Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
When I was twenty-one and first coming around to the idea of directing movies, I found a purse on the floor of the NYU library late one night. There was a hundred bucks in there along with IDs and credit cards. I pocketed the cash but left the rest alone and handed it to the security guard. I used this money to purchase three movies at Mondo Kim’s. For some irrational reason, I confessed this theft to my parents. They demanded to know what was going through my head. I couldn’t explain the action, but I knew that I needed to use that money to purchase necessary evils. Stolen money, stolen ideas. I bought three films that I would take a lot from in the years to come: Ali, Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex (not on Criterion yet . . .), and Pickpocket.
The Phantom of Liberty
Life’s a series of cosmic jokes. My collaborator Chris and I agree on this. Maybe that’s why we both adore this movie and get along.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pasolini’s movies leave my brain black and blue, but this one in particular. A mother’s love may be infinite but its effect on a child’s reality is limited, and this movie shows that all too well . . .
My dad turned me on to this one when I was young. It helped me understand his dark sense of humor and I guess my own in turn.
This Is Spinal Tap
I watched this at my brother’s apartment on East Ninth Street and Second Avenue when I was a teenager. Beyond being a movie I return to regularly, it makes me think of grabbing pierogies with my brother at Veselka when they were still affordable.
In a Lonely Place
My oldest friend, David, and I bring this beast up nearly every time we see each other. It’s a beautifully bleak view of love and human nature. It seems to say that romance has the shelf life of milk. What a horrifying thought, but I suppose my long-standing friendship with David allows me to stomach this sour fact.
Two of my collaborators, Jack and Carl, and I all agree that this contains one of the essential quotes to get through the day: “How perfectly goddamned delightful it all is, to be sure.”
This movie makes me think of my French producer, Claire. We watched it as reference for a script we were working on together. It’s a brutal film to be sure, but I only have warm associations attached to it now: days of wine, writing, and more wine.
À nos amours
I spent a winter in Montreal when I was in my early twenties. One of the few things I remember from that time is watching this thing for the first time. It broke my brain. It’s not a movie, it’s goddam life on-screen. This one leaves scars.
Kevin Macdonald’s Top 10
Kevin Macdonald is the grandson of the filmmaker Emeric Pressburger. Macdonald’s directorial credits include 2000's Academy Award–winning One Day in September, about the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and 2003's Touching…