Good tasting movies
“What’s your favorite movie?” is a difficult question to answer because your answer changes with time. For example at age 5, mine was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells.
Rather, at the TWB Film Club, we think the more interesting question to ask is: Which 3 films defined your movie palette?
Which films altered the way you look at movies?
Influenced your world view?
Changed your life?
On Tuesday, November 22nd we will be exploring these types of films in our monthly meet-up. We hope you’ll join us and bring your 3 films. Here are my 3 below.
Movie #1: Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola
What it changed:Movies as an existential experience
When I saw Lost in Translation, it was off a bootleg DVD I’d bought at a wet market in Saigon. I didn’t expect it to partially ruin the back half of my summer. The way it pondered solitude was staggering. This was the first movie that successfully explored existentialism for me; a role which, up until that point in my life, had been relegated to only books and music. For the first time, a movie didn’t feel like a contrived spectacle. Instead, it was quiet and content to show life in a pure way with all its complexities: quiet, lonely, puzzling. At 17, I interpreted this as “heavy.” Now, I know what I felt was actually catharsis. This turned would later inform my taste in movies as experiences that forced me to have a point of view about bigger questions in life: movies like Birdman (creating a legacy for yourself), The Dark Knight (the innate evil in mankind), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (perception and memory).
Movie #2: L’auberge Espagnole by Cedric Klapisch
What it changed: Movies as a form of artistic expression
Leading up to this movie, everything I’d seen in film was the same: an immobile camera pointed at the action, with subjects framed neatly in the center. This was the first movie I saw that made use of film as an artistic medium, meaning it could be used it in many ways to convey an idea.
L’Auberge Espagnole is one of the few movies I rewatch every year. The film’s main character and narrator is Xavier, who travels to Barcelona as a French exchange student and makes friends from different countries. Here, the overlap of different cultures and language barriers and broken English serve as a metaphor for the disorientation that’s characteristic of our quarter life.
Director Cedric Klapisch frequently explores this disorientation and chaos throughout the film. Here is an example of when Xavier discovers the application process for his exchange program is complicated:
The sped up tracking, the multiple splits, and the visual stacking of the application forms on the screen was novel and genius to me. I’d later appreciate similar touches of visual flair like in the BBC’s Sherlock series (treatment of digital messaging), anything by Edgar Wright (How to do visual comedy), and the now classic shallow framing in Mr. Robot that underscores every character’s isolation. Here’s a less subtle example from L’Auberge Espagnole: Xavier on his final night out in Barcelona.
Movie #3: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson
What it changed: Movies as escapism
There were countless moments in this movie where I thought: Fuck. This is like a documentary about a real place. The cast feels like they somehow picked hobbits and elves off the street. The landscapes are real, sure, but the sets look and feel lived in. The music, which is beautiful and instantly recognizable, echoes of a forgotten time. Watching this for the first time, I got the sense of an epoch that was undiscovered, finally coming to light thanks to a film crew.
On top of this, there is an actual 26 hour behind the scenes documentary directed by Costa Botes where you get to see decisions about costume, casting, editing, and directing being made. I’ve watched this documentary series, end to end, more times than the trilogy itself. It is fascinating to see, and I often lose track of time watching it. There is no other movie that has immersed me in a fictional universe as well as this movie, and the LOTR trilogy, has. We like to call it a “cinematic universe” nowadays. But Marvel and DC can’t compete. Only every now and then, there’s something that comes close to creating this escapism: Game of Thrones and District 9, for example.
LOTR was, and always will be, the OG cinematic universe.