A break from Asia or Travel related topics, because I’m back in the world where my fascination with photography came from: cinema.
Very rarely film becomes something more than entertainment – it becomes a carrier of a mental state or an emotional transformation, an apotheosis, for the viewer. It manages to transport you so clearly to a different world, gives you insight into a different soul or make you experience an emotional state so lucidly you think it was your own…this is what a good film means to me and does to me – it’s a little more than entertainment or diversion…or maybe a lot more.
I love films and movies. I have done so since I was a kid, dreaming to direct my own films one day. I suppose one can learn all about structure and technical aspects, but one can also just go ahead and make a film. Like many people I can view films in my head if I focus…stories and images simply appear…learning to make a film can also be about developing a clear focus for this internal cinema.
But what I want to do here is to name and number a few of the films that have touched me, left a lasting impression on me…for one thing I want to remember them…for another thing, it might be interesting to other people who don’t know what sort of gems are waiting “out there”…Enjoy.
There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie has something beyond literary about it…a feeling that no book, no play can quite capture. Daniel Day Lewis’ performance is – as so many people have said – spectacular, primal, fierce and commanding…one man who swallowed all the human demons and lived.
The Assassination of Jesse James
Not so well known, but one of my absolute favorites…a film about the construction and deconstruction of a dream and a legend…this is a book come alive – I can read the characters and their nuances like I would in a novel…the cinematography is beautiful and the soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis has to be one of the best pieces of music in modern film…still gives me goose-bumps.
A Mongolian film about a young man facing his shamanic initiation in a broken world. Stunning, changing, but hard to understand unless you have a good imagination or a bit of background knowledge. Has excellent music by Altan Urag.
I could put almost any Miyazaki film here…but Princess Mononoke is the one I saw first and it created a new world of imagination for me. Nuanced characters with understandable and relatable motives, gorgeous animations and one or two scenes that leave me stunned each time (Ashitaka rescuing San, for example).
It needs time, patience and your imagination, but this quiet film will lead you on a journey that is far better than any opulent CGI overload. Three men, all of them want one thing – to flee their grim, industrial and hopeless city for the Zone…a Stalker can take them there.
David Lynch…well, once more I could choose any of his films (or Twin Peaks), but this one gets the nod because of the Diner scene where a man lays out his nightmare in the clearest possible detail only to have it become real a minute later…scary and surreal as hell.
An introspective samurai period film of the highest order and the second (and best) part of a loose trilogy…in Japanese filmmaking tradition the characters convey so much without words and quiet scenes are filled with tension. The fights, few as they are, are tense, short and impactful, but the mood is strong and the story of an aging samurai who has to leave his family to fight once more out of duty is immensely powerful.
This is a clear and simple descent into hell, both mythic and powerful.
Tree of Life
Terrence Malick is another director whose movies I love…Tree of Life is not a film that grabs you, but it unfolds before you, allowing you to see the moments, enjoy or suffer them and take whatever you wish from them. This is what life feels like…
I hope Mel Gibson manages to make his strange Viking epos one day, because Apocalypto – while having some up-the-ante scenes that I could do without – is powerfully primal and effective, transforming the world in front of you into a bloody, mythic reality.
The Color of Pomegranates
It shows how differently one can make films, far away from any sort of realism, but creating a poetic, vivid spectacle of scenes and symbols that brings to live a legend.
Nicolas Roeg creates a meditative, magic-realist story about just how foreign our own reality is when faced with the journey of a young Aboriginal man on walkabout.
This one just stands for many Werner Herzog films, about insane adventures, the ability to live and to chase ridiculous dreams. Forget the American war rhetoric and the ending – the real movie is Dengler’s struggle with the jungle and the prison camp.
I could go on, but I have probably already taxed people’s patience…more to come another time. Have fun finding new movies.