I am not an acquirer of movies. As a general rule. I tend to prefer to see them once…at the theater, or as a rental…and then have done with them. But occasionally I encounter a film that merits revisiting. Chewing. Contemplating. Or perhaps it simply is so nourishing it should be eaten at regular intervals. In any event, here are eleven films I have chosen to buy. And to revisit. Again and again.
Amelie On the most ordinary day, this film can sweep me away to some place other. And my heart is filled with a delirious joy that I don’t even know how to explain. It is an artsy, quirky, eccentric sort of picture. Of a woman unusually aware. Who sets out to better the lives of those around her, surreptitiously. And I am overcome by the power of one. One person who sees. Audrey Tautou is lovely, and the film is beautiful in the extreme.
Casablanca Love is complex. Not always as it seems. And sometimes the most ordinary person is a hero in disguise. Just when you think you have a story figured out, it is likely to take a most unexpected turn. And if you have the great good fortune to watch all this play out in intrigue filled French North Africa, with Humphrey Bogart as your leading man and Ingrid Bergman as the woman who stole his heart, well, you are most fortunate indeed. Every time I hope it will end differently. And every time I know the ending is just right as it is. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Chocolat This one I love, not for the complex story (there is none), but for its remarkable facility for reaching that most sensual place in each of us. For helping us remember the pleasure to be found in the simplest things. For teaching us that a life lived in anger and suspicion shrinks us, while a life lived with arms open makes more of us than we could imagine. This one I take for nourishment. It fans that part of me that drinks in life as sacrament, as gift, as joy.
Crash The first time I ever watched it, I couldn’t finish it. It almost made me sick. So why come back to it? Why own it? Why? Because it is important. Important does not necessarily mean easy. It still makes me sick. I need to be sick about this. Dostoevsky-like characters who are never entirely good or entirely evil try to find their way in the world….learning who they are by remembering who they are not. Oh God, how despicably we have marred Your plan! How we love to hate! How we define ourselves by our hatred! Lord have mercy. Have mercy on us all. Set the world right. Your Kingdom come.
Hero Visually ravishing. A story told in different voices. And each voice tells his or her story in a different color. And sometimes the beauty is so exquisite that it is painful. Blessed pain. My heart hurts. But there is something so lovely and so deeply true that I can’t not watch it again. And again…
Magnolia Only a master storyteller can weave so many stories in and out of one another and manage to keep the viewer engaged…yay, verily, enthralled. And on each subsequent viewing, layers emerge. Subtle nuances that were not visible the first time. Complex characters that only give a bit of themselves at once. And the weather helps tell the story. And the weather is all wrong. And crazy and bizarre. And I don’t even mind. Somehow it fits. And perhaps that is the most startling thing of all.
Memoirs of a Geisha “The very word “geisha” means artist and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art.” I am thoroughly captivated by these women who endure unbelievable hardships, and yet manage to transform themselves into moving, breathing works of art. It is a concept that has completely fascinated me since I heard this line for the first time. This is one of the few occasions…perhaps the only…where I saw a movie that compelled me to read a book. Usually it’s the other way round. Difficult. Tragic. But outrageously gorgeous.
Memento There is too much profanity. And the violence, though judicious, is cruel. But this is one of the most brilliant films I have ever seen. The main character is trying to track down the man who raped and murdered his wife. But he has lost his ability to make short term memories. In a stroke of movie making genius, Christopher Nolan tells us the story in reverse, in ten minute segments, so that we may share the discombobulation of our protagonist. And just when you think you know who the good guys are…look out! Ironic. Troubling. Provocative. Enthralling.
The Notebook Sentimental, yes. Sappy sweet, perhaps. But this is a story of loving long. Of loving when love costs everything. When everyone else says you have loved enough. And that is a story that means a great deal to me. Perhaps more than most. No apologies here. I have it. I love it. That’s that.
O Brother Where Art Thou SO many reasons I love this film!! The rural south as portrayed in this film is very like the world I grew up in. (When one lives in a small town, it is almost as if time stands still. Though the film is set 3 full decades before my birth, much of this world is recognizable to me.) The music is my music. I even used to go sing at a little radio station like the one on the side of the road where the “Soggy Bottom Boys” make their debut. The story is The Odyssey, recast. (For about the hundredth time). I am just nerdy enough to LOVE this. I notice new parallels every time I watch it. But mostly, it makes me laugh. It makes our whole family laugh. And we recite lines to one another about being “loved up”, and about how “we thought you wuz a toad.” And I’m still on the lookout for some Dapper Dan hair pomade. Let me know if you find any.
The Tree of Life This film is very like a poem. It is pleasing, seductive even, upon the first viewing. Yet it hides a good bit of its truth, hinting enough that you know you will come back to dig deeper. It is a truth that is not flung at you. Predigested. Sorted into compartments. It must be wrung out of you. I will submit to its wringing. I will breathe the words. I will watch the earth writhing and foaming and forming. And I will stand in awe. I will attempt to make sense of the story. And I will give truth a place to grow in me. A bit at a time.
Which are the films you go back to over and over again?
*First in a series of eleven posts of elevens; one for each of the first eleven days of the eleventh month of 2011.
**Special thanks to Karissa for suggesting this first “11” topic.