English filmmaker Nicolas Roeg is one of the towering figures of 20th-century cinema, known for his masterpieces such as Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Modern pioneers such as Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan, and Danny Boyle have all cited Roeg as a primary influence who inspired them to pursue the elusive dream of becoming a filmmaker.
In an interview, Roeg explained how he conceptualised the art of filmmaking and what goes into the production process of a project: “Film is a curious thing: you’re preparing it, working on it and thinking about it for a long time before you get to shoot the thing,” he said. “Suddenly you give birth to this piece. Filmmaking is like being a jockey. After the race, interviews with jockeys are very interesting.”
Continuing, he added: “One interview stuck in my mind – and I’m aware it sounds a little mad making the connection between moviemaking and horse racing – when they said to a jockey, ‘you were lying third, did you know you were going to come through?’ and then, ‘I was third, but I wanted to hold him back until he wanted to go. I just felt him: HE wanted to go’. The horse is the one who’s directing the jockey. It’s the same relationship between a film and a director. Sounds a bit airy-fairy, but it’s true.”
As a part of Criterion’s periodic feature, Roeg was asked to select some of his favourite films of all time. The auteur’s curated collection of personal favourites is an essential list for all film lovers, featuring some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of the 20th century as well as more modern gems by his own disciples such as Steven Soderbergh.
When he was urged to speak about his selection, Roeg expressed his intense confusion and pain that entails the impossible task of selecting just ten favourite films: “Oh! What have you done to me? What an impossible task. To pick ten titles from the Criterion Collection is difficult enough, but to put them in any kind of order would defeat Ockham’s sharpest razor.”
Check out the list of Nicolas Roeg’s ten favourite films of all time, ranging from French New Wave classics by Jean-Luc Godard to Federico Fellini’s Italian surrealism.
Nicolas Roeg’s 10 favourite films:
- L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
- The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
- Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
- Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
- 8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
- Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)
- Schizopolis (Steven Soderbergh, 1996)
- Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
- Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971)
- The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
Roeg elaborated on his final selection, urging film fans to explore the entirety of the Criterion Collection: “It’s a wonderful list that I have gone over again and again and every time I’ve tried to make a selection, I’ve ended up with fifteen or twenty different choices—usually dictated by my mood of the day. Don’t do this to me. Please stop.”
Adding, “I love them all. But only with a pin and blindfold can I land on ten. Now, looking at them, I find I could champion each one equally, but then of course I could do the same for all the rest the pin didn’t pick. My advice would be to work your way through the whole collection and look forward to new ones being added.”