I originally posted a version of these comments over at the discussion board I visit on occasion, seeing as the top 100 spiritually significant films list grew out of the group of people that frequent the site. I am a sucker for lists, while at the same time recognizing their limitations and constraints. No list will be perfect. Every list will be a reflection of those involved in its creation, and therefore limited to their experience and interests. That being said, I still like them, and find them an interesting way to access films and directors I may not have heard of or titles that might have otherwise escaped my attention. Lists are also a good way to see titles that are well-regarded or important in both critical or historical circles.
With my recent viewing of Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, I have completed at least one viewing of all 100 films on the list. Many I had seen before the list came out, so in the last year to 18 months, I have made it a goal to check out the 30 or so I hadn’t previously seen.
It’s been a varied experience. Admittedly, most of the one’s I hadn’t seen fell into the foreign language or older film categories. Some of my first viewing experiences were downright transcendent – films like Au hasard Balthazar and Stalker. Others were strange, beautiful, and wonderful – Songs from the Second Floor and Werckmeister Harmonies. Others were more difficult to process, and while I recognize the craft involved, need more time and viewings to really take them in – Ozu’s Tokyo Story or Tarkovsky’s Mirror (which I commented on below) might fit here.
Overall, I must say I am pretty pleased with the list. It is varied, and has a nice collection of world cinema, biblical films, and many titles that fall outside that sort of ‘beat you over the head spirituality’ category. If I had one critique of the list, it might be that it tends toward newer films. I know that some disagree, but I find it difficult to put very many new films (from this decade) on a list like this. That doesn’t mean I think none from this decade belong. Obviously that’s not the case, as I have some in my list of films I love. I suspect it might also could use more non-English language titles, but one would expect a group of English speakers to favor English language films to some degree.
As for specific titles, I’ll only mention those titles residing closest to the extremes (both good and bad):
Films I love: The Addiction, Au hasard Balthazar, Babette’s Feast, Bicycle Thieves, Close-Up, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dead Man Walking, Dekalog, Dogville, Fearless, Gospel According to Matthew, Ikiru, Magnolia, A Man Escaped, The Night of the Hunter, The Sacrifice, Secrets & Lies, Shawshank, The Son, Songs From the Second Floor, Stalker, Sunrise, 13 Conversations, Three Colors, 2001, Waking Life, Werckmeister Harmonies, Wild Strawberries, Wings of Desire, Year of Living Dangerously, Yi Yi
Films I could do without: American Beauty, Bad Lieutenant, Changing Lanes, Dogma, Eternal Sunshine, Fight Club, Groundhog Day, Life of Brian, LOTR, Prince of Egypt, Star Wars
What’s missing: Winter Light for sure and possibly Picnic at Hanging Rock.