Watching the directorial mashup Tokyo! this weekend, we got to thinking about all the other portmanteau films that put themes and directors in a cinematic blender, and made a top-ten list of our favorites after the jump. And while we’re proud of our database brains, we must have missed a few essential must-see mixtures, so feel free to enter the fray with your picks/disputes.
1. Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963): ROssellini, GOdard, PAsolini, and Gregoreti made what still stands as the model for what the multi-director format can achieve, especially when the talent is not confined by themes or time limits.
2. Dead of Night (1945): Is it just us, or is old footage even creepier than high-def blood baths? Even if ventriloquist dummies don’t give you the heebie-jeebies, film fans can’t deny that this combo ushered in the Hammer era of horror responsible for today’s best screamers.
3. Lumiere et Company (1995): As far as concepts go, this one is solid: Take the Lumiere Brothers original camera (the first motion picture camera to use flexible, projectable film) and put it in the hands of David Lynch, Peter Greenaway, Abbas Kiarostami, and 38 other equally exciting names while only allowing them the machine’s original 52 second limit. Pure magic.
4. Paris Vu Par (1965): Six art-star directors, six City of Light nabes, ’60s Paris: what more do you want unless you hate France? 2008’s Paris Je T’aime tried to relive the magic, but this Nouvelle Vague era anthology is by far the better project.
5. If I Had a Million (1932): Arguably the first portmanteau, this spectacle is a celebration of the early sync-sound period of Hollywood. And while Ernst Lubitsch might be the only director of note (sorry Norman Z. McLeod fans), the credits roll like a who was who list of 1930s stars.
6. Aria (1987): Maybe it’s the opera, maybe it’s the overt sentimentality, or maybe it’s just that this might be the best looking film on the list, but this is the type of film we watched on VHS when we were 15 and decided we liked “arty” movies. It doesn’t hurt that Altman, Jarman, and Nicolas Roeg are all on the roster as well.
7. 2000, Seen By (1998): We’re cheating here, since this is not technically a portmanteau film, but rather a collection of demi-features commissioned by French television’s Chanel 7 to further provoke millennium-anxiety. And while not all the projects are winners, Tsai-Ming Liang’s The Hole, and Don McKeller’s Last Night were two of our favorite films from 1998.
8. Three Extremes (2004): At first it might seem impossible to sit through not one, but three films labeled ‘extreme’ by three directors (Miike, Park, Chan) with already over-the-top reputations, but if anything, this collection is more elegant than grotesque. Surprisingly, Fruit Chan — the least notorious of the gang—produces the best, and most unsettling, side of the triangle.
9. New York Stories (1989): OK, so one of these stories is a dud (we won’t say which), but as New Yorkers who will always fetishize our beloved Gotham, it had to make the list.
10. Chacun son Cinema (2007): We’re not going to lie, we haven’t even seen this yet, but three minute films by Wong Kar-wai, Lars Von Trier, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Zhang Yimou, Takeshi Kitano, and on and on and on… if there was a salivation gland connected to cinema, ours would explode.