Afterword to the Korean Edition of ESSENTIAL CINEMA (updated)

Written at the request of Jae-cheol Lim, the editor of this Korean edition of Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (second edition, 2008), which was translated by Ahn Kearn Hyung and was published in late February 2016. Now that three copies of this hefty volume have just arrived in the mail (637 pages long, which is considerably more than the 449 pages of the original, apparently due in part to a different font size), this seems like a good time to repost the new Afterword. 2018 Postscript: I now regret including No Home Movie on my list, the only new selection I’ve changed my mind about. — J.R.

Afterword to the Korean Edition of ESSENTIAL CINEMA (January 2016):



The closer one comes to the present, the harder and more hazardous it becomes to compile a list of the best films. As I’ve recently pointed out elsewhere, one should consider the lengths of time between Jean Vigo’s death and the first appearances of Zéro de conduite and L’Atalante in the U.S. (thirteen years), or between the first screening of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 and its recent appearances on Blu-Ray (forty-five years), and it becomes obvious that the popular custom of listing the best films of any given year is unavoidably a mythological undertaking derived more from faith than from any secure knowledge. By the same token, film history in the present should be divided between important filmmakers skilled and successful in hawking their own goods, from Alfred Hitchcock to Spike Lee to Lars von Trier, and those who, for one reason or another, aren’t — a less definitive roll call that includes, among many others, Charles Burnett, Ebrahim Golestan, Luc Moullet, Peter Thompson, Orson Welles, and John Gianvito.


The following list, very hastily cobbled together, includes a few works made prior to 2007 that I discovered (or remembered) only afterwards, as well as many others released between 2007 and 2015. Like my previous lists, it can’t be regarded as final, but only as a “work-in-progress” subject to future revisions. Some of the dates given here may be inexact.


Too Much Johnson (unfinished; Orson Welles, 1938)

Five Graves to Cairo (Billy Wilder, 1943)

Ordinary Fascism (Mikhail Romm, 1965)

Hawaii (George Roy Hill, 1966)

The Wire (TV series, several directors, 2002-2008)

Juventude em Marcha (Pedro Costa, 2006)

At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World (David Cronenberg, 2007)

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)

24 City (Jia Zhangke, 2008)

Les plages d’Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2008)

Momma’s Man (Azazel Jacobs, 2008)

Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, 2008)

Helsinki, Forever (Peter von Bagh, 2009)

Les herbes folles (Alain Resnais, 2009)

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)

Lowlands (Peter Thompson, 2009)

Borgen (TV series, several directors, 2010-2013)

Chef d’oeuvre? (Luc Moullet, 2010)

Film socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010)

Get Out of the Car (Thom Andersen, 2010)

The Hunter (Rafi Pitts, 2010)

Mistérios de Lisboa (Raúl Ruiz, 2010)

Poetry (Lee Chang-dong, 2010)

Toujours moins (Moullet, 2010)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)

Vapor Trail (Clark) (John Gianvito, 2010)

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2011)

Impardonnables (André Téchiné, 2011)

Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Nightfall (James Benning, 2011)

Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino, 2011)

Road to Nowhere (Monte Hellman, 2011)

Terri (Azazel Jacobs, 2011)

Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2012)

The Forgotten Space (Allan Sekula & Noël Burch, 2012)

Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta, 2012)

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)

The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2012)

The Unspeakable Act (Dan Sallitt, 2012)

Vous n’avez encore rien vu (Resnais, 2012)

Coming to terms (Jon Jost, 2013)

Gloria (Sebastián Lelio, 2013)

Locke (Steven Knight, 2013)

Man Made Place (Yu-Shen Su, 2013)

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2013)

Adieu au langage (Godard, 2014)

Citizenfour (Laura Poitras, 2014)

Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang, 2014)

The Owners (Adilikhan Yerzhanov, 2014)

Pasolini (Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Words and Pictures (Fred Schepisi, 2014)

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)

Horse Money (Costa, 2015)

I, Dalio, or The Rules of the Game (Mark Rappaport, 2015)

No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)

Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)

The Thoughts That Once We Had (Andersen, 2015)

Today (Reza Mirkarimi, 2015)

Wake (Subic) (John Gianvito, 2015)


Jonathan Rosenbaum

January 29, 2016




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