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The Red Balloon (1956)
Director: Albert Lamorisse
One of the world’s most famous shorts, echoing Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s fairy-tale style, as a small boy is strangely pursued by the balloon he’s forced to abandon.

La Maman Et La Putain (1973)
Director: Jean Eustache
Navel-gazing Parisian types puff on Gauloises in murky cafés while taking the Freudian route through life — falling in and out of their complex love lives. If it sounds irritating, it’s actually lovely. Read Review

La Belle Et La Bęte (1946)
Director: Jean Cocteau
Perhaps anticipating his adult audience’s suspicion of a fairy-tale adaptation, poet/artist/director Jean Cocteau opens his surreal (in the true sense) take on the Beauty And The Beast fable with a reasonable enough request: “I ask of you a little childlike simplicity.” If that seems unnecessary to modern viewers long-familiar with Burton, Gilliam or indeed Disney’s smarter output (including its own version of the story, which owes much to this), consider that Cocteau was addressing a populace only recently liberated from Nazi rule in a country devastated by war. Of course, La Belle Et La Bęte itself is neither childlike nor simple. Cocteau’s fairy-tale world is rendered with baroque opulence (a young Pierre Cardin worked on the costumes) and breathes a creepy, nightmarish atmosphere. Ingenious trick-shots conjure such unsettling wonders as self-lighting hand-candles and eye-rolling statues — then there’s the lionesque Beast himself (the astonishing Jean Marais), whose hands eerily smoke when he’s drawn blood. It also tingles with sexual energy throughout, packed with enough hints and winks to have made even Dr. Freud himself blush. Certainly not one for all the family. Read Review

Rocco And His Brothers (1960)
Director: Luchino Visconti
Italian neo-realism a-go-go as a widow and her petty brood try to eek out a new life in Milan. If low on orderly plot, it bursts with rich characters and turbulent emotions. Read Review

Rashomon (1950)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Unforgettable samurai-era memory games from the Japanese master as a crime is replayed from five different viewpoints. Read Review

About The Poll
This poll was conducted in November 2008. The list was compiled using votes from Empire readers, Hollywood actors, actress and key film critics.

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