This list is inspired by the recent IFC Center revival of Dreyer's Day of Wrath, which was advertised in part with the Pauline Kael pullquote "The most intense, powerful film ever made on the subject of witchcraft." Quoth a colleague: "Like she'd been looking for a while."
But if anything I think that "the subject of witchcraft" is too broad — I thought this especially after a recent viewing of Olivier Assayas's 2000 film Les destinées sentimentales, during the nearly three hours of which I found myself constantly thinking, wow, this is almost certainly the most engrossing movie ever made about the independent, family-operated French porcelain industry in the first half of the 20th century.
This list, then, is the beginnings of a guide for those moments when you have a specific cinema itch that just must be scratched. And just for fun, we're going to do it as a quiz. Match the movie to the pullquote you're sure to see on the cover of the next DVD reissue, after the jump.
1. "The most deeply moving movie ever made about a donkey who is arguably Jesus!"
2. "The most cryptic, haunting movie ever made about a young man in anguish over a mysterious crick in his neck, who eventually has an anonymous bathhouse assignation with his own father!"
3. "The most riotous adventure ever made about camels in the cavalry from Mumberry Square Productions!"
4. "The most sociopolitically devastating historical drama ever to explain what happens when you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw, and my straw reaches all the way across the room!"
5. "The funniest Dostoyevsky satire ever!"
6. "The longest movie ever made about the Empire State Building!"
7. "Quite possibly the most fun you'll ever have at a movie named after a Happy Mondays song!"
8. "The most louche, recherche thriller ever made about a bullfighting student who faints at the sight of blood and is clairvoyant but arrives to late to prevent the consummation of his teacher's suicide pact with Assumpta Serna!"
A. The River (Tsai Ming-liang, 1997)
B. Matador (Pedro Almodovar, 1986)
C. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
D. Empire (Andy Warhol, 1964)
E. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
F. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
G. Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)
H. HAWMPS! (Joe Camp, 1976)
First one to enter a correct ballot into the comments wins... something.