Mark Kermode: 50 films every film fan should watch

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

The UK’s best-known film critic, Mark Kermode offers up 50 personal viewing recommendations, from great classics to overlooked gems.

The Arbor (2010)

Director Clio Barnard

The Arbor (2010)

Artist Clio Barnard’s moving film about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar (Rita, Sue and Bob Too) is no ordinary documentary. Mixing interviews with Dunbar’s family and friends (seen lip-synched by actors), scenes from her plays performed on the estate where she lived, and TV footage of her in the 1980s, the film makes intriguing, inventive play with fact, fiction and reminiscence.

Mark Kermode says: “Somehow the disparate elements form a strikingly cohesive whole, conjuring a portrait of the artist and her offspring that is both emotionally engaging, stylistically radical and utterly unforgettable.”

Bad Timing (1980)

Director Nicolas Roeg

Bad Timing (1980)

Seen in flashback through the prism of a woman’s attempted suicide, this fragmented portrait of a love affair expands into a labyrinthine enquiry into memory and guilt. One of director Nic Roeg’s finest films, starring Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell and Harvey Keitel.

Mark Kermode says: “Roeg himself reported that a friend refused to talk to him for three years after seeing the film. Today, Bad Timing still divides audiences: monstrosity or masterpiece? Well, watch it and decide for yourself.”

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Director Jean Cocteau

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

With its enchanted castle, home to fantastic living statuary, and director Jean Cocteau’s lover Jean Marais starring as a Beast who is at once brutal and gentle, rapacious and vulnerable, shamed and repelled by his own bloodlust, this remains a high point of the cinematic gothic imagination.

Mark Kermode says: “Personally I think Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, the maestro of the modern screen fairytale, said it best when he declared La Belle et la Bête simply to be the most perfect cinematic fable ever told.”

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Nicolas Roeg: From tea-maker to director’s chair

Film director whose fragmented style bewitched and bewildered his audiences.

His early experience as a cinematographer brought a stunning visual quality to his work.He often exasperated the critics and gained a reputation as being hard on his actors. And he took a delight in jumbling scenes and time to both bewitch and bewilder his audiences.

Nicolas Roeg was born in St John’s Wood in north London on 15 August 1928. His father Jack, who was of Dutch ancestry, worked in the diamond trade but lost a lot of money when his investments failed in South Africa.

The first film he remembered seeing as a child was Babes in Toyland, starring Laurel and Hardy.

Roeg did his National Service after World War Two before getting a job making tea and operating the clapper board at Marylebone Studios, where he worked on a number of minor films.

By the dawn of the 1960s he had progressed to camera operator, notably on The Trials of Oscar Wilde and Fred Zinnemann’s film The Sundowners.

He was part of the second unit on David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Lean later sacked him as director of photography on Doctor Zhivago after the two constantly quarrelled.

Many of the stunning scenes that won the latter film an Oscar were shot by Roeg but he was not credited.

His breakthrough came in 1964 when he worked as a cinematographer on Roger Corman’s film The Masque of the Red Death, an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Vincent Price.

Corman was gaining a reputation for spotting and developing new talent and boosted the careers of other future directors including James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. Continue reading

The Criterion Collection -Nicolas Roeg’s Top 10

“Oh! What have you done to me? What an impossible task. To pick ten titles from the Criterion Collection is difficult enough, but to put them in any kind of order would defeat Ockham’s sharpest razor,” exclaimed Nicolas Roeg, director of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing, and Walkabout, all available from the Criterion Collection.

Roeg: “It’s a wonderful list that I have gone over again and again and everytime I’ve tried to make a selection, I’ve ended up with fifteen or twenty different choices—usually dictated by my mood of the day. Don’t do this to me. Please stop. I love them all. But only with a pin and blindfold can I land on ten. Now, looking at them, I find I could champion each one equally, but then of course I could do the same for all the rest the pin didn’t pick. My advice would be to work your way through the whole collection and look forward to new ones being added.” [ . . . ]

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