A few days ago, one of my friends challenged me to the Movie Bucket List challenge where I had to come up with a list of ten films that have influenced me deeply over the years. What seemed to be an easy enough task in the beginning, started to get more and more muddied as I dwelled deeper and deeper into memory to come up with the list of films that broke walls in my head. Though the list is probably always under construction, I had fun coming up with the following ten films.
Took me quite some time to come up with a list of ten films that deeply influenced me when I first saw them and shattered my notions of cinematic content or form at that point in time. Here you go:
1. Dil Chahta Hai - This has to be right up here. And I think a lot of other people my generation will agree. Until I accidentally stumbled across DCH, I had no idea an Indian film could be made like this- people who looked and spoke that way. I don't think it was so successful because it's realistic as people claim but because Farhan Akhtar managed to create a world that was hip, cool and made people want to inhabit it.
2. Before Trilogy - As a cumulative, the entire trilogy is basically two people walking and talking for a total of about 30 hours or so. It's a tribute to Linklater and his actor/writers Hawke and Delpy that thousands of people across the world consider the films the best portrayal of relationships of their generation. Didn't know real-time could be so effective.
3. Prasthanam - Not a great film, I'd be the first one to admit that. But you have give it to Deva Katta for what he attempted on the Telugu screen. Ambiguous characters, wonderful lead actors and some really deep, poetic dialogue that blew away the minds of a generation of people that had been used to Trivikram's self-conceited hubris. I loved the way it was shot, how the background score was tailor-made for the Indian audience and the narrative taking you to places you'd least expect. It's a pity that the director's vision had to be compromised due to 'commercial constraints' but what a brave attempt.
4. Annie Hall - Been there, done that. There is no other film character I identify more deeply than Alvie Singer. I had a vague idea that auteurs worked from personal experiences to address current preoccupations but I always thought you had to be some sort of a genius-lunatic (read Kubrick, Herzog etc. ) with an enviable imagination and an iron will to make deep films asking existential questions. Watching Allen's films shattered all those notions. I realised you didn't have to be anyone apart from yourself and if you mined deep enough, your life story has enough material to make over 40 films and still keep counting.
5. Pulp Fiction - Almost every list containing a list of most influential films has Pulp Fiction in it. Until a cinema obsessed, fast talking, comfortably profane, pop culture mad video store clerk showed us how to play around with the cinematic form, I had no clue cinema could be so much fun. Also, Tarantino was the first filmmaker I heard talk who had no qualms about admitting he copied/ paid tribute/ cheekily commented on all those films he liked. It was a relief to know that someone hailed as an original admitted to be so deeply influenced by what he read and watched. After all, he wrote Ezekiel 25:17.
6. Holy Motors - What can cinema be? That's the question central to Carax's film that played around with film form like nothing I had ever seen before. I think it was Carax who in one of his interviews asked, "Why should a film have a story? Why can't it exist beyond one?" and this film is an answer. Levant is awe-inspiring, Carax's narrative doesn't let you tear your eyes off the screen and that accordion piece is one helluva theme.
7. Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson is one of my favourite directors and though I love his little toy worlds and his elaborately constructed slapstick, I think the film that best exemplifies what I like the most about his films is Moonrise Kingdom because no other film I've seen manages to evoke nostalgia like this film does. Whenever we watch a film from a certain period, we feel a nostalgia because the filmmaker creates a world different, better but eerily familiar than the world we inhabit. But Anderson, and I have no idea how he does it, creates those worlds with such remarkable precision that despite the lightheartedness and the warmth permeating from the screen, your heart grows heavy with- that's right, nostalgia.
8. Into the Wild - When Anirudh told me to watch this film telling me I'd like it, I didn't know it'd define my life so much. Ebert writes in his review of the film about certain young men who think that life in the forest would solve all their existential problems. I was one like that and during that Steve Jobs- Meaning of Love- Questions on Societal Constraints phase, Into the Wild seemed to hold all the answers. I never went into the wild but Penn and Hirsch, working with Supertramp's story, answered most of my questions.
9. City of God - A more visceral film I have not seen. Nothing as kinetic. Few films as fun. And none as so unexpectedly horrifying as the scene in which the little kid goes on a rampage killing all those tied-up people. The world went gaga over it and though I saw the film years after its international premiere, I was taken aback by the pure zealousness of Meirelles. One of the very few films that realigned my idea of what cinema could be. Didn't know it could be so much fun too.
10. Michael Madana Kama Raju - I saw this film when I was pretty young and though I knew the concept of double action, to see Kamal Haasan play those four roles with that ease, panache and that comic timing was exceptional. Nothing groundbreaking but I suppose it was my first encounter with well done cinematic comedy that would later lead me to the Silent Clowns.