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20 Cinematic Masterpieces Overshadowed by the Same Directors’ Other Masterpieces

21 February 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Alex Lei

14. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) – François Truffaut

Overshadowed by: The 400 Blows, Jules & Jim

Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois in Franois Truffaut's SHOOT T

A funny and tragic sort of “New Wave noir,” Truffaut is at his most playful in “Shoot the Piano Player.” When piano player Charlie Kohler (Charles Aznavour) falls in love with the waitress Lena (Marie Dubois), and his brother gets in trouble with a pair of gangsters, the protagonist’s dark past is brought back to the surface. The film manages to bounce between laugh out loud funny and devastatingly tragic.

The genius of the film isn’t simply in the story, though, but in how Truffaut chooses to present it. Blending his unconventional New Wave style with classic Hollywood gangster film tropes and comedy gags reminiscent of silent films, Truffaut makes something totally unique with this picture. The film is always a delight when it wants to be and a tragedy when it is necessary.


15. Breaking the Waves (1996) – Lars von Trier

Overshadowed by: Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Melancholia


After “Europa,” Lars von Trier went from just being experimental to being groundbreaking. “Breaking the Waves” was his first feature film after the surrealist neo-noir of “Europa,” from which he did a complete 180 in terms of style. “Breaking the Waves” is, for almost the entirety of its runtime, a naturalist film looking at societal pressure, specifically on religious institutions’ pressures on women and their sexuality.

“Breaking the Waves” is first film in his Golden Hearts trilogy, a series of films about women being too pure or innocent for the society in which they live, and because of it, they are crushed under its weight. The film is worth watching just for Emily Watson’s career defining performance as Bess, a woman who tries to do all she can for the one she loves, even when it means sacrificing her own well-being and safety.

Von Trier makes this film disturbing, but not just because of the few scenes of violence; it is the way Von Trier shows Bess’s hubris causing her to sexually degrade herself to the point where she has essentially sacrificed everything. “Breaking the Waves” stands as one of Von Trier’s most emotionally moving films to date and easily one of his best.


16. L’Eclisse (1962) – Michelangelo Antonioni

Overshadowed by: L’Avventura, Blow-Up


“L’Eclisse” is the final iteration in Antonioni’s famous trilogy on the discontentment of modern society and its most abstract. Right from the start, the characters seem to be overpowered by their environments, a theme that is repeated throughout the film, even suggesting that the environment is as much a character, or possibly even more so, than the players who inhabit it (a pair of “lovers” portrayed by Alain Delon and Monica Vitti).

The abstract structure of the narrative, flowing in all directions at once, yet ending at none, only leads into the more abstract way that it concludes. The ending is haunting, thought provoking, and arguably, the most beautiful thing Antonioni has ever put on screen. “L’Eclisse” is a film about love, or the lack thereof, and is Antonioni’s most expert film.


17. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) – Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Overshadowed by: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, The Marriage of Maria Braun

Die bitteren Tranen der Petra von Kant

Slow, methodical, and a maddening melodrama about humanity and society, this minimalist production with an all-female cast is a perfect example of Fassbinder’s middle career.

Taking place in the bedroom/studio of fashion designer Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), the film centers on her relationship with Karin Thimm (frequent Fassbinder collaborator Hannah Schygulla), who is a young model for Petra but soon their relationship becomes more complicated. More subtly though, the film centers on the jealousy Petra’s assistant, Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), harbors over Karin.

Petra slowly descends into madness because her love for Karin is not reciprocated, as Karin only cares about the superficial and does not want to be in love with a woman. The film, like many of Fassbinder’s, focuses on the social taboo of homosexuality and shows the crushing effect social pressures can have on a person.

What is incredible about this film is this whole other story being told merely by showing a reaction of Petra’s assistant, Sidonie, who is wordlessly expressing her desire to be with Petra. With just the dynamic between Petra and Karin, Fassbinder created a great film, but with the addition of Sidonie, he created a masterpiece.


18. Contempt (1963) – Jean-Luc Godard

Overshadowed by: Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie


Once again, a story about love or a lack thereof, “Contempt” is a film about of a woman one day falling out of love with her husband and her growing contempt for him.

Set against the backdrop of Mediterranean Italy, Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is hired to rewrite the script for a Fritz Lang adaptation of “The Odyssey” at the request of an overly ambitious American producer (Jack Palance). During this time, Paul’s wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot), falls out of love with him one day, and their marriage becomes doomed to end.

Made while Godard’s own marriage to Anna Karina was rocky, “Contempt” is Godard’s most emotionally resonant work. Paul and Camille’s arguments go nowhere, and they only add to Camille’s increasing contempt for her husband. Both a self-reflective look on marriage and a meta-commentary on filmmaking, “Contempt” could be compared to Fellini’s 8 ½.

However, it is a much less abstract film and allows for many more quiet moments between characters, making it much more emotionally subtle. “Contempt” features some of Godard’s most brilliant editing, his most breathtaking cinematography, and a beautiful and somber score by George Deleure. With all things it has going for it, “Contempt” most certainly is greater than the sum of its parts and is one of the greatest films from Godard and the French New Wave movement as a whole.


19. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) – Jacques Demy

Overshadowed by – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Lola


The inspiration American filmmaking had on Demy’s style is no more apparent than in “The Young Girls of Rochefort.” The incredibly photographed musical comedy is Demy’s magnum opus if he ever had one. A great foil to his bittersweet, realist musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” which is about how love does not always come together, this film is much more “glass half full,” so to speak.

Featuring musical numbers written by the legendary composer Michel Legrand and dance sequences that rival the best Hollywood had produced (Gene Kelley‘s appearance is no coincidence ), “The Young Girls of Rochefort” is everything one could ask for in a musical.


20. The Sacrifice (1986) – Andrei Tarkovsky

Overshadowed by: Stalker, Andrei Rublev

The Sacrifice

Another great filmmaker’s final film, “The Sacrifice,” is Tarkovsky’s most expert. A swan song about a family reacting to the beginning of World War III, the film is somber and nihilistic, reflecting Tarkovsky’s outlook on life as he was nearing death. In many ways, the film pays homage to Bergman, featuring many of his longtime collaborators and shot on Fårö by his signature cinematographer Sven Nykvist. However, it is still a Tarkovsky film through and through and one of his best.

Opening and closing with two of his longest takes, Tarkovsky shows a technical mastery beyond his previous work, never ceasing to be subtle, while also being grand. The final shot stands as one of the greatest things Tarkovsky has ever filmed, which had been ruined and needed to be shot again because of a camera jam.

If film can be autobiographical, then “The Sacrifice” may be even more so than “The Mirror”; here all of Tarkovsky’s fears and frustrations are put onto film in both thematic and technical senses, which alone would make it one of his finest works.

Author Bio: The only peers of the Legendary Alex Lei would have to be Don Quixote and Don Juan. “He is the only man that can handle the life of Jules or Jim”- Nick Tobin (Award winning Podcaster). Alex is a man of simple pleasures: that of life, liberty, the love of a good woman, and the endless pursuit of more Criterions. Other than writing for Taste of Cinema, he is a prolific reader and optimistic skeptic in our new world of cinema, when he talks to his dining hall coworkers at Montana State University. A tussled-haired man on the shoals of Bozeman Montana looking far off to the Palisades of Los Angeles in hopes of one day winning the acclaimed Palme d’Or while donning a cap with the logo of “Top Gun.”



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  • Andrés Alafita

    I would add The Apartment, or Stalag 17 or even Ace in The Hole; overshadowed by: Some Like it Hot and Sunset Boulevard.

  • Brian Lussier

    A bunch of these are NOT masterpieces, no matter how subjective you say the term can be. And BTW, Breaking The Waves is not overshadowed by Von Trier’s other films; most critics actually consider it his greatest film, and everyone recognizes how groundbreaking it is. Funny, I finally bought the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of that film just yesterday…

    • John Doe

      “A bunch of these are NOT masterpieces, no matter how subjective you say the term can be.”

      Silly me, I didn’t know we were talking to the objective voice of cinema right here.

      • Brian Lussier

        What I’m saying is, a masterpiece is not a subjective point of view. There are many points a film has to fill to be considered a masterpiece. Otherwise, any dumbass can call Transformers a masterpiece just because he was really entertained. And what I’m saying is, many of the films here don’t fill the criteria of what makes a masterpiece.

        • cinemaftw

          Here got a point through, a masterpiece need certain recuirment, like for instance by influential, and oscure piece of work no matter how got it is, i more disbutaliby for the title, now the key word here is “a bunch” cause pretty much the majority of this list can be found listest and a masterpiece in a number of respectable sources

  • Charles Barnes

    I’ll be forced to disagree on 2046, frankly. To me, that film felt like Wong Kar-Wai had finally solidified the technical traits and abilities that made him such a critically beloved filmmaker, and sought to superficially replicate these for another boost of the artistic ego. Throw in ambiguity, a disconnected narrative and pretty visuals and those intimidated by it will just presume it beyond their understanding and therefore a masterpiece.

    He’s crafted some of the most aesthetically stunning works in the medium’s history, but I believe 2046 to be a weak effort from the typically intense, subdued emotional rivers that consist his iconic filmography.

  • Bob Ellis

    Mean Streets get overshadowed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas.

    • Hal Dunn

      Mean Streets was overshadowed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas, cuz they were all three better movies.

      • JonRalphs

        I think saying something like Raging Bull gets overshadowed by goodfellas, taxi driver, and the departed. Unless your into movies many of the new generation won’t watch raging bull.

      • Brian Lussier

        They’re better movies, but Mean Streets IS still a masterpiece. So is The Age Of Innocence, which also gets overshadowed by Scorsese’s Holy Trinity.

    • cinemaftw

      one word: CASINO

  • Hal Dunn

    I agree The Conversation is a minor masterpiece and understandably overshadowed by The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. But The Master is so slow and painful to be just about unwatchable. Yes, the acting is great. Yes, it’s visually stunning. But that’s not enough. A dreadful mess of pretension and dull misery.

  • Dave Teves

    Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon is a very much underrated movie. It’s a masterpiece that nobody ever talks about when we talk in the context of Kubrick master works.

    • John Beckinsale

      I would also say Full Metal Jacket is one of Kubrick’s greatest films, unfairly criticised for having a ‘weak’ second half. The whole film is a masterpiece that is overshadowed by his other war pieces like Paths of Glory and Dr. Strangelove.

  • Deweb

    I would like to add The Royal Tenenbaums, overshaduwed by every new film from Wes Anderson while Tenenbaums is meaby of his most mainstream pictures that introduces us into his wonderfull world.

  • Caue Alvarenga

    After Hours

  • Noah Garner

    Late spring is my favorite Ozu film, so beautiful

  • I would replace “Contempt” with “Weekend”.

    • Ted Wolf

      Agreed, Contempt even made it into the lyrics of a Who song so it’s getting attention. I’m one of the few people in my circle of friends who’s ever heard of Weekend, let alone seen it (I did drag my wife to it).

  • yuzuki-the-movie-lover

    awesome article

  • Sidharth J Dev

    Jackie Brown. Over Shadowed by Pulp Fiction

    • Relf

      Neither are masterpieces

      • Kosta Jovanovic

        Hahahahaha, good one

  • luke

    Perhaps: High Hopes by Mike Leigh… over shadowed by (possibly still) his greatest film Naked…

  • Sean Pak

    I think Corbucci’s The Great Silence is a bit of a stretch for this list. Although Django may be the more POPULAR title by the director, I think most critics consider The Great Silence his real masterpiece. Also, Breaking the Waves still seems to be the go-to title when it comes to the question “What is von Trier’s worthiest movie?” or “where should I start with him?” so I don’t know why that’s here.

    Either way, directors such as Scorsese, Wilder and Hawks would have been better choices to include, as those three have a good number of overlooked great films.

  • ttt

    Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York overshadowed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation