Top Ten: World Cinema Treasures
Films on this, the highest level of artistic merit, must contain an extraordinary breadth of insight into the humanities, one that transcends any geographical, cultural or genre limitation. Furthermore, the story's development must appear spontaneous and natural, without apparent signs of the author's manipulation. At the same time, the narrative groundwork must be subtly laid so that an audience can strongly identify with, and feel for, the characters' outcome. If the work is abstract in nature, it must ignite and consume the viewer's imagination. Supposing that the films on this list (not to mention its many close contenders) had flaws (and I would strongly assert they do not): any weaknesses would be obliterated by each film's provisioning viewers a chance to ponder endlessly the human condition amidst life's transformative experiences, wonders and mysteries. These motion pictures must not only be supremely crafted but reach deep into the bone marrow of our existence to create an everlasting spiritual encounter, not unlike that produced by any of the other arts' greatest achievements.
They are listed in alphabetical order:
The Battle of Algiers a.k.a. La battaglia di Algeri (1966, Italy/Algeria)
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
It's almost impossible to believe that no documentary footage was used for this searing, ultra-realistic masterpiece. The filmmakers are dedicated to exposing the rock bottom, yet transcendental truth behind the reasons for both sides' engagement in this emotionally charged conflict. It depicts Algeria's struggle for independence from French rule. Each and every scene is devastating to watch since passions run so high. One takes place at a French race track where a rebel's bomb has exploded. Upon seeing an Algerian boy who was innocently selling his wares, some of the survivors attack him. French soldiers torturing their Algerian suspects on one side are met with Algerian freedom fighters' bombs exploding in French soda shops on the other. After experiencing this film for the first time, my legs kept buckling barely allowing me to leave the theatre.
Bicycle Thieves a.k.a. Ladri di biciclette (1948, Italy)
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Nothing in cinema's acclaimed neo-realism movement captures its style's spirit in a more personally moving way than this Italian Director's greatest artistic success.
Children of Paradise a.k.a. Les enfants du paradis (1945, France)
Director: Marcel Carne
Watch in amazement as Carne skillfully develops the natural interplay between his characters while reaching deep within to expose their innermost heartfelt emotions. Vastly entertaining, it enthralls, and finally leaves one breathless.
Citizen Kane (1941, U.S.A.)
Director: Orson Welles
Irony, not to mention profundity, is represented in its purest form when the question over a newspaper magnate's hidden purpose in life arises upon his death thus causing a determined reporter to look everywhere and to anyone for the answer. Finally, after he's gone home unsuccessful, the startling revelation is something so simple and apparent: a worthless piece of junk to some, but to its title's subject, a most meaningful symbol of a lost and briefly cherished childhood. Imaginative, innovative, Welles uses a whole new arsenal of cinematic language to unveil a mysterious and dazzling narrative and consistently reveal the most fascinating details of his characters' personalities. Astonishing film making from anyone, let alone a 25 year old novice.
Diary of a Country Priest a.k.a. Journal d'un curé de campagne (1951, France)
Director: Robert Bresson
It's very difficult to chose but one of this filmmaker's many masterpieces, however, this most deeply personal of the great Director's "diaries" is so incredibly moving and insightful, this film spiritually rises above his others.
Forbidden Games a.k.a. Jeux interdits (1952, France)
Director: Rene Clement
The reason for its perceptively simple view of war-torn France is because of the story's touching perspective. Told from a child's point of view, she's at first resilient even to becoming an orphan, which makes her final and most gut-wrenching sadness over being separated from her little playmate, a tragedy personified.
Ikiru a.k.a. To Live (1952, Japan)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Right from the start, an omniscient narrator boldly tells us that the story's protagonist, a petty bureaucrat who has stomach cancer and only a short time to live, is dead anyway because of how he's wasted his life. Upon realising the truth of his condition, this paper pusher embarks on a rather long, arduous search for the meaning of life, finally finding it under his nose at work the whole time. Viewers who are unmoved by the scene in which this dying man sits all alone quietly celebrating his accomplished dream, might want to check with a cardiologist to see if they're like "The Tin Man." Cinema's supreme "message" film is quite simply the greatest motion picture ever made.
L'Avventura a.k.a. The Adventure (1960, Italy)
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Only when this mesmerising film is over can we contemplate on the journey, realising the significance over its destination, which reveals so many secrets of the human psyche subtly but powerfully conveyed in Antonioni's most perfectly created cinematic treasure.
Nazarin (1959, Mexico)
Director: Luis Bunuel
All of Bunuel's films about religion are expertly satirised, exposing their subjects' hypocrisies and failures and here is no exception. With Nazarin, however, our cinematic storyteller also demonstrates compassion (perhaps unintentionally) for his main subject, Father Nazario. When this priest finally suspects that changing his ways, instead of praying that others change theirs, can lead to a more satisfying life, his odyssey becomes a true revelation, for him, and us.
Smiles of a Summer Night a.k.a. Sommarnattens leende (1955, Sweden)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Practically all of this artist's creations are so intentionally dark and serious, it's somewhat surprising that his most accomplished is this endearing and enduring romantic comedy.