Dustin Guy Defa’s Top10
Dustin Guy Defa’s first feature, Bad Fever, was named one of the best films of 2012 by the New Yorker. His short films Person to Person and Family Nightmare premiered at Sundance and won awards at the Berlinale, SXSW, and HotDocs. In 2015, the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a weeklong theatrical run of his short films. His second feature, Person to Person, is being distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
When people ask me what my favorite movie is, Hoop Dreams is always a safe bet for me. It’s the one that I can say with confidence will always be in my top ten and won’t go away. It’s another movie about family, and it’s also a movie about aspirations, hard work, reality, and not having money. It’s just a beautiful, poignant movie.
Kiarostami was one of the greatest directors. I’m really attracted to films that play with the contrast between reality and fiction, and this is maybe the best example of the mix of the two. How that mix develops over the course of the movie is a revelation. It’s also a very touching portrait of someone who wants to be a part of art—how he isn’t part of it but then becomes part of it.
I saw Mulholland Dr. when it came out, and I was already into Lynch. God, what do you say? On a first viewing it’s so confusing, but it’s also so thrilling to watch. It’s sensual, and it turns you on in all the right ways and confuses you in all the right ways. It’s a pinnacle of moviemaking and probably my favorite Lynch, aside from Inland Empire.
Barry Lyndon was a huge hole in my repertoire. I think I’d been holding out for so long to see a print and I finally saw it last year at Metrograph, and it was astonishing. I didn’t realize how fun it was going to be. An astonishing comedy, and the production design is unparalleled.
This is a huge movie for me. To me, Crumb is one of the greatest living artists. And the fact that this movie is also about family is great. I love movies that are honest about family. With the way he talks and the way the film was shot, Crumb is almost like an animated figure.
James L. Brooks
To me, it’s a perfect movie. It’s one of my favorite screenplays of all time, and Holly Hunter gives one of my favorite performances of all time.
Mike Leigh’s a big filmmaker for me; I’m just now realizing how influenced I am by him. I keep returning to his movies, and I could watch them over and over. Naked does seem different than all of his other films—he’s got a darkness throughout all his other stuff, but this one is the darkest. You get hints of the mystery of how he’s working with the actors and how close they are with each other. There’s a part of me that’s jealous of that but also wants to aspire to that, to have that kind of intimacy in the way you create characters. When you watch his movies you can feel how hard they’ve worked and how immersed they were.
A Married Couple
A Married Couple is the first Allan King movie I saw, but I think I watched Warrendale right after that, on the same day. Somebody had lent me the Eclipse set. It’s a very frustrating movie; it’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes you even like these people in a weird way, but then you also sometimes detest them. You know they’re playacting in front of the camera and that they know it’s there, but when you start to realize just how much they’ve been playacting with each other in this marriage, it’s very disturbing. It makes me start to think about how much people playact in life and in relationships.
This is a singular movie—it’s not something that can be reproduced or that will ever be made again. It’s particular and brave, and on paper, it almost seems like it wouldn’t work. But it does because of the way it’s edited and the span of time it covers and the way Kirsten Johnson decided to be open enough to reveal her own experiences. It’s so engaging and mysterious to me. I remember just feeling so shocked at how touching it was, and also how humane. You just feel her love for the work that she does and her love for people. It’s also a great document of the fact that there are other people who work on movies besides directors.
All That Heaven Allows
Sirk is actually a new filmmaker for me. I’ve been waiting to see one of his movies again in a theater—I sometimes do that when I feel like a filmmaker is going to be really important for me. I saw Imitation of Life for the first time two years ago, and it really blew my mind. Then I saw a print of All That Heaven Allows last year in Berlin. I’m very curious how Sirk’s films played when he was alive and what was talked about when they premiered, because they seem so revolutionary to me in many ways–the social issues, especially. And obviously the colors in his movies are huge. I don’t know enough about Sirk, but I want to.