Films that I like

by James S.

Created 07/06/12

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I wish I could talk more intelligently about the technical aspect of these films, but I can't. Damn.

  • In no other film have I found the atmosphere, the cinematography, the decor, the acting and the plot so coherently making a point. Melville's point, as always, is nihilistic: there are no heroes in life-- those who perform "heroic" acts are lonely people, drowning in moral ambiguity. There are so many sublime moments: the ominous marching of the Nazi army through the Champs-Élysées, the nocturnal submarine launch and Gerbier's existentialist brush with death with the firing squad. A stone-cold classic.

  • Again, one of those film where everything just clicks: every aspect of this films exudes sensuality to the nth degree. Michael Powell himself concurred that this was an extremely erotic film from beginning to end. For the repressed British audiences of the dour 1940s, this film must have represented a fantastical liberation. The main dichotomy of this film is the sacred versus the profane, and it's amazing just how many ways P and P manage to convey this struggle: each of the nuns (save one or two) "surrender" themselves to their passions in one way or another. Even Easdale's score (which is reminiscent of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe) is over-brimming with colour and languor.

  • For anyone who's ever felt the malaise of social anxiety or who's even slightly self-conscious about social interaction, this film will hit home hard. The best parts of Faces are those where people act silly and then realise how stupid they look: Freddy and his drunken attempts to get with the prostitute (aptly portrayed by Gena Rowlands); Seymour Cassel's rock-and-roll dancing with housewives, which ends up in a whole lot of awkwardness. Under Cassavetes' cinema-vérité technique, we discover that beneath the veneer of the self-confidence that so many of us present ourselves with, we are pockmarked with insecurities.

  • This film, along with Antonioni's other films, have a bad rap for being 'incomprehensible'. Not true at all: any urban dweller in any industrialised country (ie: most of the people buying Criterion dvds) can empathise with the stifling alienation and odd fixation with banal details that Monica Vitti's character(s) has to deal with. Who wouldn't, for example, be curious about a stockbroker who doodles a picture of a flower after losing thousands of Lira? This film is, of course, a must-watch for its infamous ending: Antonioni deconstructs his own creation, showing us the place where Vittoria and Piero usually meet but entirely removing the two characters from the setting. The result is a bleak confrontation of reality versus fiction, where Antonioni viciously spits the viewer out of the illusory world he has created.

  • Playfulness is key to both these satires: of course, Discreet Charm has a more visible target, but both poke fun at the artificiality of affluent Europeans. Bunuel's mastery of mise en abyme is mind-blowing: he puts a play inside of a dream inside of another dream, and unlike Christopher Nolan's blockbuster spawn, there is actually some significance to this structural mishmash: the viewers, like the bourgeois group of friends, never get their narrative satisfaction. Bunuel is essentially revealing the viewer's addiction to conventional narrative structure-- a Narration Junkies Anonymous, I suppose.

  • This film is very Pythonesque (or maybe Monty Python's sketches are Bunuelian, I don't know) and consists of little scenes, connected in a thread-like nature, which subvert the silly rules of Society-with-a-capital-S: the couple who think architecture is akin to porn; the girl who is reported missing by her parents and yet is right in front of them; the bourgeois friends for whom shitting is social and eating is disgusting.
    Teaser as he always is, Bunuel never allows any of his little vignettes to come to narrative fruition: they are there to poke fun at us, the silly saps who actually invested ourselves into his surreal scenes.

  • There's a bit of Akerman to this film-- we see repetitions of quintessential activities: she calls him from her office, he stays late at work and smokes, they sneak out together to a hotel room. Each one of these seemingly banal activities, however, is fraught with the tensions of love. The relationship between these two victims of cuckoldry exists on fleeting moments-- moments which are so eloquently framed by the cinematographers. There are films, and then there are experiences: In the Mood for Love falls in that latter category.

  • I love this film because it reveals Godard's hidden side: underneath his heavy cloak of sarcasm and cultural references, he's still a diehard Romantic. Ferdinand (not Pierrot) is, after all, the classic Romantic: he wants to live on the Riviera and write poetry all day. Marianne, of course, represents Godard's other side (and Anna Karina, the actress, actually was his significant other)-- spastic, seductive, capricious: she can move seamlessly from murdering someone to singing a musical number.

  • Short but sweet: in 27 minutes, this film encompasses the fleeting nature of memory, the inhumanity of totalitarian regimes and the timelessness of love. The film is entirely composed of pictures, except for one shot: that of the main character's lover's face stirring in bed. So much is expressed by this one scene.

  • A modern epic, one brimming with optimism and emotion: Watanabe, the everyman, is able to confront his death . It is impossible not to watch Ikiru and cry. The initiative and doggone determination of the old man is downright inspirational: this is one of those movies where you come out saying "Wow, I should really be doing something with my life!" Of course, a day later, you're back on the couch, eating chips from the freezer and watching reruns of Seinfeld. But hey, don't let any personal shortcomings detract from this film's magnanimity.

  • I dislike thinking of this as science fiction, because the sci-fi is only a small part of what this film is about: yes, Solaris is a planet with its own consciousness and can create illusions-- illusions such as a dead lover.
    The most powerful scenes, however, have little to do with sci-fi and all to do with humanity: where Kelvin picks up his Hari's icy body after she has ingested liquid oxygen; where the couple hover weightlessly amidst a Bach chorale soundtrack.

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