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Wes Anderson's 12 favourite arthouse films of all time

As one of the most iconic directors of his generation, Wes Anderson has always firmly stamped his directorial vision on to every project he’s ever taken on. From his impeccable cinematography on his films Fantastic Mr Fox and Darjeeling Limited to the music that soundtracks them and beyond even up to creating his own wallpaper. Wes Anderson, it’s easy to say, has some serious style, and he’s not afraid to use it.

When someone who is incredibly fashionable offers their thoughts on what goes best with those £1.99 jeans, then you (probably) listen. And when a director with such universally acknowledged style as Anderson provides you with a list of their 12 favourite arthouse films of all time, you damn well better listen.

As part of Criterion’s ongoing conversation with the best and brightest filmmakers and film lovers from across the world, they asked Anderson for his ten favourite films of all time and his answer is an imperious list of stylistic agility and sublime appreciation of the art form. Criterion notes that when offered the chance to contribute ten Criterion titles, Anderson replied, “I thought my take on a top-ten list might be to simply quote myself from the brief fan letters I periodically write to the Criterion Collection team.”

From this notation and his eagerness to share his favourite films and filmmakers, Anderson, it’s fair to say may be a director, but above all else, he’s a film lover.

In the piece, Anderson shows off his vast knowledge of truly great films, his top selection being Max Ophuls’ empirical bastion of French cinema, The Earrings of Madame de …, which Anderson describes as “a perfect film.” The Royal Tennenbaums director wouldn’t stop there when looking at some of the finest cinematic moments from across Europe.

He also picks Bresson’s 1966 film Au hasard Balthazar, Claude Sautet’s Classe tous risques from 1960, and Maurice Pialat’s L’enfance nue from 1968. The latter selection comes with a recommendation for Criterion’s acquisition team for watching the film, “You should watch every one of his you can get your hands on.”

Anderson also provides a little insight into some of his own inspiration when he selects Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura three times as a tie for his third selection. Imamura, a key figure of the Japanese New Wave, has three films selected, Pigs and Battleships, The Insect Woman, and The Insect Woman.

The director says of the influential filmmaker, “We are deep into Shohei Imamura. I always loved Vengeance Is Mine, which was the only one I knew, on a double-disc Criterion laser. But now, this box set gives me some perspective. Pigs and Battleships. The war didn’t exactly work wonders for the people of Tokyo or wherever that was.”

The final selection, slot in at number 10, is one of Anderson’s favourite directors of all time, Luis Buñuel and his surrealist masterpiece The Exterminating Angel from 1962. A deeply symbolic screenplay and film, Buñuel masterfully leaves all interpretations open-ended and provides a sumptuous viewing that captures the imagination and the soul with one fateful swoop.

Wes Anderson, a fanboy of sorts, says of the film and Buñuel, “[I’ve] just watched The Exterminating Angel for the first time since fuzzy VHS in University of Texas A/V library. He is my hero. Mike Nichols said in the newspaper he thinks of Buñuel every day, which I believe I do, too, or at least every other.” We imagine Anderson’s got a few budding filmmakers thinking of him every other day by now.

Find below the 12 arthouse films Wes Anderson thinks you need to see.

Wes Anderson’s favourite arthouse films:

  • Max Ophuls – The Earrings of Madame de . . .
  • Robert Bresson – Au hasard Balthazar
  • Shohei Imamura – Pigs and Battleships
  • Shohei Imamura – The Insect Woman
  • Shohei Imamura – Intentions of Murder
  • Roberto Rossellini – The Taking of Power by Louis XIV
  • Martin Ritt – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • Peter Yates – The Friends of Eddie Coyle
  • Claude Sautet – Classe tous risques
  • Maurice Pialat – L’enfance nue
  • Paul Schrader – Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
  • Luis Bunuel – The Exterminating Angel

Watch Wes Anderson’s first short film Bottle Rocket