The Ten Best Auteur Films
Friday 23 April 2004
1 WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Mel Stuart (1971)
This is my all-time favourite film, directed by an underrated genius. It has a magical appeal because it is all about freedom and the unwillingness to take on the trappings of being a grown-up. At the same time, it is a classic story of the loss of innocence, and of betrayal, with a hopeful conclusion.
Terry Gilliam (1985)
As a lifelong Python fan, Terry Gilliam is a hero of mine. His willingness to take chances, as shown in films like Brazil, gives any creative person a giant shot of courage.
3 THE SHINING
Stanley Kubrick (1980)
Kubrick's classic horror film, about the mental breakdown of a man snowbound with his wife and child in a mountain hotel, is breathtaking in its scope and beauty, while never losing sight of the simple task of scaring us to death.
4 BARTON FINK
the Coen brothers (1991)
Of all the brilliant Coen brothers movies, this is somehow the one in which they are most unafraid to saturate us with metaphor. The mixing of the literal and metaphoric descent into hell of a celebrated young New York playwright, who flies to meet his destiny in Hollywood, makes the story so much more than it would otherwise be. Even the wallpaper paste oozes with the sleaziness and hellish heat of Hollywood.
5 AMERICAN BEAUTY
Sam Mendes (1999)
Beautifully conceived by Sam Mendes, this is serious, but also funny. It shows a certain fearlessness from the start, by telling us in the opening voiceover that within a year the narrator will be dead.
6 REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
Darren Aronofsky (2000)
A full-on visual assault. Every moment is punctuated by a frightening burst of visual energy, and the film has a distinctly out-of-control feeling all the way through.
7 THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN
Mark Lewis (2000)
This documentary, about chicken and its role in our lives, is - like all films from this brilliant but little-seen Australian documentarian (who only makes animal films) - about something much bigger than chicken. It is a testament to Lewis's genius that you never stop for a moment to think: "I'm crying about a chicken."
Stanley Kubrick (1962)
This is the kind of movie that grabs us at every level. We are so deeply in it that, as we are simultaneously falling in love with both Lolita and Quilty, we feel Humbert's guilt as our own, looking over our shoulder as they check in at the motel.
9 PIECES OF APRIL
Peter Hedges (2003)
This has the simplest storyline - April cooks Thanksgiving dinner for her family - but we are on a complex and exhausting emotional rollercoaster. Despite the shoestring budget, the director gave this movie an inner life.
Albert and David Maysles (1969)
This classic about a group of Bible salesmen in the Midwest is about as pure as documentary can get. No extraneous Maysles in the shot, no narration, no hand-holding. The brothers perfected the art of not interfering in the reality they were chronicling.
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