10 Great Movie Directors Who Always Use The Same Cast

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Some directors know what works for them, whether it be a signature style, working within a certain genre, hiring the same crew or, in the case of a certain few, relying on the same group of actors for the majority of their films.

It is not difficult to understand why a director might reuse actors for different features. Understanding an actor and what they are capable of offers a massive advantage in writing characters. It allows you from the start to envision the practical application of dialogue, mannerisms and character arcs on the person who will be performing it.

Directors build relationships with talented actors who have already proven their worth and their range, knowing that there is no risk involved if they recast that actor. Yet despite this, it is a rarity to see a director use the same actors, or group of actors, for the majority of the films they make. These directors build a community of working professionals who they know are competent and talented enough to understand and realize the director’s vision.

It is important to note that there is a certain amount of directors who have used the same cast multiple times but have also had very long careers. What this means is that there are certain filmmakers who have spent half of their career (which may span decades) working with the same actors and the other half working with a more varied cast.

Martin Scorsese is one filmmaker who would fall into this category. His films can essentially be divided by his time working with Robert De Niro and his time working with Leonardo DiCaprio and the many faces that have dressed the scenery of Scorsese’s films in each period respectively.

We have compiled a list of 10 great directors who have constantly used the same cast throughout their career.

 

1. The Coen Brothers

Joel and Ethan Coen have built a career off variety. They have conquered a vast array of genres, tones, and styles, in an accomplished oeuvre. The brothers are two of the most unpredictable filmmakers working in the industry and are on a par with the likes of Stanley Kubrick in terms of there being no limits to what they can create.

However, despite the ever-shifting nature of the content they produce, there is one consistent thread throughout their work: the reappearance of familiar faces. The brothers have a particular set of actors they like to bring onto each project. Whilst the actors portraying the protagonists of their films may change (and often do), the supporting cast tends to always contain the same faces.

Frances McDormand, perhaps unsurprisingly given she is married to Joel, has appeared in the most Coen Brothers films having featured, credited and uncredited, in eight of their productions. Other regular collaborators include: John Goodman (six films), Steve Buscemi (six films), John Polito (five films) and many more.

 

2. Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson & Bill Murray

Wes Anderson is one the most consistent filmmakers working today. He has a consistent style through all of his work, one which can be defined by its use of symmetrical misé-en-scene and photography, the use of tracking and panning shots, and the use of slow motion moments kick-started by a pop song. One frame or scene from his films is usually enough to recognize that it is his work.

Another consistent thread through his work is the characters he creates. Anderson’s worlds are inhabited by kooky characters that speak with honesty, often have some deep sadness to them, and are always completely original. Anderson’s films and characters are so unique and strange that it takes a certain actor to fulfill the role. And it is perhaps because of this that Anderson regularly reuses the same actors in all his films.

Once he has established that the sensibilities of an actor fit perfectly with the characters and worlds he creates, he cleverly reuses them knowing that they will be able to deliver the kind of oddball performance required to make his films work.

Of course, Bill Murray has collaborated the most with Anderson, having featured in all but one of Anderson’s films (eight out of nine). The two began working together on Anderson’s second feature, Rushmore, where it became apparent that Murray’s unique persona was the perfect compliment to Anderson’s signature style. Murray is followed closely by Owen Wilson (six films), who also co-writes most of Anderson’s films, Jason Schwartzman (five films) and Kumar Pallana (four films).

 

3. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s success has put him in the position to be able to work with any actor he wants. His undisputed success rate, with hit after hit, has meant that he is the kind of filmmaker that has actors jumping at the chance to work with him. However, despite his huge casts, he often chooses to work with the same actors again and again.

Nolan’s films are often littered with the same faces, and more often than not these actors are some of the best working today. It is with this formula and the frequent collaboration with his writer brother Jonathan that has lead to such a consistently brilliant body of work.

Michael Caine serves as Nolan’s main collaborator, having worked on every film the director has made since Batman Begins in 2005, making the total seven films. Next up are Cillian Murphy with five films and Christian Bale with four. Add in Tom Hardy’s three-film team-up and you have four of the most talented actors working today frequently working with one of the most gifted filmmakers of his generation. We’d say that was a match made in heaven!

 

4. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino is widely known for his postmodernist, pulp-heralding cinema. He made indie cinema popular, changed the way films were made and endeared himself to every film student forever.

Part of Tarantino’s success has been as a result of his brilliant casting decisions. He rejuvenated John Travolta’s career with Pulp Fiction, made Samuel L. Jackson an icon and created a feminist hero out of Uma Thurman. His casting choices are also bolstered by the frequent reuse of actors who have delivered great performances in his previous films and. like the other directors on this list, this has lead to consistently great characters throughout his films.

Of the actors Tarantino continually reuses, Jackson stands as his most frequent muse, having starred in six of Tarantino’s productions to date – and being utterly entertaining in every single one of them. James and Michael Parks, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen, who have all appeared in four films each, follow Jackson.

 

5. Wong Kar-wai

Wong Kar-Wai & Tony Chiu Wai Leung

One of the lesser-known directors on this list, Wong Kar-wai is a Chinese director emerging from the second phase of the Hong Kong New Wave in the late 1980s. He is a western influenced director who, along with his peers, changed Hong Kong cinema forever.

His films carry with them a signature style that can be described as the kinetically beautiful. His frequent partnership with maverick cinematography Christopher Doyle has given his films a consistent look whilst his reuse of actors he has previously cast has secured consistently brilliant performances throughout his work.

He frequently works with two of Hong Kong cinema’s most talented performers in Tony Leung Chiu-wai (seven films) and Maggie Cheung (five films), who have both delivered some of their best work with Kar-wai. Other collaborators include: Leslie Cheung (three films) and Jack Cheung (three films) amongst many. So apparently if your surname ends in “eung” you have pretty good chance of getting cast in a Kar-wai film.

All 8 Best Picture Oscar Nominees From 2014 Ranked From Worst To Best

This Best Picture nominees list is likely to be one of the harder groups to sift through (the only other one off the top of my head that may be this tricky in the near future is the 2011 year that features the films of 2010). In all honesty, the films between 5 and 1 are borderline interchangeable, to the point that this can easily change in time (maybe even next year, I will feel differently).

The films in 6 and 7 are also debatable, and I will try my best to explain my reasoning for each and every film. In all honesty, the only film I could easily place in any spot is the film that came in dead last (simply because it’s garbage).

I can already see the slew of comments questioning this particular list, and I am warning you from now that I can easily see why most of these films can be questioned and/or championed. I will do my utmost best to give each film their due. Nonetheless, this is mostly about celebration, so let’s get down to it. Here are the Best Picture nominees of the 2015 Oscars ranked in order from worst to best.

 

8. American Sniper

American Sniper

This is without question the weakest film of the Best Picture nominees. When this film was selected above other films that should have been here (“Nightcrawler,” “Gone Girl,” even the Best Director nominee “Foxcatcher” failed to appear here, then you have the foreign films “Two Days, One Night” and “Leviathan”), I had to see why this last minute film sniveled its way in. I love many Clint Eastwood works, and “American Sniper” was a 2015 film that made it on the list with 2014 films; surely it was one of his better works in years. In short, it wasn’t.

There is some good here. Eastwood’s direction, especially of the war scenes, are extremely well choreographed. Bradley Cooper pulls off a stellar performance that showed more range than even his biggest fans expected from him; he essentially bolstered himself as one of the go-to actors for anything around this time.

Now, let’s review the laundry list of the bad. The focus on the mental illnesses the main character suffers from is so half-assed, it’s inexcusable. One or two scenes are tossed in to imply he has signs of being shell shocked, but they zoom by without much of a follow up. The lack of depth makes Chris Kyle, and the film, look very lopsided, to a point that angered many for how the film sidestepped any of his faults. Lastly, the ending of the film is unforgivably atrocious. Kyle leaves home to go to a shooting range with another veteran, with his wife looking out to him.

The film ends with a title card stating that Kyle was killed. The memorial service has credits placed on top. This is an abrupt end that is lazy, bizarre, and even unflattering of its subject, of which it held to such a high regard the rest of the film. In short, “American Sniper” is far from one of Eastwood’s best, and is far from a worthy Best Picture nominee.

 

7. The Imitation Game

THE IMITATION GAME

“The Imitation Game” is a giant leap ahead from “American Sniper,” and it feels awful to place it next in line. Morten Tyldum’s war game of wits (which is much better than the follow-up creepfest known as “Passengers”) is only this low because it is marginally tampered by the Oscar Bait bug (it is far from being the guiltiest film with this condition, however).

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When the film does not feel a little too overly sentimental, it is thrilling. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a terrific Alan Turing, and Keira Knightley showed the world a thing or two with her understated performance as Joan Clarke (Turing’s strongest ally). The solving of the encryption codes the Germans used to discuss war plans is quite in depth, and highly understandable; Graham Moore’s Oscar-winning screenplay for the film explains its complex subject matter through great dialogue and huge emphases in the right places.

The film doubles as a look at Turing’s past, where his homosuality was unfortunately condemned. This bigotry chases up to his present, where his success is sadly undermined due to his sual preferences. The film is passionate both for what Turing stood for, and who he was as a person. Consider this film and the next on the list somewhat of a tie, but the next contender wins just barely.

 

6. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

In some ways, “The Imitation Game” is actually much stronger than “The Theory of Everything.” “The Imitation Game” has a stronger story and a greater balance of the genius of its main character and their personal life. “The Theory of Everything” shows the early years of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, and his gradual loss of physical capability due to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

This film also is heavily centered around the relationship with his then-wife Jane Hawking (played strongly by Felicity Jones), and how both his work and his ailments affected their bond. The reason why this film succeeds is based on the emotions that are yanked out of every possible source that just resonate so strongly. Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Hawking is so damn powerful, it is impossible to not notice each and every detail he absolutely nails with every scene (you can actually note the ways his body breaks down in even the smallest of ways).

James Marsh, formerly known for his expert documentary work (notably “Man on Wire”), examines on the most interesting of aspects to make “The Theory of Everything” all the more unique, including extreme close ups on Hawking’s eye, fixations on how nature exhibits science as artwork, and interesting combinations of shots. Jóhann Jóhannson’s score is simply gorgeous, and will wring the tears from your eyes if nothing else will. “The Theory of Everything” isn’t perfect, but it is a stunning portrait of the couple it is centered around in so many ways.

 

5. Selma

Selma (2014)

Ava DuVernay’s film “Selma” was nominated for Best Picture; its lack of nominations elsewhere, aside from Best Original Song, is a big reason why many started to discuss race at the Oscars. Rightfully so; “Selma” was so underrepresented in many other ways that it essentially left it destined to fail for the top prize whilst ignoring all of the aspects that made it so good (Common and John Legend’s song “Glory” is sensational, but far from the only reason why “Selma” is a top notch film).

How David Oyelowo was snubbed for his work as Martin Luther King Jr. will likely stump those who pay too much attention to the Oscars (like myself) for years, because Oyelowo’s portrayal of the late activist is dignified and powerful. The editing work is pulled off tremendously, as the film (which runs more than two hours) feels incredibly short despite the severe subject matter. DuVernay’s direction is absolutely worthy of being discussed, especially since she was neglected for that award; this is how you make a historical film and/or biopic without drenching the film in a way that feels synthetic.

The cinematography utilizes a strong pallette to make the film feel seem as though it is from yesteryear (through sepias and browns) whilst enhancing the skin colours of all of those within the film, thus celebrating the equality Dr. King fought for. “Selma” was overlooked by the Academy (despite being a Best Picture nominee), yet the world did not allow it to remain understated (this article included, hopefully).

10 Great Movies About The Pain of Growing Up

Growing up is hard to do. And for some, it’s even harder. Many things can define our childhood and adolescence, and determine who we ultimately become as adults. These may be the friends we spend time with, the circumstances in which we are raised or the experiences that we undertake. Or it could be something else entirely. What can be said for definite is that, without exception, everyone experiences some difficulties or pain as they grow up.

The pain of growing up is often captured in film and is a popular theme of many coming of age films, as well as other genres. This list looks at some films that perfectly encapsulate an aspects or aspects of the pains of growing up.

 

1. Fish Tank (2009)

fish-tank

Fifteen-year-old Mia lives with her single mother Joanne and younger sister Tyler. Her mother ignores her and parties hard, and her sister fights with her. Mia has no friends, and spends her time practising her hip-hop dancing in an abandoned flat in the council estate where she lives. When Mia’s mother brings home a new boyfriend named Conor, he encourages Mia to pursue her love of dance and gradually the boundaries of their relationship become blurred as Mia develops feelings for Conor.

The circumstances in which you grow up can certainly shape the way you think, behave, and in some cases, have an impact on the path you choose to follow. Mia lives in an impoverished neighbourhood where it is not unusual to hear shouting as you walk down the road. She has an uncaring mother who constantly swears at her and leaves her to sort herself out, she has no friends and she doesn’t go to school. All these things mean that Mia not only has the usual teenage problems to deal with, but she is a victim of her environment and careless upbringing.

Fish Tank is shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio, so that the screen is almost square. This may seem like an unusual choice, but this makes the gritty realism of Fish Tank feel more personal and intimate. The camera never leaves Mia’s side, and so the audience is always completely caught up in Mia’s thoughts and feelings. Fish Tank is also unusual in that it doesn’t gloss over anything – the language is incredibly coarse, within the first five minutes the swear word count is sky high. There are no rosy endings or suggestions that everything will turn out alright in the end.

Director Andrea Arnold found lead star Kate Jarvis (Mia) after seeing her arguing on the street with her boyfriend. In this way, it was almost as if Jarvis was destined for this part, and it shows in her honest and open performance. Michael Fassbender is also noteworthy in his portrayal of Conor. You are never entirely sure of what your feelings should be towards his character. In Fish Tank, we get a look at the bleak side of the pains of growing up, but it is shot and performed so well that it is absurdly engaging – this film is so raw and real that is almost feels like voyeurism.

 

2. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

squid-and-the-whale

This semi-autobiographical film follows two boys living in Brooklyn who are dealing with their parents’ divorce. Whilst mother Joan’s writing career takes off, surpassing that of her husband Bernard’s career as a professor, each boy deals with the divorce in their own way. While sixteen-year-old Walt takes his father’s side, his twelve-year-old brother Frank finds it harder to choose.

Growing up and living with two writer parents who use words as weapons, means that it is inevitable that sons Walt and Frank will eventually become casualties of the war. Both of the boys deal with the divorce in their own way, just as they deal with the challenges of growing up in their own way.

For Walt, this means emulating his father and punishing his mother. For Frank, this means exploring his existing relationships and his own self-discovery of his body. The Squid and the Whale is not only a film about the effect of divorce on growing up, but it is also about the effect and influence of our parents and the ways they shape us for adulthood.

This quiet and observational film uses its sharp dialogue, and great understated performances by all, to be utterly engaging and relatable. Its short running time means that it never gets too bogged down in any one situation, rather there are a series of situations that all add up to the painful comedy of growing up with parents that may be even more messed up than their adolescent offspring.

One of the best things about The Squid and the Whale is the way it treats its characters, which in turn influences the audience’s perception and acceptance of the characters. These characters are deeply flawed, often acting in ways that make them wholly unlikeable. Yet you are never disgusted or judgemental of them.

Everyone has acted in some way that they might not be particularly proud of, especially as they were growing up. So, in these characters, the audience is able to find some sympathy and common ground. Overall, The Squid and the Whale accurately, and sometimes in an almost painfully relatable way, portrays the pain and self-discovery of growing up.

 

3. Moonlight (2016)

ashton-sanders-moonlight-chiron

Academy award winner of Best Picture 2017, Moonlight follows Chiron, a young man who is growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Miami. The story is told over three chapters of his life – his childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood. Moonlight explores the difficulties that Chiron faces with his identity and suality, and with the physical and emotional abuse he receives. Along the way, Chiron meets different people that all in their own individual way, make a difference to his life.

One of the paramount struggles of growing up is trying to find your own identity and where you fit in. This conflict of selfhood discovery is something that everyone without a doubt can relate to. Moonlight is a film which highlights this struggle in an incredibly raw and honest way. But Moonlight is not only about struggle, it is also about acceptance, friendship and the complexities of growing up.

The three separate chapters mean that the audience has at least one chapter in that they can find something to relate to, if not in all three chapters. This also means that we are given a highly personal look into the journey of one young man, not only at one age in his life but in several. You don’t ever really stop growing up, you just get older. And with getting older, you encounter more difficulties that question who you are and who you want to be, which is one of the cruxes of growing up.

Within the complex journey that Moonlight takes us on is the poetic quality of the film itself. It is beautifully crafted and intelligently formed, and it asks us to ask ourselves questions that might make us uncomfortable. What is tolerance? Who are we? What do we stand for? These questions are often asked of us, and how we answer can define the struggles that we ultimately face as we grow up.

A heart-breaking and poignant moment comes early in the film when a young Chiron asks, “Am I a faggot?” This line alone sums up the pain of growing up for Chiron. In all of our lives we can remember moments which made the pain of growing up so painfully acute that it feels like that it is all that defines you. In time you learn that this is not the truth of life. The pain of life’s lessons, realisations and discovering your identity are all subjects which are explored in Moonlight and which make it a wonderfully understated masterpiece on the pain of growing up.

 

4. Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me

After the death of a friend, a writer recounts a childhood journey from many years previously. Four friends, Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern, from a small town in Oregon decide to undertake a journey to find the body of a missing child. The four boys all have vastly different personalities and home lives, but as they spend more time together, the adventure evolves into a defining moment in all of their lives.

The friendships that we cultivate in childhood can often define the friendships that we have in adulthood, and in some cases, can be friendships that we have throughout our lives. Not only that, but friendship is an important keystone of growing up. Stand By Me celebrates those life defining friendships, and the moments that they create. In many ways, Stand By Me is a timeless film.

Whether you watch it for the first time as a child, as an adult, or return to it many years later, it evokes perfectly the pain and pleasure of growing up. From the crazy escapades that you get up to with your friends to the agony of bereavement, Stand By Me visits all these moments and more in a film which epitomises growing up.

Using a first-person narrator, who is later revealed to be Gordie, means that Stand By Me has a uniquely personal quality to it. The audience knows the intricacies of Gordie’s journey the most out of the boys, but this doesn’t mean that the audience has to relate most to him. The nature of the film means that you can find something relatable in each or all of the characters. The realistic and identifiable personalities and circumstances of the boys may even be something that we have experienced ourselves.

In a film where everything screams nostalgia, from the characters, to the setting of a small town in Oregon, Stand By Me is a classic film about growing up and the friends that you grow up with. Whether you keep those friendships or drift apart, this line from Gordie sums it up perfectly, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?

 

5. 12 and Holding (2005)

Identical twin brothers Rudy and Jacob couldn’t be more different. Rudy is outspoken and outgoing, whilst Jacob is quiet and cautious. They spend most of their time with their two friends, Leonard who struggles with his weight and Malee who has a difficult relationship with her single mother. After getting into a fight with two local bullies, Rudy becomes the victim of a revenge prank gone horribly wrong. After his death, Jacob, Leonard and Malee must face the harsh realities of grief, hormones and their dysfunctional families.

Growing up and spending time with a group of close friends can often be romanticised in films about adolescents. That is certainly not the case for 12 and Holding. The treehouse in the woods that they play in, instead of being a place that represents fun and friendship, becomes the scene of Rudy’s death. This accurately sums up 12 and Holding’s tone.

The settings that could represent the pleasures in growing up instead represent the pains. And in 12 and Holding, the pains are intense and often even more intensified by the children’s parents. Their parents mean well, but are so often thoughtless and useless in their parenting. For example, Leonard’s parents who try to discourage him from eating healthily telling him that “it’s not healthy” to eat a lot of apples.

Not only are the children dealing with parents who are trying but failing to reach out successfully to their kids, they are also dealing with a myriad of their own problems. And in each child’s problem is a representation of the universal issues that we face as we grow up. Malee develops a strong crush on an older man, and must deal with her developing feelings of lust and love.

Leonard is dealing with body confidence issues and losing weight. And Jacob must deal with being teased about the large birthmark on his face, not to mention the death of his twin brother and the guilt he carries over the death. First love, body issues, bullying and death are all things that we face as we grow up. In other films, these subjects can become the scenes of triumph and joy. Not so in 12 and Holding where these subjects become scenes of tragedy, regret and shock.

12 and Holding is a low budget film, and it often watches that way. However, that never detracts from this study on pre-teen angst that is sure to evoke a reaction in its audience. The three main character’s stories have differing levels of success regarding the overall plot and narrative. But 12 and Holding doesn’t shy away from the difficult and stupid decisions that you make when you are growing up. And a shocking conclusion to one of the stories will give you something to talk about long after the credits have stopped rolling.

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10 Massive Movie Flops That Killed Directors’ Careers

What’s in a flop? That much dreaded result when a costly film just doesn’t find its audience, or is mauled via word of mouth. Regardless of the whole spiel that a movie is “a collaboration of hundreds,” when the results go south someone has to be stuck with the blame, and the easy answer is that it’s the director’s fault.

Let’s observe examples of the films that flopped, and the director’s they took down with them.

 

10. The Scarlet Letter (1995) – Roland Joffe

The Scarlet Letter

Pre-Flop: After toiling away in TV land in his native Britain, Roland Joffe teamed up with wunderkind producer David Puttnam for a one-two punch breakthrough that swept the awards season plus critics off their feet.

First, “The Killing Fields” (1984), a haunting and immensely moving treatise on the ‘cleansing campaign’ atrocities in Cambodia, and then the lush yet equally devastating “The Mission” (1986), centred around a Jesuit priest siding with South American natives against the Portuguese slavers.

Both films featured stellar visuals (career-best work from famed cinematographer Chris Menges), nuanced and wrenching performances, and an outright fantastic handling on its direction.

Eyes were unanimously glued on a follow-up; “Shadow Makers” (1989) and “City of Joy” (1991) were the lower key results and didn’t take the world by storm, yet in retrospect they were strong efforts. Still, the awards and big leagues beckoned, so Joffe followed with something ambitious…

Film in Question: An adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic morality tale “The Scarlet Letter,” armed with a healthy budget and an A-list cast, seemed like a sure thing. Yet the film mussed up the opportunity for an award-winning topical movie by boiling down its material into a paperback ‘bodice ripper’ full of cheesy slow-mo love scenes and New Age retrospect placed on the Puritan era.

The production and direction certainly look its budget, but sadly it’s a shallow affair that felt below the talent involved (including a strong cast of Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall). No culprit felt more guilty than Joffe and as the film died a painful death at the box office, so did a major chunk of respect for Joffe’s ability behind the camera.

Post-Flop: Regardless, Joffe never stopped working, yet it only furthered his decline by making him feel like a bandwagon chaser. The flat neo-noir “Goodbye Lover” (1998) wished to be part of the 90’s crime/thriller craze; “Vatel” (2000) was formulaic Miramax award fodder; and “Captivity” (2007) was a weak attempt at ‘survival horror’ in the torture porn heyday. He has made several more films and TV assignments, but most critics have been hard pressed to remember or let alone care – the damage is already done.

 

9. Lolita (1997) – Adrian Lyne

Lolita (1997)

Pre-Flop: Riding high on a wave of British filmmakers flourishing in the states during the mid-80s, Adrian Lyne jumped up to the top of the directorial heap with the smash hit “Flashdance” (1983), an early win for the Bruckheimer/Simpson producing duo. It gave us a slickly shot, synth-heavy spectacle of Jennifer Beals in spandex, emphasised by Lyne’s gorgeous photography.

His impressive style lent themselves quickly to other pop culture hits “9 1/2 Weeks” (1986), “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Indecent Proposal” (1993), adult-targeted films that dove into themes of suality, but did so in a classy and compelling way, with show-stopping performances, and of course, filmed in that trademark quality visual.

Lyne was a hot property, and even though his attempt to break free from his usually territory, the nightmarish and emotionally harrowing “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), didn’t set the box office on fire, the critics unanimously praised it, and it does stand as an incredible piece of work that hints at a master filmmaker in Lyne. Regardless, of its quiet reception, it at least enjoys a rightful cult reputation at present.

Film in Question: Never one to balk at challenging ‘adult’ material, Lyne set his sights on adapting Vladimir Nabokov’s seminal novel “Lolita,” the infamous yet critically respected story of a troubled writer and his rollercoaster romance with an underaged girl. Stanley Kubrick had adapted it before in 1962 to knee-jerk controversy yet overall acclaim – the director cleverly played up the biting comedy and dark off-kilter nature of the story, whilst early 60’s censorship kept the blatant suality more implied than in your face.

With this second adaptation, Lyne intended to go on a different path, fully exploring the racier side of things whilst playing the ordeal as a doomed romance. Whilst its two central performances held strong (Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain), the rest ultimately doesn’t, sitting in the shadow of the far superior Kubrick version. Still, all of this was moot, as the main character as a child molester kept the film from gaining American distribution, although it eventually managed to sneak by with a limited release. The film bombed dramatically and the taint on Lyne’s career was rightfully felt.

Post-Flop: Lyne’s career stalled big time after the whole “Lolita” ordeal, especially tainting his pedigree in the states, with his name no longer topping producer’s lists. Regardless, after five years he was able to make “Unfaithful” (2002), a sy thriller featuring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. It was an involved morality tale and was warmly received by the critics, yet was soon forgotten, with the type of movies that fit in Lyne’s wheelhouse growing out of popularity. He hasn’t directed since.

 

8. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Stephen Norrington

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Pre-Flop: Working successfully as a SFX guru, Stephen Norrington directed the grimy and effective horror flick “Death Machine” (1994), yet it was his follow-up – the gory Marvel and kung-fu mash-up “Blade” (1998) – that made him a hot commodity in the industry, with several producers eager to have his dark and hip approach grace their blockbuster properties.

Instead, Norrington made the highly personal dark satire “The Last Minute” (2001) – a movie that was forgotten and left those who saw it bewildered. Regardless, it still showcased him as a unique talent, although the pressure was on for his next project to hit big since he had self-financed the movie mostly out of his own pocket.

Film in Question: “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” was a comic book adaptation that seemed like a surefire hit matched with Norrington for studio heads, yet the concept of making a summer event movie from Alan Moore’s deconstruction of Victorian literature figures never boded well for most.

Add to that a production mired with battles with star Sean Connery, and a flood of studio notes resulting in a messy product of film by committee; Norrington’s unique voice and visual aesthetic were completely missing from proceedings, in what became a painful bellyflop for 20th Century Fox’s fiscal year.

Post-Flop: Norrington quite frankly retired from the industry after his miserable experience and focused on sculpting artwork instead. He has hinted once or twice over the years of a return – he was attached to remakes the “Clash of the Titans” and “The Crow” before leaving.

 

7. Gods of Egypt (2016) – Alex Proyas

Gods of Egypt

Pre-Flop: Greek/Australian director Alex Proyas had carved out a solid pedigree as a blockbuster director who could deliver that extra bit of unique flavour to whatever assignment he was given. His debut “The Crow” (1994) was plagued with production problems (the most devastating had star Brandon Lee killed on set by a misfiring cartage), yet it still managed to be a confident success – a dark and edgy revenge tale with a supernatural twist that stunned visually.

He followed it with the even more impressive “Dark City” (1998), a mishmash of German Expressionism, Clive Barker, and 50’s crime/sci-fi pulp, all wrapped up by a script that was as clever as it was playful. The film was destined to be a cult classic and it swiftly did in the booming DVD age.

Although Proyas watered down his individual stylings for his next two – “I, Robot” (2004) and “Knowing” (2009) – they were still entertaining star vehicles that made sizeable profits and helped raise his status amongst producers, priming him for that right big budget project that would ratchet him up to the A-list.

Film in Question: After toiling away for close to a decade on false-starting projects (‘Dracula: Year Zero” and “Paradise Lost” sounded promising but died), Proyas finally began production on “Gods of Egypt,” an expensive and ambitious fantasy take on the ancient Egyptian mythos.

Unfortunately, it didn’t help that amidst this fervent climate of Hollywood’s anti-whitewashing backlash, the movie already had the public hating on it before it arrived in cinemas – Scottish actor Gerard Butler and Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau were the headlining Egyptian royalty, with a pale-skinned light-eyed cast filling out the majority of the other roles. In all fairness, the film certainly wasn’t striving for realism (people do, in fact, transform into metallic hawks mid-battle and bust out lightning bolts from their eyes), but never in recent times has the ethnic casting couch felt so backwards.

Add to that the fact that when the film eventually arrived, it was just plain terrible. Bastardising a wealth of old myths for Hollywood spectacle could’ve been passably fun if it wasn’t drowning in painful CGI, horrible dialogue, and even worse performances. Butler is only the one appearing to have any fun, yet one can’t imagine why. The film barely broke even with its worldwide gross, yet things didn’t end there.

Post-Flop: While it’s slightly unfair to say Proyas’ career is in complete tatters as a result (it’s only been a year since this failure’s release), sadly one has to take into account the massive hole the director dug for himself during the film’s post-release – he went on a lengthy Facebook rant pointing the finger at “deranged” modern film critics for the movies failure, calling them everything from “less than worthless” to “diseased vultures” pecking off “Roger Ebert’s corpse.”

Understandably, the man was upset that a film he worked on for years died a swift one critically and financially, but the entire rant just felt someone stubbornly not willing to accept that the resulting movie was… well, just a bit crap, really. Who knows if the tirade will echo on toward his future reputation? Some will most likely think twice before hiring him for their next attempt at a franchise starter.

 

6. Night of the Hunter (1955) – Charles Laughton

The Night of the Hunter

Pre-Flop: Charles Laughton was a much-lauded talent on the British stage before making the transition over to Hollywood in the early 30s where he took the acting scene by storm, with iconic takes on Captain Bligh and Quasimodo in adaptations of “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939).

He stole the screen whenever he was on it and worked with such masterful directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, David Lean and Stanley Kubrick. Heck, even the infamously introverted actor Daniel Day-Lewis has gushed about him being “the greatest film actor” and his career an “inspiration.”

Coupled with years of stage direction experience, the very talented Laughton seemed a shoo-in to make a transition into a directing in the mid-50s…

Film in Question: Said movie was the landmark noir thriller “The Night of the Hunter” (1955), featuring Robert Mitchum in a career-best performance as a homicidal preacher who slinks his way into the life of a single mother and her children. It’s an atmospheric and dark classic and one that has not only been heralded as one of the greatest film of that decade, but in 2008, Cahiers du Cinema regarded it as the second greatest film of all time.

So what’s this film doing on this list? Well, at the time it was a costly financial and critical failure. Many critics were put off by one of movie’s most respectable thespians making an offbeat genre flick with horror overtones, despicable characters, and an unrelentlessly dark mood. In retrospect, those are some of the exact traits that have helped it endure over decades as a relevant piece of cinema.

Post-Flop: Laughton was understandably pained by the films disastrous failure, and quickly brushed off his directorial ambitions with mandate to never return. So whilst that career died, he shrugged it off his shoulders and returned to acting, with many critics of the time forgetting that he had even attempted directing.

10 Great Performances in Not-So-Great Movies

Film discussions on the internet have become a fight of extremes: if you were to believe some reviewers and commentators, every movie that comes out is either an absolute masterpiece or unredeemable trash. The truth, however, is a little more complex.

The fact is that almost every movie has both good and bad elements to it. It may be poorly written but have amazing cinematography, the score might be magnificent even if the characters aren’t great, and so on.

One of the most commonly looked at aspects of any movie is the performances, and that can make or break a movie for a lot of people. If the acting is good, the movie is good. If not, then it doesn’t work.

However, it is possible for a movie to be bad and have great performances, as this list will show.

 

10. Michael Fassbender – Prometheus

Prometheus

Though it has its share of admirers, Ridley Scott’s return to the universe of “Alien” has mostly been met with diminishing returns, both with the critical response and the box office numbers, and it all started with 2013’s “Prometheus.”

The movie is frankly a mess: most of the characters behave illogically, there are several loose plot points that never connect, and the philosophical undertones are never really developed. But in midst of the chaos, an absolute standout element was Michael Fassbender’s performance as the ambiguous android David.

Fassbender manages to infuse thoughtful nuance in what could have otherwise been a common villain, making David a complex character you can never really figure out, no matter how much you want to. It’s an intriguing and captivating performance, and it’s no wonder he is the only cast member to return (in dual roles) for this year’s sequel “Alien: Covenant.”

 

9. Tom Cruise – Rock of Ages

Tom Cruise - Rock of Ages

A textbook case of a great theater piece that doesn’t translate well to the screen, “Rock of Ages,” one the most successful and beloved Broadway musicals of all time, became a boring, sloppily made movie in 2012. Almost nothing works: the musical numbers are lifeless, the plot is meandering and predictable, and the camera work is abysmal.

The one salvageable part is Jaxx, a wild, decadent rock star played by a great Tom Cruise. It’s an already interesting character that Cruise elevates to new heights, capturing the musician’s sadness, but making it funny without being mean. It’s more complex than it seems on the surface, and it reminds the audience that, when he wants to, Cruise can truly be a good actor.

 

8. Daniel Day-Lewis – Nine

Nine (2009)

Nobody in their right mind would ever argue that Daniel Day-Lewis is not one of the greatest actors of all time. His commitment to his roles have already become legendary, and he is one the few actors who chooses his movies very carefully, which led him to almost always star in masterpieces, from “The Last of the Mohicans” to “There Will Be Blood.”

And that’s what makes his decision to join Rob Reiner’s “Nine” so baffling: to mess with one of the best movies of all time, Fellini’s “8 ½,” is already a bad idea, but Reiner makes it even worse. Chaotic, episodic and formulaic, the movie utterly wastes its impressive cast, which mostly tries and fails to make something out of their one-note characters (the exception being Marion Cotillard and Oscar-nominated Penelope Cruz).

Anchoring it all, however, is Day-Lewis, who turns in a sensitive performance as Guido Contini (but really, Federico Fellini), communicating his character’s anguishes and doubts with incredible subtlety.

 

7. Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw

Southpaw

Antoine Fuqua’s sensibilities, when guided by the right script, can turn into great movies, most notably “Training Day.” “Southpaw,” however, are his worst instincts combined: cliched, heavy handed and overtly sentimental. It’s a mediocre boxing movie that would have been a disaster if not for Jake Gyllenhaal’s committed performance.

Bulking up for the project, Gyllenhaal lends incredible believability to the fight scenes and brings an intense physicality to the character, creating a brutal man even when he’s out of the ring. It’s a smart performance in a very stupid movie.

 

6. Viola Davis – The Help

The Help (2011)

“The Help” was certainly made with good intentions, but what ended up on screen is a mediocre Lifetime movie that employs some very tired cliches, and reduces its very important and complex subject matter to simplistic notions.

The almost all-female cast, however, rises above the material (including Oscar winner Octavia Spencer), but, good as they all are, it’s really Viola Davis’s movie.

Her amazingly soulful performance lends real emotion and pathos to an otherwise very artifical film. Davis makes us care deeply for her, yearn for her happiness, and lament when she suffers. It’s the kind of connection with an audience that other actors would kill for, and it turned the world’s attention to Davis, one of the best working actresses out there.

10 Forgotten Movie Masterpieces That Need To Be Rediscovered (Part 4)

Some films are remembered, some forgotten. Some are praised and some are not. The odd thing is that initial reactions may well not count in the long run concerning a film’s ultimate reputation.

There are also degrees of fame, rejection, praise and damnation. A well-made film may be little known and seen but loved by the few who did find it (a cult classic, if one wishes, such as 1955’s “The Night of the Hunter” or 1949’s “Gun Crazy”). There are well known films which have garnered very little love (1963’s “Cleopatra” or 1973’s “Mame” can serve as examples). And then there are some which drown in lukewarm water eternally, both critically and with the public, but which may well have things to recommend them.

Maybe they aren’t the ones always buzzed over, but they shouldn’t be completely overlooked either. The following list contains films that don’t get talked or written about often enough, but which don’t deserve neglect. Some are better known than others, but all could use a good shoutout.

 

1. Yoyo (1965)

Yoyo (1965)

The fact that “Yoyo” is not better known really isn’t surprising. It shares the same basic fate as the other small handful of films created by its star/director/writer and that’s too bad (though it and the other films may have their chance at some point).

Who loves the comedy of the great silent clowns more than the French? Yes, many claim to, but the French put their money where their mouth was by continuing the silent tradition long after the silent era was over (only the late Jerry Lewis, infamously loved by the French, managed that trick in Hollywood) . Many know of the famed and praised (though not prolific, either) work of Jacques Tati in from the late 1940s through the early 1970s.

However, there was another silent clown (probably a disciple of both Tati and the silent masters) who practiced the art of silent comedy along with Tati in the 1960s and 70s and little bit longer. His name is Pierre Etaix. Though he had a long career as an actor, he had but a short one as a filmmaker and left behind only a handful of films. Why? His work was wonderful but there was something delicate and precious about his films and himself as an artist.

Perhaps the handful of films he left (after a long and happy life), all such gems, were the best that could be expected. He won an Oscar right off the bat for the 1962 short “Happy Anniversary” and, that same year, released his first feature, the delightful “The Suitor.” However, his crown jewel came three years later.

Shot in black and white (just making it in while such a thing was still possible in commercial cinema) and largely silent, “Yoyo” is like a mixture of Chaplin, Fellini and (yes) Jerry Lewis, but all of it is Pierre Etaix in the end.

As an actor, he plays two roles. Opening in 1925, his first character is an unhappy millionaire, feeling alone in his palace-like mansion, despite all the best company money can buy. His only happiness is the memory of Elle (Claudine Auger), a circus performer and only woman he ever loved (and lost).

When the circus plays a return engagement in town, the man recognizes, without being told, that Elle’s son, Yoyo, is also his. He takes the pair into his home and his chief desire is to train Yoyo (Etaix also when the character become an adult) to be the world’s greatest clown. Yoyo wants this but he also wants to restore the beauty of his father’s mansion, which falls into disrepair when the family fortune is lost in the Great Depression. However, modern times (including TV) are present in even the fantasy world of this film, and a simple clown may find it hard to make so much money.

Etaix, like so many other artists (some comedic), had hard luck with business partners. Though European critics of the day loved his work, the films fell into a legal morass which kept them tied up and out of circulation for decades, allowing a few generations of film fans to grow up knowing nothing of Etaix and his work. Well, thankfully, that is a memory now with restoration and redistribution. The films still have a lot of catching up to do, but there is no time like the present to start!

 

2. Kwaidan (1965)

Sometimes a prophet (or artist, as the case may be) is truly without honor in his own homeland. Or, if one will, a film only may have its true worth judged on foreign soil. A great case for this is the history of the epic supernatural film “Kwaidan.”

Horror fans in the US and Britain may find it odd that this film could be considered overlooked. It has long been a staple of horror cultist (a smallish but quite loyal and appreciative group). It was also an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and is a selection of the Criterion Collection. However, it was a big and infamous flop in its native Japan upon release.

“Kwaidan” (which translates out to “spooky/ghost story”) is a four part omnibus of stories set in feudal Japan. All are laced with supernatural elements. The film features a handsome production design in stunning and colorful widescreen. However, there were some mitigating circumstances concerning its dramatic trust. The source of the stories was not a Japanese writer but European author Lafcadio Hearn (which might have been a major irritant in the Japan of the day).

The director, Masaki Kobayashi, had created the massive, stunning (too little seen) “The Human Condition” (1959-1961), but wasn’t known for genre films such as horror films. That was also another point. Though there are horrific elements in this film, scary isn’t a ready adjective for it. The real horrors in these stories are loss, regret, dishonor, and the burden of the past (especially guilt).

The first story sees a samurai returning to the woman whom he deserted for his career, finding her seemingly the same, but coming to a terrible discovery. The second finds a woodcutter carelessly breaking a bargain made long ago with a supernatural spirit who helped in in a cataclysmic snow storm, and is and paying the price. The third (cut from exported prints for several years) finds a blind singer/musician imperiled by vengeful ghosts who want his life force, something loving and helpful monks try and fail to help him with in a meaningful way. The last finds a man haunted by an image he sees every time he looks into a cup of tea.

Perhaps this was too cerebral and basic in storytelling concepts for domestic audiences. However, it looks most interesting, if not quite completely satisfying to some, in other markets. “Kwaidan” may not be a crowd pleaser and certainly not the gloriously trashy genre wallow a description may promise, but it is a film of merit from a country where the supernatural genre is taken quite seriously.

 

3. One Eyed Jacks (1961)

One-Eyed Jacks

Marlon Brando was truly one of the seminal acting forces of the 20th century. He didn’t just leave his mark – he changed his profession in some pretty permanent ways. However, examination of his film career shows that he had five incendiary years at the start (mostly with his work with then-mentor, stage/screen directing great Elia Kazan) and then… well, calling his record up and down might be charitable.

After making 1957’s “Sayonara,” he did not have anything resembling a hit until his legendary comeback in the 1972 classic “The Godfather.” What filled the years in between? There were nine commercial (and to a large degree critical) flops, some more deserving of that ignominy than others (though he was almost always interesting, if nothing else, and often quite good in sometimes trying circumstances).

Perhaps the most compelling film he made during this period was also his only foray into directing (and this film’s infamous and troubled shoot guaranteed that it would retain that distinction). The film was a western taken from an obscure novel by Charles Neider entitled “The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones.” Brando always intended to produce (this was before it was realized that his bad streak was more than just a short term thing), but he found that he was dissatisfied with the studio-appointed writer and director (some juvenile hacks named Calder Willingham and Stanley Kubrick!). Just as with his acting, Brando was going to do it his way… which he did for better and worse.

The plot is not unusual, though the treatment is off-beat. In the Old West, criminal Rio (Brando) is part of the gang overseen by “Dad” Longworth (Brando pal and Oscar winner Karl Malden, giving a fine performance). A robbery goes very wrong and Dad leaves Rio to twist in the wind… in a Mexican jail, until he escapes five years later. Rio’s intent is to exact revenge on Dad. He tracks the man down to a small town on the southern coast of California (and the seaside setting is striking for a western).

Dad has reinvented himself as the town marshal (!) and is married to a lovely Mexican woman (veteran character actress Katy Jurado) and the stepfather to her even lovelier young daughter, Louisa (the beautiful and ill-fated Pina Pellicer). Though Rio feigns friendship, he and Dad aren’t fooling one another, and the fact that the Rio and Louisa fall in love doesn’t lessen the fury they eventually unleash on each other at all.

Brando directed this film very much like he acted in it. It goes at its own pace, completely mindless of time (the rough cut was infamously four hours plus, whittled down to half that length and still far from speedy). The film is full of quirks and such usual Brando preoccupations as mutilation. However, it is also a most individualistic picture. No one else could or would have made it this way. Like its maker, it may be a pain in some ways, but one worth putting up with.

 

4. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)

Anyone studying film history today would be amazed that there was a time when the cinema’s greatest surrealist, Spain’s Luis Bunuel, was overlooked. However, being banned (for life!) from filmmaking by the Catholic Church might well do that to one’s career. Bunuel’s early films, especially 1930’s “L’Age D’or,” offended church sensibilities (which provided much fodder for the filmmaker once he finally got back to the mainstream).

Due to this, he spent a long time in purgatory, which took the form of Mexico, the country to which he fled. He lived there, working in the publicity department of Warner Brothers’ Mexican office, long before he was finally to able to direct a film even in that remote place. Some of his Mexican work is mundane (just work for hire, but he had to restart somewhere), but some of it is as good as any he ever did. Coming somewhere in-between but leaning definitely to the good side is Bunuel’s only English language film, “The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.”

Now, the reader may be forgiven for thinking that this one sounds like something only a kid with a book report due the next day might want to see. Of course, this is a cinematic version of author Daniel Defoe’s classic novel concerning a merchant adventurer who gets shipwrecked alone on a desert island for many years until finding some companionship in another castaway, a native he dubs “Friday.”

It sounds like a children’s adventure story, but it’s not (and a close reading of the book would confirm that). Bunuel plays the first two-thirds of the film as an incisive study of the effects of isolation and the difficulty of survival. After Friday appears late the in film, the story shifts to a wry study of power relationships, with Crusoe’s first reaction to finding a companion after so many years is enslaving Friday with chains!

One key element that’s mostly missing from the film (and is a cause for disappointment to some) is Bunuel’s famed surrealism, save for one dream sequence. One great element the film possesses is a powerhouse performance from Irish stage and screen actor Dan O’Herlihy, which garnered him an Oscar nomination (then unheard of for a miniscule budget, non-Hollywood film, and reportedly he came close to beating out Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” for the award).

Due to being what might be dubbed an “orphaned” film (with no studio or large company owning and keeping track of it for decades), the picture all but vanished into the ether for good. Happily, it was rescued (apparently in the nick of time) and is getting back into circulation again. It may never be in quite the same category as 1967’s “Belle de Jour” or 1970’s “Tristana,” but “The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe” is not a film to be dismissed, either.

 

5. Le Deuxième Souffle (1966)

Le deuxième souffle

France’s Jean-Pierre Melville came very close to being overlooked period. A short-ish lifespan and only 14 films, mostly genre efforts, didn’t put him at the art house forefront during his lifetime (and two films which weren’t genre efforts, 1949’s “Le Silence de la Mer” and 1969’s “Army of Shadows,” didn’t have wide showings abroad until long after Melville’s death and his career starter, 1950 Les Enfants Terribles, is forever the property of its author-producer, Jean Cocteau).

Melville, a notable fighter in the Resistance, knew of honor, valor and a code of ethics in even the most unlikely places and circumstances. He imbued his many films concerning crime and criminals with these qualities. The figures in a Melville film might be low and undesirable by the precepts of the larger society, but they have their own principles and guidelines and, quite often, they are tragic on their own terms.

Some of the best of Melville’s films in the crime genre are “Bob le Flambeur” (1956), “Le Samouraï” (1967) and “Le Cercle Rouge” (1970). Many of his later films made use of international stars such as Alain Delon (never better than under Melville’s direction) and Yves Montand. Though another film has been gaining traction in recent years, “Le Deuxième Souffle,” which stars Lino Ventura and Paul Meurisse, two respected European actors without great international reputations, has been somewhat overlooked.

The plot follows a small band of three criminals as they escape from a maximum security prison. The leader (Ventura) knows it’s best for him to leave the country as quickly as possible. However, for a variety of reasons (more honor among thieves), he feels compelled to pull off one more big heist before leaving, especially after getting involved in a gangland killing. Complicating this is a dogged police inspector (Meurisse) who has long been the man’s nemesis and is equally determined to bring him back… dead or alive.

Maybe the plot isn’t the most original (genre plots rarely are) but, as ever, it’s how it’s handled that counts. Melville always treated his plots as if they were Hamlet-level pieces and always gave them the finest treatment his adroit ability could conjure. Perhaps this film came in the middle of too many similar ones from the filmmaker. Perhaps more star wattage might have helped. However, taken just as a piece of filmmaking, divorced from anything surrounding it, this is a fine effort and worthy of the later-day praise awarded to Melville.

The 20 Most Controversial Asian Movies of All Time

Moebius

Once more, let us delve in the key word in the title a bit. What is controversial, in terms of cinema? The easy answer would entail films that have been banned from their country of origin, or even other countries. The ones that had their directors ostracized would be another, as would the ones that challenge “normality,” breaking taboos in the process. The latter could be considered controversial because no “normal” spectator would consider their quality, probable offended by the spectacle offered.

Films that present history in a way one of the sides involved considers false is another, as are the films that present society in a fashion no one wants to see. All of the following films fall under one of these categories, in yet another list that could have many more entries, particularly since each country has banned a number of different films.

 

20. Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau, 1996, Hong Kong)

Ebola Syndrome (1996)

Probably one of the most offensive entries on the list, “Ebola Syndrome” revolves around Kai San, a fugitive who ends up in Johannesburg after killing his boss and his wife. While there, he finds work in a restaurant. The actual plot initiates when his boss travels with him to an Ebola-infected village to buy pork meat. While there, Kai rapes and kills a local woman and contracts the disease.

However, he appears to be immune to it and soon after, he embarks on a killing spree that begins with raping, killing and dismembering his boss and his wife, and serving them as hamburgers to customers, passing the virus onto them.

Herman Yau directs a film so despicable that it eventually becomes funny, although in a highly unconventional fashion. The racist notions, the constant brutality, and the graphic depictions of hideous actions dominate most of the movie, while the main character is one of the most preposterously evil ever depicted on screen.

However, behind all the extremity hides a surprisingly well made and paced film that excels in terms of narration, building the agony for the frenzied finale while retaining its theme for the whole of its duration. Lastly, Anthony Wong is great in the protagonist role, elaborately portraying a genuinely evil character.

 

19. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, 2002, South Korea)

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

The first part of the “Vengeance Trilogy” revolves around Ryu, a deaf-mute who works in a factory while he also has to take care of his sick sister, who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant.

His situation takes a turn for the even worse when the doctors inform him that he is not a suitable donor, and at the same time, he is fired from his job. Utterly desperate, he decides to search the black market for a kidney, and although he manages to find some people who can help him, they prove to be con men who eventually take all of his compensation and one of his own kidneys, and leave him injured and n in an unknown building. Seeing Ryu in this situation, his anarchist girlfriend Yeong-mi suggests kidnapping the daughter of his boss, Dong-jin, who has laid off many workers from his factory.

Park Chan-wook presented the extremes an individual can reach when they find themselves in desperate situations. Revenge, the central theme of the film, results from the aforementioned situations and is presented in four axes.

Ryu wants to exact revenge from those who tricked him. Yeong-mi wants to exact revenge from the ‘Capital.’ Dong-jin wants to exact revenge from those who kidnapped his daughter. Yeong-mi’s fellow terrorists want to exact revenge for their comrade. In this fashion, Park wanted to present the futility of revenge, as all of the aforementioned succeed in their purpose but gain nothing from it.

The reason I consider the film controversial is the scene where four boys in a row have pressed their ears to the wall, imagining that the moans they hear from the apartment next door are sual, and masturbating to them. They also try to retain their fantasy with different tactics as one has stuck a n woman’s image on the head of the boy in front of him, and he, respectively, is touching the one in front of him with his hands.

As the camera moves from right to left to the next room, the actual reason for the moans is revealed, with Ryu’s sister struggling on the floor in extreme pain, and him, being deaf-mute, not hearing a thing, as he continues to eat his noodles.

 

18. Taboo Gohatto (Nagisa Oshima, 1999, Japan)

Taboo Gohatto

The Shinsengumi was a special police force organized by the Bakufu (military government) in order to protect the Shogunate, whose members have been repeatedly presented in popular culture as the last samurai. Oshima took, once more, a radical approach toward them, presenting the theme of homosuality among their ranks.

The story revolves around Kano Sozaburo, a young and beautiful samurai who is admitted to their ranks. Kano is a skilled swordsman, but his appearance causes antagonism among the other samurais, who compete for his affections.

Nagisa Oshima directs an almost theatrical spectacle filled with eroticism, which revolves around a game of jealousy and hatred instigated by Kano’s girlish appeals. Furthermore, he did not shy away from the depiction of homosual s scenes, despite the fact that Ryuhei Matsuda, who plays Kano, was 16 years old at the time.

The film was a financial success in Japan, netted a number of local awards, and was nominated for a Palme d’Or.

 

17. Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999, Japan)

audition

“Audition” is quite a historic production (at least for its cult following), since it was the film that established Takashi Miike as a prominent member of the category and Eihi Shiina as a “priestess” of the grotesque.

Based on the homonymous novel by Ryu Murakami, who actually wrote it as a reaction to a failed love affair, “Audition” tells the story of Shigeharu Aoyama, a middle-aged entrepreneur who has recently lost his wife and has been living a disinterested life ever since.

His 17-year-old son, Shigehiko, who worries about the turn his father’s life seem to have taken, prompts him to meet new women. Yoshikawa, a friend of Shigeharu and a film producer, proposes that he take part in a sham in order to meet women, an idea he agrees to.

According to the plan, actresses would supposedly audition for the role of Shigeharu’s wife in an imaginary film, although the actual purpose is for Shigeharu to find someone he can date. Many beautiful women audition, but there is only one who truly stirs his heart – a young woman named Asami Yamazaki.

She states that she is a former ballet dancer who was recently working for a music producer. Yoshikawa warns Shigeharu to be careful, since he was not able to cross-check Asami’s background, but he is already blinded by love.

What Miike does here is build the horror in a fashion that finds the audience in an almost completely unsuspecting state during the ending scene. This technique raises the shock element to unprecedented levels, heightening the sense of the finale even more and making the scene even more memorable.

 

16. The Isle (Kim Ki-duk, 2000, South Korea)

The Isle

Hee-Jin is a young woman who rents floating platforms to anglers in a lake. Additionally, she provides them with prostitutes if they ask and occasionally prostitutes herself. Her life is miserable, though calm, until Hyun-Shik arrives, an unusual renter who seems to have issues with the police. Nevertheless, the two of them strike a peculiar love affair, tortured by egoism, fatal accidents and a ferociousness that leads to extreme measures by both of them.

Kim Ki-duk presents an ode to antithesis. The splendid scenery at the lake in contrast to the mundane life of the anglers; the wealth of the entrepreneur who finds the body in contrast to the couple’s poorness; the anger of both the protagonists in contrast to their unfathomable love; the graphic scenes of self-injury in contrast to the poetic, calm scenery.

His direction is characterized by utmost simplicity, since he has removed any kind of explanatory scenes. His protagonists’ motives are simple in that they are animalistic. They feel lust, jealousy, pain and fear and react accordingly.

The fact is that “Pieta” and “Moebius” are further gruesome altogether. However, “The Isle” incorporates the two foremost grisly scenes in Kim’s filmography – the suicide attempts with hooks. Furthermore, it entails violent scenes with animals that Kim stated were real.

At its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, a large share of the audience walked out, while at the Venice Film Festival a few even fainted.

 

15. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000, Japan)

Kinji Fukasaku’s swan song was a domestic and international success and was released in 22 countries worldwide, thus becoming one of the most famous contemporary Japanese films.

In the beginning of the new millennium, unemployment has reached 15 percent with 10 million people left without a job, while school violence has reached unprecedented levels. In order to control the youth, the desperate government votes in the “Battle Royale” law, which states that each year, students from a randomly chosen class will be transferred to a secluded island where they will have to fight to the last person standing.

The story, which is based on the homonymous novel by Takami Koushun, revolves around the latest chosen class.

Fukasaku took the school violence theme and transformed it into actual and grotesque brutality, as the students become monsters in order to avoid death. The dark and vicious atmosphere supplements this extreme film, which at times touches the borders of splatter.

However, beneath the violent action he hid harsh remarks regarding political correctness, reality shows and television in general, coating them with a great deal of irony and sarcasm.

5 Great Films Influenced By “The Dark Knight” That Aren’t Superhero Movies

Perhaps the most lauded superhero film ever, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight set what many consider to be an unreachable bar for all that followed. Indeed, many superhero films have tried to recreate its serious and brooding tone, to emulate its narrative and moral complexity, to outshine its captivating performances, in particular Heath Ledger’s now iconic Joker, with varying degrees of success.

Its influence on much of the DCEU is abundantly clear, though many entries into the DC franchise have mistaken serious for humourless and dark for drab. It’s impact on the MCU is less clear, but still identifiable; gone are the shadowy colour palettes of Nolan’s Gotham in favour of brighter, more vivid tones; seriousness makes way for eccentricity and enjoyably ludicrous cosmic battles; but fundamentally solid characterisation remains.

Where The Dark Knight’s influence is harder to discern is in films further removed from the superhero genre. But be they action-thrillers, sci-fi epics, or black comedies, the influence of The Dark Knight is certainly there, in the narratives, the tones, and the performances of these films.

 

1. Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)

Skyfall (2012)

Christopher Nolan loves Bond, and the debt his Batman trilogy owes to Bond is almost as great as the debt The Dark Knight itself owes to Michael Mann’s Heat. It is a sweet irony then that this influence came full circle with Skyfall, the twenty-third entry into the James Bond series.

Many comparisons have been drawn between the tone of both The Dark Knight and Skyfall, made all the more valid by director Sam Mendes’s admission that Nolan’s film gave him ‘the confidence to take [Skyfall] in directions that, without The Dark Knight, might not have been possible…it’s clearly possible to make a dark movie that people want to see.’

But the influence doesn’t simply stop at tone. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva is a ‘better class of criminal’, flashing his teeth at cruelty, and ‘savouring all the little emotions’ he draws out of his victims, not least of all Bond, smirking gleefully as he caresses his adversary’s neck and thighs.

Not only does his planned capture and escape from MI6 recall the Joker’s own planned capture and escape from a Gotham City police cell, but in comparing himself and 007 to ‘the last two rats’ at the bottom of a barrel, Silva renders himself the Joker while turning Bond into Batman; they are both two sides of the same coin, completing one another.

 

2. Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, 2013)

Star Trek Into Darkness

Just as Skyfall’s Silva follows in the footsteps of The Dark Knight’s Joker, so too is Star Trek Into Darkness’s Khan, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, one in a long line of cinematic bad-guys who cannot help but evoke Heath Ledger’s ‘agent of chaos’.

Both the Joker and Khan are nihilists, intent on destroying the establishment, that being Gotham’s justice system and Starfleet respectively. Much of Khan’s dialogue is Jokeresque: his anarchic ‘you think your world is safe?’ speech echoes the Joker’s diatribe against ‘the established order’, with both characters returning to their world’s forefront to ‘have [their] vengeance.’

As with many franchise entries on this list, the minds behind Star Trek Into Darkness regard Nolan’s Batman trilogy as their exemplar, and so influences within the individual films themselves are unsurprising.

 

3. Birdman (Alejandro Iñárritu, 2014)

Birdman

Birdman is something of an anomaly on this list. It is not so much influenced by The Dark Knight as it is a direct response to it and other superhero films. Alejandro Iñárritu himself has a negative outlook on superhero films, calling them ‘basic and simple’, ‘very right-wing’, and comparing them to ‘cultural genocide’, so it comes no surprise that his Academy Award-winning comedy-drama satirises superhero films, amongst its explorations of fame, sanity, and theatre.

‘People, they love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit,’ claims Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor famous for having played a superhero, ironically evoking the acting career of lead-man Michael Keaton. Iron Man, the X-Men, Superman, and more are all directly referenced (‘they put him in a cape too?’ Riggan laments, upon learning that Jeremy Renner is one of the Avengers), but it is The Dark Knight which directly influences Riggan’s character.

When playing Riggan’s Birdman alter-ego, Keaton channels his inner Christian Bale, speaking with the same deep, gravelly voice as The Dark Knight’s Batman. While Bale spoke with a similar gruffness in Batman Begins, it was in The Dark Knight, in which Bale’s voice has been tweaked and adjusted to a sometimes-maligned extent in post-production, that the voice came into its own and became ripe for parody and satire.

 

4. War for the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2017)

Like Mendes’s Skyfall, the Planet of the Apes trilogy was very much inspired by Nolan’s Batman films. Dylan Clark, producer of all three Apes films, has discussed (in similar terms to Mendes) how The Dark Knight gave the filmmakers the conviction to take Apes in directions not seen before.

And like Mendes’s Skyfall, the influence of The Dark Knight on War for the Planet of the Apes specifically goes much deeper than tone. Caesar, played exquisitely by Andy Serkis, is somewhat of an amalgamation of Christian Bale’s Batman and Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent.

Like Dent, Caesar succumbs to his anger and intends to exact revenge on those who have killed his loved ones, abandoning a heroic cause in the process. Like Batman however, upon besting his nemesis, Caesar resists ending the Colonel’s life, choosing instead to allowing him to take his own life, just as Batman allows the Joker to be apprehended by Gotham’s police.

 

5. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan are two behemoths of modern filmmaking, especially within the sci-fi genre, and the former has proclaimed a strong admiration and respect for the latter.

In choosing his best films of the 21st century for the New York Times, Villeneuve bemoaned not being able to find a space for Inception in his top 10, a film that he evidently loves; the scene in which 2049’s Officer K meets and speaks with Dr. Ana Stelline, as she creates replicant memories, oozes with Inception, with Cobb and Ariadne discussing how to design and create dream layer mazes in a similar fashion.

As for Batman, Villeneuve’s updated version of the original Blade Runner spinner vehicle instantly calls to mind the Tumbler of Nolan’s The Dark Knight and, like Mendes and Clark with Skyfall and War for the Planet of the Apes respectively, the success of The Dark Knight despite its darker tone surely gave Villeneuve the confidence to take on a much bleaker project than that of his previous sci-fi outing Arrival.

Interestingly, Nolan himself was at one point rumoured to be helming the Blade Runner sequel. One can only imagine what Nolan’s Blade Runner would have been like, but envisioning the world of The Dark Knight is a good start.

Author Bio: Charlie Jones is a poet, playwright, and screenwriter from Merseyside, UK. He was a finalist in the Creative England shortFLIX Programme 2017 and is currently part of the Everyman & Playhouse Playwrights’ Programme 2017/18. His screenplay ‘Freedom Ain’t Free’ was the Grand Prize Winner in the Finish Line Scripts Competition 2016.

5 Reasons Why “Waking Life” Is The Most Profound Animated Movie of All Time

Waking Life

How do you explain the truth when it has been said for you? The best films, let alone animated ones, seem to take the words right out of your mouth. You feel as if a filmmaker has miraculously bridged their past present to your future present, all to make you feel more understood and a little less insane.

Great animated films, from Fantasia to Pixar’s finest to wondrous contemporary gems like Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day, all have played with a world that only exists onscreen. Richard Linklater, perhaps the quintessential independent American filmmaker of his era, has often crafted fables that exist in reality.

With Waking Life, one of his only two animated films, he conjoined the tangible and the elusive with a film that blurs the line between the surreal and the substantial. In a genuinely grandiose and poignantly lo-fi cinematic feast for the eyes and the brain, he molded what could be considered the most profound animated film of all time. Here are five reasons why Waking Life deserves such stature.

 

1. Revolutionary animation

On a strictly visual level, Waking Life was groundbreaking and remains to this day unmatched as a work of animation. Utilizing a breakthrough in computerized rotoscoping, rather embarrassing digital camera footage was purified into a film of evocative fluidity. Combining several styles of animation from scene to scene into a seamless whole, vivid colors and wavering, double-vision-esque and undeniably psychedelic imagery form the vibrant backbone of a picture with so much more to offer outside of its intoxicating visuals.

Five years after Waking Life’s release, Linklater’s own adaptation of the near-future novel A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. d – who clearly holds a particular appeal for Linklater, as d is integral to the epilogue of Waking Life – would become another obvious outlet for the use of rotoscoping’s unique visual effect. A Scanner Darkly is a minor masterpiece in its own right, and rotoscoping is perfect as a way of communicating the mind-altering effects of the film’s central addictive drug, Substance D, but not for much else apart from that.

In Waking Life, rotoscoping has an enormous role to play: it communicates the slipperiness and volatility of dreams while simultaneously drawing our attention to their uncanny yet utterly familiar relation to real life. It also offers opportunities for the film’s many monologues to be enhanced with flourishes that visualize the topics they explain.

Numerous solo speeches are enriched with these playful touches, the most memorable of which being David Sosa’s explanation of our place in relation to the physical laws of the universe and quantum mechanics as well as Kim Krazan – writer alongside Linklater on his marvelously romantic and comparably perceptive Before trilogy – trying to verbalize the limitations of words as we come to define the abstract, or that which is “unspeakable.”

 

2. Flawless dialogue

It’s one thing to find the right words to do any kind of justice to life’s many ineffable qualities, but it’s an awe-inspiring feat to sum up the essence of existence in a series of interactions spanning just over 90 minutes.

One thing that is easiest to appreciate about Richard Linklater’s brand of filmmaking is that he stretches not just what you can accomplish with the film form, but with scripts themselves. He reaches for ideas that navigate an overarching meaning in the process of scene after scene of rich dialogue, and in Waking Life, the fragments seem unrelated before you see them altogether.

The 2001 film in some respects is a far more modern and perfected version of his early 1991 film Slacker, which similarly caught so many perspectives by letting the camera follow situations from stranger to passerby and so on. As Slacker begins with a character played by Linklater describing a vantage on dreams to a cab driver after a flight, Waking Life inversely ends with an appearance from the director further discussing the nature of dreaming.

Moreover, the film excels at feeling so real amongst such forcefully imposed surrealism due to the naturalism in each and every delivery of Linklater’s lines, something that he appears to encourage throughout his filmography.

Starkly contrasting every effervescent frame, the writing comes forth so purposefully due to the casual, conversational beats that each actor brings Linklater’s cinema vérité, near-docufiction format. To the ears, every monologue feels formed in a vacuum, where each philosophical musing is tailored to the deliverer, and bold, complicated ideas and revelations are conveyed with incredible clarity through intimate, genuine performances.

 

3. Thematic ambitions

“There’s no story. It’s just … people, gestures, moments, bits of rapture, fleeting emotions. In short, the greatest stories ever told,” says Alex Nixon – who under layers of flowing animation resembles a young Tarantino – when asked to describe a novel he is penning.

Amongst so much pontificating about our place in the cosmos and the state of the human condition as it stands just at the turn of the millennia, Waking Life also highlights Linklater’s own struggle to say something forward and honest about the creative process and filmmaking itself. Miraculously he pulls this off without feeling strained or self-congratulating.

Louis Mackey, who appeared in Slacker, questions what causes so few of us to reach the heights of great figures in history by posing a devastating question: “What is the most universal human characteristic: fear or laziness?” Mackey’s lines identifies the agonizingly slow grind of human achievement, and Nixon too points to Linklater’s own processes of honorably reflecting everyday reality in his own work.

But perhaps as on the nose as Linklater gets on the subject is in one of the most unique moments in the film, and one easy to overlook. A chimp professor, voiced by Steve Fitch who is animated as such, conducts a brief seminar on modern culture as viewed from the future, with footage of punk rock concerts and bleak drama films as reference.

“Art was not the goal but the occasion and the method for locating our specific rhythm and buried possibilities of our time. The discovery of a true communication was what it was about, or at least the quest for such a communication.” Like so much of Waking Life, the consequences of Linklater’s rigidly self-aware intentions are most often resonant to absorb.

In perhaps the most self-reflexive and most cinematically profound segment of the film, our nameless protagonist finds himself in a movie theater watching Caveh Zahedi describe to David Jewell just what film truly seeks to capture. Reexamining parts of Andre Bazin’s celebrated film theory, he equates cinema to a record of God, one that is constantly changing. This sequence also discusses what Linklater calls The Holy Moment, where film can show that the present itself is yearning to be recognized within the specificity of its replicated reality.

Film’s duty is to show us this even though it’s practically impossible to exist within a heightened awareness at all times. This small scene is but a microcosm of Linklater’s larger goals throughout Waking Life, which is to succinctly explicate that life is raging all around us every second of every day. His ideology in relation to his films is to shake the viewer out of their passivity and into the ideal of really living.

This brings me to a fundamental thematic aspect to Waking Life, which is its unflinching optimism. From the onset, one of our first real monologues is driven by philosophy professor Robert C. Solomon’s who urges his students, and later Wiggins’ character in private, to look at existentialism without any sense of gloom, and thereby to simply take life positively as we conduct the story of our lives.

Aside from several bits with a much darker edge to them, the scope of Linklater’s observation and insight is one of unyielding exuberance, and he makes enthusiasm look downright courageous – especially considering the very loose plot deals with the acceptance of death by its conclusion. Released just weeks after 9/11, one can imagine how invigorating the film’s barefaced revel in contemporary life’s problems and potential must have been for the newly shaken and confused.

Instead of being circular and self-defeating, Linklater, in these scenes mentioned and anywhere else in Waking Life, sincerely gets at the heart of how filmmaking is supposed to move us, and how the abstract and the forthright can be communicated at once without pretentiousness or generalization.

 

4. Experimental narrative

It’s easy enough to explain the general premise of Waking Life – our protagonist, played by Wiley Wiggins in his only real starring role outside of Linklater’s cult favorite Dazed and Confused, is caught in an endless dream state that ultimately suggests this is his remaining brain activity immediately following death. Richard Linklater’s invariably dense script, however, leaves room for countless narrative detours that sometimes don’t enhance the film’s plot – what little plot there is – but further molds the complexity and range of the philosophical standpoints that he employs.

Some parts of the films, like Charles Gunning’s brooding, venomous prison confession and the early orchestral band rehearsal, have nothing to do with Wiley Wiggins’ character or his psychoactive story.

Even in vignettes where he is present, the point is that he is the audience to any given speaker, and their views may not have much to do with his own concerns. But no matter how little each persona’s ideological stance seems to relate to Linklater’s own storytelling goals, each piece feels essential to the intricate puzzle. Each piece can be taken on its own, and yet even the shortest oration is an indispensible link in a chain of subconsciously stimulating thought.

Interludes with channel surfing – which features Kregg A. Foote briefly engaging in ego-breaking discourse as well as Mary McBay explaining the dream-state of death our protagonist finds himself in – offer key ideas and a break from the expansive soliloquies. Linklater steadily oscillates between broadening the mind and enhancing the nuances of his tricky tale.

And a sketch as good as the post-coital ramblings between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke function as an interesting missing piece to the Before trilogy while nonchalantly clarifying to the viewer about the 6-12 minutes of brain activity that comes with death, before it actually becomes important to us.

The story of Waking Life is in many ways bare, though, viewed in a more discriminating state, the subconscious, intuitive way in which the film dissects both modern philosophical quandaries and the bizarre, beguiling phenomenon of dreaming is too remarkable to overlook.

Linklater’s earnest, ravishingly thought-provoking dialogue exercised effortlessly by various acting talents carries the film through its own hurdles in film structure – in few film’s is the dialogue more contingent to its internal propulsion. Waking Life seamlessly marries the avant-garde with the all too real, just as any film that wishes to merge the sensations of both living and dreaming on a visual and narrative level should.

 

5. Bridging the gap between director and audience

Breaking the fourth wall – from Pierrot le Fou to Annie Hall to Deadpool – has its place in the highest and lowest practices of film. Many directors choose to reroute the communication of their innermost feelings and sociopolitical opinions through exquisitely arranged discourse – at least some the best writer-directors do.

Before and after Waking Life, Linklater so often has used his films as a way to express himself as deeply as the medium will allow him, and its clear that his most fervent urgency, and his biggest soap box, lies in Waking Life. The film acts as a vessel for him to challenge the notion of a constant worldview or a singular perspective as he reaches into every corner of his soul in order to attain a higher state of objectivity and the widest array of truth possible in relation to life.

One of the deepest pleasures of revisiting Waking Life is in thinking about the certainty of the various characters’ attitudes and beliefs. Many align in reassurance while some clash with shades of morbidity. Each time you watch it, one speech that you always blew off as a pretentious flub may resonate more fully, like perhaps the extremist political stances touted by Alex Jones and J. C. Shakespeare. And something that seemed utterly profound might eventually appear more customary and blend back into the fabric of lyrically concentrated wisdom that the film already has in spades.

It’s not much of a challenge for a director to profess himself cinematically – especially in a movie as candid as this – but it’s really something to express as much as Linklater does without making your filmmaking efforts look pompous or overambitious in the process.

As the film reaches its end and Wiggins’ character begins to understand his fate, Linklater literally strips the veil separating artist from audience. Hunched over a pinball machine – a curious staple of many of his films – Linklater spins tales of Philip K. d’s paranoia and the filmmaker’s own twisted dreams, all to land at a place he often lands in his movies. He essentially pleads anyone watching not to give in to the commonplace distraction that comprises so much of film and culture, and offers a subdued and significant wake up call to our most bewildering present.

The final sentiment of Boyhood, Linklater’s biggest critical success, finds fresh college kid Mason reaching a related revelation while sharing a lovely conversation with a girl about the moment seizing us and how it’s always right now, all while soaking in some hallucinogenic chocolate.

Very similar thoughts are echoed in his Before films, recently in Everybody Wants Some!! and even Me and Orson Welles – all of his movies, at least in some small way, are related to time. In the subconscious infinity of dream-space, Waking Life’s parting sentiment is the same only moreso, and it finds a great director at his most direct: “There’s only one moment, and it’s now, and it’s eternity.”

It’s happening as I write this and as you read it. As long as Linklater is making movies, he’ll never stop trying to show us how dearly important it is that we understand that we are alive right now. So many animated films attempt to show you a world of escapist splendor impossible in the real world. The reality – or surreality if you will – of Waking Life is a place just as fascinating to inhabit, only the realm it forces you to look at in wide-eyed wonderment is already all around you.

10 Movies With The Best Uses of Color of All Time

“Films use light and color to tell a story in a special narrative way,” says filmmaker Martin Scorsese, adding that such storytelling techniques “…deliver a strong emotional and intellectual impact on the viewer… [This realization] made a very strong impression on me and has affected how I try to use color in all of my films.”

The following list, a scant ten titles, dares to offer Taste of Cinema’s selection of the 10 finest examples of color use in motion pictures. While a lengthier list would have obviously been more inclusive, the 10 movies selected here really do represent the pinnacle of eye-popping and emotionally overpowering color use. Don’t miss these films (but please do add your suggestions in the comments section below). Enjoy!

 

10. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Gossamer-like, quite lovely and ever wistful, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel thrums with the dual dispositions of the sublime Golden Age director Ernst Lubitsch and the jam-packed chapter and verse of Stefan Zweig. In this calorie-rich and joyously effete film, exuberance is the mainstay, as it exists in a baroque bubble of an imagined Old Europe where period styles, historical allusions, and joyful generic conventions intersect amidst a seeming compendium of potential films of adventure, emotion, humor, hubris, and tragedy.

The luxury hotel setting, carefully constructed by production designer Adam Stockhausen (exteriors) and Anna Pinnock (she designed the interiors), is the anchor of a multi-hued shaggy dog story that unfolds over three distinct timelines, where each is shot in three different ratios; 2.35:1, 1.85:1, and the classic 1.33:1.

Among the many eras that Anderson revisits, there are tangible elements of gothic romance and mystery––Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) springs to mind––and with all the trap doors, secret passageways, evil assassins, and sketchy monks, not to mention the inspired inclusion of a secret society of hotel concierges, there’s nods to more Hitchcock (The 39 Steps and Notorious perhaps?) and British Secret Service/spy films à la Carol Reed.

Throw in some stop-motion sequences, a splash of kink, pastiches of American-style comedy of manners, World War I espionage, romantic comedy, broad slapstick, elements of farce, and the feeling of peering into, who knows, Orson Welles toy box maybe? There’s so much stylistic color-crazy variety––even a monochromatic melodramatic respite––that the eye and the mind never rest.

 

9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

There really isn’t another movie like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy’s 1964 pastel-hued, operetta masterpiece. A simple story of love unfulfilled, yes, it also introduced Catherine Deneuve to the world.

Young lovers Geneviève (Deneuve) and Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) have their whole lives ahead of them. Geneviève lives with her mother and helps her run an umbrella shop. Guy is a mechanic who lives with his ailing aunt. The year is 1957 and the two lovers have plans to marry. Guy is drafted to fight in the Algerian war, an event that pulls the two apart indefinitely. It’s a simple story of love unfulfilled, told effectively in a three part structure with every line of dialogue sung like you might find in an opera.

“Jacques Demy’s movies are soaringly lyrical and romantic, but they always have extremely sharp edges and undertones – often bittersweet, sometimes just bitter,” raved Martin Scorsese. “The effect is stunning: Between the color and the music, every place and every object seem to vibrate with emotion.”

The the cascading use of color will have your eyes overwhelmed while the emotional heft of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg breaks your heart in the most beautiful way you can imagine. Sublime.

 

8. Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria

An immersive experience like no other, Italian auteur Dario Argento’s Suspiria is spine-tingling sensory cinema in overdrive. This nightmare fairytale is a delirious masterpiece from it’s shocking first frames––involving an extreme and impudent double homicide aversion––to its nerve-shattering unforeseeable finish.

Unfolding in the ideal Gothic setting, a menacing European ballet institute called the Tanz Dance Academy––actually a front for a coven of murderous witches––this is Argento’s most shocking showpiece and a veritable buffet of overstated and gloriously imposing color.
Jessica Harper is perfectly cast as Suzy Bannion, the new American student at the institute who straight away picks up on the bad vibes and hostile gestures going around campus.

Primitive colors, cinematically charged sequences of OTT majesty, appallingly violent deaths delivered with the baroque virtue of a music videos dressed in giallo regalia, strange supernatural elements, and Hitchcockian affection. As solid deposition of auteur theory––Argento is the Sergio Leone of horror cinema––Suspiria is a hypnotic and self-reflexive powerplay of atmospheric terror.

The influential and overpowering soundtrack by Goblin is an absolute devilish delight, and when combined with the visual style on shrewd, manipulative and monstrous display there really is no other horror film as dazzling, destructive, prismatic and ravishingly refined as Suspiria. This is the apex of vibrant, vivid horror and nothing can contest it (or would dare to).

 

7. Cries and Whispers (1972)

Cries and Whispers

Legendary Swedish writer-director Ingmar Bergman’s redemptive journey into faith, grief, and the female psyche is on dynamic display in the color saturated passion play Cries and Whispers. So daring and dynamic is the Swede’s eye for red in this contemplative 19th century-set period piece that American film critic James Berardinelli celebrated the vibrant use of crimson to be so utterly effective in setting mood, that the “natural associations one makes with this color, especially in a story of this sort, are of sin and blood.”

Harriet Andersson is Agnes, slowly succumbing to cancer, her sisters are deeply and utterly immersed in their own mental anguish that they can little afford her the support she so desperately needs. Bergman’s greatest muse, Liv Ullmann, is Maria, a woman wracked with despair, confusion, and guilt at her husband’s troubling suicide, spurred by his discovery of her infidelity. Also abound in self-contempt and suicidal thoughts is self-harming sister Karin (Ingrid Thulin). It’s only Agnes’ pious scullery maid Anna (Kari Sylwan, wonderful), who at one time lost a young child, who can offer the empathy, understanding, and solace.

Raw and redemptive, and fastened with autumnal reds in sad and unnatural profusion––the furnishings and mansion’s walls cast so much crimson that the stark contrast to the women’s graceful gowns of white linger long in the mind.

Cries and Whispers is a chamber drama that feels saturated with the stuff of horror films––vampirism, resurrection––all ruddy in Bergman’s artistic and idiosyncratic universe. An autumn-set masterpiece in shattering scarlet.

 

6. Contempt (1963)

Contempt (1963)

So many of celebrated French auteur, iconoclast, and La Nouvelle Vague progenitor Jean-Luc Godard’s films take a startling and sophisticated approach to color that just making a single choice for this list was a real challenge (1966’s bright confection Made in U.S.A almost made the cut), but his experimental and illuminating 1963 Cinemascope masterpiece Contempt may be his most far-reaching and influential work as far as color inspiration and utilization is concerned.

Dubbed “the greatest work of art in post-war Europe” by film critic/historian Colin McCabe, Contempt has also been described by Martin Scorsese as “one of the greatest films ever made about the actual process of filmmaking.” And a part of that self-aware process appears in the film right away with Godard’s immediate use of a startling red filter, and then moving directly into white/polychrome and blue filter (it’s a rather revealing love scene with star/s symbol Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli).

Subtitled “the story of a marriage”, Contempt tells the tale of a screenwriter named Paul Javal (Piccoli), hired by art film philistine Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) to bring to life an adaptation of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” being attempted by legendary director Fritz Lang (as himself). In the mire of this unruly compromise between art and commerce is Paul and his stunning wife Camille (Bardot).

Primary colors abound (red represents desire, blue the death of desire, and so on), as does Godard’s artistic leanings towards experimental collage, luxury objects, and the beauty of Bardot and the Mediterranean backdrop, too. As a beguiling masterpiece with a dramatic inundation of color and repetition, Contempt shimmers and shines, turning in the mind like a troubling yet ornate jewel.