25. F for Fake (Welles, France/Iran, 1973)
24. Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978)
23. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1977)
22. The Magic Blade (Chor, Hong Kong, 1976)
Chor Yuen is one of the most neglected of the major Hong Kong directors. He started off as an independent in the ’50s and ’60s, directing low-budget but charming Feuilladean mysteries like Black Rose and The Spy with My Face. But Chor really hit his stride in the ’70s after signing a contract with the Shaw Brothers and making a series of stylized swordplay films based on the period novels of Ku Lung. This outing, about rival swordsmen teaming up to find a mysterious weapon known as “the peacock dart,” is his best – a beautifully directed action film that combines the conventions of traditional wuxia with elements from the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone as well as the James Bond franchise.
21. The Emigrants (Troell, Sweden, 1971)
20. Turkish Delight (Verhoeven, Holland, 1973)
19. Touki Bouki (Mambety, Senegal, 1973)
A wonderfully colorful, vibrant and occasionally surreal lovers-on-the-lam crime/road movie (think of an African Pierrot le Fou), Touki Bouki was only the second of three feature films in the career of its great director Djibril Diop Mambéty. The story concerns the love affair of a female college student, her motorcycle-riding boyfriend and their various plans to make easy money and escape to the mythical paradise of Paris, France. Like Senegal’s other legendary filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, Mambéty loads this with of social criticism (in which Senegalese and French characters remain unspared) but, unlike Sembene’s more classical approach to narrative, this is a wild, experimental journey for characters and viewer alike.
18. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1974)
17. The Ascent (Shepitko, Russia, 1977)
Larisa Shepitko was a director of enormous intelligence and integrity who tragically died in a car accident at the young age of 40 (with many more great movies undoubtedly ahead of her). The final film she completed before her death is this harrowing, indelible masterwork about the persecution of partisans in Nazi-occupied Belarus during World War II, which some feel is the finest Soviet film of the 1970s. In adapting a novel by Vasili Bykov – about the two Soviet soldiers and their futile mission to find supplies in a bleak, snowy landscape populated by Nazi collaborators – Shepitko has crafted an experience so austere, and infused it with so much Christian symbolism, that she makes Tarkovsky look both secular and populist. The drastically different way that her two protagonists meet their fates allows for Shepitko to engage the viewer in a dialogue of uncommon moral complexity. For sheer intensity, this wartime drama is topped only by her husband Elem Klimov’s Come and See from eight years later.
16. Love in the Afternoon (Rohmer, France, 1972)
15. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976)
14. The Passenger (Antonioni, Italy, 1975)
13. Vengeance is Mine (Imamura, Japan, 1979)
12. The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973)
11. Le Boucher (Chabrol, France, 1970)
My personal favorite Claude Chabrol movie is this masterpiece about the relationship between a butcher and a schoolteacher in rural France. The plot involves a series of murders, which allows the film to function as a “whodunit,” but Chabrol deliberately and brilliantly leaves no doubt as to the killer’s identity, directing the viewer instead to contemplate the movie as a study of the collision between forces of primitivism and civilization.
10. The Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, Spain, 1973)
9. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, Belgium, 1975)
8. Stalker (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1979)
7. Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971)
6. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel, France, 1972)
5. Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974)
4. The Mother and the Whore (France, 1973)
3. A Touch of Zen (Hu, Taiwan, 1971)
2. A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, USA, 1974)
1. Out 1 (Rivette/Schiffman, France, 1971)
Jacques Rivette and Suzanne Schiffman’s legendary 12-and-a-half-hour serial is Feuillade made modern, where the directors use an expansive running time to tell various mystery stories, most of them unresolved, which also serves as a psychic x-ray of the 1960s French counterculture and the apotheosis of the entire Nouvelle Vague. Rivette and Schiffman intercut between four different plots: two seemingly unrelated theater troupes rehearse different Aeschylus plays while two seemingly unrelated con artists (Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto) ply their trades in the cafes and streets of Paris. The con artists each receive information about “the 13,” a secret society with its origin in Balzac that may or may not currently exist. Their investigations lead them to interact with various members of the theater troupes as Rivette and Schiffman slowly bring their narrative threads together and reminds us why paranoid conspiracy theories not only exist but are paradoxically comforting: they make us feel that disparate, unconnected events may be related and therefore part of a meaningful design. An intellectually vigorous, terrifying, funny, challenging and life-altering work.