Notre Dame Magazine congratulates Ted Barron on the announcement of his appointment as executive director of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. Back in 2011, when Barron was the director of the center’s popular Browning Cinema, we asked him to compile this list of his favorite films. —The eds., May 27, 2016.
Voyage to Italy — After Roberto Rossellini met Ingrid Bergman, cinema was never quite the same. The romantic longing and idealization of Casablanca (a runner-up on this list) comes crashing down in this uncompromising portrait of a middle-aged couple at a crossroads in their relationship.
See also: Stromboli, Paisan, Open City.
Meet John Doe — While It’s a Wonderful Life is the obvious choice among Frank Capra films, I still find myself drawn to this earlier film that centers on a homeless man, thrust into the media spotlight, who rises up to serve the greater good.
See also: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
The Apartment — Arguably the best of the classical Hollywood directors, Billy Wilder achieved his greatest critical success with this Academy Award-winning portrait of a young executive whose ethics are challenged when he falls for a charming elevator operator.
See also: Some Like it Hot, Ace in the Hole.
The Heartbreak Kid — A more twisted version of The Graduate, Charles Grodin stars as a young man with the world at his feet until he discovers that his newlywed bride drives him bonkers. Enter Cybill Shepherd. . .
See also: Mikey and Nicky, Ishtar (yes, Ishtar).
Il Posto — A young man takes an entry-level job at an Italian corporation. This understated post-neorealist effort captures the mundane aspects of working life with both humor and pathos.
See also: The Fiances, The Tree of Wooden Clogs.
Gimme Shelter — While the merits of cinéma vérité have been debated (and debunked) over the years, the Maysles Brothers’ document of the ill-fated Rolling Stones concert at Altamont remains a fascinating study of the complicated relationship between performance and reality.
See also: Grey Gardens, Salesman.
Rebel Without A Cause — There’s a reason why actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando were considered the best of their generation — because they were really good. A glorious instance of 1950s widescreen Technicolor melodrama.
See also: East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront.
The Rules of the Game — Considered by many critics and scholars to be the greatest film ever made, Jean Renoir’s richly layered portrait of a gathering at a country estate on the eve of World War II offers everything you could ever learn in film school in less than two hours.
See also: Grand Illusion, A Day in the Country.
Close-Up — Despite continuous governmental pressures (including the recent imprisonment of filmmaker Jafar Panahi) Iran remains one of the most compelling sites of cinematic discovery. In Abbas Kiarostami’s nonfiction hybrid, a man faces trial for posing as a famous filmmaker.
See also: A Taste of Cherry, Where Is My Friend’s House?
City Lights — The Tramp meets a blind woman and goes to great lengths to help her gain her sight. The film’s final scene remains the most sublime five minutes in the history of cinema.
See also: The Great Dictator, Modern Times.
Originally published by Ted Barron at magazine.nd.edu on May 27, 2016.