Film: The five best films

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The Independent Culture

La Vie de Jesus (NC)

The unforced poetry of the director Bruno Dumont's first feature is truly something to behold. His portrayal of a bunch of twentysomething friends in a humdrum French town is tender despite its toughness.


Love is the Devil (8)

This disturbing portrait of the artist (Francis Bacon, played, or rather inhabited by, Derek Jacobi) as a ruthless sadist, has genuine guts and imagination, and dodges the pitfalls of tortured-artist biopics.


The Last Days of Disco (5)

Go to Whit Stillman's chronicle of the early 980s dance scene expecting another Boogie Nights and you'll be disappointed - this is something more subtle, witty and perceptive.


Love and Death on Long Island (5)

Anyone insulted by what Visconti did to Death in Venice should turn to Richard Kwietniowski's tentative love story for comfort. John Hurt is the fuddy-duddy who falls for an American teen idol (Jason Priestley).


The Spanish Prisoner (PG)

David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner is as cool and calculating as his other film work - a crafty little thriller which gives the brain a two-hour workout. Bonus points for hiring Steve Martin to play sinister.


Howard Hawks double (Riverside, Sun)

If you had to imagine a perfect double-bill to cheer you up on a drab September Sunday, chances are it would be this pairing of Hawks/Cary Grant gems, Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. They are what that overused phrase "rolling in the aisles" was made for.


Close Encounters... (NFT, tonight)

Forget all the fanfare surrounding Saving Private Ryan - Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a throwback to the days when Spielberg could combine magic, entertainment and searing intelligence.


Psycho (5)

What was Hitchcock's most perfectly conceived and executed work? Psycho is in the running: 38 years on, it is still blackly funny, effortlessly chilling and a pretty succinct encapsulation of the joys of cinema.


Pepe le Moko (nc)

Julien Duvivier's exquisitely moving 936 thriller articulates ideas of alienation and distorted morality that would surface later in film noir. It's something else, too - a highly-charged evocation of romantic yearning.


La Grande Illusion (U)

Renoir's haunting and poetic study of a blossoming friendship between two French PoWs (Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay). Made in 937, its profound vision and generosity still endure today.