Posted on January 8, 2011 by Nik

Film for the Discerning

Yes, indeedy, one of the most subjective media by definition, but here in my humble view are some of the best of our generation, meeting the minimal criteria of being any or all of the following:

  • fucking brilliant
  • independent / non-formulaic / non-hollywood-puerile-shite
  • sublime acting
  • superb cinematography / lighting / sets
  • numinous story / theme
  • gorgeous score
  • honest irreverent fun

Film is the medium of the mythos of our time – often deep and sublime but like all art, sometimes shallow, manipulative and pretentious. Nevertheless, it seems when synchronicity happens in the making of a film, like alchemy, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the individual talents that make up a production. And without further ado, here’s a few worthy of mention

  • Yes, directed by Sally Potter: The art of film at it’s best – sublime cinematography, soundtrack, casting, character studies, script and poetry, all delivered with impeccable timing. Exquisite.
  • The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronofsky: After poor reviews and short run time at the theatre, one might not expect much (the best way to see a film of course). Having read something of the use of organic liquid processes instead of CGI for cosmic screen effects though, I was curious. It turned out to be a film of such extraordinary visual beauty and vision, resonant of our deepest earthly yearnings – love, transcedance and immortality. The fact that it’s beauty and vision is lost on so many reviewers is a reminder that when mainstreamed so much high budget, Hollywood formula film, we tend to become insensitive and impatient so as to completely miss the deep pleasure of a rare and lasting treat. I encourage you to see this film (again) with an open mind and heart. It is a masterpiece.
  • Black Swan, not my favourite genre, but this is exceptional film making from masters of the art that, like most of these films, can only begin to be appreciated after at least a 2nd honest viewing. In spite of early suggestions of shadows at play, from a well paced, seemingly innocuous start, the film takes several rapid left turns, punctuated with passionate and erotic twists, drawing one deeper into a squirm-in-your-seat psychological thriller. It builds steadily to a powerful and sublime climax that is richly satisfying and will keep you wondering long after the film is over. The dance itself is effective, though not, per se the focus of the film. It is evocatively and masterfully shot, full of subtlety, richness and depth. The supporting cast are flawless in their roles. Portman as the lead both in the film, and within the ballet, nails the part – is the part – and the character herself in turn, becomes the Black Swan within the ballet, metaphorically and psychologically. This in turn, at least from my perspective, and in the context of Aronofskys work, is an allegory of the shadow that plays in us all (If less literal and not quite as twisted as our protagonist here hopefully) Flawless film work!
  • Illuminata, directed by John Turturro: A self critical, perfectly imperfect parody of the human drama, at once ragged and genius in it’s sublime musings and witty study of eccentrics, dramatics, cynics and lovers, peering between the veils of life, love and the stage. Playfully symbolic sets and lighting form the back drop to a surreal folly. To take it too seriously like so many critics, is to miss it’s beauty and the point entirely.
  • Melancholia: Slow and deep like an exquisite river of dreamlike meanderings. Profound and sublime. And the greatest ending of all time!
  • King of Masks: old world, Chinese, ragged, street circus delight – pure heartfelt magic
  • Enter the Void: not for the closed minded or faint of heart – a profound view of a life after death through The Bardo – this is not easy viewing – evocative, underground, subliminal, powerful.
  • Hanna: Tight score, beautiful, edgy femme fatal, dark, fairy tale adventure, superlative cameos of cultures in lands through which our protagonist passes on her quest. Engaging performances from Saoirse Ronan vs. Cate Blanchett. This is a powerful yet subtle film that is modest but effective in it’s violent scenes – crafted with restraint. Doesn’t hold water quite as tightly as some of the affore mentioned films after 2nd or 3rd viewing, but a terrific adventure into a curious underworld and some 1st class film making nonetheless.
  • Hero: chinese / Jet lee – if you have time for exquisite HD art – watch this in slow motion!

petering off a bit here… main stream blockbusters which are not subtle, but they do tap into subliminal and evolutionary mythologies and are a worthy study

  • Inception
  • Avatar
  • The Matrix

classic irreverent fun anyone?

  • Blazing Saddles – you may have to indulge me on this one, but there are some classic and inimitable characters and scenes worth putting up with Mel Brooke’s OTT and puerile tendencies for.
  • It’s all gone Pete Tong – you know you love this one
  • Galaxy Quest – same