Tarkovsky. The soviet’s answer to Kubrick until he defected in 1979 amid controversy surrounding The First Day (an unmade movie with allegories critical of the USSR (apparently more overt than the others throughout his career)). Tarkovsky joins (and perhaps leads) the list of great auteurs to die way too young (54)—maybe from radiation exposure while shooting Stalker. Tarkvosky completed 7 feature fiction films. He went MS, MP, MS, MS, MP, MP, MS so I’m sorry Kubrick, Malick or PT Anderson he has the best per-film average. 3 of those 7 are many intelligent people’s choice for the best film of all time (The Mirror, Stalker, Andrei Rublev) and one of the 4 remaining is the “soviet sci-fi answer to 2001” (Solaris) and yet another has one of the greatest shots and set pieces I’ve ever seen to close a film (The Sacrifice). Tarkovsky had some of Bergman’s theological and philosophical depth but moved the camera like really nobody else in cinema history (certainly Murnau, Tarr, Antonioni’s The Passenger, Kubrick, Ophuls are all close relatives but different in their own way). If you haven’t approached his work yet then prepare yourself to be patient as these aren’t the easiest films or surely most accessible. I’d never recommend any to someone who wasn’t in or attended film school or had an unbelievable appetite for cinema.
Extremely meditative in both style and content. He’s a wonderful director who, like a few others (Malick (ok, not late Malick), Kubrick, Dreyer, Herzog, Coppola (for a while from 1972 until the mid-80’s)), seems like he set out to make the best film of all-time just about every time he made a film.
Best film: Stalker. Whether you call it a sci-fi film, a religious film, parable, allegorical, philosophical, it doesn’t really matter—it’s controlling, potent– and the visual rendering by Tarkovsky is his strongest- which puts it up there with the rest of cinema history as the strongest. The camera is constantly moving- framing with doorways (amongst other things) constantly. Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy gives a tour-de-force lead performance. Tarkovsky is credited with his own art direction production design (only time he did that) here- and it might be the best in cinema history (yes, this is a top 10 of all-time film that I recently moved past The Godfather—every set is meticulously crafted, dirt and decay and detail—it would go on to influence everyone from Jarmusch to Cuaron’s Children of Men—it is damp—broken glass, standing water, dogs, grass, cracked walls). Bela Tarr would essentially make movies very similar to the opening “pre zone” portion of the film his entire career. The “zone” section is a Wizard of Oz-like color reveal—it’s also when the magnetic synthesizer score starts. The tunnel sequence set design is ridiculous—such rigor and then we arrive—and we have a showcase of the ground as mise-en-scene. You can see this in Cuaron’s Roma.
total archiveable films: 7
top 100 films: 2 (Stalker, Nostalghia)
top 500 films: 7 (Stalker, Nostalghia Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice, Solaris, The Mirror, Ivan’s Childhood)
top 100 films of the decade: 7 (Stalker, Nostalghia Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice, Solaris, The Mirror, Ivan’s Childhood)
most overrated: The Mirror. If I ever have The Mirror where the TSPDT consensus does Tarkovsky will be in my top 5 directors of all-time. I have it at #237 and they have it at #30 and as Tarkovsky’s #2 (I have it as his #6). There are some gorgeous shots features rain or water dripping- a reoccurring visual trait for Tarkovsky- there’s a stunning one featured here with rain dripping from the roof in the foreground with a log cabin burning in the background. A very personal stream of consciousness film about memory- great imagery, some bold formal elements (blending colors, storytellers, reality/surrealism, time frames)…. and also minutes of them flicking through a book and reading aloud.
most underrated: Nostalghia – TSPDT has it as #367 and the dead last ranking on Tarkovsky’s filmography (think about that- his dead-last film is #367 all-time—- and wrong—haha- wow) and that’s ridiculous. It was hated (hilariously) by Vincent Camby at the Times so maybe that’s why it’s still so underrated (it is also the hardest to find). I have it as #26 overall on my top 500 list. It’s simply, like Stalker, one of the most beautiful films ever made. Much of the film is museum quality photography as art shots (usually with water running somewhere and a German Shepard in the mix). Tarkovsky is constantly moving the camera, often imperceptibly, via tracking shot. Several “oners” – one along a rustic Tuscan rock wall when introducing Erland Josephson. Tarkovsky loves shooting in open hallways with doors open and the wall at the end there is a painting or lighted piece of art. I can see Tarkovsky’s influence on Peter Greenaway with his framing, rigorously mirroring in his images and layered mise-en-scene. The tracking shot lighter carrying shot prior to final image is wonderful as well. Very dramatic and stylistically loud– 9 minute tracking shot ending in a wonderful shot of the flame in hand. Incontestably exquisite camera movements. A rapturous portrait for the ending—truly one of cinema’s great images to close a film
gem I want to spotlight: The Sacrifice. If you haven’t seen anything I’d go in order of my list below but at some point check out The Sacrifice. It’s one of the two films Tarkovsky shot in the west and his dp here is the Bergman/Allen longtime collaborator Sven Nykvist. It has the great final shot/set piece I describe earlier.
stylistic innovations/traits: A Genius of camera movement (Bordwell’s cinematography) and mise-en-scene. The camera movement traces all the way back to Murnau and Tarkvosky is his own production designer, in a top 10 film of all-time (Stalker). Perhaps along with Kubrick and Dreyer he’s one of cinema’s great perfectionists. ASL (Average Shot Length) and duration may be another trait most often associated with Tarkovsky. He made personal and political films at the same time often blending film stock, color with b/w, reading poetry (often of his father’s), dipping into surrealism, the mother Oedipus complex. There’s levitation in his film. There’s a hazy mist/steam/fog in much of his work, trees, and water either on the ground, in the air, or dripping (even sometimes just on the soundtrack). Unlike Fincher or Welles Pakula or Soderbergh who, so fantastically, use the ceiling as mise-en-scene through low-angles, Tarkovsky here uses the ground and all of its design texture as mise-en-scene—it’s so smart- not just having open air as a background. I don’t mind it but there’s an odd bit of unbelievable ego here with Tarkovsky’s work. In Mirror he had a poster of Solaris (if Spielberg did this he’d get crushed for it). In other films there are characters talking about Tarkovsky’s father’s poetry with great reverence. There are fires in his films—the statue ablaze in Nostalghia, the house in The Sacrifice and The Mirror. With the production design we not only get dazzling décor (often run down or dilapidated), never bright (those who think mise-en-scene or production design have to be flashy like Wes Anderson)– Tarkovsky favors washed out colors. We get some great Wellesian foreground/background depth of field work and staging brilliance as well. His films are truly meditations on memory, dreams, and faith.
- Andrei Rublev
- The Sacrifice
- The Mirror
- Ivan’s Childhood
By year and grades
|1962- Ivan’s Childhood||MS|
|1966- Andrei Rublev||MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
« If you haven’t approached his work yet »
Hi,which movie is the best start ? Never seen his movies,what did you think of Solaris (as a start,i’ve seen the Soderbergh version).
@KidCharlemagne and @David— Sorry- i missed this earlier. I think it depends on how many you plan on seeing overall. I agree with David’s comments below and I admire “Ivan’s Childhood”– but if you think you may only watch one of Tarkovsky’s films i can’t recommend the one i have ranked 7th. “Mirror” may be the most difficult. I think I’d go with “Andrei Rublev”– it’s a little more accessible with the biopic narrative skeleton
Ivan’s Childhood is by far the easiest to get into. It’s much more conventional than the others but still has incredible beauty and memory/dream sequences that surpass any other directors. It’s also a Great War film. Solaris is easier than Stalker. I am waiting to see the others in cinema.
so glad that someone else out there loves Nostalghia as much as i do. an incredibly underrated piece of cinema. it baffles my mind how this movie is constantly brushed aside when folks talk about Tarkovsky. you just made my day, sir.
@Clod– happy to hear it! I’m baffled by the same thing. I myself, was late to see it for those same reasons. It doesn’t have the reputation of Stalker, Solaris, Mirror or Andrei — and that’s a shame. For those reasons I had been into cinema for nearly 20 years before I caught it (in that time I had seen Stalker at least 3 times). I have it here as the 26th best film of all-time http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/04/10/the-best-500-films-of-all-time/
8th best ? That’s pretty low.
@Andrew- Thanks for the comment and for taking a look at the site. You’d have him in the top 5? top 3? There are only great directors at that level. I’ll grant that there isn’t a major separation.
Tarkovsky hasn’t made a single average film. Compare Fear and Desire with The Childhood of Ivan. Again, Coppola, Kubrick, Scorsese, Hitchcock can’t possibly be better directors, maybe more popular. I do agree with your place for Bergman.
@Andrew. For sure- a great point. Tarkovsky’s per film average cannot be matched. I mention that above and i quote: “Tarkvosky completed 7 feature fiction films. He went MS, MP, MS, MS, MP, MP, MS so I’m sorry Kubrick, Malick or PT Anderson he has the best per-film average.”….
and for the record. If someone has Tarkvosky as the #1 director of all-time I’m completely fine with that. The point of this site and the ranking (at least for me) isn’t to argue Hitchcock vs. Tarkovsky (though admittedly that can be fun). It’s to study and appreciate the best and generate discussion.
However, if forced to make the counter-argument or defend Coppola, Kubrick, Scorsese or Hitchcock— the counter is Tarkovsky only made 7 total films and “per-film average quality” isn’t the only criteria (or many would have Charles Laughton as the greatest director of all-time and Steve McQueen would already be better than Francis Coppola). Coppola has 10 archiveable films, Kubrick 12, Scorsese has 24 (and counting) and Hitchcock has 33. If you’re looking at the best of the best I think their top 7 films are either right there with Tarkvosky’s or superior— I have all of those directors listed just now with at least 3 films in the top 100 and for Tarkovsky I only have 2 (as I said above if I was closer to the consensus on The Mirror, I may, indeed, have him as the best director of all-time).
For your specific example- I wouldn’t compare Fear and Desire (Kubrick’s worst) with Ivan’s Childhood (Tarkovsky’s worst). I’d compare Ivan’s Childhood (Tarkovsky’s 7th best film) with Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick’s 7th best) and so on…
I wasn’t comparing worst movies, I was comparing debuts. As I said, Tarkosky never did a bad, not even an average movie. I don’t see him as a “soviet answer to Kubrick” either. Anyway, now I understand your criteria, thanks for explaining them.
@ Andrew. Oh gotcha. Yeah I mean i think “best debut” is a fun conversation/topic but certainly no way to rank directors. As for the “Soviet answer to Kubrick”– if you google it Tarkvosky will come up. That is how Tarkovsky was billed here in the US originally in 1972. They have some traits in common (often took a long time between films, great average film quality, long films, great space films, detailed/perfectionists) but there is much different, too.
@ Andrew. Let me ask you this. If all of a sudden 5 bad Tarkvosky movies were discovered. Would that change his 7 strong films? Would that change how you view him? It really wouldn’t for me.
I was just saying that Kubrick evolved into Kubrick, whereas T seems to have always been a perfect master of his craft ( Killer’s Kiss and The Killing are good movies, but nowhere near his later work). T isn’t my favorite director, and I enjoyed K’s films more than his, but he just seems to have had a more powerful intellect and a more natural elegance, as opposed to K . I hold Kubrick above Hitchcock, Coppola and Scorsese in terms of style so this applies to them too.
I’d never recommend any to someone who wasn’t in or attended film school or had an unbelievable appetite for cinema. That is just so so wrong. So Tarkovsky only made film for film school students??
This is the most pretentious sentence i have heard.
@Ujwal — Thanks for the comment again. Haha. I’m sorry you don’t like my take here. I stand by it. I said film students or those with an appetite for cinema. That’s a lot of people (including many that didn’t go to film school). Did you misunderstand what I said or disagree with that? I don’t know a lot of people who aren’t serious about cinema who are just casually throwing on Tarkovsky films for laughs and giggles.
It’s not pretentious to note that certain filmmakers demand a more cultivated sensibility. I once TA’ed an intro to film course for first-year university students and was crushed to discover that my entire seminar of 25 students hated Tokyo Story and were bored to tears by it. Tarkovsky, Ozu… the average film viewer isn’t spending their time with these filmmakers.
That’s odd. Most older Japanese people I have spoken too always recommend me Ozu. Film students I talk to also like it a lot. In fact it was the only movie that made Eberts film class cry. All 25 people hating it seems a bit hard to comprehend. There must have been some who liked it?
If there were, they remained quiet during the seminar while their fellows railed against it. It’s worth mentioning that this first-year film course was filled with students the majority of whom we were not in the film studies program. Lots of people take intro to film electives because they think it’s an easy credit just for watching movies.
Drake is actually right that Tarkovsky is more challenging.
I’m serious, a friend of mine who likes Nolan a lot, it is the only auteur cinema that he knows apart from Tarantino, we sat down to watch Tokyo Story and fell asleep haha.
I’m getting all of Tarkovsky’s filmography before i start.
Where should I start?
@Aldo- haha that sounds about right. I think we all have friends like that. Going from Nolan and Tarantino to Tokyo Story is a big leap for most as they start getting serious about cinema.
As far as starting on Tarkovsky. It depends on how many you are going to see. If you can- I’d just grab all seven films here and go in order. If you’re going to do three I’d start with Andrei Rublev, go to Stalker and end with Nostalgia. Maybe Andrei Rublev is slightly more accessible than some of the others but that’s about it- sorry- can’t add much more guidance. They’re all masterful.
Hey drake, why do some people like violent movies like Goodfellas, Pulp fiction etc but they dont like dramas about human beings(like Citizen kane, Tokyo story etc)?. Do you think there might be any psychology behind it? Also, most of us watch so much movies etc, that we have forgot how to read. I guess Aldo’s friend might have been bored because Tokyo story was foreign and he had to read subtitles (this is most likely not the reason but its possible). It was the 1st foreign movie I ever saw. Saw bicycle thieves right after.
azman i just watched grave of the fireflies. i beloeve sometimes violence in film touches to humanity. films like citizen kane and casablanca are a thousand times better than pulp fiction.
While I do think Kane and Casablanca are better, Pulp Fiction is a big M masterpiece too.
I like grave of the fireflies a lot too.
I think i explain wrong haha.
I was awake, the one who was asleep was my friend.
If you’re watching Pulp Fiction or Goodfellas and your takeaway is violence and if you watch Tokyo Story or Citizen Kane and your takeaway is humanity we are watching these movies very differently
“If you’re watching Pulp Fiction or Goodfellas and your takeaway is violence and if you watch Tokyo Story or Citizen Kane and your takeaway is humanity we are watching these movies very differently”
I definitely don’t. However I THINK the average movie-goer does. Which is why they may not like movies like Tokyo Story (as Matt Harris said or Pulp Fiction perhaps(cause they find it too violent or too boring)).its hard to phrase.
However I dont watch movies like an average movie goer does and neither do you, which is why we enjoy so many movies and our best of the decade lists are similar.
Sorry if your reply was to M. If it was adressed to me, this is my response….
No. I get your point. I was in a hurry and I phrased my comment wrong again. All I’m trying to say is people like killing and especially action(things blowing up, people hurting each other etc). Its like Henry hill in Goodfellas. He likes the movie despite its violent ways.
Basically I’m trying to say that the average movie goer likes action, violence, death, guns etc. Pulp fiction and goodfellas is Soooooooo(there is lots of “humanity”in these films too) much more than that but I doubt the average movie goer looks at camera movement etc
Tokyo story is extremely violent and sad in the way that it shows how children abandon their parents. If you look at your “age of innocence”page, I have even called it Scorsese’s most violent film over raging bull or Goodfellas.
However for some reason, simple human drama(even if it is sad) “bores” a lot of people (like Matt Harris said). They want killing, guns, fighting etc.
Again I explained it poorly, but I think this is why movies like Tokyo Story “bore” some people especially men. They want action etc. There is WAY more to a film than just violence/humanity but this is why I think some people dont like Tokyo Story or Tarkovsky. They want simple funny/violent plots.
In it’s own way, samuel l Jackson transformation is very human. Like you I dont notice these things but it could be a reason why people get bored in some films (like Matt Harris said).
i do love pulp fiction don’t get me wrong. and visuals are one thing that makes film interesting but i think emotion is the most important thing to a film. if we were robots assessing films then i think visuals would be all that matter. for example the mule might be my favorite of 2018 and joker is my fav 2019. many of the superhero films are my favorite of their years, like x men days of the furutre past 2014. even though it is not viusally birdman, i grew up on marvel and the film has made me laugh, cry. i certainly understand what yousay about watching films objectively or based on aesthetics. that is why people usually enjoy films like birth of a nation and there is nothing wrong i just think there is a bit more to this. also i love this site and especially during quarantine am very glad to have a good discourse with people on an artfiorm i love very much
@m— I’d argue visuals is not at all just interesting to films, cinema is largely a visual artform, visuals and film form is probably the most important aspects to cinematic art. Is The Mule your favorite film of 2018 or you also think it’s objectively the best ? Same goes for Joker or X Men, are your favorites or you think those are the best ? I won’t argue if they’re your favorites but if we were taking into account the best I’d say neither of them are top 10 films of their respective years ( Joker comes close ).
Ill give examples:The Rider, Lady Bird, The Mule, Capernaum, 45 Years, those films felt emotional to me. They are examples of powerful filmmaking? No. Same goes with Amour, after a conversation with Drake I thought more of it and realized that it’s not a top 10 film of the decade, far from that actually. Amour is emotional but it’s high art ? No.
Those films feel emotional to you, but others are different. Different opinions, different thoughts, different reactions. My main point is this: One film that feels emotional and touches your heart will not have the same effect universally to earn its value from there. But a technical/artistic/formal/visual achievement can be recognized by every cinema lover because it expresses high cinematic art. It’s value is visible to everyone.
i was saying those are my favorites not the objective best. talking about movie i rewatched last night, grave of the fireflies, it is both visually amazing (the animation) and deeply emotional. i think it is the ultimate anti war film. martin sheen talked about how as many people told him apocalypse now inspired them to go to war as people who it inspired to feel anti-war. fireflies i don’t think has that effect. the best films are films like firefly in my opinion, films that elicit strong emotions. those emotions can vary. for everyone it is different, lord of the rings gives me all the range of emotions, star wars s nostalgia and a return to childlike innocence, so are ferris bueller and school of rock, some like it hot brings me laughter, wizard of oz has overwhelming innocence, citizen kane examines lonliness i have felt before, manchester by the sea looks at the sober side of life, and a film like die hard or the terminator movies might not be moving in exactly the same way at all times (though arnold death in t2 and bruce willis telling al to tell his wife sorry) but the emotion of awe at the action and nostalgia because action was the first genre i loved in my youth. Also, movies like Blue Velvet have no tie in with my youth, but have emotional scenes in them (why are there people like Frank?) and i think i need movies like that with no connection to youth to show me its alright to grow and not everything has to be connected to my childhood in order to be worthwhile. Another feeling from movies i hear so often from cinephiles is the feeling of awe at filmmaking. 2001 a space odyssey is not known for being an emotional rollercoaster. the scene where HAL is afraid, though, is an underrated emotional scene in film. but it is known for having some of the best visuals of all time and i am in complete awe of kubrick’s masterpiece. forgive me for going on a long tangent and i hope i am making some sense in what im saying. there are many more examples like UP!, the searchers, toy storys, etc and i could go on and on.
Emotion is technivally the wrong word you are using M. If the narrative and screenplay are interesting, you will feel for the characters and their arc. Drake talks about this in his Bad education review. Also, he very often mentions the importance of a good narrative and acting. If the acting and screenplay is good, you will feel emotion for the characters. If the acting is bad, too much music, a bad screenplay etc, you will not feel emotion.
Also emotion is triggered by anything, if I see a poorly done commercial of dogs and even if it is a comedy, I will feel really sad because it will remind me of the dog I used to have in my childhood. Pretty stupid for me to evaluate or like a film based on that…..
Bold move to put nostalgia above Rublev and Mirror. My top 2 movies are the same as the consensus. But Mirror isn’t even in your top 5. Anyways I have no real problem with this because Tarkovsky was a genius. All his movies are incredible. It surprises me how good he is because when I start to rank his movies, they are all really close. If mirror is at #6, and nostalgia #2, that is also fine.
@Azman– agreed on the greatness of Tarkvosky. And they’re all brilliant. I look forward to rewatching all of them
1. Andrei Rublev
3. The Mirror
6. The Sacrifice
7. Ivan’s Childhood
Drake, I was trying to watch Andrei Rublev, but I’m not sure which version to watch, could you tell me which version you saw in minutes
@Aldo- I think I’ve seen both — but the last version I’ve seen was 183 minutes I believe
this is according to criterion
New high-definition digital restoration of the director’s preferred 183-minute cut, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
@Drake- Have you read Tarkovsky’s book “Sculpting in Time”?
@Finn- I have not. You? Good?
I completely agree with Stalker, Ivan’s Childhood and The Mirror, and I actually rate Solaris a lot higher. But as for Nostalghia, I didn’t like it nearly as much as you did. I thought it was like somebody trying to copy a Tarkovsky film, rather than him making his own movie. I didn’t hate it by any means, but I didn’t get the appeal. It had the style of Stalker (borderline copying it at some points), but without the beautiful cinematography and the underlying theme. Some of the long scenes really felt pointless and even became a little boring (a word which I hate to use when talking about these kind of movies). Maybe I didn’t get what the movie was trying to say. Could you explain why you think it’s so great and maybe I’ll look at it from another perspective and appreciate it more?
@Hooah- thanks for the comment and for visiting the site. Glad we’re on the same page with much of his work— as for Nostalghia— “someone trying to copy a Tarkovsky film?” – this critique is something I’m having a hard time with. He IS Tarkovsky of course — I’m not sure how you copy yourself, right? So I started keeping notes for the site in 2017 and haven’t seen Nostalghia since then so instead of sort of recreating my review or my notes I’ll point you to two reviews I really think capture it here https://www.ioncinema.com/news/disc-reviews/nostalghia-blu-ray-review and https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/nostalghia/ .
Nicholas Bell’s final thoughts here “inexplicable as Nostalghia seems to be, its glory, as with many of Tarkovsky’s titles, is located in its possible implications and varied interpretations that imbue the film with inspiration and excitement, unspooling as a veritable feast of visual poetry. Packed with scenes of sumptuous artistry, the final sequences of Gorchakov and his dog in front of his home as the camera zooms out to reveal their placement within the ruins of an Italian church has to be one of cinema’s most indelible and fascinating images. As the title indicates, Nostalghia is a place of mind rather than a film, a thing of everlasting beauty.”
Well, what I wanted to point out was that he used pretty much the same patterns that he used in his previous three films at least, without the same level of substance and beauty (in my opinion of course). I’ll definitely watch it again sometime in the future, but maybe it’s just not for me, cause the plot structure and the dialogue felt really weird and incoherent at times. I felt pretty much the same way about The Mirror, but when I found out that it’s autobiographical I appreciated it more (plus I liked the cinematography more). As for Nostalghia, I’ve tried to find a concrete ‘explanation’ or ‘interpretation’, but they all felt too vague, just like the film. I hope that on my second watch I’ll ‘feel’ it more.
Been wondering about starting through Tarkovsky’s work but I want to see a few more of Bergman’s films (as of now I’ve only seen The Seventh Seal and am thinking of watching Persona tonight) before I begin. You have said that the best way to experience Tarkovsky is to watch his films chronologically?
@Zane- Yes, I mean when possible I try to see a director’s work chronologically. When I do my studies at this point– that’s how I try to do it (some of these films aren’t really available all the time). The other way of doing it would be to go in order of the best work (whether it’s my list or They Shoot Pictures Don’t They)– if you are just starting out or are closer to the beginning on your viewing of a director (or cinema in general) that may be a better way of doing it than watching like Bergman’s 17th best movie. If you haven’t seen like 8 1/2 or Touch of Evil you probably shouldn’t be watching The Passion of Anna from Bergman if that makes sense
Oh yes, I definitely tend not to watch lesser films from directors first. For example, all of the films from Fincher I’ve seen are his 4 MPs (coincidentally all before coming to this site) and I haven’t seen a single one of his Rs (which never particularly intrigued me again even before coming to this site) or Gone Girl which I do plan to see sometime. Again with Lynch I’ve seen his 4 best films on your list and Kubrick I’ve seen almost all of his films from 1964 to 1999 save for Barry Lyndon and his previous films you don’t appear to consider to be worth much attention aside from Paths of Glory and I plan to watch both of those films. With Leone too I’ve seen his 3 MPs, with Fellini 8 1/2, with Kurosawa Rashomon, with Welles Citizen Kane and with Bergman The Seventh Seal though I plan to see Persona very soon. I want to catch as much of the greatest examples of cinema as possible rather than getting too invested in a singular director. There are of course a few exceptions, for example of Refn I’ve seen his trilogy from 2011 to 2016 and nothing else, or Lanthimos for whom I have not seen Dogtooth and am planning to give The Favourite a rewatch.
How could I forget to mention Hitchcock here? He’s probably the greatest example. I’ve seen the 3 of his films you have in the top 100 and nothing else which will probably not change for some time as I invest in other directors’ films.
@Zane- love the approach- pretty much exactly how I did it. It is a fun time as you are discovering these films– I remember one specific day where I watched Goodfellas, Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now all in the same day for the first time– haha. Waaaaay too much to handle in one day but certainly a memorable day as I can recall it 20+ years later
@Drake For the first time ever with all of those films? That’s amazing, I love all 3 of them. I’ve had that a few times as well, I saw Videodrome back in May and loved it so much I immediately watched A History of Violence and Eastern Promises later that exact day, 3 wonderful films. Later, a few weeks ago I had an absolutely gigantic day watching The Searchers, Breaking the Waves, Rashomon, and The Seventh Seal all in one day. Pretty crazy stuff.
@Zane- haha yeah wow– those are some incredible lineups. The only thing is it’ll make you take for granted how good they are. I still watch a lot of bad movies (not on purpose– it just happens) — it helps me appreciate just how good a film has to be to be a top 10 of a year quality– let alone top 100 all-time or something. Your Searchers/breaking the waves/rashomon/seventh seal day–haha. I mean I don’t know which one you thought was the worst of the four but that’s hardly fair. haha. I remember thinking Goodfellas was “good, but sort of lightweight” compared to the two very long heavy war films I saw that day. haha.
Well if you held a gun to my head and forced me to answer I’d have to say The Seventh Seal was the worst, or more accurately least good, of the 4. I only mean that in a relative sense however, it was well worth the watch and an incredible masterpiece. Acting, direction, and screenwriting are all on point and I’m always one for strong visuals; the film opens perfectly with that shot of the nebula-like sky and the ending of the group walking up the mountain was wonderful as well. I don’t mind the ending of the actor and his wife walking away but feel the film might have been even better ending with the camera on the Dance of Death as the actors talk in the background, perhaps even with a freeze frame to boot although a fade would’ve worked just fine. Von Sydow and Björnstrand are a perfectly complementing pair of personalities and both gave wonderful performances; I think von Sydow has the more gripping role but Björnstrand’s portrayal of the straight man is very good, the actor character played by Nils Poppe as well is a great third man to judge these two by. They remind me to some extent of the main trio of The Big Lebowski, with Death too reminding me of the Nihilists; this film is much more serious than that film of course. The cinematography is excellent; I’m all about foreground-background work and composition and this film has it in droves. I’m a fan of speaking scenes in movies that are more than just cut-and-cut-again between two people’s faces (though that isn’t always a bad thing, case in point are the conversations between Sheen and Brando in Apocalypse Now) and this film has a lot of long take sequences of characters talking with great dialogue (a great example of this I’ve seen you mention is the dinner scene in Shame), but it’s more than just a well-written film, as I’ve said every frame is spectacular. I’m a huge sucker for movies portraying characters embarking on some great journey much greater in scale than themselves and this film is one of them; other great examples are The Searchers and Apocalypse Now (your 2 favorite movies but the latter is my #1), Children of Men and arguably also Y tu mama tambien, Blue Velvet and A History of Violence and it is my understanding that Stalker and Aguirre, both of which I plan to watch quite soon, have similar structures.
I love all 3 of the movies you watched in your big day, I watched The Deer Hunter the first time last year and loved everything about it; Cimino throws the kitchen sink at that film and it comes together pretty well; very disappointing what happened to him, and I rewatched Apocalypse Now and as I’ve said it’s my #1 film ever so not much needs to be said there, lastly I thought Goodfellas was amazing when I watched it but it was so long ago that it definitely needs a rewatch; it went on Netflix at the beginning of the year so it probably won’t be too long before I do that.
@Zane- haha I love this- the hypothetical “gun to my head” is how I do have the lists on the site.
Cinephiles are very intense people. Who else discusses making decisions with “a gun to their head” as commonly? We are very humorous people as well. On no other website have I seen the word “haha” been used as often.
Anyone who believes all cinephiles to be boring, snobby elitists can easily be countered with this information.
@Graham– haha- well the “gun to my head” thing is really a reaction to a large portion of the critical community that refuses to put any list in order– like they’ll just give us their top 10 but will refuse to put a number by them. That kind of thing always frustrated me.
I agree. Even the best of critics, including Roger Ebert, sometimes seem to have an aversion to list-making and ranking. It frustrates me as much as you. I don’t understand the reason behind such sentiments. No, the point of cinema appreciation is not to decide which film is #8 and which is #9 – it is to admire great artistry – but I find ranking to be a beneficial exercise. We cannot determine what makes cinema great unless we compare one film to another and see which is greater and why.
I just dived in this morning and watched Andrei Rublev, loved the visuals really, but still found it a tough watch. Will try and catch Ivan’s Childhood next, then something like Mirror or Solaris.
I did see Stalker last year which wasn’t the best starting point but I remember it being very mesmering.
Do you have any tips for approaching Tarkovsky considering how innacesable he can be?
@Harry- Thanks for sharing. Maybe others can contribute and help unlock something for you. I’ll just say that keep at it– watch them, then put them down and go to something else and come back to them later. I believe the least important viewing you’ll have of a film is the first one– you may be surprised how much Tarkovsky’s films stay with you over time or how you feel about them with that second viewing.
@Drake – Thanks for the reply and I think you’re onto something with that last sentence. Initially I still felt underwhelmed by Stalker but over the months I just kept thinking about it and it got better without me even re-visiting it. I hope the same happens with Andrei and I really look forward to when I can fully appreciate all of them, seeing the other 5 shouldn’t take too long now.
Stalker – the only Tarkovsky film I’ve seen up to this point – is probably the only film ever I don’t go a day or two without thinking of at least once, and often multiple times. It’s incredible the staying power that film has even months removed from a viewing.
@Drake I’ve been having a really great time with Tarkovsky lately, trying to finish up his filmography (only have The Sacrifice left to see), Solaris and Nostalgia are easy MPs for me, I just saw Nostalgia and those last 20 minutes are just elite.. and Solaris blew me away even more than that. Ivan’s Childhood is my favourite next to those two, the photography was so beautiful at times. Then Mirror was a challenging but rewarding film, I found a lot to appreciate there as well.
I think just understanding that the film style is what to get out of these movies and to take those in instead of any narrative made them much easier to get into. I might have to rewatch Stalker and Andrei Rublev with this new perspective now.
I’ll post ranking when I watch The Sacrifice soon and complete this study.
@Harry- thrilled to hear all of this- especially the bit about Nostalgia here. Thanks for sharing.
I loved The Sacrifice, I’d put it in my top 3 with Solaris and Nostalghia. So many moments with there’s a perfect image and Tarkovsky elevates it by moving the camera in ways only he could do.
I’ll need to revisit Stalker and Andrei Rublev now that I feel I’ve got a good grasp on his style now (and the rest eventually). Very happy with this study.
@Harry- Love this, Harry. Thank you for sharing. What are watching next?
@Drake I started an Orson Welles study a couple days ago and have been working through those, highly looking forward to The Trial and Touch of Evil and I’m also trying to get through some Altman as well
Don’t miss Chimes at Midnight either; I’d say Drake is around 250 slots lower than he should be on that one.
@Zane I’ll definitely be getting to that too, especially since you and Drake hold it in high regard.
My viewing of Tarkovsky in order has so far been Solaris, Stalker, Ivan’s Childhood, and Andrei Rublev so I can only speak for those. Probably not the order I would have gone looking back. Ivan’s Childhood is the most straightforward and helped me a lot, but Andrei Rublev was the “key” for me in figuring out his other films, maybe because it felt like the most personal expression of his own faith that guides his work. I’m looking forward to seeing Nostalgia next.
Great Antonioni-like capture from Andrei Rublev: https://imgur.com/a/olawJkE
@Zane- great share- thank you
What’s a good place to start with Tarkovsky? I’m going to be watching all of his films (except Nostalgia which i can’t unfortunately see right now because it isn’t in any streaming service of my country nor can i rent it) soon. Any recommendations where should I start? See them in release order or in some other order? I see you have commented in this page that Mirror is the hardest of his films, but I easily can enjoy a film without getting anything about it’s surreal themes etc, (Inland Empire and Persona for example) so it isn’t a problem for me to start with Mirror. So, any recommendations where I should start? All answers will be highly appreciated!
@RK – others may disagree of course but I think there’s two ways to do it– if you think you’ll only see a few of his films- start with the best on my top 10 and work your way down. If you are going to get to all or almost all of them, my vote is always to do it in release order.
@Drake @MadMike thanks for the replies, highly appreciate it. Propably going to see them in release order.
@RK – I would agree with Drake’s suggestion, I personally watched Stalker first and I think that’ a perfectly good place to start but given that Tarkovsky has only 7 films you really can’t go wrong with just watching them all in chronological order (release date).
Where to start with someone like Bergman, the better approach would probably be to start with a couple of the best films
Thanks for the answer here, highly appreciate it. I kinda disagree with you on Bergman. I started Bergman with Persona, his best film and it was really hard to get into. After I watched Persona I watched Smiles of the Summer Night, followed Sawdust and Tinsel, Winter Light, Fanny and Alexander and The Seventh Seal. After I watched those movies I decided to rewatch Persona, and it was much easier to get into (althrough I didn’t still fully get it). So, I would not recommend starting Bergman with couple of his best films.
Back to your answer about Tarkovsky, was Stalker in your opinion hard to get into? And what was/were his easiest film/films to get into in your opinion? And what was/were the hardest film/films to get into in your opinion?
@RK I’ve only seen Ivan’s Childhood. But I think it’s a great place to start. It’s pretty accessible and pretty short.
1. Stalker – MP
2. Nostalghia – MP
3. Andrei Rublev – MP
4. The Mirror – MP
5. The Sacrifice – MS/MP (leaning MP)
6. Solaris – MS (leaning MS/MP)
7. Ivan’s Childhood – MS
I would say there is not as large a gap between Nostalghia and Andrei Rublev as you have it. You have them 140 spots apart. For me it’d be more like 10. The Mirror is extremely close as well.
With your upgrade of The Sacrifice to MP what is your current ranking of Tarkovsky’s films?
I’ve seen all but Ivan’s Childhood…thinking about doing a full on study after Polanski
@James Trapp- I haven’t given much thought recently to updating the Tarkovsky page or rankings. When I do it, I want to dedicate some time to it and try to do it right. That sounds great on the full on Tarkovsky study- go for it!
Nice to see someone else that loved Nostalghia. Surprising to not see Mirror as a “masterpiece”. Good write-up
Ivan’s Childhood MS
Andrei Rublev MP