Agnes Varda's Cleo de 5 a 7
More masterful than I remember from my first viewing more than twenty years ago, Varda's work separates itself from many of the early New Wave films by eschewing genre and delivering a film with a focus entirely on character. Varda's camera glides and records capturing a realness of faces and of Paris. And what we are left with is, as a capsule of its time, a film as valuable as Breathless, 400 Blows, and any of the other key Vague work from the early sixties.
Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession
My first time with this well-known Sirk, and it certainly is as loony as I heard whisperings of. But Sirk gives it tragic depth and keeps the emotion swirling and somehow manages to transform seemingly insane form (garish music and color) and content (plotting that no one in their right mind would ever consider plausible) into something uniquely wonderful. Although I still prefer Written as it seems perhaps a little more restrained in its content and outlandish in its form, Magnificent deserves a place all its own.
Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar
Feverish with Ray's unique emotionalism and spatial mastery on grand display. Crawford is as powerful as ever, and this western is a world all its own. It's pulp, melodrama, and baroque art. It's no wonder this film enjoys such a major reputation; it's a wonderful piece of work by a great filmmaker.
Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis
If Renoir is correct that every filmmaker is simply trying to improve upon the same film each time out then the Coen brothers finally get an aspect of their work right that I feel they have fallen short on the last few times out, the film ending. Whereas I felt they missed the mark in No Country and A Serious Man with their abrupt, oft kilter final moments, ILD's final moments bring everything together in a masterful, fresh way that keeps the Coen's work feeling very modern and daring. One of their very funniest films and also one of their most accomplished.