Favourite film discoveries of 2016

Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927)

Here's my list of favourite old film discoveries of the year. I feel lucky and thankful that I travel regularly, so I make sure I attend as many film screenings as I can during my travels, especially repertory screenings on 35mm/70mm. 

Here are my top 50 film discoveries and where I saw them (including which format). It includes repertory, remastered/restored, revived screenings mostly at cinemas, plus a few titles I watched on DVD/VOD. 

If I had to share one stand out, it would be Abel Gance's Napoleon. An incredible looking black and white and colour tinted film with a spectacular triptych finale. Politically relevant and deeply engrossing, and with a running time of 404min (including three breaks), it is one screening I will never forget at the BFI in London. Here's the film's timeline and journey from its initial idea to the cinema. Incredible.  

Cinemas/Film Festivals:  

Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973)

  1. Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927, DCP, BFI, London)
  2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928, DCP, Shakespeare’s Globe, London)
  3. Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959, 35mm, BFI, London)
  4. One Eyed Jack (Marlon Brando, 1961, DCP, BFI London Film Festival)
  5. Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962, 35mm, BFI, London) 
  6. Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968, 35mm, BFI London Film Festival)
  7. Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1969, 35mm, BFI London Film Festival)
  8. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971, 35mm, Museum of the Moving Image, New York)
  9. Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973, DCP, Cable Car Cinema, Providence)  
  10. Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980, 35mm, The Prince Charles Cinema - Suprise Film, London)  
  11. El Sur (Víctor Erice, 1983, DCP, BFI, London) 
  12. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, DCP, BFI - 30th Anniversary Special, London)
  13. Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991, DCP, BFI London Film Festival)
  14. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001, 35mm, The Prince Charles Cinema, London)
  15. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003, DCP,  Anthology Film Archives, New York) 

Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien films at the National Museum of Singapore Cinémathèque, February 2016 

  1. Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live, A Time to Die, 1985, 35mm)
  2. Lian lian feng chen (Dust in the Wind, 1986, 35mm) 
  3. Xi meng ren sheng (The Puppetmaster, 1993, 35mm) 
  4. Nan guo zai jan, nan guy (Goodbye South, Goodbye, 1996, 35mm)
  5. Qianxi Manbo (Millennium Mambo, 2001, 35mm) 
  6. Kohi Jikou (Café Lumière, 2003, 35mm)
  7. Zuihao de Shiguang (Three Times, 2005, 35mm)

This is my second year of watching this retrospective. I started last year in London and managed to catch a few more of his films earlier this year in Singapore

Tales of Cinema: The Films of Hong Sang-soo at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, June 2016 

  1. Daijiga umule pajinnal (The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well, 1996, 35mm)
  2. Kangwon-do ui him (The Power of Kangwon Province, 1998, 35mm)
  3. Oh! Sio-Jung (Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, 2000, 35mm)
  4. Saenghwalui balgyeon (On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate, 2002, DCP)
  5. Geuk jang jean (Tale of Cinema, 2005, 35mm)
  6. Cheopcheopsanjung (Lost in the Mountains, 2009) 
  7. Jal al-ji-do mot-ha-myeon-seo (Like You Know it All, 2009, 35mm)

Brian De Palma Series at Metrograph, New York, June 2016

Dressed to Kill, Brian De Palma, 1980

  1. Hi Mom! (1970, 35mm) 
  2. Dressed to Kill (1980, 35mm) 
  3. Blow Out (1981, 35mm) 
  4. Scarface (1983, 35mm)

Black Star at the BFI, London, November 2016

Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992)

  1. Borderline (Kenneth Macpherson, 1930, Video)
  2. In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967, DCP)
  3. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990, 35mm)
  4. A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1967, 35mm) 
  5. Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992, 35mm) 
  6. BodyGuard (Mick Jackson, 1992, 35mm)
  7. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995, 35mm)  

Ride Lonesome: The Psychological Western series at the BFI, London, May 2016

Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952)

  1. Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952, 35mm)
  2. The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953, 35mm) 
  3. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954, DCP)


  1. The Red Shoes (Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
  2. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) 
  3. Badlands (Dir. Terrence Malick, 1973)  
  4. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Dir. John Cassavetes, 1976) 
  5. Two Drifters (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2005)
  6. To Die Like a Man (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2009)
  7. It's Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeld, 2012) 

Other Best of Lists:

My Top 10 Exhibitions of 2016

My Top 15 Artworks of 2016

My Top 10 Cultural Highlights of 2016