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10 Auteur Movies For Beginners

If you think you're ready to take off towards the auteur movie world but you don't know exactly where to start, here are 10 movies for a soft landing.

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Please note that the following movies are chronologically ordered because I wouldn't dare to order them by quality or relevance.

Jean Renoir: The Rules Of The Game (1939)

The Gaumont Film Company / Les Grands Films Classiques

What a lovely way to kick off this list of recommendations! Renoir's The Rules Of The Game is about rich people problems, namely being bored and trying to amuse themselves at the expenses of others. You won't believe how whimsical, arbitrary and thoughtless the behaviour of these characters is. And you won't hate them, you will have fun with them. The Rules Of The Game is a crude portrayal of human frivolity, of how little we care about all those things not related to us. After it's over, you might feel deeply embarrassed of human race but that's OK.

TRIVIA: According to Wikipedia, the movie was banned by the wartime French government for "having an undesirable influence over the young". Who doesn't love a banned movie?

Kenji Mizoguchi: Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

Daiei Films

Take a moment to appreciate the gif. The characters seem to have bumped into something incredible or spectacular. Or maybe terrifying. This kind of eeriness is palpable all over Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain) and beware of it because you will be helplessly caught in this ghostly movie. Ugestu is a fable of two countryman who wish to achieve success in life as a wealthy seller and as a legendary samurai, respectively. To make their dreams come true, both men leave their homes and wives, and venture themselves in a journey with no clear destination and where fantasy plays a key role.

Besides being one of the two films alongside Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon that helped to popularize Japanese cinema in the USA and Europe, this movie is also one of the finest filmic representation about the dangers of ambition. It's Mizoguchi best work, it only lasts 94 minutes and it will be a delightful introduction to Japan's Golden Age of Film. There's no excuse for missing it.

Federico Fellini: La Strada (1954)

Trans Lux Inc.

Fellini chose his wife Giulietta Masina to play Gelsomina, an apparently dumb woman who is sold to a temperamental strongman (Anthony Quinn). Gelsomina will have to suffer every sort of humiliation from his new husband: she will be insulted, she will be mocked and she will be forced to act as a clown for their travelling circus. Still, Gelsomina will remain cheerful and will be able to overcome her limitations. La Strada (The Road) is presented as an aimless and tortuous travel for the protagonist but Fellini complements it with his personal magic and sense of humour, making a film that would make you laugh and cry equal parts. The ending will leave you KO.

Luis Buñuel: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955)

Alianza Cinematográfica

Luis Buñuel introduces us to Archilbaldo de la Cruz, a man that has killed several women throughout his life without actually committing any murder (he's been killing since his childhood). How that's possible? Well, it's possible in Buñuel's world, where anything can happen, where simple actions can lead to the most inconceivable (and often hilarious) consequences. This black comedy would leave you wanting more of Buñuel's craziness and would pave your way to dive into his surrealistic works, which are as enjoyable as The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz.

Ingmar Bergman: Wild Strawberries (1957)

AB Svensk Filmindustri

Among Ingmar Bergman's vast selection, Wild Strawberries is perhaps one of his most feel-good movies (specially if we bear in mind how little feel-good most of his films are). It tells the story of Professor Isak Borg, a 78-year-old physician who has to endure a long drive from Stockholm to Lund to pick an award. Along the way, he has to face his past and present family, besides the imminent threat of death. But don't worry. At the end, the movie closes with an optimistic message about coming to terms with your innermost traumas and weaknesses, being this the only way to leave this world feeling happy and fulfilled. This is a nice start to experience Ingmar Bergman's filmography without triggering multiple existential crisis.

(Just wait for Persona).

Stanley Kubrick: Paths Of Glory (1957)

United Artists

Stanley Kubrick is undeniably the most famous name on this list of auteurs and most of you have already seen several of his works. But, if you haven't and you want to get to know Kubrick, I highly recommend to begin with Paths Of Glory, one of his easiest to understand movies (unlike 2001: A Space Oddity).

Paths Of Glory is a tremendous anti-war and pro-due-process masterpiece where Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas at his best) has to defend his soldiers accused of cowardice in a blatantly biased court-martial. It lasts less than one and half hour, more than enough to make you realize how terribly defenseless someone can be against the powerful and how useless trying to find justice in a world of injustice is. Thank you Mr Kubrick for this impeccable movie that every person should watch once a year (or at least, once in a lifetime).

Terrence Malik: Badlands (1973)

Warner Bros

Is it possible to understand Terrence Malik's view of the world based solely on his DEBUT? Let's give it a try!

Badlands features the James Dean version of Martin Sheen and the naughtiest side of Sissy Spacek playing Kit and Holly, two adolescents who engage in a sick, self-destructive relationship that makes them lovers and fugitives at the same time. Terrence Malik let the critics know he was ready to change the way movies are made and he proved it with this astounding film. Its cinematography and editing will render you speechless. 95 minutes of pure beauty and thrill.

Zhang Yimou: Raise The Red Lantern (1991)

Orion Classics

Zhang Yimou will get your attention from start to finish with this story about Sònglián (played by the fabulous Gong Li), a young woman who is sold by her poor father to marry a wealthy man. But wait, Sònglián is not the only wife, she's the FOURTH one (or rather the third concubine). She will have to give her best to become the favourite spouse, meaning she will have to confront the other three, engaging in a game of contempt and lies. From there, you'll enjoy a plot full of twists, tension, metaphors and colours leading to a shocking ending. Women's interactions have never been depicted as raw and depressing as in Bring The Red Lantern.

BONUS: The film can be seen as an allegory against Chinese authoritarianism, a common second reading in Zhang Yimou's filmography.

Wong Kar-Wai: Chungking Express (1994)

Ocean Shores Video / Miramax Films

Wong Kar-Wai sure loves multiple story-lines and this picture is a great example of that. In the first story we witness a brief, unrequited sexual tension between a cop and mysterious woman related to crime. The second story (the longest one) also involves a cop and an unrequited sexual attraction but changes the mobster lady for a waiter with a creepy tendency to stalk. The two stories are barely related but they both tackle issues like the isolation in the modern world, the difficulty of expressing our feelings or the desperate search for closeness. Wong Kar-Wai is known for his beautiful, colourful, musical film-making style and I bet you'll fall in love with him after basking in the glory of Chungking Express.

GOOD NEWS: After watching this movie, you'll be ready to have multiple orgasms with Wong Kar-Wai's masterpiece, In The Mood For Love, considered the best movie of the new millennium #congrats

Pedro Almodóvar: Volver (2006)

Sony Pictures Classics

This movie is a perfect graphic definition of one of Pedro Almodóvar's favourite themes: women's courage. In Volver (To Return), Penélope Cruz flawlessly plays a woman called Raimunda who has to handle her spouse's sudden murder, a murder committed by her own daughter. Nice, huh? While trying to get rid of the dead body and the blood stains on the floor, Raimunda begins to question if her mother's ghost is still around her. This movie will help you understand how Almodóvar sees and portrays women, their concerns and their way to cope. Plus, you'll get an unique chance to take a look into the Spanish village lifestyle.

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