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10 Great Movies That Are Written, Directed, and Starring The Same Person

Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Woody Allen, and Orson Welles are amongst some of the most well-known self-written and self-directed actors in cinema. Other names like Sylvester Stallone, George Clooney, and Tom Hanks have also proven themselves capable in making a film that they have written, directed, and acted in themselves.

The concept of an auteur states that although a film can be fictional, it is always a direct reflection of the person making it. When filmmakers take on more than one role in the making of a film, it begins to carry a greater reflection of their identity. This allows for the artist, as well as the viewer, to have an entirely different experience with the film that is opposed to instances where a director leads a film he didn’t write or become the lead character for.

This list explores ten celebrated filmmakers whose work as writer, director and actor in the same film is a must see. Some names on this list are more famous than others, but they have all successfully shared deeply personal experiences. Through their unique blend of words, cinematic choices, and physical presence on the screen, these directors have told stories through film that only they are able to tell.

 

1. Life is Beautiful – Roberto Benigni

Life is Beautiful

Benigni’s Life is Beautiful is touching, funny and hopelessly sad all at once. The film follows a man named Guido (played by Benigni) and his young son as they are captured and sent to a concentration camp during World War II. From the start, Guido creates rules to explain to his son that the trip to the camp is actually a holiday, and that they are part of a game with points that could win them a real life army tank.

Although many critics have claimed that the use of comedy was an insensitive approach in the context of the Holocaust, Benigni uses it as a coping mechanism to protect his child’s innocence in the face of inevitable doom. His comedic approach is authentic, and in many ways autobiographical since Benigni’s actual father was a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II, and used humour when sharing work stories to his son.

When understanding his perspective as a father in this uncontrollable situation, it feels understandable and almost intuitive for a man to make his son laugh instead of cry. Throughout the film, Benigni forces viewers to have a rollercoaster experience of sadness through tears, and the tireless efforts to protect his son’s spirit through laughs.

 

2. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling – Richard Pryor

In Richard Pryor’s directorial debut, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling, he creates a self-reflective, semiautobiographical film about a successful comedian who gets trapped in a world of alcohol, drugs and women as a way to cope with a past that haunts him, no matter how much success he gains through his career.

The film begins with a series of events that leads Jojo in the hospital. Not many details are given except that Jojo was on drugs during the incident, and that the severe burns on his bod have left him in critical condition. While in the hospital, what looks like Jojo’s spirit leaves his practically dead body. The film goes on to follow Jojo’s spirit as he revisits all the moments of his past that have led him to the near death experience at the beginning of the film.

JoJo visits the whorehouse he grew up in to speak to his mother who worked there a prostitute, he confronted his uncaring father, relived the love and infidelity of his past relationships, and finally ended up in his home, alone, searching for rocks on his carpet to get high with. It’s clear that Pryor and Dancer have shared the ways in which they coped with their past traumas, seeing as Pryor admitted to being addicted to alcohol and drugs over the course of his career. Pryor claimed that drugs offered him an instant sense of euphoria that his insecurities would never let him feel through love, money, or success.

The context and plot of the film makes Pryor’s first and only attempt at directing, writing, and starring in this film nothing but vulnerable. He laid his life out on the screen and was transparent with every aspect of it, displaying the trials and tribulations he dealt with in exactly the way in which he wanted you to see them.

 

3. The Nutty Professor – Jerry Lewis

Often referred to as the master of slapstick comedy, Jerry Lewis’ career, in all aspects of the film creating process, cannot go unnoticed. Although there are still mixed feelings on his approach and style of filmmaking, he took great responsibility and pride in having complete control over the direction of his films. He believed there was a transparency and heart to engaging in all the jobs of making a film (on and off camera) that could not be replicated when simply being an actor in another person’s story.

After a geeky professor creates a formula that physically transforms him into a handsome, confident man, The Nutty Professor, also known as Mr. Kelp, faces the world through a different lens. The new and improved Mr. Kelp goes by the name of Buddy Love, and he effortlessly sweeps people off their feet with his beautiful singing voice and magnetic personality.

Although it maintains a conventional narrative, The Nutty Professor is a key film in Lewis’ filmography. By the time he made The Nutty Professor, his style in comedy was established in a way where he could challenge serious themes like the social importance of physical appearances, and the natural and uncontrollable curiosity that human beings have with improving their lives with science.

 

4. Buffalo ’66 – Vincent Gallo

Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo’ 66 is a reflection of a man’s inability to love others as a result of not being regarded or cared for as a child. The film’s dark and gloomy aesthetic perfectly conceptualizes the character’s psychological anxiety throughout the plot of the film.

The film begins with Billy Brown, played by Gallo, getting released from jail. On his stressful pursuit to find a place to pee, Billy kidnaps a young tap dancer and tells her she has to pretend to be his loving wife on a visit to his parents’ house. For some unexplainable reason, Stella, the young kidnapped girl plays along with Billy’s scheme, and does not find a way to escape. The plot then shifts to Billy seeking revenge for his unjust imprisonment, unexpectedly falling in love with Stella in the process.

Gallo has said that Buffalo ‘66 was a cathartic experience because it really reflected the struggles of his own life. Apart from Billy and Gallo’s similar characteristics, Gallo has stated that his parents in real life are exactly like the parents in the film, only that the one’s in the film somehow seem a bit more charming. In the scene where he visits his old home, Gallo presents an extremely toxic household that strikes nothing but pity for the Billy that had to grow up in it.

The neglect and disinterest his parents have with him is extremely saddening, and can easily go on to explain why he seems so strange. Billy is quite the intense character in this film, however, the way in which his unconventional interactions with Stella progress is what makes the film what it is: a twisted, unconventional, and captivating love story.

 

5. Sling Blade – Billy Bob Thornton

Sling Blade

Thornton’s directorial debut, Sling Blade follows a disabled man named Karl who is released from a mental institution after serving a 17-year sentence for murdering his mother and her lover.

After his release, Karl decides to go back to his hometown where he becomes friends with a little boy named Frank. Over the course of the film, Karl and Frank develop a bond that is undeniably pure and quite heartwarming to watch come about.

Thornton, had worked in a nursing home before becoming an actor, and said that Karl was an amalgam of different people that he met while working there. One of the main reasons why Sling Blade resonated with so many people is because of how authentic Karl feels in everything he says and does. The details that make up his personality are so unique that he becomes a real person, and not just a written role played by an actor. His mannerisms, his walk, his talk, the way he says “mhm” after every line, or the way he rubs his hands when he speaks, are all part of the realness Thornton brought to him on screen.

Themes of religion and prejudice radiate throughout Karl’s experiences, highlighting society’s cruel ways of normalizing the maltreatment of disabled people. Through a series of simple stories, we see that religion can fall into the wrong hands and be twisted to manipulate others, but it can also redeem a flawed man, and help him find a purpose.

10 Great Movies That Defy The Rules of Genre

How were film genres created?

Through the more recent decades of cinema, it has become increasingly common for films to blend elements of different genres in order to tell unique, eye opening, and sometimes disturbing stories. Part of what makes a film “defy” its genre is the director’s innovative use of cinematography and musical score. However, another key aspect is the content matter in which it chooses to address. The more freedom a director has to be truthful through their lens, the more likely they are to use unconventional approaches in order to trigger a certain level of awareness in the viewers.

Film genres, like music, change and transform over time. They use recycled inspiration in order to create new forms of execution.

These 10 movies are amongst those that have evoked a certain level of rebellion through their mixed styles. As they searched beyond the structures of genre, the directors mentioned below have opened avenues of hybrid genres, and challenged the norms of what is allowed to be addressed on film. They changed the rules by breaking them.

 

1. Koyaanisqatsi (1982, Godfrey Reggio)

Koyaanisqatsi is the Hopi word for “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance.”

There is no experience like viewing the history and destruction of the Earth happen in front of your eyes. Through a compilation of videos sewn together by an epic and repetitive score, Koyaanisqatsi is terrifyingly indicative of the manufactured world that humans have created from the Earth’s resources. Although it takes patience and a deep concentration to watch, no one can come out of seeing Koyaanisqatsi the same.

Essentially, it has no genre. It is a series of images that navigates you through a plotless, characterless journey of nature’s progression through time. The film feels like a documentary at times, however only partially, because the lack of narrator or direction eliminates the rhythm of a documentary. It is difficult to describe the experience of Koyaanisqatsi as anything other than moving.

It is a film intended for complete surrender and immersion into the rhythmic forces of nature, with the conflict being humanity’s interruption of it. Koyaanisqatsi is not a symbol of protest. It takes viewers into the visual experience of human pollution much rather than the lesson. If we look deeper into what Reggio intended, it was to use technology to spy on nature, before and after the human conquest of it.

As a result of its rebellion in regards to its lack of clear structure, Reggio still managed to a create a rhythmic piece of art that is effective beyond the structure of film itself.

 

2. Gummo (1997, Harmony Korine)

Gummo

What makes Gummo particularly unconventional is how the film alternates from messy home videos to shots that seem like they are following several different characters in a documentary styled film. It’s important to note that it isn’t labelled a documentary, although it feels that way a lot of times. The film also turns cinematic at random points, where music and slow motion effects intensify the experience. Apart from its lack for a clear narrative or any main characters, the film is also unconventional in its brutal transparency.

Gummo is a set of stories and images that together create an experience like no other film. It follows children and adults throughout their daily activities around the tornado stricken, impoverished community of Xenia, Ohio. A few of their activities include abusing animals, sniffing glue, taking baths in green brown water, and the unfortunate occurrences of child prostitution and incestuous rape. Korine gives us a tour of the physical and psychological devastation of the town through their rituals of cyclical violence.

The home videos are particularly effective in enhancing the honesty of the film, as they often recount stories of abuse, suicide, or cross dressing. They give the film a brutal awareness as to why Xenia seems so damaged from an outside perspective. There is a necessary sense of confusion throughout the mixture of home videos and film shots that blends the people’s emotions.

The film tells the story of the town of Xenia as a product of the people, a character in and of itself that is affected by both natural disaster, and the emotionally destructive families inhabiting it. As a result, Gummo is a mirror to the provocative and horrifying realities of the citizens of Xenia.

Through his unstructured use of shots, stills, and sounds, Korine’s Gummo presents a vivid realness to the hopeless people of Xenia, trapped in cycles of poverty and psychological abuse.

 

3. Tangerine (2014, Sean Baker)

Tangerine

Tangerine is a film about two transgender women, Sin-Dee and Alexandra, on a mission to find the woman Sin-Dee’s man has been cheating with while she was in jail. Along this wildly dramatic mission, which Baker shot entirely on an iPhone, we are taken through the ups and downs of relationships in a Los Angeles neighborhood that is fueled by prostitution.

The film begins with Sin-Dee and Alexandra talking back and forth in what becomes a heated realization of her boyfriend’s infidelity. The first scene alone exudes the eccentric, moneymaking female energy of reality TV. Along with the unnecessary drama of the plot and characters, the film’s colour grading drenches the screen in a yellow saturation that is equally as extreme.

The music is another confusing element of the film, flipping from EDM, to classical music, to intergalactic hypnotic beats, to post-hard core dubstep, to alternative rock, and back to Armenian EDM music. That’s the genre bending nature of the transitions in Tangerine.

Through the familiar turmoil of love and friendship, the film presents two outcasts of society in a way that feels truthful, giving them a platform to be unapologetically themselves. There is an individuality and purity to their drama that seems a necessary tool to cope with their struggling lifestyle, which is regarded but never dramatized in a way to trigger pity. The film presents a world where they fit in, and are not looked at funny for who they are. However, it’s important to remember that they represent a subculture in the America they live in.

In that regard, Tangerine premiering at Sundance and getting international praise was a major step for transgender representation on film. It also carried with it the hope that anyone with a raw story to tell and a mobile phone can make a film.

Tangerine is a concoctive blend of drama, tragedy, and comedy, feeling unapologetic and outrageous in its choices of plot, characters, camera shots, and musical score.

 

4. Irréversible (2002, Gaspar Noé)

Irreversible

Irréversible is arguably one of the most difficult films to digest in cinema history. The story follows a man named Marcus who is looking to avenge his girlfriend Alex’s death. Alex was found severely beaten and raped in a metro station that same night. The film leaves no details to the imagination, and displays long, chilling scenes of uncut violence and abuse.

What makes the film even more unique is the chronology of events. Noé took the natural structure of storytelling within the thriller genre, and redefined it as his own by beginning the film with the end, going through the story backwards. As the title implies, Irréversible presents the irreversible damage of violence before we even know who and what happened for there to be any conflict at all. One clear intention that the director had when shooting these different events was to reverse the standard progression in which emotions peak and fall in a film.

Irreversible is a psychological thriller that in it encapsulates drama, romance, crime fiction, action and mystery. By displaying horrific acts of rape and violence on a film screen, using uncomfortable spinning camera shots, and executing the story on his own terms, Noé’s film redefines the thriller genre, and creates an entirely new panic fueled energy in cinema. The way the pieces of the story are put together is so unique and haunting, that it is surely going to keep shocking generations of viewers to come.

 

5. The Holy Mountain (1973, Alejandro Jodorowsky)

The Holy Mountain

Equipped with thousands of strange, surreal, and scarring images, The Holy Mountain can be considered a shock therapy film. With eye opening, philosophical intentions, of course.

At its root, it is a fundamental story of self-actualization in a highly manipulative environment of debauchery.

The film adapts into science fiction when we are introduced to the powerful politicians that rule the other planets. Amongst these planets are leaders performing tasks such as manufacturing faces, brainwashing children to destroy enemies of war, making sporadic decisions to murder innocent people in order to restore the balance of economics, mass producing decorative war weapons, or creating sexually interactive art.

The film regards themes of political power, moral corruption, religion, alchemy, and enlightenment through images of religious iconography, nudity, insects, animal abuse, and colour. At times, the extreme images presented are so absurd and violent that there is only a triggered reaction, and no rational explanation for what is being seen. It’s possible that Jodorowsky’s message is that there exists corruption that must be seen to be felt, but that none of it really has a meaning. One must have the patience to go through their own personal journey in order to define its meaning.

Aesthetically, it’s a surreal masterpiece. Some may refer to it as a horror fantasy, seeing as many of the images are difficult to watch. In terms of the plot, it is a tale of self-discovery following in some ways the structure of a science fiction film, where dystopic realities co-exist with the present day to feel eerie and dark.

The extent to which Jodorowsky experimented with the visuals of the film, is equal to the philosophical reach of the self-reflective end. When the fourth wall is broken, we realize that this newly boiled up blend of genres is simply part of an ambitious attempt to be profoundly moving.

10 Great Movies That Should Have Started Franchises

It seems that every weekend movie theaters are cluttered with unnecessary sequels, with some franchises continuing to rehash the same story for multiple installments that no one asked for. Unfortunately, while there are seemingly countless sequels playing at any given moment, it’s often that the films most deserving of a franchise never get past the first installment.

There are many great films that seemed perfectly designed for future installments, but never got the chance to continue their story. Here are ten films that should have started franchises.

 

10. World War Z

After one of the most legendarily tumultuous shoots in recent cinema history, World War Z became an unexpected smash hit, earning over $540 million worldwide and gaining critical acclaim. While the film did a great job at capturing the scope of what the global reaction would be to a zombie pandemic as seen through the eyes of a former United Nations operative played by Brad Pitt, the novel that the film was based on features countless more story possibilities for a world overrun by zombies.

Unfortunately, production of a sequel has been just as challenging as it was to make the first film, with World War Z 2 officially cancelled by Paramount, despite months of pre-production and the involvement of the great David Fincher. A world in which Fincher helms a major action blockbuster would truly be incredible, especially considering how successful his past collaboration with Brad Pitt have been.

Even if Fincher wasn’t involved, there are countless other directors that could make a great zombie film in this universe. Considering that the first film introduces its world by spanning many locations and characters, it’s possible that a sequel could be done on a more intimate scale for a smaller budget. The mystery of how the zombie crisis was initiated was left open at the end of the first film, and it’s unfortunate that there will be no sequels to address it.

 

9. Dune (1984)

After Star Wars started a wave of science fiction blockbusters in the late 1970s and 1980s, many expected the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune to be the next big sci-fi saga. The high profile status of the adaptation was increased when Universal hired the genius David Lynch to write and direct. Lynch was coming off of the success of his cult midnight movie Eraserhead and the Oscar-nominated The Elephant Man, and despite a huge budget and aggressive marketing, Dune wasn’t the film many were expecting and didn’t end up spawning any sequels.

While behind the scenes drama diluted much of Lynch’s vision for the film, it remains a visually distinct film with an epic scale, great cast, and terrific score by Brian Eno and Toto. Sequels to Dune that adapted later novels in Herbert’s series could have allowed Lynch to have more freedom in making the films he wanted to see. Even the original cut, which Lynch himself has issues with, does a great job at showing the depth and culture of Herbert’s mythic civilizations. It’s also the film that began Lynch’s collaboration with actor Kyle MacLachlan, which would go on to be one of the best partnerships in cinematic history.

Lynch was denied the chance to continue the Dune franchise, despite plans to make a second and third film. However, unlike the other films on this list, the Dune franchise does have somewhat of a happy ending, as a reboot of the series will begin next year with the brilliant Denis Villenueve directing and Timothee Chalamet starring as Paul Atreides. It’s exciting that another talented duo will work on this franchise’s future, but at the same time there was a missed opportunity to use the 1984 film as a blueprint for the Dune universe.

 

8. Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg’s mafia thriller Eastern Promises instantly established itself as one of the greatest crime movies ever made, with Viggo Mortensen earning waves of critical acclaim for his performance, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. With its shocking plot twist, brutal violence, and layered character dynamics, Eastern Promises looked like it could be the beginning of a brilliant franchise, as the ending left room for Mortensen’s character to continue operating in London. Although Cronenberg reportedly had plans for a sequel, it still hasn’t happened.

The story of Easter Promises is self contained, and much of the film relies on the shocking revelations of the secret sex trafficking ring in London and that Mortensen’s mob hitman is actually an undercover British agent determined to dismantle the organization from the inside. However, the ending teases a future, as Mortensen’s character Nikolai is now running the crime family along with Vincent Cassel’s character Kirill. How will an undercover British agent run a mafia family, and how long can he go undetected before the family realizes they’re being sold out by one of their own?

These are the questions that Cronenberg was planning on addressing in a follow up that would begin at the same point that the previous film ended, but plans for a sequel have dragged on and it doesn’t appear that Eastern Promises 2 will happen anytime soon. Audiences have been waiting since 2007 to see what would happen if Kirill discovered Nikolai’s secret, and considering that Mortensen is coming off a number of acclaimed performances, he could certainly convince Cronenberg to continue this story.

 

7. Flash Gordon (1980)

flash-gordon-1980

Like Dune, 1980’s Flash Gordon was fast tracked into production after Star Wars made studios realize there was a market for sci-fi space operas, with Flash Gordon hitting theaters only six months after The Empire Strikes Back. Unlike those films, Flash Gordon was extremely goofy and satirical, and was purposefully campy in a way that reflected the original serial and comic strip series. While it has gained a cult following, plans for a sequel never materialized, and there hasn’t been a Flash Gordon film of any kind made since then.

Especially compared to the sci-fi of its time, Flash Gordon stands out by embracing its camp elements through sets and costumes that are large, lavish, and colorful. There is absolutely no moral grayness to the story, with Sam J. Jones playing the titular character as an almost comically perfect hero, and Max von Sydoux chewing scenery with wonderfully over the top menace as the evil Ming the Merciless. More than anything, the film stands out due to its iconic soundtrack by Queen, who created an incredibly energetic rock anthem that elevates every scene.

The time has passed on a possibility of a Flash Gordon sequel, as the retirement of director Mike Hodges and the passing of Freddie Mercury making it impossible to recreate the film’s magic. While there are many that now cite the film as a major breakthrough in appreciating self aware sci-fi, it’s unfortunate that this audacious world was never extended into multiple movies.

 

6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Peter Weir’s Napoleonic naval adventure film seemed to be a modest hit, earning $210 million worldwide and gaining 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. The film was distinguished for its realistic depiction of naval travel and warfare, as well as the excellent performance from Russell Crowe. It also has one of the easiest setups for a franchise, as it is based on the Aubrey-Maturin series from author Patrick O’Brian, which contains 21 books.

Crowe has publicly lobbied for a sequel to be made, and when looking at the rich source material, it’s a shame that sixteen years have passed without any word on a Master and Commander follow up. The film has such a rich cast, including Paul Bettany in a pivotal role as the crew’s surgeon, and stands out as one of the last great cinematic epics. Few films have been able to capture the chaos and terror found in a naval battle, and the film ends with an obvious hook as Aubrey’s crew pursues an enemy ship.

Director Peter Weir has not made a film since 2010’s The Way Back, and could certainly have a major comeback vehicle if the franchise was to continue. Crowe has seemingly taken a backseat to starring roles, and it would be great to see him return to one of his most iconic characters. Either way, it’s a shame that this great film wasn’t the first of many Aubrey adventures.

10 Great Movies Made By Directors Before They Became Famous

Every director has to start somewhere. Some directors discovered and figured out their style and obsessions along the way, and some have it from the beginning. For the most part, everybody has to start small and work their way up, just like in any other profession.

However, it’s always unique to look back at the director’s films before they had their big breakout and see who they were at those given points. Here are 10 great films made by directors before they were famous.

 

1. The Birthday Party (1968, William Friedkin)

The Birthday Party (1968)

Before he got the advice from Howard Hawks to make movies for true Americans, William Friedkin directed four features before “The French Connection.” The films were mostly from renowned plays and from the arthouse circuit, one of them being Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” from 1957.

The play was successful but the film was overlooked, but not the talent of Friedkin on display. Pinter’s comedy of menacing dialogue and rapid firing led by Robert Shaw matches this director’s early filmography. With almost every line of dialogue or point expressed, Friedkin changes the camera angle, lifting it from its theatrical setting. He avoids typical play adaptations with actual filmmaking.

On the narrative side, this story about strangers in a strange house in a cat and mouse sought of game clearly worked. But this film could have sunk if it wasn’t for Friedkin’s passion and showing the audience that he can keep a film that takes place in one location at relenting speed with never a dull moment.

 

2. Killer’s Kiss (1955, Stanley Kubrick)

The first real production by Kubrick as he disowned and called his first do-it-yourself film “Fear and Desire” a failed attempt, Kubrick showed his true talent here. One must never forget that he started out as a photographer, so he begins to capture the composition, lighting, and framing in this film.

One can easily label it a film noir in the 1950s, but take a couple of scenes that show Kubrick truly developing his talent. When lead Jamie Smith lingers at Grand Central Station, the film is literally a series of crispy, stark black-and-white photographs, with that tough guy existentialism voiceover. Or take when a chase occurs toward the end of the film and we enter a room full of mannequins. It’s slightly difficult not to think of some future classics like “A Clockwork Orange” or “The Shining.” Kubrick makes a simple setting and transcends it to memorable scenes.

Clocking in at just over an hour, Kubrick truly shows talent and makes a great film that is sadly rarely talked about in his filmography, especially since it’s his true debut film with an actual cast and crew. The film holds up, but is sadly overlooked in this master’s body of work.

 

3. Medicine for Melancholy (2008, Barry Jenkins)

Medicine for Melancholy

Barry Jenkins decided to make this standout film, a film made with true independence for $15,000. Sure, it was another eight years before his breakout “Moonlight,” but one can see the passion, dedication, and raw talent to tell stories about black people in a certain time and space.

Since the film chronicles the day after two 20-year-olds have a one night stand, we see the point of views from two African-Americans in the rapidly gentrifying San Francisco. The film is definitely a two-hander with engaging dialogue and great performances, but it’s how Jenkins makes beautifully imagery with regular DP James Laxton on a digital camera. He makes the most from the smallest amount of resources, and the film never suffers. It actually increases in craft, such as with the colors of the shirts, which correlate to the character’s moods and emotions.

The film never has a dull moment and one can definitely see the talent Jenkins displayed here. He received recognition from the indie community, but sadly it took almost a decade for everyone else to appreciate this filmmaker. And now, we can appreciate this film.

 

4. Summer with Monika (1953, Ingmar Bergman)

harriet-andersson-summer-with-monika-two

A few years before “Smiles of a Summer Night” and his two-year film streak of “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries,” Bergman clearly started to shape the way he was with this great film starring Harriet Andersson.

At the time of its release, it was notorious for its nudity, but still resonated as a great film as it does today. We witness Andersson’s Monika over the course of a summer. Despite the summer atmosphere, the bleakness and heaviness of Bergman never looms away; take any frame shot by Gunnar Fischer and you can clearly get the sense of this.

It’s Andersson’s performance from young girl falling in love, to a woman with a despair and dark ridden future, as we jump ahead and back in Stockholm for the ending of the film that really hits the viewer hard. Bergman was making a coming-of-age story of a young woman, but the isolation and images filled with foreshadowing despair show the film’s true colors.

It’s a very engaging watch but filled with melancholy after each subsequent viewing, which makes it even a more powerful film and one that shows Bergman’s talent before he became the filmmaker he was.

 

5. Story of a Love Affair (1950, Michelangelo Antonioni)

Story of a Love Affair

The beginning of his career and a full decade before “L’Avventura,” Antonioni already began exploring the discontent and isolation of a couple in modernizing Italy. Whether one decides to classify it as a neorealist, film noir, or new territory, Antonioni made a film that incorporates all these elements and begins his search for his cinema.

The story tells the tragic affair between two lovers, as one can guess from the title, but the visual style, pacing, and camera movement makes this film stick out. Of course, you are seeing Italy post-World War II and shadows from the noir movement, but it’s the connection between Lucia Bose and Massimo Girotti that makes this film stand out.

From their conversations involving shame, regret, and memory where the camera never cuts but pans with them establishing new setups, we see a great film unravel. Antonioni clearly knew what he wanted to say and express and it’s these scenes where he starts to feel his true filmmaking emerge.

Antonioni continued to explore these themes over the decade and succeeded fairly well with “Le Amiche” and “Il Grido,” but it’s his debut a full decade before his artistic prowess emerged that deserves attention as well.

10 Great Movies That Show a Different Side To a Director

As directors advance in their careers, they can sometimes get self indulgent or repetitive with their films. However, for some, they go down a different path. They try a new genre, a completely different style. While others continue to evolve, some just create a one-off and go back to their ways. Regardless, here are 10 films that show a different side to a director.

 

1. The Straight Story (1999) – David Lynch

The Straight Story

David Lynch doing a straight narrative for Disney sounds like a joke. Well, it certainly wasn’t and Lynch has declared it his most experimental film due to the narrative, pacing, and well, straight story.

The film deals with Richard Farnsworth making a long journey across the Midwest on a tractor to make amends with his estranged brother, Lynch regular Harry Dean Stanton, who just suffered a stroke. As the film plays out, you would never know Lynch directed the film save for some stark dialogue, slight abstraction of scenes, and the ridiculousness of the plot (that is actually based on a true story).

With Lynch essentially going straight, the film allows for its characters to breathe, develop, and slowly reveal who they truly are. It leads to a beautiful conversation and acting piece between Stanton and Farnsworth. So many emotions and memories come to fruition that it might be the most sensitive scene in Lynch’s filmography.

After the film, Lynch would make “Mulholland Drive.” Maybe it was this Disney-produced film that made Lynch want to not only go back to his roots, but expand in ways he didn’t think was capable after playing it straight for a film. And what a lovely film it is.

 

2. The Favourite (2018) – Yorgos Lanthimos

The first film by Yorgos Lanthimos that he did not write was by far his most accessible. Going back to the early 1700s to explore the trio of relationships between Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne, Emma Stone’s Abigail Hill, and Rachel Weisz’s Duchess Sarah in a period pitch-black comedy of manners.

You may wonder how the Greek Weird Wave director who transitioned to English language films with “The Lobster” would fare without his own material. He soared because he is the true auteur behind this film due to all levels of the film’s production. Lanthimos never abandons his true roots because he focuses on female characters who struggle to adapt to their world, absurdity to the point of not making sense, and off-kilter framing of his characters. Then why is this such a departure?

He manages to create a social and political comedy of manners based off of actual events. He never strays away from the historical details, costumes, or timely events in the film. It’s his first non-contemporary film and certainly the one furthest from his Greek films.

Lanthimos continues to create films that are universally his, but manages to do so differently with the subject matter and always pushes it a bit further. And here, he certainly did so, with arousing results.

 

3. Thelma (2017) – Joachim Trier

Thelma

A film that merges many influences and works slightly off of themes explored in his first three films, Joachim Trier makes a supernatural thriller infused with many layered themes. Some can view the film as a cross between Ingmar Bergman and Brian De Palma, and they’re not far off.

From the opening scene that sets forth the film, we know we’re never going to be settled or comfortable about what’s to happen and most importantly, the choices these characters will make. However, with the lustful desire that Eili Harboe’s Thelma has for another young woman at her university, going against the will of her parents, we are entranced.

Trier still keeps his themes of young men and women trying to tackle their own consciousness and purpose in life, but he strips away from his montage-like mini stories filled with voice over and really lets the film settle over you. He shows he can work within many genres ranging from supernatural, thriller, horror, religious, or mystery. Sure, his films were wide-ranged, but were grounded in reality and performance.

With this film, Trier breaks away from his previous trio of films by literally going darker in every sense, which makes it all the more exciting to see what he does next.

 

4. Pirates (1986) – Roman Polanski

Pirates movie

No tragedy or controversy can slow Polanski down, and after a seven-year hiatus after his film “Tess,” dedicated to his late wife nonetheless, he wanted to do something for fun.

After numerous trips to Disneyland and watching films that reminded him of childhood, he wanted to make a film that all can enjoy. So, he made a film about pirates with Walter Matthau at the helm. In the history books, the film is not well received. However, according to its star, he felt the real atmosphere and characters on the set. And that’s what Polanski wanted to do – make an enjoyable film. And by getting away from the psychological terror and bloodshed, he did a complete 180.

It wasn’t long before Polanski returned to his roots and gathered further acclaim, but with this 1986 film, we see a different side of him to show that even a man with a horrible childhood, escaping the Ghetto in Warsaw, that he could still make an entertaining film for children and even adults, despite a personal history and filmography that proved otherwise.

 

5. Days of Wine and Roses (1962) – Blake Edwards

Forget the Pink Panther films or light romantic comedies or the very British elite films. Blake Edwards took a different turn right after “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with this dark, psychological film about the effects of alcohol between a married couple.

As the film opens with Jack Lemmon, the heavy-on-the-bottle husband and his innocent, naive sober wife Lee Remick, we don’t expect to see where things will go from here. As the film unfolds in stark a black-and-white theatrical setting, we start to see a reversal of choices and moods between Lemmon and Remick. Both actors here are truly exceptional, with Lemmon even stating that it was his personal favorite film from his filmography.

Maybe Edwards saw the Clay couple as an inner persona of himself, going from light-minded films to more heavy films. Perhaps he was experimenting and trying for his own reversal of choices and moods for his films.

Regardless of his other successful comedies, this film established Edwards as a director that mattered in Hollywood. He wasn’t a director to hire for comedies or abide to the Hollywood model; he could tell a brutally honest story of a couple in a deep, somber state, unlike anything he ever did.

10 Great Movies You Wish You’d Seen On The Big Screen

Seeing a film in the cinema is more than just seeing it a film on a big screen. Sound design is often built for cinema speakers and the effect isn’t quite the same when played out of a television at home. Also it’s a lot harder to get distracted in a cinema when the lights are off and all there is to do is look at the screen.

Put simply a film you don’t like but have only ever seen on a small screen may feel very different when seen in a cinema. This is a list of ten great films that have those certain qualities that really should be appreciated on the biggest, loudest cinema screen possible.

 

1. Once Upon a Time in the West

The opening sequence of this film alone is enough to justify its place on this list. Sergio Leone Who had already established himself as a master of the Western stand off with The Good, The Bed and The Ugly. Anyone familiar with a Leone set piece will recognise the fantastic score by Ennio Moricone but also the sheer length of the sequences. With Once Upon a Time in the West the build up of the opening shoot out is truly amazing.

Never has a bunch of men doing, essentially nothing seemed so cinematic; of course what you’re watching is Leone build atmosphere, making the audience feel the heat and the glare of the sun and to letting the tension grow and grow longer than you’d ever think possible so by the time the action actually starts you’re almost screaming in your seats.

Written by three young Italian filmmakers Bernardo Bertolucci, Dario Argento and Sergio Leone (winning the award for script room we’d most like to be a fly on the wall for) with the intention to see how they could manipulate and move an audience with a genre that had already been done to death. Key to this was the casting of Henry Fonda (almost exclusively a cinematic hero) in the role of the villain, a smiling, psychopathic gunman; audiences were audibly shocked when they first saw him.

Once Upon a Time in the West is also significant as it marks a distinctly darker change in Leone’s filmmaking. His Spaghetti trilogy had been getting longer and more expansive with each instalment. In this case the main plot revolves around protecting a widow from the increasingly threatening Henry Fonda.

It’s not an adventure of gold or a struggle to free a town; it’s a survival film. This film is worth seeing not just for it’s expertise but as a changing point towards a darker cinema of the 1970s where the film’s creators would go on to make some of their best work.

 

2. You Were Never Really Here

The cinema of Lynne Ramsey is something quite special. Her films manage to pack in so much information into (especially in this case) their quite short running times. Ramsey’s films have left such an impact on audiences because they seem to constantly evolve through their endless ability to be interpreted and then reinterpreted.

Ramsey has stated that she concentrates on either of two things when creating a shot: fill the picture with a specific image, or fill the picture with a specific sound. While this may be argued is the case for all cinema ever, Ramsey has such a strong cinematic vision that when cut together these simplistic shots fill the film with message, meaning and poetry.

You Were Never Really Here is a film about a hitman. It’s also a film about unusual parent and child relationships. And it’s a film about one man’s fragile psychosis. Watching it you almost have to give in to the film and let it’s images and it’s sound just wash over you. In one shot (of a bloody hammer and gold chain) we learn enough about our lead character to make an estimate of what he’s like. But at the same time we haven’t actually seen what he’s done.

The after image of violence is almost more effective than actually seeing it, not least because the main character’s motivations for killing and his behaviour as a killer remains a mystery to us. Instead we’re left with the implied threat of danger while instead what we get to see is him looking after his mother and rescuing a little girl.

You Were Never Really Here is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen in the dark, because for one thing it’s probably the best way to hear Johnny Greenwood’s crashing and smashing score that appropriately reflects the chaos inside the main character’s head. But Lynne Ramsey makes films where their biggest impact is actually playing out in your own head.

It’s possible to see her films as a collection of strung together random images. But if seen in a dark room with no distractions with a screen and sound system big enough and loud enough we are engulfed by a fantastic director’s genius skill and entertained by how the film makes us think and the wider world it creates from our own imagination.

 

3. Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria

Considered by some to be one of the greatest horror films of all time, Dario Argento’s masterpiece, it has to be admitted, is an odd beast. For one thing the world of Suspiria does not behave in a way that is in anyway consistent with our own. Scenes are bathed in a blood red light, but when the lights are turned off the colour instead changes to a deep green. The lead characters hear footsteps three floors away at an impossibly high volume. The soundtrack by Goblin (while iconic) comes in and out with no clear consistency.

And of course that is the point. Argento’s movie is not supposed to make sense logically but rather emotionally or stylistically. Things like sound, colour and image can have huge symbolic meaning and Argento exploits this to within an inch of its life. Sitting in the movie theatre we too are bathed in red light and the volume of the soundtrack assaults our ears. Many films since have used many of the same techniques, but Suspiria is a film that’s entirely constructed out of them.

The film is almost theatrical in the sense that the staging and craft of the story is just as important as the narrative when it comes to scaring the audience. Suspiria’s stylistic genius has always made it a film that has to be experienced rather than just watched.

 

4. Roma

Roma was an astounding piece of filmmaking and a very important film, not least because it was delivered to millions of households across the world instantaneously. One of the amazing effects of Roma is that this film, about recognizing marginalised voices and stories, about a family unit pulling together, had a cultural moment akin to when an entire nation tunes in to watch a TV special at the same time.

However the amazing intricacies of Roma would only have been enhanced had we seen it on the big screen. Roma is a film that sits on the outskirts of a wider world; the world it exists in (the perspective of housekeeper Cleo) is no less interesting, but the point of view of being on the outside looking in makes for seriously impressive cinema.

Cleo’s position never allows her to fully know what’s going on; her space is in the hall, never in the bedrooms; in driveway but never in the car. Part of what creates this effect is the incredible soundscape. The full effect of the sound design may be lost in a home setting, but in a cinema we are treated to the full effect of how deep, layered and chaotic the world around Cleo sounds.

Couple this with the crystal clear and perfectly constructed cinematography and you have a film full of touching but incidental scenes that are informed and contained within a much wider context, albeit which is never fully explored. But as a result we see that the one constant is Cleo, who seems to be the only calming and reliable person in an increasingly crazy world. It is fantastic that Roma was enjoyed by so many people but it’s powerful cinematic effects would have only been increased had more of us seen it on a big screen.

 

5. Your Name

Only released a few years ago and it is the second highest grossing anime film of all time, and an American remake (whether you want it or not) is already in the works. Your Name comes with a lot of cinematic clout and it has a truly magical story and amazing characters to boot. Without giving too much away, Your Name begins as teenage body-swap comedy with Taki (a teenager from Tokyo) and Mitsuha (a teenager from rural Japan) routinely switching places. Your Name has a fantastic soundtrack and a very well executed and intricate plot.

Part of the magic of Your Name is that it has such an impressive realism and attention to detail it could have only been achieved in animation. The near perfect depiction of Tokyo and Mitsuha’s village makes ordinary cityscapes and villages seem magical. Originally released in IMAX the background art alone makes you wish you could see it on the biggest screen possible.

But also Your Name has a story with romance and tension that is almost straight out of classic Hollywood. It’s mixture of breath taking modern animation and classic story telling highlights one of the biggest themes in Your Name: remembering and respecting tradition in a world that keeps moving forward.

10 Great Movies Guaranteed To Mess With Your Head

Enter the Void (2009)

Life is strange. Even the most intuitive person can’t deem themselves as a visionary who is not often perplexed by the complex machinations of life. There are times when we get tired by the random sad twists of life’s plot; we declare that ours is a sad story and always will be. Still, we don’t escape life; maybe the reason we celebrate life with all its unpredictability hides behind the fact that we know it can vanish in an instance.

Again, this complexity also lures us in a way to life’s trap more and more, and in the end, we start to like it. There is no fun without a little adventure, our adventure lies into the anticipation of the unanticipated. Sometimes we succeed and jump into happiness, and most of the times we fall miserably. But the braver the risk, the more compound its interest in the event of success.

We believe that cinema imitates life, or life imitates cinema, according to our personal belief. Independent of our ideological inclination, it is true that cinema is akin to a mirror of life. But again, it depends upon a subjective experience. It can be a tragedy to you and a comedy to another.

We have filmmakers who totally decline the complexity of life, and would rather portray it as an absurdist lyric piece or slapstick comedy, but the brilliant ones create their art as complicated and impenetrable as life itself. This is a piece to celebrate their creativity by highlighting those cryptic films that hypnotize and mess with our brain. Without further ado, here are 10 great films that mess with your head.

 

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey

It is a film that describes Nietzsche’s theory of Ubermen in the form of a visual narrative. It was the dummy run of the biggest conspiracy of the Earth: the faking of the moon landing. It was the time when a filmmaker in his prime made a film for his heirs, alerting us about the dangers of artificial intelligence. The possible interpretations of Kubrick’s epic space sci-fi are so abundant that several books can be written in this topic and in fact, there are many on the market.

It is not that for those various possible interpretations of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but it is tagged as a film that messes with your head. But consider for a moment that even if some of these allegations of the film are true, then imagine how difficult it is to assemble such varied messages and information to present in a bottle and present in the form of a feature film.

Kubrick messes with our heads from the very opening of the film. The introductory 25 minutes of this hallucinatory film include no oral communication; we gasp at excitement and bewilderment about what the film wants to say. It was necessary to equate ourselves to the ape-men who were equally bored and clueless before they evolved to a higher form. Even when the talkie parts start, the dialogue is minimal, with the film’s artificial intelligence looking more human than our own counterparts.

Arguably, it is a film about transcending to a more evolved species, and evolution needs painful mediation; we do the same thing in the span of the film’s runtime. We get to know an anti-gravity toilet, video conference, artificial intelligence computer, and such prophetic declarations were perplexing to us but are now a reality. After contemplating for a long time, we may realize that the film was our own stargate for a higher realization of something new.

 

2. Donnie Darko

donnie-darko

Equally mystifying of the film “Donnie Darko” is the career graph of the director Richard Kelly. After successfully directing the cult film “Donnie Darko,” he quickly vanished from the conscience of the world film connoisseurs apart from a decent track record in the homeland. Maybe stars have something to do with that or it can be our multifaceted reality.

In the last paper before his sad demise, Stephen Hawking demanded that time travel is not possible and so a wormhole is a theoretical concept that will never come to reality. But the timeline can be exchanged without letting us know of the incident, with jet engines carrying the necessary matter for the transformation; the realities are so closely connected and similar that we wouldn’t realize that our fate has been changed.

Kelly designed his tangent universe with a hypnotic score and that is potentially what our designer has made for our life. Or maybe Frank was in hypnosis; Frank is not real but an illusion. Thrown in the mix is the book “The Philosophy of Time Travel” by Robert Sparrow, an inspiring speech that went haywire, and obviously Frank. Even if the spectator fails to decrypt the film’s message, they would have a great time in the film that marks the breakthrough performance of actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Be assured of life after watching the film, maybe there are better realities out there for us.

 

3. Mulholland Drive

mulholland-drive-interpretations

Undoubtedly David Lynch is an uncontested master of the cinematic puzzle. After all, Lynch made his career based on several surreal masterpieces and it’s tough to select a single one as the best-realized version. But Lynch made a film for the new millennium in 2001 that trumped all his previous achievements so far.

Here, the talk is about “Mulholland Drive,” Lynch’s nightmare version of the industry in which he works: Hollywood. He has closely watched the passion of the industry outsiders who crave a single chance to be on the silver screen, and shared compassion for some of the crushed dreams as well. All that pain and rage is imbued in the film, but that is for the audience to find out; Lynch doesn’t make it an easy task.

“Mulholland Drive” was previously arranged for a television series, which ultimately didn’t happen for good. All of those story elements that can constitute a whole television series has fit in this film, so it is plentiful, to say the least.

In that journey, Lynch messes with the audience’s head with the narrative gradually becoming extremely complex to decipher. Employing traditional and modern cinematic devices in a mix, “Mulholland Drive” is a film that comments on the identity crisis of the Hollywood starlet and strugglers alike in the dream town of Hollywood.

 

4. Cube

cube-movie-1024x576

What is existence anyway without highlighting the constant struggle of mankind to make sense of their weird belonging? Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi chamber drama “Cube” portrays this bout in bold lettering.

Don’t be confused by its sci-fi tropes; in essence, it is as much a meditative piece on the struggle of existence as any slow Russian drama. But it doesn’t reveal its true nature easily; it obfuscates its true identity in the form of a chamber drama and thriller. Five random people suddenly wake up in a cube-shaped room and can’t remember how they got there. They try to escape from the trap and figure out the truth, but the doors always lead to another identical room, albeit with a new light source. Not only that, all of the doors have some booby traps on them, which have to be taken care of first.

As much as the five people feel betrayed in that room, so becomes the condition of the spectators of the film. They want a clue of the future of the characters in the midst of nervous excitement. The climax is a great nexus that would uncover the truths that the film wants to convey in the form of an allegory, but the audience should be extremely patient in doing that successfully.

 

5. Persona

Persona

In the very beginning of the film, the audience will understand that “Persona” is going to be a meta-film judging the montage sequence, which consists of projectors, lamps, and reels of film. After the end of the initial five minutes, the audience is now completely baffled. This puzzling state will happen to every viewer irrespective of their intelligence because the film is designed to be that way. It is an impossible task to understand why Bergman sliced frames of the erect penis with violent butchering scene of animal heads.

A child heads toward a cinema screen and tries to touch and feel the person in the frame after waking up from potential catatonia and after that, for the first time, the film starts to build a narrative around two central female figures. One is a screen diva who instantly decided to suspend her oral communication after a sudden collapse, and a blabbering nurse who is in charge of the diva’s health.

They went for a break in recluse at the seashore in the hope of convincing the actress to talk. In their alone time, Alma finds herself to be extremely identical to the actress Elisabeth, and confronted her to get her to talk. Then the screen explodes and it is difficult to determine if they exchanged their souls at that moment.

The favorite interpretation of cinephiles of this mystic film is that here, one character represents the soul, and another, the exterior identity of a single human being. It is easy to understand the turmoil and contemplation of the soul, but it is difficult to calculate who is playing whom in the film.

Watch it twice, allocate and interchange the roles to the two different actresses, and still, the film will make sense. More so because they are the representations of the same person. Bathed in the light of Sven Nyqvist, you will try to judge Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann, and scratch your head in confusion.

10 Great Movies That Are Difficult To Follow

Cloud Atlas

Many films are difficult to understand or require analysis on their themes, intentions, and overall meaning. We are constantly figuring out the director’s point of view or their drive behind making the film. However, some films are just difficult to follow. We can get lost in the narrative, the rhythm or pacing of the film, or simply lose the logic in following the story.

There is a clear distinction between not following the film and not understanding it. In this list, films dive into surrealism, highly original terms, and experimental context that are difficult to follow. Therefore, here are 10 great films in that realm.

 

1. Mr. Arkadin (1953) – Orson Welles

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

A film that was so notoriously made through several backers and cutters that no one really knows what version Welles himself intended. There’s the European cut, the Corinth version, the retitled Confidential Report, and so on. All of this strongly blended reality and fiction behind the camera and in front as a reporter is hired to discover the past of Gregory Arkadin, played by Welles himself.

The film begins in Wellesian fashion with stark black-and-white imagery with a mood being established that is shrouded in mystery and tragedy.  As the opening sequence ends, we are almost as lost as Arkadin himself as he claims he doesn’t know his past or Robert Arden’s Stratten, who is hired to investigate. From that point on, we dive into flashbacks that may or may not have taken place. Then we jump forward in time to present day – or did we actually go deeper into the past?

With many versions, it’s still difficult to follow what was actually going on. On the contrary, it’s hard to not enjoy Welles having fun with his character and narrative, the Spanish setting, and Dutch angles on Welles’ expanding face.

Each frame is a visual treat and since the sound quality wasn’t the greatest, we rely on that. Therefore, when Welles self-exiled and became a truly independent filmmaker, he had to get inventive to maintain our attention. He did so by constantly throwing us in a loop that we still try to follow from beginning to end. But it’s still an enjoyable puzzle.

 

2. Upstream Color (2013) – Shane Carruth

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It’s not a surprise that second feature from Carruth after his success of “Primer” can be a little hard to follow. So much is happening at once that this film requires several viewings. Yes, the interpretations and meanings behind it are always in discussion, but simply trying to follow Carruth’s vision can be overwhelming.

From the opening scenes to the end, there are an average of 15 cuts per minute, so our mind, eyes, and attention are constantly getting refocused. The sound design, score, and cinematography add to the complexities of the narrative and what is actually going on with the characters.

We ask ourselves, who are these people? What’s with the bug? What’s with the pigs and the farmer who transiently appears all over? What’s with the flowers? With Walden? The overlapping memories? Many of these questions are more present with subsequent viewings.

Carruth doesn’t let the audience rest for a second, but not for us to allow for interpretation or wonder where the story will be going. We get this elliptical information thrown at us and we simply must keep up. Quite a lot occurs in nature, human life, and scale in this 94-minute film. It is essential to watch it several times to figure out what’s going on, and you will still wonder about and discover new things.

 

3. Kaos (1984) – Paolo and Vittorio Taviani

Literally translating into ‘chaos’ from the Taviani brothers but in their subtle, nuanced ways. They know how to capture the chaos and anarchy in a beautiful way that creeps into you long after the credits have rolled.

The film is broken into five independent stories surrounding the coast of Sicily: a mother favoring her two long-gone children over her present one; a wife replacing her missing husband every night; a man fixing an olive oil jar; farmers trying to bury one of their own; and an epilogue.

These five stories play out with minimum dialogue, wide lush cinematography, and a mise-en-scene where nothing goes to waste in the pure Italian landscape and cityscape. The film can be seen as more of a meditation, because we are following many characters and stories thus it is hard to connect the dots.

The Taviana brothers simply drop us into the lives of these people with no explanation. We are forced to determine where they are, where they have been, and where they are going. Why? Because their sense of framing and storytelling doesn’t draw a punch and must demand our attention.

If not, yes, you will enjoy beautiful photography and a classical score, but without knowing the characters’ intentions, what’s the point? Thus, a beautiful film, but it needs to be seen more than once to truly know what’s going on.

 

4. Japon (2002) – Carlos Reygadas

Almost any film from Reygadas could be on this list, but it’s his directorial debut that is the hardest to follow. Maybe it’s because he was forming his craft and attention in how to tell the story of his obsessions through cinema.

A man goes through a crisis and decides to end his own life in the county, away from his city. Once there, he experiences love with an elderly woman. It sounds straightforward, but what plays out is a metaphysical exploration of what is occurring in one’s man consciousness in his final days. Through beautiful 16mm footage with the accompaniment of Bach’s music, we are transported between lyrical poetry and the stark reality of this man.

But when it comes to love, one can get confused. He falls in love with an elderly woman and we receive no explanation amidst the visual poetry. What happened? Where did his thirst for life come from? Reygadas challenges us to follow scenes that shocked audiences with nudity and even animals having sex.

The film was a starting point for Reygadas’ confusing narratives, but it’s “Japon” that demands our attention so we can truly know what occurs before our eyes.

 

5. Performance (1970) – Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg

Performance (1970)

Acting as co-directors with Cammell writing the script and Roeg behind the camera, we get a dual threat, much like James Fox and Mick Jagger in the film. What begins as a straightforward East London low-level criminality with a distinct style soon goes off the rails in the second act of the film. We are thrust into an apartment in a surrealist yet grounded film of transition in 1970.

Jagger is introduced and Fox seems to take a switch in persona. We really don’t know what occurs between the characters, regarding who is pretending to be whom, the menage a trois, and the inner psychosis of the two men. To add to the narrative, the elliptical, almost dreamlike jump cutting of the film with claustrophobic framing builds constant tension and confusion. Eventually the story of Fox in the beginning begins to emerge with Jagger’s character, even with him performing songs from The Rolling Stones.

We must be along for the ride in this film as Roeg discovers his cinematic style, Jagger discovers himself as an actor, the performances of the film discover themselves, and we discover what is actually happening.

10 Great Movies Made By Little Known Directors

Slow West

There are some directors who have enough name recognition that people will flock to the cinema to see a film just because they’ve made it. And while, obviously, it’s not just the work of a director that makes for a great film, there are some fantastic movies whose directors deserve more recognition.

This list will recommend 10 films from directors who may have only made one film or were never given the opportunity to make another or, for some reason or other, were simply over-looked.

 

1. Slow West (2015)

Slow West is the story of a young boy from Scotland who travels to America in pursuit of girl from his village with whom he is madly in love. He’s met by a gunslinger, played hilariously and brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, who agrees to take him to meet his love. On the way they will have to dodge bounty hunters, villains and all sorts of threats.

Slow West may be a contender for one of the most visually impressive Westerns, and that’s a highly contested category. But rather than shots of Monument Valley or sweeping desert, director John Maclean decided to film this in New Zealand. The landscape and the colours are spectacular and, while they certainly fit their setting, the film looks unlike any other Western.

The script feels somewhere between a Coen brothers’ movie and a sitcom and has enough jokes and existential queries to satisfy fans of both. Despite its title this is not a slow film, but perhaps a gentle film. It has a historical setting but it’s an idealised one and the film works best when it leans into that providing an entertaining feast for the eyes.

 

2. Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul

With his feature length debut Nemes László brings both a fascinating, new narrative voice and amazing technical skill. Son of Saul, set in Auschwitz in 1944, is not an easy watch, but nor is meant to be, by the end the film leaves you shaken and drained, an experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Saul is a prisoner at Auschwitz charged with helping lead fellow inmates to execution and disposing of the bodies afterwards. At the beginning Saul finds a body that he believes to be his son and he becomes obsessed with finding a Rabbi to give him a proper burial. Saul is never judged for his role in the camp, the film operates in a space beyond normal morality; instead this is a film that studies humans living in an environment of extreme and unimaginable horror.

László made the movie in the uncommon Academy aspect ratio keeping a very tight frame around Saul and the camera never leaves him, it follows him everywhere and never shows the audience more than Saul can see or hear himself. As a result the horrors of the camp are never fully shown; we see the beginnings of them as Saul walks passed while what happens next is off screen, left to our imagination. It is a difficult watch but there are very few films like Son of Saul.

 

3. The Selfish Giant (2013)

The Selfish Giant

Clio Barnard’s incredibly powerful film takes its name from Oscar Wilde’s short story but changes the setting to rural Bradford. It follows two 13-year old working class boys who try to make money wherever they can so that they might be able to leave their lives of poverty. This leads them to a scrap dealer (the giant in this version of the story) who tasks them with finding, and stealing, bits of scrap for money.

Barnard’s film is brutally realistic and incredibly empathetic to it’s setting and it’s characters. Most of the cast are non-actors originally from Bradford and each one of them gives truly heart-rending performances. This is not a cheerful watch but the emotional power of this film is something to behold.

By updating the fairy tale Barnard is able to tell a story that the audience will be familiar with but still manages to breath new life into it via the change of setting. Most importantly it shines a light on stories that are not often told and by using realism to win the audience’s empathy it can prove that fiction and reality are often two sides of the same coin.

 

4. Good Vibrations (2012)

Good Vibrations

Many films set in Northern Ireland, and focusing on the troubles, can be an informative but harrowing watch. Good Vibrations certainly delivers this feeling but it also brings something else; humour, fun and inspiration. It accounts the true-life story of Teri Hooley who opened up a record shop in the middle of war-ridden Belfast.

Good Vibrations is many things; pop music, biopic, historical drama, tragi-comedy and its to the credit of directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn that they’ve delivered a film that perfectly blends all these themes together. Focusing mainly on Hooley’s discovery and promotion of The Undertones it can juxtapose all the hilarity and craziness you’d expect from music biopics with the shocking horror of bomb threats and police raids.

It will have you laughing one minute and gasping the next and all the while amazingly captures the spirit of British Punk; the world is falling apart but people still deserve music to reflect that world and to escape from it.

 

5. Beast (2017)

Beast

For a film that is so drenched in sun, Beast leaves behind a dark and unsettling shadow. The feature debut from Michael Pearce is set on the island of Jersey and follows Moll, a young woman still living at home under the rule of her overbearing mother.

Moll is an outsider in her own family who insist she needs to be looked after. But a dark secret in her past suggests that they might be more scared of her than concerned for her. When she meets the mysterious Pascal they begin a romance, but an on-going murder investigation has Pascal as the chief suspect.

Pearce expertly creates mystery and tension in the film, not by drop clues and hints but by exploring each lead character and their relationship with each other. As their relationship grows we can’t help but feel happy for Moll and wish that all the rumours surrounding Pascal would go away so they can be happy. Before we know it we’ve stopped asking whether or not he did kill anyone and instead question whether we’d care if he had.

The title, Beast, is not just a reference to Beauty’s but to real-life serial killer the Beast of Jersey, who terrorised the island for decades. Evoking both fairy tale and real-life horror story the film has a dark spirit to it that radically affects how we see the story. Michael Pearce is a director to watch.

10 Great Movies Whose Stories Imitate Actors’ Own Lives

Birdman

So in my last article I discussed films that I felt their directors were born to make. And fittingly enough I find myself with another similar task but this time with my focus being on the actors. There’s something to be said about the right casting that goes into a film.

The best decisions can often be a matter of what actor is going to immerse themselves in the role better than any other. This calls to mind method actors like Daniel Day Lewis who go to extremes to live like the character and use every part of their aura to embody what that character will say, think, and do. But there’s another idea that goes into casting, and that’s who best fits the role and can slip into this material like a glove on a hand?

These 10 actors and the films they were in are the best examples I can think of in regards to this. Actors who lived a life so similar to the characters they play that the quality of their work came as naturally as breathing. After all, what better stories are there to tell but our own personal stories? With that, these are 10 Great Movies Whose Stories Imitate Actors’ Own Lives. (Alphabetical order)

 

1. All About Eve (1950) – Bette Davis

One of the reasons Bette Davis was such a great presence on screen for so long is because she was willing to age before our eyes, while so many tried to maintain their youth Davis was mature enough to grow in experience.

This is greatly demonstrated in “All About Eve” in which she gives her finest performance as a highly respected but fading Broadway actress, Margo Channing. Margo encounters an enormous fan named Eve (Anne Baxter) who slowly but surely works her way into Margo’s inner circle, first becoming a hopeless fan, then becoming her secretary, her understudy, and eventually her rival.

Margo is painted as a person, she’s in love with her work but isn’t an exhibitionist, she’s a professional. Eve is a type, starting out as nothing more than an insincere pair of eyes and working her way into a light she’s undeserving of.

There are a great many of performances in here from an ensemble cast including Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, and one of Marilyn Monroe’s first appearances. Many of which were nominated for Oscars, which in turn gave the film a record setting 14 nominations, a record only matched by “Titanic” in 1997 and “La La Land” in 2016.

But award recognition isn’t what defines this film, it’s the almost real portrayal of an actress as she’s caught off her guard by the ones around her. “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

 

2. Annie Hall (1977) – Woody Allen

I’ve always been amazed, even to this day, with how prolific Woody Allen is. This is a guy who probably makes a film every year and somehow finds a way to remain fresh and inquisitive almost every time. What he does in “Annie Hall” is simply tell the story of a relationship built upon two eccentrically weird and awkward people.

Alvy Singer is essentially Woody Allen himself and Annie Hall is essentially Diane Keaton, especially seeing as how their character names were nicknames in their own lives. One gets the sense of straight forward honesty from this but Allen has a way of going further than that, his style is something that gives this film an identity all its own.

Allen runs the gamble of comedy theory and talent through every scene of this film, ranging from relief theory to incongruity theory and interlaces it with precise writing, direction, dialogue, acting, editing, and timing.

When Alvy and Annie talk on the rooftop and start making pointless banter about a picture in her apartment we see words appear on screen showing what they’re thinking while they’re talking. There’s text, what we say, but then there’s context, what we mean, and when Alvy is asking about this picture but is really thinking “I wonder what she looks like naked?” it rings so true and feels far too familiar. All the while Allen sets the bar for romantic comedies and to this day you still see movies try to emulate the standard he set over 40 years ago.

 

3. Bicycle Thieves (1948) – Lamberto Maggiorani

bicycle-thieves-image

In truth I could probably summarize this entire pick as the entire cast and not just the main lead. During the 40’s Italy was experiencing social and economic strains as WWII took its toll in the national psyche and living conditions of their country. As a response to this the Italian film industry shifted focus of their films to reflect the current wave of poverty, oppression, injustice, and desperation.

A trademark of what films would do during this time was cast unknown actors or even just find regular, everyday people to act in the films. The result is a collection of films that have a bitter sense of truth behind them because the actors act out what their daily routines were on screen where the world was brutal and unfair.

“Bicycle Thieves” is no exception to this as we are dropped into the center of poverty stricken Italy with a father who scraps up everything he has to have a bicycle to work and provide for his family. When it’s stolen there’s not much to do because the social and political system they live in could care less. It’s a rough time and it’s a rough life, often times there are decisions made that are regretted instantly and there’s not much hope for redemption.

 

4. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) – Michael Keaton

Edward Norton - Birdman

This is a casting choice that’s either really dumb because of how obvious it is or one of the most brilliant decisions because of how uncanny it parallels with life. A washed up actor, most famous for playing a superhero way back in the day, putting forth everything he has to rejuvenate his career and be taken seriously again. Hmmm, that sounds a lot like Michael Keaton doesn’t it?

The funny thing about this character is that Keaton wasn’t even in their mind when the part was being written but upon completion it was like an Epiphone that screamed “Michael Keaton is who we need for this role!” The result is a highly autobiographical, somewhat spiritual experience in which Keaton taps into unknown potential none of us knew he had.

There’s an energy to “Birdman” that’s unlike anything I’ve seen in film before. A sense of hyperactivity, style, and electricity that flows through every moving moment the film has to offer. Part of that energy comes from Keaton’s combination of heart and fire. A love for his family after alienating them for so long and his almost psychotic dedication to his art for which he tries to find his place in life.

 

5. Easy Rider (1969) – Peter Fonda

Easy Rider (1969)

Throughout the 60’s Peter Fonda was described by many as a counterculture icon, Playboy magazine stating he had established a “solid reputation as a dropout”. He hung out with the likes of The Byrds and The Beatles and frequently took LSD because that’s what the 60’s was immersed in.

We love to celebrate films that are timeless and seem to stay relevant to this day. But we tend to forget the celebration we can feel with something that is truly a “time capsule”, and that’s exactly what “Easy Rider” is.

The film stars Peter Fonda, the son of the legendary Henry Fonda, when Henry saw his son in this for the first time he said he walked out a puzzled man. He couldn’t understand what he saw and what it meant, I think this fascinating tale perfectly describes the feeling of this wonder of cinema. The old guard at the time probably couldn’t see what the young kids saw, or better yet what they experienced, to them it was probably crazy and devoid of story.

But in truth Dennis Hopper stars and directs to simply take us on a ride through what an entire generation was looking for. It’s as simple as you can get with 2 men who hop on their bikes and go riding in search of ‘America’, all the while it celebrates drugs, sex, rock n’ roll (with a great soundtrack of ‘Born to be Wild’), and above all else freedom.

10 Movies That Aren’t As Pretentious As You Think

The definition of pretentious is attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or talent than is actually possessed. In the world of film many directors and films are given this label when audiences feel the material is heavy handed, or in most cases when a director overindulges in their certain style or motifs.

These so called pretentious films can be looked at as lesser or lacking artistic value because of their pretentiousness. But in some cases there are reasons for overindulgences and artistic flourishes, usually because a director has a point to get across, or they are trying to further along the story through stylistic motifs rather than using dialogue. These are ten unpretentious films that really have a lot to offer.

 

10. Rumble Fish (1983)

Rumble Fish (1983)

From the start the black and white cinematography could be too much for some viewers, but Coppola’s reasoning for it fits the characters and themes of the film. The black and white cinematography represents the color blindness of the motorcycle boy, played by Mickey Rourke in one of his finest roles.

It is also an homage to the Film Noir and German Expressionism periods in cinema, which is why scenes like the fight between Matt Dillon and a rival gang member are set in foggy, dirty, dim lit subways. Many of the street scenes harkin back to the films of the French New Wave.

Coppola’s use of drifting clouds and clocks show the passage of time in the film. A companion piece to Coppola’s previous film “ The Outsiders”. Both films were released in the same year, featuring screenplays by S.E. Hinton and an all star cast of some of the eighties top up and coming stars.

Matt Dillion as the lead Rusty James is able to hold is own in the scenes with the legendary Dennis Hopper and Mickey Rourke. Some of Coppola’s later filmography was not able to hold up to his classics like “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” but “Rumble Fish” is an underrated gem in the filmmakers career.

 

9. One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

One-Eyed Jacks

Clocking in right under the two and a half hour mark, Marlon Brando’s one and only directed film might be too much for some viewers. Acting as a bridge between the Old and New Hollywood styles, “One-Eyed Jacks” is definitely a great indication of what Brando would have brought from the directors chair if he continued, but the films troubled production history probably burned him out. It was said that Brando waited for the waves to be just right before would start filming, resulting in the most iconic scene from the film.

At the time what made this film so different from the usual Hollywood Westerns from the past was the change from characters with white hats being good and black hats being bad. Brando portrays both leads as grey characters, with Brando and Karl Malden robbing a bank from the start to set them up as antiheroes. The film is a perfect example of method acting at its finest.

Almost all of the dialogue in the film is improvised, most notably the scene where Brando is whipped by Malden in the town square resulting in Brando unexpectedly spitting in Malden’s face. Moviegoers might be turned off by the sort of forced relationship between Brando’s character Rio and Pina Pellicer’s Louisa who brings a real weight to the film, giving Rio a second chance at life. The rumored original cut of the film was much longer, with much of Rio’s time in jail being left up to the audience’s imagination.

 

8. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Au Hasard Balthazar

Showing the brutality of life through the eyes of a donkey could sound pretentious to some, but Bresson’s ability to portray the donkey’s emotions through it’s facial expressions allows the viewer to connect with Balthazar, feeling his pain. Bresson mainly stuck with non actors in his films to give off a more authentic feel.

The film might feel slow and tedious for many viewers, with each of Balthazar’s landing spots acting as the seven deadly sins. Almost everyone Balthazar lives with treats him cruelly, in most cases it is through hard labor but sometimes local boys from the town set fire to his tail for no reason. The only really nice person to Balthazar is Marie played by Anne Wiazemsky.

The ending sequence might be one of the most beautiful scenes in film history. Some might feel that Bresson is pulling to hard at the audience’s heart strings, but it is needed to fully convey Bresson’s message. You can see the compassion and pain of the world all in one film.

 

7. Wild At Heart (1990)

Wild at Heart (1990)

From the Elvis impersonating Nick Cage performance to all of the “Wizard Of OZ” references, David Lynch’s “Wild At Heart” might be to much of a style overload for some people to handle. Actually this is one of Lynch’s more lighter films. His usual themes are present such as an innocent young couple diving into the dark underworld. The recurring fire imagery connects the murder of Loula’s father and her love for Sailor. William Defoe delivers one of his standouts supporting character performances as the grimey Bobby Peru.

At times “Wild At Heart” seems like a “Twin Peaks” spin off with many of the series characters appearing in the Lynchism heavy Big Tuna, Texas sequence. But that’s what makes a David Lynch film unique from other films.

Half of the time you are confused by what he puts on screen but eventually it will all make sense. Although the film had mixed reviews, Lynch was able to capture the Palm d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, starting the rise of early nineties independent cinema in America.

 

6. The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Die bitteren Tranen der Petra von Kant

With an all female cast and being shot only in a single room, it is easy to see why one Of Fassbinder’s masterpieces might appear pretentious on face value. But this film is all about the characters and their power dynamics over one another. The single location strips the film of flashy locations, allowing the actresses to drive the story. It also represents the isolation and pressure a codependent relationship can create.

You can see Petra’s obsession and desire for Karin played by the immortal Hanna Schygulla. Schygulla uses facial and eye movements to show her characters selfishness. The character Marlene almost goes unnoticed in the background, mirroring the models throughout Petra’s house.

Eventually Petra begins to mirror Marleane, willing to do anything to gain Karin’s love resulting in her melt down. The ending might leave some puzzled and wanting more but now that Petra is no longer the narcissist she was in the beginning, Marlene has now has no use for her.

10 Great Movies That Make You Ask Impossible Questions

When films ask questions that the audience must ask themselves, we know we are hooked into a cinematic experience. Of course, we want to feel the choices and emotions the characters make, but it is truly special when they reflect our own possible choices, decisions, and questions we must or have faced. Therefore, here are 10 films that ask impossible questions.

 

1. Hobson’s Choice (1954)

Hobson’s Choice (1954)

In one of his rare comedic outings, David Lean somehow managed to not only craft a great film with great performances, but also ask questions, such as, can I upend my life’s work and goals to give into  my daughter’s wishes? The film explores this throughout the tightly-made comedy of manners of sorts, but in a unique comedic way.

At the height of Ealing Studios, Lean ventured toward a film that is greatly under-appreciated compared to his epics, but nevertheless doesn’t shy away from his very British characters. In spite of the fact that the film includes three daughters, it concentrates on Brenda De Banzie’s marriage to a weak shoemaker, John Mills, overseen by the authoritative father and boot shop owner, Charles Laughton.

All the performances are on the nose, but it boils down to Laughton’s choice of giving up his dream of his shop and current lifestyle for his daughter’s marriage. Of course, fathers want the best for their child, and situations can provide great difficulty – just look at most of Yasujiro Ozu’s filmography.

Lean enforces a comedic-like stage play with narratively developed characters, all while expressing a father’s coming to terms, struggling, sabotaging, and anger fits for the survival or destruction of his family. Thus asking oneself, can I give up my current life for the betterment of my children?

 

2. The War is Over (1966)

After several successful films that started to define Resnais’ experimental, elliptical, quick-cutting style with deep thought-provoking questions and intent, he settled on the subject of the Algerian War. A controversial subject that is sadly overshadowed by Pontecorvo’s film relating to a similar subject, Yves Montand must decide between his old ways and new love or his reformed lifestyle.

Throughout the course of the film, Montand travels from communist Spain back to Paris where he meets a younger man who he has fallen for, who ignites his old revolutionary ways. As the film unfold, Resnais rapidly cuts as an almost stream of consciousness comes from Montand’s character. What he will decide is the ultimate question of the film.

Regardless of the revolutionary status of the film, almost any person who has gone through experiences that have changed them must ask if they will go back to their ways, whether they were good or bad. Therefore, we constantly relate to Montand’s middle-aged existential crisis of sorts.

Since the film was overlooked at the time of its release, it is important to see this film not only for the political context of a bygone era, but for the will of one man’s choice for his future by giving into his past.

 

3. Fail Safe (1964)

fail-safe

A film that explores the possible annihilation of nuclear war between the United States and Russia at the height of the Cold War that came out in 1964. No, not that film – the serious version of the same adaptation as Henry Fonda’s president decides what to do.

Since a rogue pilot intends on ending the world as we know it, Fonda tackles an even more impossible question as the impending doom seems inevitable. In friendly and necessary conversations with the Soviet Union, he must sacrifice one American city to pay for the deconstruction of their one Soviet city.

Therefore, Fonda must have New York, where his wife is currently located, bombed for retribution and keep the general peace of the world at large. Therefore, as Lumet presents a 10-shot montage of his native New York streets, he asks: would you bomb your home and the home of your wife is to save the general public that you swore to defend?

It’s a difficult question, no matter the scale, that you wouldn’t ask outside of a comedy, but Lumet challenges the truth of it in his film, in a role played brilliantly by Fonda. In the end, whether we side with personal or professional ties, we must carry and live with any decision we make, no matter how impossible the question we are asked to answer.

 

4. The Sacrifice (1986)

In his last film as he was dying (and he knew it), Tarkovsky faced death right in the face. He began to reflect on his life in Russia, self exile, and his art work in time. Therefore, in his swan song, he asked very serious questions, such as: would you destroy yourself and your family to avoid a nuclear holocaust?

As the film plays out in long-distance takes, Bergman regular Erland Josephson’s Alexander attempts to plea with God to avoid a nuclear holocaust by sacrificing his family – in particular, his grandchild. From the opening of the film, we see he has a clear and truthful relationship with the young boy as he explains aspects of the world to him, despite the fact that he won’t know what it is.

As the film reaches it conclusion and what might be a hallucination, nightmare, or actual reality, we see how far Alexander went to avoid World War III. Would the head of a family to do this to save everyone else? Do we take from the Quran or the Bible in sacrificing one to save others? And in a filmic aspect, what was Tarkovsky thinking as he approached the end? Was it his son and family in Russia while he was exiled in Sweden? Did he give everything into his film and through his art? The rest is for us to decide.

 

5. The Matrix (1999)

The red pill or the blue pill? The phrase most mimicked when discussing this groundbreaking film released at the end of the 20th century. Almost everything about the film is presented in this question – would you rather live in an empty void of a made-up reality where your mind subconsciously tells you what you’re feeling, or would you rather see the world for what it truly is, no matter how hard or difficult?

The film was groundbreaking on many levels for its action sequences and CGI scenes, but the real standout for the film in today’s age are the questions and the previously stated primary question.

It scarily still rings true for anyone who questions what their life is currently like and what should it be. Are we truly living our lives? It inspired countless imitators in terms of action films and thought-provoking science fiction films, but the Wachowskis managed to ask ourselves impossible questions while creating groundbreaking entertainment. Not an easy feat to do.

The film stills holds up in its value despite two sequels that strayed from the original questions of the creators. Then again, who are the creators? We know the creators of this film, but what about our own lives? When we truly wake up, will we see what is real?