The following is a list of my top 10 favorite films I saw for the first time in 2015. They are ordered by the year of their release.
- Mon Oncle (1958)
Logline: Monsieur Hulot, a simple man, visits his young nephew who lives with his parents in a technology-driven modernist home where Hulot does not belong.
Comments: Jacques Tati remains one of my favorite filmmakers even though he made only six feature films during his lifetime. Four of these six films are masterpieces and among the funniest films I have ever seen. A true auteur, Tati wrote, directed, and starred in his films. His vision is a completely unique one and his films recall the artistry of silent cinema while making new innovations in sight and sound. Tati’s third feature, Mon Oncle remains one of his absolute best and features his iconic character Monsieur Hulot.
Played by Tati himself, Monsieur Hulot is as iconic as Chaplin’s Tramp. Always sporting an overcoat, pipe, and hat, Hulot is constantly getting himself into hilarious situations.
Tati’s films are about observation and capture things with a childlike wonder. This is especially evident in Mon Oncle, in which Hulot spends time with his young nephew. In many ways, Hulot has a childlike sensibility, which is reflected by children’s love for him. Mon Oncle is a beautiful film that captures Tati’s genius perfectly.
2. L’avventura (1960)
Logline: After a woman mysteriously disappears on a Mediterranean island, her lover and friend begin a relationship of their own.
Comments: The 1960s was such a pivotal time in the history of film, a decade in which film conventions were constantly being challenged. L’avventura was one of the most influential films of the decade. It created a new film language, one that did not rely on a traditional narrative discourse.
L’avventura is an incredibly rich film experience that is haunting and profound. This was on my “must see” list for years and when I finally watched and digested it, I was incredibly moved and the film stayed with me for a long time thereafter, not unlike the character of Anna. Even though she vanishes from the film’s narrative, she always remains present in the viewer’s and characters’ subconscious.
To read my full review for L’avventura, click on the link below:
3. L’Eclisse (1962)
Logline: In Rome, a young woman and man begin a doomed love affair.
Comments: Along with his following film Red Desert (1964), L’Eclisse may be Antonioni’s most abstract work. There is very little story to speak of except that Vittoria (Monica Vitti) and Piero (Alain Delon) are young lovers who struggle to have an authentic relationship.
The ending, which seems like a relative term here, is one of the most famous sequences in all of Antonioni’s cinema. The camera shows Vittoria and Piero’s usual meeting place. In fact, the two young lovers are supposed to meet there and the viewer anticipates their appearance but neither of them shows. However, the camera lingers on all the details that the viewer associates with Vittoria and Piero. It is a strange and bewildering sequence that perplexes and fascinates.
Few films capture such a feeling of emptiness, of alienation, and of the need to find human connection without being able to fulfill that basic human desire.
4. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
Logline: During World War II, a twelve year old boy works as a spy on the eastern front to collect information about the Germans.
Comments: One of cinema’s greatest poets was the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky who created meditative, existentialist works that viewers find either deeply compelling or incredibly boring. Tarkovsky’s first feature, Ivan’s Childhood is his most accessible and it is absolutely stunning.
To read my full review for Ivan’s Childhood, click on the link below:
5. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Logline: A mistreated donkey’s life parallels that of his first keeper, a young girl.
Comments: Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar is a film that is at once, beautiful and challenging. There has never been a film like it before or since its release. The story is incredibly simple and yet, Bresson’s unique approach to composition and sound make what transpires in the film’s ninety-five minutes truly transcendent.
6. Marketa Lazarova (1967)
Logline: In medieval times, two clans war against one other.
Comments: In its native land, František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová was hailed as the greatest Czech film of all time. Yet, in the U.S., the film remains largely unknown. With its relatively recent release in the Criterion Collection, perhaps more film enthusiasts will be able to see this revelatory, haunting masterpiece.
Marketa Lazarová is an instant favorite and one that I will return to again and again for it is such a rich and rewarding film experience. Will Marketa Lazarová appeal to everyone? Absolutely not. But if you are feeling adventurous, then I encourage you to check it out. It is an experimental depiction of a time long ago. It is a deeply profound, sensual, and poetic work of art. I am confident that there will never be a film quite like Marketa Lazarová.
To read my full review for Marketa Lazarova, click on the link below:
7. The Black Stallion (1979)
Logline: A young boy becomes shipwrecked on a desert island with a black Arabian horse with which he forges a strong connection.
Comments: The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, is a beautiful film about the relationship between a boy and a horse. The film features dazzling cinematography by Caleb Deschanel and a winning performance from Mickey Rooney. It seems cliche to call a film magical but I cannot think of a more fitting word to describe this gorgeous film.
8. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Logline: A pair of young male hustlers, one of which is a narcoleptic in search of his mother, embark on a journey of self-discovery together across the Pacific Northwest.
Comments: Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho is a beautiful film that grapples with many themes, including unrequited love. It is a road movie about searching for home. Mike Waters (River Phoenix) has no home while Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) is running away from home.
River Phoenix is one of my favorite actors and Idaho is his best role and performance. He is a revelation and brings so much to the film. Idaho is one of the best examples of American independent filmmaking. It is honest, raw, and daring. Idaho juxtaposes dreams with reality and blends various film techniques, ideas, and themes to create a poetic, haunting film.
To read my full review for My Own Private Idaho, click on the link below:
9. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Logline: An aspiring actress who has just arrived in Hollywood meets a mysterious brunette suffering from amnesia and together, they search for clues to the second woman’s identity.
Comments: There are films that transcend the medium and seem to exist on another plane. David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. is one such film. It remains the greatest expression of Lynch’s cinema: a surreal enigmatic puzzle that is unlike any film I have ever seen.
In true Lynch fashion, Mulholland Dr. is bizarre, surreal, creepy, and metaphysical. Mulholland Dr. toys with our sometimes fragile perception of reality and thrusts us inside Pandora’s Box with its hypnotic power.
To read my full review for Mulholland Dr., click on the link below:
10. Boyhood (2014)
Logline: The life of a young boy named Mason, from childhood to adulthood.
Comments: Filmed over a period of twelve years, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is an ambitious film that shows one boy’s transition into manhood. There is no Hollywood dramatization here; only raw slices of life.
I love coming of age stories so naturally, I was eager to see Boyhood and it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. Boyhood is the ultimate coming of age film that captures life’s many ups and downs in such an intimate manner. Boyhood is an examination of what it means to be human and for that reason alone, the film has universal appeal. There is no traditional narrative driving the film. Rather, Boyhood flows effortlessly from one point of Mason’s life to the next, much like memories work. It is a beautiful film that deserves every bit of praise it has received. It is an instant classic whose impact is felt long after the credits roll.