10 Best Films of All Time: Jacob Davis

8. Breathless (1960)

The French New Wave epitomizes cool, be it in its unique contemporaneous stylings or cinematic form. Breathless stands as the zenith of this cinematic movement, representing Jean-Luc Godard’s transition from film criticism to filmmaking. It demonstrates his profound respect and love for cinema’s history, elevating it through intricate, extra-textual mimicry. This film, above all, embodies the concept of the “auteur,” reflecting Godard’s personal tastes and ideas throughout its creation and marketing.

The narrative centers on a car thief who murders a police officer, igniting a romanticized journey to evade justice and flee France with his American girlfriend. Jean-Paul Belmondo’s cigarette-bearing mug evokes the unmistakable essence of Humphrey Bogart, developing into an iconic representation in its own right.

Another iconic aspect of the film lies in Godard’s innovative editing choices. He cut out portions of the action many filmmakers would leave in, creating jarring jump cuts the film is most known for that create the mental effects of Eisenstein’s montage theory. Audiences see a man in peril, see his gun, and see him flee – all other information is considered superfluous by Godard. Furthermore, the film offers moments of respite, delving into character explorations that don’t utilize the more extreme editing style. These interludes become a canvas for the expression of existentialist ideas often pondered in the Parisian cafes frequented by Godard and his fellow artists, critics, and philosophers.

No other film truly captures the essence of the French New Wave like Breathless.

Recommended for you: Where to Start with Jean-Luc Godard

7. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn, presents a romanticized and titillating take on America’s beloved outlaws as symbols for the 1960s counter-cultural movements.

Set during the Great Depression, as Texas’ wild landscapes yielded to further urbanization and the rule of law, the film stands as a significant representation of the state’s rural scenery and rebellious nature. It highlights the adventures of the notorious duo as they champion the cause of the common man – after all, Bonnie and Clyde and their gang counted among those! Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, both nominated for Academy Awards, captivate with their charismatic portrayals of these legendary figures. Theirs are performances that left a lasting mark on the film industry for years to come.

Bonnie and Clyde had a significant impact on American cinema for two reasons. First, it borrowed from European filmmaking, particularly the French New Wave, incorporating narrative and stylistic techniques that differed from the traditional Hollywood studio system style. This, among other films, helped kickstart the American New Wave, an era defined by auteurism and the appearance of artistic integrity over commercial whims. Second, it is often identified as the popular originator of excessive on-screen violence, going beyond what was acceptable under Hollywood’s Production Code. While someone was bound to make “the most violent film ever”, Bonnie and Clyde is the reason we have Sam Peckinpah, Wes Craven, and Quentin Tarantino, filmmakers whose works drove their own sort of stylistic movements.

6. The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather Review

The Godfather stands as a timeless masterpiece, renowned for its meticulously crafted narrative, credited to both the eponymous novel’s author and director Francis Ford Coppola. This film, with its compelling characters and iconic performances, not only captivated audiences but also reshaped the gangster genre in cinema. It delved into themes of family, power, and the assimilation of Italian immigrants into the American way of life, offering a thoughtful critique of American capitalism. Its lasting popularity and ongoing impact on filmmaking underscore its enduring cultural significance, firmly establishing it as a pivotal work in cinematic history.

The film’s production was tumultuous, as Coppola clashed with Paramount over casting choices and narrative directions that challenged the implicit support of the characters. While not every battle was won, Coppola’s decisions ultimately contributed to the film’s success, particularly his selection of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino for the lead roles.

Although its sequel is often lauded for its more profound critique of Michael and his empire built on the bodies of his enemies, it owes its existence to this foundational film. No sequence in the sequel matches the excitement of the climax where the editing creates Michael’s baptism in blood, representing a fulfilment of destiny and destruction of legacy for himself and his family.

The Godfather remains a landmark achievement in artistic talent and box office success, holding a place of historical significance in the world of cinema that few films can rival.

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  • <cite class="fn">CGesange</cite>

    This article covers “The Passion of Joan of Arc” by first admitting that her trial was conducted by “English-aligned Frenchmen” but then goes on to say that the film was “faithfully adapted from the event’s historical records” – meaning the trial transcript which dozens of eyewitnesses said was falsified by those English-aligned tribunal members on behalf of their faction. The transcript is contradicted on important points by all the other evidence, meaning that the film often deviates from history on those important points, instead repeating the propaganda of the people who put her to death. Yes, it has lots of close-ups that allow you to see every wart on the faces of her accusers, but this cinematic gimmick hardly makes up for the use of a propaganda document as the basis for the film. Granted, there are far worse films on the subject since many of the more modern ones were just made up completely; but nonetheless the endless gushing over “The Passion of Joan of Arc” in article after article becomes tedious after awhile.

  • <cite class="fn">Mary Robison</cite>

    I tried repeatedly to close my gaping smiling mouth while reading. So, thank you for that. thank you.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    I appreciate the thoughtful comment and knowledge! I do want to point out that “accurate to the record” and “the record being accurate” are two different questions. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the record, and ultimately do not care if the film is basing itself on 15th century anti-French propaganda. I also do not care about a historical fiction film’s accuracy in general unless the film is attempting to color current discourse with false information. It could be debated that the film contributes to bad historical perceptions or bad historiographical practices, but I’m not sure the film is popular enough to warrant such worry. The gushing is more about an appreciation of the filmmaking from one of the silent era’s best directors. And on the propaganda front, the film’s framing is certainly antithetical to any 15th century anti-French sentiments, as it elevates Joan and her spiritual views in a figurative and literal sense.

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    That’s exactly how I felt writing it, though that may have been from caffeine delirium.

  • <cite class="fn">Margaret Roarty</cite>

    So fun to see a silent film on one of these lists!

  • <cite class="fn">Jacob Davis</cite>

    Silent films can be tedious for me, so I had to pick one I loved from beginning to end!

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