The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman is best known for his arty hit The Seventh Seal (1956), in which a knight plays chess with Death (the scene has been parodied many times), but his follow-up, Wild Strawberries (1957), is even better. It's a reflective, beautiful, thoughtful, and even hopeful road movie in which an aged professor (Victor Sjöström) travels to accept an honorary degree. Along the way, he meets several fellow travelers, and he finds himself experiencing old memories, daydreams, and even nightmares (the movie contains one of the most haunting nightmare sequences ever filmed). This was the final film of Sjöström, who had been a famous director back in the 1920s, with films like The Phantom Carriage and The Wind. Bergman regulars like Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow also appear.
Jean-Luc Godard had been a film critic for the French film magazineCahiers du Cinema before becoming a filmmaker, and his debut, Breathless (1960), is steeped in movie knowledge. It springs from any number of low-budget B-level Hollywood crime movies, but it's also one of the greatest debut films in history, and one of the most important, influential movies ever made. Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as a low-rent criminal who fancies himself to be a bit like Humphrey Bogart. After stealing a car and killing a cop, he goes on the run. American-born Jean Seberg plays his girlfriend, who hides him for a while, but eventually betrays him. The plot is far less important than the movie's style, with the now-famous jump cuts and raw, reckless camera style. Packed with layers of stimulating ideas, it plays more like a work of film criticism than a traditional crime drama, though it is both. Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai) has a cameo.
Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni made an enormous impact on world cinema with his breakthrough film, L'Avventura (1960). In it, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), his girlfriend Anna (Lea Massari), and her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti), go on a yacht trip. At one point, Anna simply disappears. Sandro and Claudia begin looking for her, but eventually become attracted to one another. Antonioni doesn't care of Anna is ever found; his focus is on the general disconnect between humans. He brilliantly used large, empty compositions to illustrate spaces between humans and spaces between objects. Additionally, humans are shown as insignificant compared to the daunting landscapes around them. Just two years later, in 1962, L'Avventura was chosen as the second best film of all time in the respected Sight & Sound magazine poll. It was the first of a trilogy for Antonioni, which included the equally great La Notte (1961) and L'Eclisse (1962).
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