Due to a recent spike in freelance work and dedicating more time to writing poetry, January got away from me. After a few recent conversations with friends about film, I was reminded of a time in my life when I spent a lot of time consuming films—which led me to a Tumblr post I published in 2016. Here it is, for my fellow movie junkies:
After listening to CinemaJaw’s episode on the best images in film, I became fixated on what my own list would be. Mine includes some deemed “classics” and some of my own personal favorites (those that I can’t get out of my head). I ended up with 25. I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
So here they are (in no particular order):
Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring
When Töre pushes down the birch tree to use its branches for lashings. It still sticks in my mind as one of the most visceral, referential scenes in a film.
Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild
This one isn’t so much an image but an entire scene when Hushpuppy meets her mother. The whole room is lit in this beautiful red light, her mom frying up alligator on the stove while talking to her, hushed sounds from the other room. The whole moment has an intimate, familial, bayou feel.
Park Chan-wook’s Stoker
I basically could have picked any image from this film (every shot was so carefully constructed). One of the most distinct images is the spider crawling up India’s leg when she’s playing the piano. It sets the tone for the tension that unfolds through the rest of the movie.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida
Another one where I could’ve chosen any scene from the movie. A good majority of it was shot using the “rule of thirds” which could’ve gotten tired after a while but every image was on point. This is when Anna takes off her veil and dances with the musician she’s been exchanging glances with all night—as if her hair holds some sort of power. There’s something so delicate and human about how she dances on her toes after taking her heels off.
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
The robot that resembles Maria dances for the men of Metropolis. A very close silent-film second is from Robert Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac.
Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love
To date, the best sex scene I’ve seen in film. Emma and her younger lover lie down together in the picturesque Italian countryside—beating sun, tall grass, buzzing insects, and all.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master
Joaquin Phoenix’s best role I think—his character’s toppling mental state illustrated in one shot.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth
Under her parents’ ruse that she can’t leave the house until after she loses her dogtooth, the oldest daughter tries one last attempt to escape.
Tarsem Singh’s The Fall
This whole movie. This shot is especially gorgeous.
Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress
One of the best (and probably first) back-to-the-camera shots.
Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte
When the goats fill the shepherd’s home—one world rushing in on another.
J.-P. Valkeapää’s They Have Escaped
There are some very surreal moments in this film, this being one of them—after the two teens break into a cabin and sample the pills they find, they run through the trees, naked, masked in animal heads.
Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo
Some of the best facial expressions.
Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza’s Salvo
This actually wasn’t my first choice for this film (it was the final scene but I couldn’t find the still anywhere online). Either way, her character is fascinating—mostly blind, seeing the world through shadow and moving light. Here, she tries to see herself through her own failing eyes while under capture of a stranger. Being kidnapped often means an inability to see (blindfolded, taken to a strange location, etc.). But how does that change when you’ve never been able to see?
Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Best standoff in film history.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou
Godard loves car scenes.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte
All that decadent, high-society, 1960’s architecture.
Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic
Those hats. That cast.
Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill
I love Tarantino for his ability to take classic movie elements and add a burst of color, humor, hyperbole.
Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke
Yes, an anime but I’d feel remiss for not including this one. Miyazaki is a master of imagery and the Forest Spirit will always be imprinted on my brain.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo
He really wanted the audience to feel that title.
Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control
Jarmusch is a master at portraying music in film (see also: Only Lovers Left Alive). Here, the nameless main character walks into a bar where he witnesses the rehearsal of a flamenco performance. If this isn’t what Lorca meant when he wrote about duende, I don’t know what is.
Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange
It’s hard to forget any image from this movie.
Andrew Haigh’s Weekend
Haigh did a lot with windows in this movie. Here, Russell does something everyone does: the morning after, watching his lover walk away.
Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent
I don’t want to give too much away with this scene for those who haven’t seen it yet. What I will say is this film has some serious influences behind it (or at least ones I garnered): Fitzcarraldo, Heart of Darkness, The Poisonwood Bible. Powerhouse of a movie.
What are some of your favorites?
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