Archive cinema releases in 2017 (older movies released in home viewing editions) were an extraordinary bunch. Here's my top ten - as usual, most of them come from the Criterion Collection - a gold standard for presenting films to watch at home, whose special features always come with depth and a sense of humor. Masters of Cinema is doing something similar, and wonderful too.
10: 45 Years - in which Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay fail to understand each other's needs, and can't figure out how to help each other. A tragic love story about what happens when people don't learn that differences are where we grow.
9: The Purple Rose of Cairo - a film about cinema and the bittersweet echo of the magic we saw on screen and believed in, before the mingling of real life.
8: Runaway Train - maybe the best action movie ever made, partly because when it moves, it moves like things move; partly because the characters are both mythic archetypes and totally realistic; and partly because the violence doesn't pretend to have no consequences.
7: Desert Hearts - the iconic, wistful and hopeful romance-against-the-odds, alive with passion and never hits an unrealistic note.
6: Buena Vista Social Club - Wim Wenders & Ry Cooder's delighted collaboration is more of a witnessing than a crafted portrayal: the story of how a few aging Cuban musicians invited the world into their third act.
5: Being There - One of the wisest films ever made about US American politics, and one of the saddest comedies or happiest dramas: too easy to simplify as a satire, I prefer to see it as a presentation of the wisdom right in front of us, if only we would learn to see it.
4: The Before Trilogy - A genuinely unique achievement, the unfolding of a relationship over more than twenty years now. More than that, as with Linklater's Boyhood, it's about the evolution of an entire subculture.
3: Barry Lyndon - Of course it's beautiful, but it's so full of the pain of reputation management that I'm not sure I can say that I "enjoy" Barry Lyndon. It's like medicine, but when the sickness is so damaging to human society, and when the medicine is so brilliantly put together, it's probably medicine that we should take at least once a year. Shot like a painting (think the one with Dorian Gray in it).
2: The Apartment - When I look at Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine dancing in and out of hiding and revealing their feelings, and evolving the boundaries of what they will and will not tolerate in the behavior of others, I don't know if I am like these people, but I do like them, enough to want to watch this film as often as I need the comfort of knowing that we're all carrying a bit of a burden, we all have a bit of a gift, and none of us has to do either alone.
1: Andrei Tarkovsky Deluxe Collection/Stalker - The films themselves are endlessly watchable, debatable, meditatable; the box set from Artificial Eye (and the single edition of Stalker from Criterion) a perfect example of what home cinema can be: an opportunity to let a work of art do its work on you, and whoever you choose to invite; an icon through which we might see more of who, at our worst, we are; and what at our best, we can become.