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Movies That Sweep You Away

by Steven_M

Created 02/20/13

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Some films just have a certain... something. This something, be it sight, sound, emotion, or intangible, just catches you and absorbs you. It takes you away from reality and for however long it lasts, you are part of the film. You know what I'm talking about. This is a short list of my personal favorites that sweep me away.

  • Like the first entry in the Trilogy of Life, the first entry in the Three Colors Trilogy stands apart. Juliette Binoche's character of Julie IS Three Colors: Blue. Over the course of the film, we become one with her. Seeing her world through her eyes is the result of a rapturous score, and dark glow of the film's color namesake tinting everything around us. My personal favorite.

  • Red is a towering achievement. Not as personal as Blue, nor as funny as White, yet it has a charm all its own. I'm also a fool for Irene Jacob, so that might be another reason. More than that though, is that everyone can relate to loneliness. And loneliness is what drives the relationship between Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant. There is also something heartwarming about Jacob's character - she is the only one out of all three movies to help others, after all.

  • I love the Mamas and the Papas. And I love Faye Wong's fragile beauty and adorable personality in this film. Here, the emotions flying around are so relatable, that it does not matter what language is being spoke, or if the world we are drawn into is rife with drug dealers, disguises, and pineapple. In matters of the heart, human beings have a universal relationship to each other.

  • I know, so much Kieslowski. But, though I absolutely adore his Three Colors Trilogy, I am completely mesmerized by his doppelganger study. The upside down images reflecting Irene Jacob's duality, the music by a fictional composer, the absolute refusal to explain anything... I love to drown myself in this magnificent piece.

  • I've used this wonderful work in a top ten before. It might simply be the beautiful sets and rich colors... It might also be the enthralling performance by Deborah Kerr. I can't really put my finger on it, but whatever it is, I am totally and completely sucked in by this film. I can't explain it, you just have to see it for yourself.

  • Another returning entry... I guess that goes to show that it just sticks with you. Pornography, politics, romance, whatever it is, Oshima's controversial masterpiece immerses the viewer in a time and place long gone. It is easy to get lost in the earthy setting, dazzling colors, and the tragic beauty of forbidden love.

  • Like Oshima's film, Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy captures us with its enchanting vision of feudal Japan. Watching all three, sometimes I feel as if this is as close to a time machine as I will ever get. Like Shakespeare, the trilogy finds its relatability in the universal themes of love, justice, and honor.

  • Shot on location in Morocco, barren wastes have never seemed so beautiful. The parallels between the setting and Dafoe's performance of the temptation Christ endured in the wilderness (not to mention the agony of the cross) are astounding. Being a Christian myself, I am often puzzled at the hate that has been thrown at this film by mainstream believers. To me, it is an extraordinary portrait of what it means to struggle with faith, and to work out what one believes in.

  • Not much to say here other than drool over the cinematography. This is a textbook example of how the camera can make a film far more compelling that its storyline can.

  • More than the later installments of Pasolini's Trilogy of Life, The Decameron delights. It is light-hearted, playful, and mischievous. It has none of the dark humor of The Canterbury Tales, and the violence is not nearly as grotesque as The Arabian Nights. These attributes allow the viewer to get caught up in the easy charm of a collection of tales that celebrate simply living.

16 comments

  • By David Hollingsworth
    May 23, 2013
    08:48 PM

    Great list! These films, and others represent the magic of cinema, and how it's power can transform you, and your cinematic experience as you watch tem.
    Reply
  • By D.j. West
    May 23, 2013
    09:55 PM

    so...NO wes anderson or Eraserhead
    Reply
    • By Andrew_Boone
      June 18, 2013
      09:25 AM

      Wes Anderson films would never make a list like this if it were my list. That's not to say they're not good films; just that they don't carry the prerequisite hypnotic quality shared by all the films on this list. Of course, that quality is a very ambiguous one, so everyone will have their own opinions on what films do and do not possess it. For me, though, Anderson wouldn't make the cut.
    • By StarsiderSajun
      August 01, 2013
      03:41 PM

      I believe the only Wes Anderson that deserves a spot on a list like this is The Life Aquatic. It at least would fill the same spot as Days of Heaven. A list such as this one blurs the line between subjective and objective.
  • By futurestar
    May 23, 2013
    10:49 PM

    yep all of these films rushed me like a fast and wild raging river into the bigger waters of drowning with pleasure. immense depth all like the wells of abyss.
    Reply
  • By DUDElaundrey
    June 05, 2013
    11:25 AM

    nice list, sum diff choices than usual. I haven't seen red or chungkin express yet
    Reply
  • By Andrew_Boone
    June 18, 2013
    09:21 AM

    The quality you're referring to in cinema is a very abstract and subjective one. I'm not sure it exists in the objective world of film interpretation. I think it can only be perceived from individual to individual. That being said, looking at your list, I can see many films I agree with, so maybe there is some objective element to this quality after all. Perhaps there are some common characteristics that define films that are able to achieve the kind of escapism you're talking about. I would add "Paris, Texas" by Wim Wenders, "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" by Paul Schrader, "The Wages of Fear" by Henri-Georges Clouzot, "Sweet Smell of Success" by Alexander Mackendrick, "The Thin Red Line" by Terrence Malick, "Ivan's Childhood" by Andrei Tarkovsky, "Ballad of a Soldier" by Grigori Chukhrai, "Fires on the Plain" by Kon Ichikawa, "Europa" by Lars Von Trier", "Rome Open City" by Roberto Rossellini, "Ashes and Diamonds" by Andrzej Wajda, and "Three Colors: White" by Krzysztof Kieślowski (I saw you had the first and third installments in the trilogy on your list; I'm one of the few who believes that White was every bit as good and as hypnotizing as its brethren). "Letter Never Sent" by Mikhail Kalatozov would undoubtedly make the list if it were not so bogged down by its obtrusively propagandistic second half. His other Criterion film, "The Cranes Are Flying", might make the list too. "Gervaise" by René Clément would probably be on my list, although it's only Essential Art House and does not have an actual Criterion edition. "Grand Illusion" by Jean Renoir and "The Children Are Watching Us" by Vittorio De Sica could be on there as well. I actually might also consider "Stolen Kisses" and "Bed and Board" by François Truffaut. Not the type of movies that would normally make a list like this, but for me, personally, I was definitely swept away by their charm and charisma.
    Reply
  • By Charles Petrizzi
    June 18, 2013
    11:08 PM

    #1, 2, 4, and 8 are up there with my favorites. Andrei Rublev has always left me in awe and put my brain into overdrive. Kieslowski sweeps me away every time. Wonder if his Decalogue will ever be Criterion listed.
    Reply
    • By david t.
      July 08, 2013
      10:51 AM

      Andrei Rublev transports me like what I imagine time travel would be like. it certainly mesmerizes.
  • By Brian Susbielles
    June 22, 2013
    10:06 PM

    Three Colors trilogy and Double Life are masterpieces. Haunting and delicate, they are.
    Reply
  • By Nicolas Edelbach
    June 26, 2013
    01:14 AM

    For me, Solaris would be on this list.
    Reply
  • By david t.
    July 08, 2013
    10:53 AM

    Picnic At Hanging Rock blew me away to the point I watched it back-to-back!
    Reply
  • By futurestar
    July 10, 2013
    09:18 AM

    As far as list go they should be kept to a certain maximum. You have covered more than the 10 listed and I am also a big Kieslowski fan. Check out his Camera Buff as a terrific early film by him. I also like Oshima, Malick, Pasolini. Your list is as credible as any I have seen. They all are personal. I see a lot of people mentioning Tarkovsky which is interesting because it was during the time period Scorsese made his The Last Temptation of Christ that he went to Russia and came back with the definitive 208 minute version of Andrei Rublev. I can't see anyone missing the irony and cataclysmic coincidence of those events being so close together. I know, love, and have all these films.You did very well by any standard.
    Reply
  • By Jake W.
    November 29, 2015
    09:58 PM

    so far if I did this I'd only have (in no order) paths of glory the phantom carriage autumn sonata and I'm currently working on watching the whole Human Condition trilogy.
    Reply
    • By Jake W.
      November 29, 2015
      10:00 PM

      and probably also in the realm of the senses (also) city lights
  • By Edward M.
    July 10, 2016
    02:02 PM

    Great list. I too can relate to that almost indescribable quality that some films possess. For example, as you cited in your list, Chungking Express is one of my favorite films yet I always have difficulty putting into words exactly why I enjoy it so much. A combination of the lush cinematography, the music, the frenetic editing creates an almost ethereal atmosphere. In fact all of Wong Kar Wai's films possess this strange beauty. I'm not certain if you've been fortunate enough to see it, but I would also add Wim Wender's Paris, Texas to your list. That film, particularly the long scene with the one-way mirror, truly swept me away.
    Reply
  • By 2plus2
    March 21, 2017
    04:20 PM

    Pulled some titles to my watch list from the list and others from the comments, I would definitely have some of the A. Tarkovsky films here and with no a second thought or fear to sound cliché: Seven Samurais.
    Reply