A filmic love letter to cinema itself. A Sicilian director working in Rome returns home for the first time in thirty years to rediscover what made him fall in love with cinema. Unforgettable gem.
Jean de Florette
A historical drama set in Provence starring Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil and the godfather of French cinema Yves Montand. As classic as a dark folk tale.
Manon des Sources
The sequel to Jean de Florette. Obsessed with the family bloodline, Cesar has committed acts that will lead to the demise of his family in a twist befitting a Greek tragedy.
My Life as a Dog
Swedish dramaset in the 1950s and directed by Lasse Hallstrom. When boisterous Ingemar becomes too much trouble for his sick mother, he is sent to live with his uncle and his wife in their friendly small town. Captures a child’s perception of life commendably well.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
When Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) suffers a stroke that leaves him suffering from locked-in syndrome (completely paralysed but with normal mental function), he can only communicate through blinking. With most of the film told from Bauby’s point of view, the cinematography is startlingly subjective and bold.
Vincent Cassel plays one of France’s most infamous criminals in this two-part film. A preeminent addition to the crime/gangster genre.
Vincent Cassel’s big break. A harsh reproach of the French system shot in black-and-white in order to convey the depravity of the Parisian banlieues.
Though silent, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 propaganda film must be included in the list. In this film Eisenstein’s montage theory is introduced and film is forever changed.
Almodovar returns for another collaboration with Penelope Cruz. Similar to many of his films, Volver focuses on the bond between women and the superstitions and spiritual beliefs of his native Spain.
City of God
A crime drama set in a favela of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro based on real events and characters. Compellingly intense and unglamorous.
Three Colours Blue
First in the Kieslowski Three Colours trilogy (blue, white, red). Juliette Binoche stars as the wife of a famous composer who is killed alongside his daughter in a car crash. Following her family’s death, Julie (Binoche) attempts to cut herself off from any ties to the past in order to stave off any emotional anguish.
The Double Life of Veronique
A French-Polish production directed by Kieslowski. Two women share an enigmatic bond despite never having met each other and having no identifiable connection.
La Vie en Rose
Marion Cotillard gives an extraordinary performance as the feisty French singer and sweetheart of Paris Edith Piaf. A fascinating biography.
Clouzot’s murder mystery thriller film set in a boarding school. The 1955 black-and-white film shares many characteristics with Hitchcock’s tales of suspense.
After the falling of the Berlin wall, East Germans such as Alex must learn to reassess their identity and beliefs. Alex cannot bear to shock his fanatical mother however, who wakes from a coma after the fall, and so begins to create a fake GDR world around her bedside. Critical of both communism and the consumerist West.
Vivre sa Vie
Broken into twelve intertitled sections, Godard’s film tells the story of young Parisian Nana who falls into prostitution after failing to make it as an actress. Known for its use of cinema verite techniques such as breaking of the fourth wall.
This Fellini neo-realist film is accredited as being his masterpiece. For Fellini, society is a cruel circus, full of exaggerated characters such as the brute, the waifish innocent, the fleshy whore and the clown.
Life is Beautiful
Roberto Benigni doesn’t need to do much to capture an audience, but this script gives him plenty. A celebration of life in the most horrific circumstances. Nobody else could pull off slapstick humour in a concentration camp without offence. Should be watched for Guido’s (Benigni) translation of the German guard’s orders alone.
Ingmar Bergman’s classic centres on a cantankerous retired physician set on a journey across Sweden. The hitchhikers he meets enable him to re-evaluate his life.
French/American animation following a young girl named Marjane as she watches her native Iran go through a series of changes during the Islamic revolution.
An account of Adolf Hitler’s last ten days spent in the Berlin bunker. Bruno Ganz is a double for Hitler in this incredible performance.
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist Bicycle Thieves depicts a father and his young son struggling to survive in economically depressed post-WWII Italy.
The Beat that my Heart Skipped
Thomas (Romain Duras) is hardened by the criminalised real estate business he works in, and yet under the gritty veneer he presents, he harbours a desire to play classical piano. In no way affected or stereotypical.
I Am Cuba
A Soviet-Cuban propaganda film used to promote communism in the sixties and only re-released with the help of Scorsese in 1995. Visually powerful.
My Best Friend
Daniel Auteuil plays Francois, a wealthy man who makes a bet with his business partner that he has a good friend he can present to her in the next ten days.
All About My Mother
One of Pedro Almodovar’s best films, including all the melodrama and gender identity questions he is known for.
A Korean film, based on a Japanese manga, tells the story of a man imprisoned in a hotel room for fifteen years not knowing who has captured him or why. Vengeance shall be had. A dark story, not for the faint hearted.
Run Lola Run
Lola only has twenty minutes to find enough money to save her boyfriend from murder. Divided into three possible scenarios that begin the same but provide different outcomes, the filmmakers ask whether free will or fate is the ruling force.
Y Tu Mama También
Meaning ‘And Your Mother Too’, this is a coming-of-age road trip film that balances perfectly humour and drama.
Senegalese film based on the African tradition of female genital mutilation. One woman stands up against the traditional practices of her village in order to protect her child. Moving and informative.
The Secret in Their Eyes
Legal counsellor turned author Benjamin Esposito returns to a case that has troubled him for years.
An anime film with a difference. Only Yesterday tackles more grown-up themes than its genre usually allows.
The Wind Will Carry Us
Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami reflects on the traditions of a small Kurdish town versus the quick-paced life of modernised and often westernised cities. Poetic.
Three separate stories converge in the first of Inarritu’s trilogy. Known as the Mexican Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros (Life’s a Bitch) is an interminably dark look at the seedy underbelly of life.
The Skin I Live In
Almodovar’s latest cinematic venture, The Skin I Live In, follows the story of surgeon Robert Ledgard as he attempts to develop artificial skin in order to create a double of his late wife.
This German film is based on the Third Wave experiment undertaken in California to prove that even modern democratic societies can be swept up by the power of fascism.
4 Weeks, 3 Months, 2 Days
Set in Communist Romania in the late eighties, a young girl and her friend try to arrange an illegal abortion. Flinchingly clinical.
Grave of the Fireflies
A Japanese animated film about a young boy and his little sister’s desperate attempts to survive WWII. Proof that animation can tackle gravely serious material.
A recent Almodovar film that clings to 1950s film noir. Harry Caine is a blind writer who is coerced into reliving the afflictions of his past by telling it in story form.
Little White Lies
After one friend is left seriously injured in hospital following a motor accident, his group of friends decide to go forward with their holiday in the south of France. Yet they never manage to escape the traumatic event, and are forced to really engage with each other for the first time in years. Manages to instil humour to great effect.
Giuseppe Tornatore’s return to cinema. Life in the Sicilian town of Baaria is traced back three generations, reflecting on the political movements that swept through the region, the mafia and the trials of the Sicilian family.
A new supervisor at the corrective boarding school Fond de l’Etang forms a choir, giving the young boys a much needed creative outlet.
Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionistic sci-fi. A dystopian tower of Babel story that introduces new special effects and techniques to cinema such as swinging cameras and the the Schufftan process (shots of miniature sets are merged with shots of the actors to create the desired background).
Dying father Uxbal will do anything for his children, but is running out of time to protect their future before he passes away.
Waltz with Bashir
Animated Israeli documentary based on a young soldier’s trauma following the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the Lebanon war.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
A troubled young hacker helps a journalist find a missing woman. The original Swedish version is superior, as the American remake is a simple rehashing of the tale with nothing new to add.
Set in 1970s France, Catherine Deneuve stars as a ‘trophy wife’ (Potiche) who must take over the family business after her husband is taken hostage by the factory workers.
Anime fantasy film which portrays a young girl’s journey into an alternate reality full of spirits and monsters. Hypnotic.
A German-Austrian film following three anti-capitalist youths who break into and vandalise wealthy homes, leaving a note which explains their motive.
Georges’ quiet suburban life is disrupted by a series of videotapes sent to his house that document his house and family. As the plot unravels, Georges’ repressed memories of his childhood come to the forefront, leading to a confrontation with the past.
American documentary on the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. Seven Israeli and Palestinian children explain how they view the conflict.