03 January 2012

Fifteen Films

Buster Keaton and Ruth Holly in Sherlock Jones (1924)

Last year I was tagged by a friend on facebook to pick 15 movies that either moved me when I first saw them or have continued to stick with me. The rule was to spend no more than 15 minutes picking out the films. Here’s the list I made, in alphabetical order, with the reasons why. There’s obviously tons of other films left out but these were the ones that came to mind that day.

1. 400 Blows (director: François Truffaut, 1959)
Little Antoine Doinel broke my heart. The scenes where he’s taken away in the police car and at the end, when he’s on the beach and looks back at the camera, still move me every time I see them. This is the film that began my love affair with Truffaut.

2.  Amélie (director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
I had had a terrible week, culminating with my flat being broken into, when I received a call from the French Consulate in Boston inviting me to a special preview screening (still don’t know how that happened). The film completely changed my mood and made everything better. When I moved into a nicer flat later that summer, I made a point of going and seeing Amélie at the Somerville Theatre my first night in the new neighbourhood.

3. Blue (director: Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993)
I wandered into the cinema one weekday afternoon to see what was playing. I knew nothing about this film other than it was French. I left in a complete daze. Juliette Binoche’s character and performance moved me deeply and made me think about life in a different way. To this day, it’s one of the most important films I’ve ever seen.

4. Calamity Jane (director: David Butler, 1953)
My favourite musical of all time (and I love musicals). Love Doris Day. Love Howard Keel. Love the songs. Love the buckskin outfits. I first saw this when I was a little girl and I remember wanting so badly to sing and dance like she did. Still do.

5. Casablanca (director: Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Probably my all-time favourite film. I still get chills when they sing "La Marseillaise." All of the characters are perfect: Bogie and Bergman, Greenstreet and Lorre, Dooley Wilson. And Claude Rains steals every scene he’s in (love him).

6. Matewan (director: John Sayles, 1987)
I saw this at the Red Vic in San Francisco and the projector broke half way through the film. Chris Cooper’s portrayal and the whole film affected me greatly, and I cried on the way home. One of John Sayles’ best.

7. Meet Me in St. Louis (director: Vincent Minnelli, 1944)
The film that never fails to make me feel happy. The picture-perfect family. Lovely sets and costumes. Great songs. And Judy Garland. Who could ask for anything more?

8. The Moderns (director: Alan Rudolph, 1988)
Paris in the 1920s. Keith Carradine as a down and out painter. And Wallace Shawn as Oiseau, a gossip columnist who fakes his own death to get out of his contract. This film perfectly captured the mood and feel of my favourite time period. 

9. Nights of Cabiria (director: Federico Fellini, 1957)
Giulietta Masina. The closing scene of her walking down the road brought tears to my eyes and will break your heart. Fellini’s best.

10. Notorious (director: Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
My favourite Hitchcock film starring my main man Cary Grant. I never tire of watching him in this film. The chemistry between him and Bergman is amazing, and I defy you to find a sexier scene then when they kiss in her apartment.

11. Pandora’s Box (director: GW Pabst, 1929)
I so wanted to be Louise Brooks after seeing this film. I’ve had her haircut ever since. The look she gives the camera when she’s caught with her lover is amazing and so classic Louise. And it's one of the most visually stunning silents you'll ever see.

12. Rebecca (director: Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
Another Hitchcock film. Oh, Olivier was so dashing and Mrs. Danvers so freaking scary. I always get chills when Manderley comes into view for the first time.

13. The Red Shoes (directors: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
Completely mesmerising and disturbing. I thought about this film for days after I first saw it. No other ballet film can compare.

14. The Thin Man (director: W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)
Best screwball of them all. After seeing this film, I read the book and then wanted to do nothing else but drink martinis and solve mysteries. Actually, I still want to do those things.

15. The Third Man (director: Carol Reed, 1949)
Perfect film. The music, the setting, and the story line. Joseph Cotton is great and Orson Welles must have one of the best entrances in film history. I can still quote from memory his speech on the Ferris wheel.

So what are your 15 films?

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