Tag Archives: Suzanne Schiffman

My Top 200 Films of All Time

In the past week, this blog has reached the milestone of having been viewed 100,000 times. To celebrate, I am posting a list of my favorite films of all time, one that I have been working on for what feels like forever. A wise man once said that favorite movies were always the hardest to write about and, after compiling the list, I heartily concur. I worked mighty hard to write the capsule reviews of my ten favorite movies that you’ll find below, attempting to nail down exactly what qualities they possess that has made them so impactful to me from points of view both personal (as an “ordinary” movie lover) and professional (as a film studies instructor and blogger). Below the list of my ten favorites you will also find a list of 200 runners-up that has been divided into eight groups of 25 in descending order of preference.

This highly personal list, which is actually a list of my 210 favorite movies, has literally been a lifetime in the making. I hope you enjoy it.

The Top Ten:

10. Antonio das Mortes (Rocha, Brazil, 1969)
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9. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, Belgium, 1975)
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8. To Sleep with Anger (Burnett, USA, 1990)
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7.
 M (Lang, Germany, 1931)
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6. Journey to Italy (Rossellini, Italy, 1954)
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5. A New Leaf (May, USA, 1970)
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4. Late Spring (Ozu, Japan, 1949)
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3. Vagabond (Varda, France, 1985)
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2. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov, Russia, 1929)
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1. A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, Taiwan, 1991)
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First 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

1. L’avventura (Antonioni, Italy, 1960)
2. A Man Escaped (Bresson, France, 1956)
3. Viridiana (Bunuel, Spain, 1961)
4. A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, USA, 1974)
5. Gertrud (Dreyer, Denmark, 1964)
6. Tih Minh (Feuillade, France, 1918)
7. Wagon Master (Ford, USA, 1950)
8. Contempt (Godard, France/Italy, 1963)
9. Rear Window (Hitchcock, USA, 1958)
10. A Touch of Zen (Hu, Taiwan, 1971)
11. Our Hospitality (Keaton, USA, 1923)
12. The Decalogue (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988)
13. Wanda (Loden, USA, 1970)
14. Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953)
15. City Girl (Murnau, USA, 1930)
16. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, USA, 1948)
17. Tokyo Story (Ozu, Japan, 1953)
18. The Rules of the Game (Renoir, France, 1939)
19. Out 1 (Rivette, France, 1971)
20. Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1966)
21. Play Time (Tati, France, 1967)
22. L’atalante (Vigo, France, 1934)
23. The Leopard (Visconti, Italy, 1963)
24. Greed (Von Stroheim, USA, 1924)
25. Chimes at Midnight (Welles, Spain/Italy, 1965)

Second 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

26. L’argent (Bresson, France, 1983)
27. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel, France, 1972)
28. City Lights (Chaplin, USA, 1931)
29. Daisies (Chytilova, Czechoslovakia, 1966)
30. Casablanca (Curtiz, USA, 1942)
31. Earth (Dovzhenko, Ukraine, 1930)
32. The Mother and the Whore (Eustache, France, 1974)
33. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Fassbinder, Germany, 1980)
34. Spring in a Small Town (Fei, China, 1948)
35. Les Vampires (Feuillade, France, 1915-1916)
36. How Green Was My Valley (Ford, USA, 1941)
37. Goodbye to Language (Godard, Switzerland/France, 2014)
38. Vertigo (Hitchcock, USA, 1958)
39. Three Times (Hou, Taiwan, 2005)
40. The Ballad of Narayama (Imamura, Japan, 1983)
41. Twin Peaks: The Return (Lynch, USA, 2017)
42. The Band Wagon (Minnelli, USA, 1953)
43. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1939)
44. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Murnau, USA, 1927)
45. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pasolini, Italy, 1964)
46. The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1948)
47. Bigger Than Life (N. Ray, USA, 1956)
48. The Phantom Carriage (Sjostrom, Sweden, 1921)
49. Citizen Kane (Welles, USA, 1941)
50. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959)

Third 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

51. Beau Travail (Denis, France/Djibouti, 1999)
52. Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, USA, 1952)
53. Ordet (Dreyer, Denmark, 1955)
54. Unforgiven (Eastwood, USA, 1992)
55. Coeur Fidele (Epstein, France, 1923)
56. The Searchers (Ford, USA, 1956)
57. Park Row (Fuller, USA, 1952)
58. Two Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971)
59. Certified Copy (Kiarostami, Italy/France, 2010)
60. Spies (Lang, Germany, 1928)
61. Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014)
62. The Awful Truth (McCarey, USA, 1937)
63. Army of Shadows (Melville, France, 1969)
64. Floating Clouds (Naruse, Japan, 1955)
65. Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974)
66. Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, USA, 1959)
67. Charulata (S. Ray, India, 1964)
68. Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, France/Italy, 1961)
69. My Night at Maud’s (Rohmer, France, 1969)
70. All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, USA, 1955)
71. Stalker (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1979)
72. Satantango (Tarr, Hungary, 1994)
73. A Fugitive from the Past (Uchida, Japan, 1965)
74. The Crowd (Vidor, USA, 1928)
75. The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, USA, 1946)

Fourth 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

76. The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973)
77. Au Hasard Balthazar (Bresson, France, 1966)
78. Le Boucher (Chabrol, France, 1970)
79. The Strange Case of Angelica (De Oliveira, Portugal, 2010)
80. Day of Wrath (Dreyer, Denmark, 1943)
81. 8 1/2 (Fellini, Italy, 1963)
82. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, USA, 1962)
83. Nouvelle Vague (Godard, France, 1990)
84. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks, USA, 1953)
85. Goodbye South Goodbye (Hou, Taiwan, 1996)
86. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, USA, 1968)
87. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, Japan, 1954)
88. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch, USA, 1932)
89. A Moment of Innocence (Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1996)
90. The Naked Spur (Mann, USA, 1953)
91. The Headless Woman (Martel, Argentina, 2008)
92. Boy (Oshima, Japan, 1969)
93. Pandora’s Box (Pabst, Germany, 1929)
94. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (Rossellini, France/Italy, 1966)
95. Black Girl (Sembene, Senegal, 1966)
96. Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Straub/Huillet, Germany, 1968)
97. The Lady Eve (Sturges, USA, 1941)
98. The Roaring Twenties (Walsh, USA, 1939)
99. In the Mood for Love (Wong, Hong Kong, 2000)
100. Humanity and Paper Balloons (Yamanaka, Japan, 1937)

Fifth 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

101. The Passenger (Antonioni, Italy, 1975)
102. Lucky Star (Borzage, USA, 1929)
103. The Unknown (Browning, USA, 1927)
104. Los Olvidados (Bunuel, Mexico, 1950)
105. Love Streams (Cassavetes, USA, 1984)
106. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, Italy, 1948)
107. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1974)
108. Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007)
109. Pierrot le Fou (Godard, France, 1965)
110. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (Hawks, USA, 1932)
111. Psycho (Hitchcock, USA, 1960)
112. Vengeance is Mine (Imamura, Japan, 1979)
113. The Housemaid (Kim, S. Korea, 1960)
114. Naked (Leigh, UK, 1993)
115. The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, USA, 1940)
116. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, USA, 2001)
117. The Life of Oharu (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1952)
118. Mon Oncle d’Amerique (Resnais, France, 1980)
119. Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, France, 1974)
120. Goodfellas (Scorsese, USA, 1990)
121. Detour (Ulmer, USA, 1945)
122. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda, France, 1962)
123. Senso (Visconti, Italy, 1954)
124. The Docks of New York (Von Sternberg, USA, 1928)
125. Touch of Evil (Welles, USA, 1958)

Sixth 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

126. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, USA, 1971)
127. Red Desert (Antonioni, Italy, 1964)
128. Pickpocket (Bresson, France, 1959)
129. Anxiety (De Oliveira, Portugal, 1998)
130. Vampyr (Dreyer, Germany/Denmark, 1932)
131. Hindle Wakes (Elvey, UK, 1927)
132. The Quiet Man (Ford, USA/Ireland, 1952)
133. Weekend (Godard, France, 1967)
134. Rio Bravo (Hawks, USA, 1958)
135. A City of Sadness (Hou, Taiwan, 1989)
136. Brief Encounter (Lean, UK, 1945)
137. Touki Bouki (Mambety, Senegal, 1973)
138. Some Came Running (Minnelli, USA, 1958)
139. The Earrings of Madame de . . . (Ophuls, France, 1953)
140. Floating Weeds (Ozu, Japan, 1959)
141. A Nos Amours (Pialat, France, 1983)
142. The Music Room (S. Ray, India, 1958)
143. Grand Illusion (Renoir, France, 1937)
144. Hiroshima Mon Amour (Resnais, France, 1959)
145. Germany Year Zero (Rossellini, Germany/Italy, 1948)
146. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976)
147. The Ascent (Shepitko, Russia, 1977)
148. The Arch (Tang, Hong Kong, 1969)
149. Out of the Past (Tourneur, USA, 1947)
150. Yi Yi (Yang, Taiwan, 2000)

Seventh 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

151. The Piano (Campion, Australia/New Zealand, 1993)
152. The Thing (Carpenter, USA 1982)
153. The Young Girls of Rochefort (Demy, France, 1967)
154. 35 Shots of Rum (Denis, 2008)
155. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, France/Denmark, 1928)
156. Lonesome (Fejos, USA, 1928)
157. Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford, USA, 1939)
158. First Name: Carmen (Godard, France, 1983)
159. North By Northwest (Hitchcock, USA, 1959)
160. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong, S. Korea, 2015)
161. The Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, Iran, 1997)
162. Peppermint Candy (Lee, S. Korea, 1999)
163. Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954)
164. Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1947)
165. Laura (Preminger, USA, 1944)
166. In a Lonely Place (N. Ray, USA, 1950)
167. Stromboli (Rossellini, Italy, 1950)
168. Mr. Thank You (Shimizu, Japan, 1936)
169. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Tati, France, 1953)
170. Life Without Principle (To, Hong Kong, 2011)
171. The Emigrants/The New Land (Troell, Sweden, 1971)
172. The 400 Blows (Truffaut, France, 1959)
173. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, Germany, 1920)
174. Chungking Express (Wong, Hong Kong, 1994)
175. The Goddess (Wu, China, 1934)

Eighth 25 Runners-Up (Listed Alphabetically By Director’s Family Name):

176. La Captive (Akerman, France, 2000)
177. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1977)
178. Holy Motors (Carax, France, 2012)
179. Vitalina Varela (Costa, Portugal, 2019)
180. Brightness (Cisse, Mali, 1987)
181. Daughters of the Dust (Dash, USA, 1991)
182. The Long Day Closes (Davies, UK, 1992)
183. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, France, 1964)
184. Renaldo and Clara (Dylan, USA, 1978)
185. Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein, Russia, 1938)
186. Notorious (Hitchcock, USA, 1946)
187. The Assassin (Hou, Taiwan, 2015)
188. A Touch of Sin (Jia, China, 2013)
189. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, USA/UK, 1999)
190. Centre Stage (Kwan, Hong Kong, 1992)
191. Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978)
192. Sans Soleil (Marker, France, 1983)
193. Mikey and Nicky (May, USA, 1976)
194. Groundhog Day (Ramis, USA, 1993)
195. Johnny Guitar (N. Ray, USA, 1952)
196. The Green Ray (Rohmer, France, 1986)
197. Our Neighbor, Miss Yae (Shimazu, Japan, 1934)
198. People on Sunday (Siodmak/Ulmer/Zinnemann, Germany, 1930)
199. The Blue Angel (Von Sternberg, Germany, 1930)
200. Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, Poland, 1958)


Top 25 Films of the 1970s

25. Renaldo and Clara (Dylan, USA, 1978)

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24. Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978)

Reclusive, secretive director Terrence Malick’s second — and best — movie is this bucolic 1978 study of the lives of migrant farm workers. The plot updates the love triangle between Abraham, Sarah and the Pharaoh of Egypt from the Book of Genesis (incarnated here by Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard) to World War I-era America although it’s hard to imagine a Hollywood film being less plot-centered than this. The true value of Days of Heaven is as a sensory experience: images of the farmers at work against the backdrop of the growing, harvesting and reaping cycles — captured with an aching, painterly beauty by the great D.P. Nestor Almendros — reference everything from the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper to the films of F.W. Murnau and Alexander Dovzhenko, while recreating a vanished America with an almost transcendental splendor besides.

23. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1977)

The directorial debut of UCLA film school grad Charles Burnett (it was in fact his Master’s thesis), Killer of Sheep is one of the great American films of the 1970s. This plotless examination of the lives of a handful of residents of South Central Los Angeles served as a conscious rebuttal to the negative stereotypes of African Americans then prevalent in the American cinema. Effortlessly alternating between comedy and tragedy, as well as realistic and poetic modes, Burnett’s episodic narrative focuses primarily on Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), a slaughterhouse worker who struggles to provide for his wife and children. Though this impresses because of the insider’s view it offers of life in a working class black neighborhood in the mid-1970s, the scenes of children goofing off, throwing rocks at one another and playing in railroad yards never fails to bring tears to my eyes because of how much it reminds me of my own childhood growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina in the 1980s (where we played in abandoned houses and had “dirt clod” wars). The awesome soundtrack provides a virtual audio tour through 20th century black American music, from Paul Robeson to Louis Armstrong to Little Walter to Earth, Wind and Fire.

22. The Emigrants / The New Land (Troell, Sweden, 1971)

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21. 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.

20. The Ascent (Shepitko, Russia, 1977)

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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.

19. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, USA, 1971)

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18. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976)

The qualities most associated with the New Hollywood/Film School Generation are 1. an innovative visual style 2. an awareness of film history (especially classic Hollywood and 1960s European art cinema) and 3. revisionist genre films centered on anti-heroes. Taxi Driver has all of these qualities in spades: the location photography turns pre-Disneyfied New York City into an Expressionist nightmare corresponding to the disintegrating mental state of protagonist Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro). Director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader deliberately draw upon film noir as well as the Hollywood western (the plot is essentially a rehash of The Searchers — with the crazed Bickle’s obsession with rescuing a teenage prostitute an updating of Ethan Edwards’ obsessive search for his kidnapped niece) while also adding a troubling dose of Robert Bresson-style spiritual redemption. One of the key films of the 1970s.

17. The Passenger (Antonioni, Italy, 1975)

16. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1974)

15. Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette France, 1974)

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14. Vengeance is Mine (Imamura, Japan, 1979)

13. The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973)

Robert Altman’s masterful but wildly unfaithful adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s classic crime novel takes the legendary “hard-boiled” detective Philip Marlowe, has him incarnated by nebbishy Elliot Gould and deposits him in an incredibly absurd 1970s Los Angeles. The L.A. Altman portrays is one of pastel colors, where women eat hash brownies while practicing yoga, mobsters travel in curiously multiethnic packs and the local supermarket has too much of everything — except for the one brand of cat food that Marlowe desperately needs: the tone of the film, both elegiac and ridiculous, is set by the opening scene in which Marlowe attempts to trick his cat into eating a new, unfamiliar brand of cat food). Altman’s career was always hit or miss but this, for my money, represents one of the twin peaks of his career alongside of 1971’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Neither the Coen brothers’ Big Lebowski nor Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice would have been possible without it.

12. 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.

11. Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971)

While 1969’s Easy Rider may have captured the zeitgeist at the time, Monte Hellman’s existential road movie from two years later looks a hell of a lot better — and more modern — from a 21st century vantage point: James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (pop musicians who favorably impress in their only acting roles) are a couple of long-haired gearheads who illegally drag-race their beloved 1955 Chevy for money. Warren Oates is the mysterious owner of a yellow GTO who challenges them to a coast-to-coast race. Laurie Bird is “the girl” who vies for all of their affections. Much of this film’s haunting power comes from the shape-shifting nature of Oates’ character, who invents a new identity for every hitch-hiker he picks up (and who thus resembles the narrator of Nog, the cult-classic novel by Blacktop‘s screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer). Austere, beautiful and infused with an irresistible deadpan humor.

10. Stalker (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1979)

9. Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974)

Robert Towne’s complex original screenplay (one of the finest ever written) combines with Roman Polanski’s taut direction and Jack Nicholson’s charismatic but subdued lead performance as private eye J.J. Gittes to create this definitive neo-noir. As with the classic films noir of the 1940s — and the detective novels on which they were based — this begins with what seems like a “routine case” (of marital infidelity) that soon opens up a hellhole of political corruption involving land and water rights, murder and family secrets too terrible to be true. Released during the height of the Watergate scandal, and shortly before Nixon’s resignation, Chinatown captures the paranoia and mistrust of authority that characterized the era better than any other single American film. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

8. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel, France, 1972)

7. The Mother and the Whore (France, 1973)

6. Wanda (Loden, USA, 1970)

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5. A Touch of Zen (Hu, Taiwan, 1971)

4. A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, USA, 1974)

John Cassavetes was the godfather of independent American cinema. His 1959 debut, the self-financed Shadows, tackled taboo subjects involving race and sexuality with a “DIY” spirit before the concept in American cinema even existed. While his entire filmography is a limitless treasure chest, this 1974 domestic drama probably deserves to be called his supreme masterpiece. Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes’ wife, muse and perennial leading lady) gives one of the greatest acting performances ever captured on celluloid as Mabel Longhetti, a woman somehow driven inexorably to madness by her status as the housewife and mother of a blue-collar Long Island family. Because of the stark realism, the emotional honesty, the refusal to bow to Hollywood conventions (much less cliches), I’ve never felt more devastated watching a movie than I have this one.

3. 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 remind 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.

2. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, Belgium, 1975)

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1. A New Leaf (May, USA, 1970)

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