To quote Roger Ebert, “I was born into the film of my life. I don’t remember how it started, but it continues to entertain me.”
My name is Paul, and I’m a writer and filmmaker from Ireland. I’ve been working the Irish & UK film industry for the past 15 years. I’m both a member of IFTA & BAFTA and have met and chatted with some interesting people along the way.
While I don’t have specific Top 5 films, I do have a list of films that have left a profound impression on me.
The Road Home (我的父親母親)
I went through a phase around the turn of the century where I really got into Asian Cinema. The majority of films I watched were Jackie Chan movies, action films from South Korea like Shiri (쉬리) or dramas from Hong Kong such as Fulltime Killer (全職殺手) and Infernal Affairs (無間道), which served as the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film The Departed.
But one day I was browsing through a DVD store in Swansea in Wales and came across a film in the World Cinema section called The Road Home and that it starred Zhang Ziyi who had just shot to fame in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍). So I thought this may be interesting.
The story itself is very simple; it’s a Son returning home for his father’s funeral, and he tells the story of how his parents met and fell in love. The film is just beautifully shot and directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House Of Flying Daggers, Raise The Red Lantern, The Great Wall). The present-day scenes are shot in black and white while the past is shot in glorious popping color.
To me, this is David Fincher’s best film and a massive cinematic achievement. I love how he moves his camera, and the attention to detail is simply exceptional. A lot of people like to complain that movies have too many computer effects these days; Zodiac is a film full of computer effects, but they serve the narrative and are not the selling point of the film.
Zodiac tells the story of the hunt for a notorious serial killer known as “Zodiac” who killed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving several victims in his wake and taunting police with letters and ciphers mailed to newspapers. The case remains one of San Francisco’s most infamous unsolved crimes.
Parts of Zodiac are intensely creepy. Fincher effectively uses the rainy San Francisco atmosphere to its maximum potential, and the grimy browns and greys of the production design call to mind Fincher’s other well-known films, like Seven and Fight Club. But Zodiac is much more grown-up than those films, and for an audience to enjoy it, it has to have an attention span. Long scenes are given to analyzing handwriting samples, recreating the scenes of murders, digging through newspaper clippings and files. You can tell Fincher is fascinated by police work in the pre-CSI era when fax machines were still a novel invention. He delves into the investigative process with a nearly fetishistic attention to detail, but he makes all of it endlessly mesmerizing. He does his best to bring everything to some sort of conclusion, but the real-life end to the story makes a complete conclusion impossible. This film is more about the journey than the destination, and what a journey it is.
To me, this film feels like The Big Lebowski, except with more drugs.
There’s a point in the film where it feels like both the main character and the story have lost their way in the drug-filled haze. Which in retrospect is a beautiful use of cinema.
People have always come up with lists of films that are best watched while drunk or stoned. This is the first film that has ever made me feel stoned while watching it.
It’s not Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film, but it’s still a very strong film from him.
Stand By Me
When I first saw this film I was an early teen who thought this was a fun movie about four friends who go out on an adventure to find a dead body.
Now that I’m in my mid-thirties the film speaks to me on a different level. When the narrator speaks about what happened to his friends over the years and how they just became other faces who roamed the school halls, I felt something similar had happened to me. Nearly all the friends I had when I was twelve I don’t see anymore. Some live in other cities or countries, some have died, others have just drifted away and just became faces in the crowd.
This film is near perfect, from its cast to the fantastic story. It holds up like all great films do. A must see for anyone who wants a simple story about friendship and the loss of innocence.
Your Name. (君の名は。)
Animation by its definition is to “evoke life.” Your Name. goes beyond that and evokes emotions.
One of the most beautifully animated films of all time that has this wonderful body swap story. It’s basically country girl and city boy swap bodies randomly and the adventures that happen.
But then the film moves from a purely simple and sweet story into some far more moving and deeper than anyone could ever imagine.