5 films I will never forget

“I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.” François Truffaut

The Chaser (original title: Chugyeogja), 2008 chaser1

Director: Hong-jin Na

In short: The Chaser is a stylish South Korean thriller about a policeman-turned-pimp who tries to capture the serial killer preying his girls.

Things happen. You meet people who change your life. You listen to music that inspires you. And you watch a film that will stay with you forever. And you don’t see it coming. It happened to me in 2009 when I watched The Chaser. I read the synopsis, thought “why not”, and only decided to watch it a few months later. To be honest, the pitch wasn’t so great, and I approached the film with a “been there, seen that” attitude. Big slap in the face, but a good one. Probably because I didn’t expect much from it. It is so gripping and captivating you’ll be on the edge of your seat until the very end. This film is extremely violent yet quiet. Graphic yet realistic.

Yes, it is shocking, it is disturbing, but it is cinema. An intense piece of cinema.

The Virgin Suicides, 1999the-virgin-suicides-18

Director: Sofia Coppola

In short: A group of young boys become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents.

The film is adapted from the 1993 novel by American writer Jeffrey Eugenides.

Sofia Coppola is one of my two favourite directors (the other one being mentioned a little later!). Everything she touches turns to gold. Her style is unique. She has only made a handful of films but each and every one of them is a gem. I was 13 when The Virgin Suicides was released and it made quite an impression! As a sensitive and tormented teenager, I could relate to these five sisters. Their melancholy really struck a chord. Just like this group of male friends, you, the spectator, will become obsessed with these mysterious and inaccessible creatures, especially Lux Lisbon (played by Kirsten Dunst), the playful one. And there is also the music. Sofia Coppola is a master in the art of putting image and music together (Highschool Lover and Playground Love by French duo Air are perfection). Sofia’s poetic depiction of this tragic story is deeply moving. Her film-making is truly beautiful and powerful. If you haven’t watched any of her films (or all of them!), I suggest you do so now!

Dracula, 1992dracula

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

In short: is the pitch really necessary here??

No wonder Sofia Coppola is so amazing, look at who she has for a father! Of all the films he’s made, this one affected me particularly. I started watching horror films at a (very) young age, and that’s probably why this one affected me so much. I remember being terrified of Gary Oldman’s Dracula because of one nightmare I had. I was in my bed, helpless, and he was coming for me. Of course, I watched this film again several years later, and it struck me for different reasons. The poetry, the beauty of it. The beast can fall in love. The reincarnation theme also adds to the mystery of the story being told. All these elements, the scare, the blood, the love and the supernatural, make this film one of my all-time favourites.

Midnight in Paris, 2011 midnight

Director: Woody Allen

In short: While in Paris with his fiancée’s family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every night at midnight.

Oh Woody Allen, you really get me! While this piece is not the only one I love from Allen’s work, it definitely is the one that I can relate to the most. Owen Wilson plays a nostalgic character whose dream is to live in Paris in the 1920s. Nostalgia, i.e. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past, is at the heart of this film. Nostalgia is a big part of me too. I’m not saying it’s good, but that’s the way it is, I can’t deny it. So when this character, Gil, finds himself surrounded by the most prestigious figures of the 1920s, I can’t help but be envious. I too want to meet the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Wilde, Dali, Buñuel… But the lesson is that the past is not any better than the present, it is what we make of it in our mind that is so appealing. Just like the present day is insignificant to Gil, the 1920s are boring to the character played by Marion Cotillard, simply because “it’s the present, it’s dull”. So, instead of brooding about the fact that I didn’t get to live in the 30s or the 60s, I can now enjoy going back to these times through films and be thankful for the present.

Oh, and the film is funny too (obviously!). Check out my favourite scene.

The Red Shoes, 1948red shoes

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

In short: A ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and the pursuit of her dream to become a prima ballerina.

I’ve always liked ballet, but it’s only when I watched this film during my film studies in London a few years back that I realized I could watch it for hours. The Red Shoes is originally a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a young girl whose red shoes take control over her: the shoes are stuck to her feet and she can’t take them off. Nor can she stop dancing. The moment she removes the shoes is the moment she dies. At the core of this surrealist piece of cinema is the ballet, the art itself, as a projection of the ballerina’s subconscious. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) reminded me of it for its mise en abîme and tragic ending. Both films really chime with how I feel about ballet. I must say that the dancing scenes are my favourite parts.

What about you? I want to know all about the films that changed YOUR life, don’t be shy, leave comments! And stay tuned for more cinema postings…

A.

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