Darcy's List of Amazing Films
(I made this page in 1998, before launching Koreanfilm.org. I can't say my tastes haven't
changed since then, but I'm leaving this here for the sake of amusement...)
ANDREI RUBLEV dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
In my opinion, one of the most beautiful and thought-provoking films ever made. It recreates for us a few years in the life of an icon painter who lived in Russia in the 14th century. The film is very slow; the characters and images move about at their own pace, linking up to occupy the three-and-a-half hour length of the film. One of the scenes that has stayed in my mind is an image of white paint spreading in a stream. The film allows us to follow its path as it dissipates and eventually meets the current: the entire movie has this slow feel to it. It's a quiet film, with little dialogue, but Tarkovsky uses sound in interesting ways, whether it's the rushing of water or the ring of a distant bell. The plot could signify different things to different people, but for me it illustrates an attempt to create beauty in a time of great cruelty. The medieval violence of the film is disturbing, but the passions of the characters and the beauty of the things they create leave a more lasting impression.
UN COEUR EN HIVER dir. Claude Sautet
This is my favorite movie. It feels very personal to me, as if it were somehow my film. It unites my favorite music and my favorite actress with a gifted, sensitive director. It's about a violinist (Emmanuelle Beart), and a violin maker (Daniel Auteuil), who meet over the recording of two sonatas by Ravel. As we watch them speaking together, and watching each other, we feel the space between them becoming increasingly more charged. The film feels smooth and perhaps a bit muted, but so much runs under its surface that it concludes with surprising power. Recently I heard that this film is loosely based on a Russian novel, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time. I hadn't noticed the similarities -- the novel is quite different! -- but it adds an interesting perspective from which to view the film.
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER dir. Francois Truffaut
I like all of Truffaut's movies, but this one has to be my favorite. Here he takes a quick, lighthearted story and injects into it scenes of humor, absurdity, thoughtfulness, and deep tragedy. Charles Aznavour creates one of the most remarkable characters I've ever seen, expressing a huge spectrum of emotions in his tightly-controlled expressions and movements. I love the music, too. The opening credits, which limit our view to the hammers and strings of a piano, are especially hypnotic. There's something about this story that really makes me wish it was true, because I'd love to be a part of it myself.
IKIRU dir. Akira Kurosawa
I think if any film has the potential to change someone's life, it would be this one. The term "inspirational" is often used to describe movies, but I would say it fits this one better than any other. The story of a man who learns he has cancer, Ikiru (which means 'to live' in Japanese) is both beautiful and heartbreaking. There is a scene in the middle of the film where the main character sings a song in the middle of a crowded club. The song is so sad, and the man so obviously feels the words that he sings, that it brings the other patrons to a stop. This is one of those scenes that I'll always remember.
SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT dir. Ingmar Bergman
For me, the most striking thing about this movie is its cinematography and its lighting. The black-and-white images seem crystal clear, as if you were viewing them through a pool of water. This, together with the costumes and the set, make it a very aesthetic film; I could watch it for its images alone. There is a fascinating story here as well, though. Bergman gives us six interesting, finely-drawn characters. Following them as they fall in and out of love, we begin to see deeper and deeper into their true feelings.
CITY LIGHTS dir. Charles Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin is a favorite of mine, and this, I believe, is his most artistic movie. A tramp falls in love with a blind girl selling flowers on a street corner, and he decides to try to help her. Although the action of the film is light and humorous, there is a great deal of sadness under its surface. I find it amazing that these actors express so much with physical movement; it seems almost like a kind of dance. The last scene is what makes the movie, though -- it's so touching, and so perfectly drawn; it gets my vote for the most amazing moment in film history.
CHUNGKING EXPRESS dir. Wong Kar-Wai
The director of this film, Wong Kar-Wai, has been given a rather unique honor: he was voted both the best and the worst director in Hong Kong for 1997, in a public opinion poll. In my view, this is a compliment. Chungking Express is a fun and original movie. There is so much movement throughout the film: the characters, the crowds, and the camera itself -- all within the bustling space of a Hong Kong neighborhood. Even in the movie's quieter moments, we can feel the passing of time in a rush. The city seems to be a major focus of the film, characterized as much as any of the people we find living there. But the characters themselves are fascinating too, in their insecurities, their humor, their loneliness, and their passions.
RED dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
When people ask me about my favorite movie in the Trois Couleurs trilogy, I have a hard time answering, because I love White as much as I do Red. But Red, perhaps, is the more amazing film. I love Kieslowski's style: the camera, the music, the color, and his ability to create an entirely new world that operates by its own rules. Above all, the form of the film takes precedence, rather than the things that happen within it. Every detail is crucial, and these details weave together to create an entirely new kind of film.
THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR dir. Ronny Yu
I'm a real sucker for this kind of movie. Both highly emotional and deeply atmospheric, this Hong Kong fantasy creates a detailed and alluring world for the viewer. Much of the story takes place at night; it feels very much like a night movie. What makes the film exceptional is the performance of the two actors: Brigitte Lin Chin-Hsia (who played the woman with the sunglasses in Chungking Express) and Leslie Cheung. Their actions and emotions run to extremes, but never seem overdone.