman. Putney summarily fires the whiteys, replaces them with Black Power apostles, renames the company Truth and Soul, Inc., and proceeds to wreak politically incorrect havoc.

May 2022 – Mid-Century European Surrealism

Exactly what is says on the tin.

A group of high-society friends are invited to a mansion for dinner and find themselves inexplicably unable to leave, in Luis Buñuel’s daring masterpiece The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador). Made just one year after the director’s inter­na­tional sensation Viridiana, this film, full of eerie comic absurdity, continues Buñuel’s wicked takedown of the rituals and dependencies of the frivolous upper classes.

Whiling away a summer in Paris, director Jacques Rivette, working in close collaboration with his stars and coconspirators Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier, set out to rewrite the rules of cinema in the spirit of pure play—moviemaking as an anything-goes romp through the labyrinths of imagination. The result is one of the most exuberantly inventive and utterly enchanting films of the French New Wave, in which Julie (Labourier), a daydreaming librarian, meets Céline (Berto), an enigmatic magician, and together they become the heroines of a time-warping adventure involving a haunted house, psychotropic candy, and a murder-mystery melodrama. Incorporating allusions to everything from Lewis Carroll to Louis Feuillade, Céline and Julie Go Boating is both one of the all-time-great hangout comedies and a totally unique, enveloping cinematic dream space that delights in the endless pleasures and possibilities of stories.

June 2022 – Queer Cinema Classics

Celebrating Pride Month. For more Queer films on Criterion Channel, click here. (Depending on streaming availability, I may swap in Chocolate Babies or The Watermelon Woman here or elsewhere — two films I wanted to include with uncertain streaming availability)

In her provocative first feature, Chantal Akerman stars as an aimless young woman who leaves self-imposed isolation to embark on a road trip that leads to lonely love affairs with a male truck driver and a former girlfriend. With its famous real-time carnal encounter and its daring minimalism, Je tu il elle is Akerman’s most sexually audacious film.

Director Toshio Matsumoto’s shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late 1960s: a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night world of drag bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art, and black mascara. An unknown club dancer at the time, transgender actor Peter gives an astonishing performance as Eddie, a hostess at Bar Genet who ignites a violent love triangle with reigning drag queen Leda (Osamu Ogasawara) for the attentions of club owner Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya). One of Japan’s leading experimental filmmakers, Matsumoto bends and distorts time, freely mixing documentary interviews, Brechtian film-within-a-film asides, Oedipal premonitions of disaster, his own avant-garde shorts, and comic-book word balloons into a dizzying whirl of image and sound.

July 2022 – Tokyo Stories

Narratives from the seat of the Emperor.

A profoundly stirring evocation of elemental humanity and universal heartbreak, Tokyo Story is the crowning achievement of the unparalleled Yasujiro Ozu. The film, which follows an aging couple’s journey to visit their grown children in bustling postwar Tokyo, surveys the rich and complex world of family life with the director’s customary delicacy and incisive perspective on social mores. Featuring lovely performances from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story plumbs and deepens the director’s recurring theme of generational conflict, creating what is without question one of cinema’s mightiest masterpieces.

“In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Tetsu’s attempt to go straight is thwarted when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. Director Seijun Suzuki’s onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors is equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima—an anything-goes, in-your-face rampage. Tokyo Drifter is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the sixties.”

August 2022 – American Documentaries 

Vérité? More like VériTÁKE A BREAK WITH THE NARRATIVE FILMS, WHY DON’T WE!?

Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award–winning Harlan County USA unflinchingly documents a grueling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikebreakers, local police, and company thugs. Featuring a haunting soundtrack—with legendary country and bluegrass artists Hazel Dickens, Merle Travis, Sarah Gunning, and Florence Reece—the film is a heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line.

A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home with the director: Kirsten Johnson weaves these scenes and others into her film Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage captured over her twenty-five-year career as a documentary cinematographer. Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality with crafted narrative. A work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.

September 2022 – The Apu Trilogy

A whole month dedicated to Satyajit Ray’s Three-Part Masterpiece.

With the release in 1955 of Satyajit Ray’s debut, Pather Panchali, an eloquent and important new cinematic voice made itself heard all over the world. A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neorealism, this naturalistic but poetic evocation of a number of years in the life of a family introduces us to both little Apu and, just as essentially, the women who will help shape him: his independent older sister, Durga; his harried mother, Sarbajaya, who, with her husband away, must hold the family together; and his kindly and mischievous elderly “auntie,” Indir—vivid, multifaceted characters all. With resplendent photography informed by its young protagonist’s perpetual sense of discovery, Pather Panchali, which won an award for Best Human Document at Cannes, is an immersive cinematic experience and a film of elemental power.

Satyajit Ray had not planned to make a sequel to Pather Panchali, but after the film’s international success, he decided to continue Apu’s narrative. Aparajito picks up where the first film leaves off, with Apu and his family having moved away from the country to live in the bustling holy city of Varanasi (then known as Benares). As Apu progresses from wide-eyed child to intellectually curious teenager, eventually studying in Kolkata, we witness his academic and moral education, as well as the growing complexity of his relationship with his mother. This tenderly expressive, often heart-wrenching film, which won three top prizes at the Venice Film Festival, including the Golden Lion, not only extends but also spiritually deepens the tale of Apu.

By the time Apur Sansar was released, Satyajit Ray had directed not only the first two Apu films but also the masterpiece The Music Room, and was well on his way to becoming a legend. This extraordinary final chapter brings our protagonist’s journey full circle. Apu is now in his early twenties, out of college, and hoping to live as a writer. Alongside his professional ambitions, the film charts his romantic awakening, which occurs as the result of a most unlikely turn of events, and his eventual, fraught fatherhood. Featuring soon-to-be Ray regulars Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore in star-making performances, and demonstrating Ray’s ever more impressive skills as a crafter of pure cinematic imagery, Apur Sansar is a moving conclusion to this monumental trilogy.

October 2022 — Spooky Season

Ghost Emoji

How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.

A young woman (Candace Hilligoss) in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she is haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion. Made by industrial filmmakers on a small budget, the eerily effective B-movie classic Carnival of Souls was intended to have “the look of a Bergman and the feel of a Cocteau”—and, with its strikingly used locations and spooky organ score, it succeeds. Herk Harvey’s macabre masterpiece gained a cult following on late-night television and continues to inspire filmmakers today.

November 2022 – Guys Bein’ Dudes

What’s Better Than This?

With her ravishingly sensual take on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, Claire Denis firmly established herself as one of the great visual tone poets of our time. Amid the azure waters and sunbaked desert landscapes of Djibouti, a French Foreign Legion sergeant (Denis Lavant) sows the seeds of his own ruin as his obsession with a striking young recruit (Grégoire Colin) plays out to the thunderous, operatic strains of Benjamin Britten. Denis and cinematographer Agnès Godard fold military and masculine codes of honor, colonialism’s legacy, destructive jealousy, and repressed desire into shimmering, hypnotic images that ultimately explode in one of the most startling and unforgettable endings in all of modern cinema.

Paul Schrader’s visually stunning, collagelike portrait of the acclaimed Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (played by Ken Ogata) investigates the inner turmoil and contradictions of a man who attempted the impossible task of finding harmony among self, art, and society. Taking place on the last day of Mishima’s life, when he famously committed public seppuku, the film is punctuated by extended flashbacks to the writer’s past as well as gloriously stylized evocations of his fictional works. With its rich cinematography by John Bailey, exquisite sets and costumes by Eiko Ishioka, and unforgettable, highly influential score by Philip Glass, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters is a tribute to its subject and a bold, investigative work of art in its own right.

December 2022 – Christmastime Nightmares

“Jesus Christ!”

Guillermo del Toro made an auspicious and audacious feature debut with Cronos, a highly unorthodox tale about the seductiveness of the idea of immortality. Kindly antiques dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) happens upon an ancient golden device in the shape of a scarab, and soon finds himself the possessor and victim of its sinister, addictive powers, as well as the target of a mysterious American named Angel (a delightfully crude and deranged Ron Perlman). Featuring marvelous special makeup effects and the haunting imagery for which del Toro has become world-renowned, Cronos is a dark, visually rich, and emotionally captivating fantasy.

When the Earl of Gurney dies in an accident, his schizophrenic son, Jack, inherits the Gurney estate. Jack is not the average nobleman; he sings and dances across the estate and thinks he is Jesus reincarnated. Believing that Jack is mentally unfit to own the estate, the Gurney family plots to steal Jack’s inheritance. As their outrageous schemes fail, the family strives to cure Jack of his bizarre behavior, with disastrous results. (description pulled from Letterboxd to avoid spoilers present in Criterion description)

2021: The Birth Of C.U.C.K.

All descriptions pulled from the Criterion Collection website or the Criterion Channel.

Wild Strawberries — “Traveling to accept an honorary degree, Professor Isak Borg—masterfully played by the veteran filmmaker and actor Victor Sjöström—is forced to face his past, come to terms with his faults, and make peace with the inevitability of his approaching death. Through flashbacks and fantasies, dreams and nightmares, Wild Strawberries dramatizes one man’s remarkable voyage of self-discovery. This richly humane masterpiece, full of iconic imagery, is one of Ingmar Bergman’s most widely acclaimed and influential films.”

The 400 Blows — “François Truffaut’s first feature is also his most personal. Told from the point of view of Truffaut’s cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) sensitively re-creates the trials of Truffaut’s own childhood, unsentimentally portraying aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and petty crime. The film marked Truffaut’s passage from leading critic to trailblazing auteur of the French New Wave.”

Boyhood — “There has never been another movie like Boyhood, from director Richard Linklater. An event film of the utmost modesty, it was shot over the course of twelve years in the director’s native Texas and charts the physical and emotional changes experienced by a child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar for her performance, and Ethan Hawke), and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater). Alighting not on milestones but on the small, in-between moments that make up lives, Linklater fashions a flawlessly acted, often funny portrait that flows effortlessly from one year to the next. Allowing us to watch people age on film with documentary realism while gripping us in a fictional narrative of exquisite everydayness, Boyhood has a power that only the art of cinema could harness.”

Fish Tank — “British director Andrea Arnold won the Cannes Jury Prize for the intense and invigorating Fish Tank, about a fifteen-year-old girl, Mia (electrifying newcomer Katie Jarvis), who lives with her mother and sister in the housing projects of Essex. Mia’s adolescent conflicts and emerging sexuality reach a boiling point when her mother’s new boyfriend (a lethally attractive Michael Fassbender) enters the picture. In her young career, Arnold has already proven herself to be a master of social realism, evoking the work of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; and she invests her sympathetic portraits of dead-end lives with a poetic, earthy sensibility all her own. Fish Tank heralds the official arrival of a major new filmmaker.”

The Brood — “A disturbed woman is receiving a radical form of psychotherapy at a remote, mysterious institute. Meanwhile, her five-year-old daughter, under the care of her estranged husband, is being terrorized by a group of demonic beings. How these two story lines connect is the shocking and grotesque secret of this bloody tale of monstrous parenthood from David Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. With its combination of psychological and body horror, The Brood laid the groundwork for many of the director’s films to come, but it stands on its own as a personal, singularly scary vision.”

“The vampire myth gets a disturbingly seductive psychosexual spin in Daughters of Darkness, one of the most exquisitely mesmerizing adult horror films ever made. International screen icon Delphine Seyrig stars as Elizabeth Bathory, an ageless countess with a beautiful young “companion” (goth goddess Andrea Rau) and a legendary legacy of perversion. But when the two women seduce a troubled newlywed couple (Danielle Ouimet and John Karlen), they unleash a frenzy of sudden violence and depraved desire that shocked both art-house audiences and grindhouse crowds worldwide.”

Hoop Dreams — “Two ordinary inner-city Chicago kids dare to reach for the impossible—professional basketball glory—in this epic chronicle of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period, Hoop Dreams, by Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert, follows young Arthur Agee and William Gates and their families as the boys navigate the complex, competitive world of scholastic athletics while dealing with the intense pressures of their home lives and neighborhoods. This revelatory film continues to educate and inspire viewers, and it is widely considered one of the great works of American nonfiction cinema.”

Previous Films

Chungking Express — “The whiplash, double-pronged Chungking Express is one of the defining works of 1990s cinema and the film that made Wong Kar Wai an instant icon. Two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu Wai), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out food stand, where the ethereal pixie waitress Faye (Faye Wong) works. Anything goes in Wong’s gloriously shot and utterly unexpected charmer, which cemented the sex appeal of its gorgeous stars and forever turned canned pineapple and the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” into tokens of romantic longing.”

Taste of Cherry — “The first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or, this austere, emotionally complex drama by the great
Abbas Kiarostami follows the enigmatic Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he drives around the hilly outskirts of Tehran looking for someone who will agree to bury him after he commits suicide, a taboo under Islam. Extended conversations with three passengers (a soldier, a seminarian, and a taxidermist) elicit different views on mortality and individual choice. Operating at once as a closely observed, realistic story and a fable populated by archetypal figures, Taste of Cherry challenges the viewer to consider what often goes unexamined in everyday life.”

High and Low — “Toshiro Mifune is unforgettable as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper in High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku), the highly influential domestic drama and police procedural from director Akira Kurosawa. Adapting Ed McBain’s detective novel King’s Ransom, Kurosawa moves effortlessly from compelling race-against-time thriller to exacting social commentary, creating a diabolical treatise on contemporary Japanese society.”

Secrets & Lies — “Writer-director Mike Leigh reached new levels of expressive power and intricacy in his ongoing contemplation of unembellished humanity with this resonant exploration of the deceptions, small and large, that shape our relationships to those we love. When Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a Black optometrist who was adopted as a child, begins the search for her birth mother, she doesn’t expect that it will lead her to Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn, winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award), a desperately lonely white factory worker whose tentative embrace of her long-lost daughter sends shock waves through the rest of her already fragile family. Born from a painstaking process of rehearsal and improvisation with a powerhouse ensemble cast, Secrets & Lies is a Palme d’Or–winning tour de force of sustained tension and catharsis that lays bare the emotional fault lines running beneath the surface of everyday lives.”

Black Girl — “Ousmane Sembène was one of the greatest and most groundbreaking filmmakers who ever lived, as well as the most renowned African director of the twentieth century—and yet his name still deserves to be better known in the rest of the world. He made his feature debut in 1966 with the brilliant and stirring Black Girl. Sembène, who was also an acclaimed novelist in his native Senegal, transforms a deceptively simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a prison, both figuratively and literally—into a complexly layered critique of the lingering colonialist mind-set of a supposedly postcolonial world. Featuring a moving central performance by M’Bissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl is a harrowing human drama as well as a radical political statement—and one of the essential films of the 1960s.”

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg — “The angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve was launched to stardom by this dazzling musical heart-tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. Exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through lilting songs by the great composer Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most revered and unorthodox movie musicals of all time.”

Grey Gardens — “Meet Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis. The two manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. An impossibly intimate portrait, this 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, codirected by Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, quickly became a cult classic and established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen.”

Badlands announced the arrival of a major talent: Terrence Malick. His impressionistic take on the notorious Charles Starkweather killing spree of the late 1950s uses a serial-killer narrative as a springboard for an oblique teenage romance, lovingly and idiosyncratically enacted by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. The film introduced many of the elements that would earn Malick his passionate following: the enigmatic approach to narrative and character, the unusual use of voice-over, the juxtaposition of human violence with natural beauty, the poetic investigation of American dreams and nightmares. This debut has spawned countless imitations, but none have equaled its strange sublimity.”

Certain Women — “The expanses of the American West take center stage in this intimately observed triptych from Kelly Reichardt. Adapted from three short stories by Maile Meloy and unfolding in self-contained but interlocking episodes, Certain Women navigates the subtle shifts in personal desire and social expectation that unsettle the circumscribed lives of its characters: a lawyer (Laura Dern) forced to subdue a troubled client; a wife and mother (Michelle Williams) whose plans to construct her dream home reveal fissures in her marriage; and a night-school teacher (Kristen Stewart) who forms a tenuous bond with a lonely ranch hand (Lily Gladstone), whose longing for connection delivers an unexpected jolt of emotional immediacy. With unassuming craft, Reichardt captures the rhythms of daily life in small-town Montana through these fine-grained portraits of women trapped within the landscape’s wide-open spaces.”

Terror Of MechaGodzilla — “In Godzilla’s last gasp of the Showa era, aliens retrieve Mechagodzilla’s remains and rebuild it with the aid of an unhinged biologist (a scenery-chewing Akihiko Hirata), in hopes of defeating Godzilla for possession of planet Earth. This film marked the return of director Ishiro Honda, who had retired years earlier, disheartened by the increasingly kid-friendly approach of the series. For this final entry, Honda steers the King of the Monsters back into grim territory, interweaving an alien-invasion plot with a tale of tragic romance.”

Solaris — “Ground control has been receiving mysterious transmissions from the three remaining residents of the Solaris space station. When cosmonaut and psychologist Kris Kelvin is dispatched to investigate, he experiences the same strange phenomena that afflict the Solaris crew, sending him on a voyage into the darkest recesses of his consciousness. With Solaris, the legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky created a brilliantly original science-fiction epic that challenges our conceptions about love, truth, and humanity itself.”

Stalker — “Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphys­ical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a professor into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky created an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings.”

Jour de féte — “In his enchanting debut feature, Jacques Tati stars as a fussbudget of a postman who is thrown for a loop when a traveling fair comes to his village. Even in this early work, Tati was brilliantly toying with the devices (silent visual gags, minimal yet deftly deployed sound effects) and exploring the theme (the absurdity of our increasing reliance on technology) that would define his cinema.”

Mikey and Nicky — “Elaine May crafted a gangster film like no other in the nocturnal odyssey Mikey and Nicky, capitalizing on the chemistry between frequent collaborators John Cassavetes and Peter Falk by casting them together as small-time mobsters whose lifelong relationship has turned sour. Set over the course of one night, this restless drama finds Nicky (Cassavetes) holed up in a hotel after the boss he stole money from puts a hit out on him. Terrified, he calls on Mikey (Falk), the one person he thinks can save him. Scripted to match the live-wire energy of its stars—alongside supporting players Ned Beatty, Joyce Van Patten, and Carol Grace—and inspired by real-life characters from May’s own childhood, this unbridled portrait of male friendship turned tragic is an unsung masterpiece of American cinema.”

Daughters of the Dust — “Julie Dash’s rapturous vision of black womanhood and vanishing ways of life in the turn-of-the-century South was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide release. In 1902, a multigenerational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina—former West African slaves who carried on many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions—struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots. Awash in gorgeously poetic, sun-dappled images at once dreamlike and precise, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST forges a radical new visual language rooted in black femininity and the rituals of Gullah culture.”

The Night of the Hunter — “Incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.”

Cléo from 5 to 7 — “Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.”

A New Leaf — The brilliance of Elaine May is on full display in her directorial debut, a deliciously deadpan
black-comic jewel that stands as one of the
finest and funniest films of the 1970s. She stars
as the endearingly awkward, plant-obsessed
heiress Henrietta Lowell, whose fortune
becomes the target of trust-fund-depleted
patrician wastrel Henry Graham (Walter
Matthau), who’s willing to go as far as marriage
and murder to get his hands on it. May
famously clashed with studio executives in
order to protect her vision, and the resulting
film, though ultimately recut against her
wishes, is a testament to her singular comic
genius.