All of our favourite films, in some way, hit home about something. They teach us a lesson. They get to us, we can relate, we can understand, we get it. A lot of people have favourite films on a whimsical note, a film that made them laugh until their tummy hurt, or cry until their eyes were dry. My favourite films, as listed and discussed below, have made an impact on me, in one way or another. I’m a massive film lover, I’m also a huge critic, but these are some my favourites…
#1 Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
Scorsese is, in my eyes, the best director that has ever lived. He’s got such depth, such conflicting ideologies. He takes the topics that no one wants to talk about, and dissects them right in front of our eyes. He puts these uncomfortably awkward issues directly in front of us and slowly pulls away each layer, showing us our deepest darkest fantasies, thoughts and fears. He isn’t afraid to show us what we really are. He isn’t afraid to tell us we’re weird, that we’re confused creatures. He shows us what we don’t want to see, but can’t look away from.
Raging Bull, drags all of these issues into a beautifully tragic film about the downfall of a tortured boxer. Violence, jealousy, envy, greed, and disloyalty are portrayed so raw, so rancid and so real. Displayed in black and white, too graphically strong to be shown in colour, the film is not for the light hearted. Oh De Niro. He is one of the greats, he receives unlimited respect for his method acting in this film. You believe him. That’s what is so great about him. You believe his anger, his rage, his paranoia. He becomes that man, he becomes his character. My favourite scene is the last, (SPOILER ALERT*) LaMotta is left in his dressing room retired, overweight and alone. He quotes Marlon Brando’s On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan,1954) ‘I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.’ And your hearts just DROPS. It’s the brutal realisation that it’s too late. The fear that all of us have, to leave it too late. To look in the mirror, one day and be someone you don’t recognise, an older version of yourself and your time has gone. There is no more time left, it’s too late. How beautifully tragic. How heart wrenching. This man has pushed everyone away from him who loved him. He abused and doubted the wrong people for too long, and now he is alone. This film is my all time favourite because it reminds me to stay humble to love, to respect, to APPRECIATE.
#2 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
I swear to God, I have never cried so much at a film, in my entire life. I doubt I ever will again. The first time I watched this film, towards the end, the lump at the back of my throat was throbbing, and I knew, for the first time in my life, I would feel the tears fall down my face any moment. I repeated to myself ‘it’s not real. It’s a film. You. Need. To. Stop.’ BUT I COULDN’T. The emotions that this film evoked in me were deep, deep enough for me to sob as though McMurphy was my friend, as though he was one of my own. I felt as much of the gang as any of them, I felt involved. Jack Nicholson has this fabulous way of befriending the watchers of his films. This film is about a criminal, who pleads insanity to escape prison, slung into the heinous care of Nurse Ratched, and (SPOILER ALERT*) is finally suffocated to death, by his partner in crime Chief, after being lobotomised (electrocution treatment for the mentally impaired). The journey to the end of his life in the asylum, is full of highs, lows, touching moments and repulsive scenes of discrimination. But in the mix of all of the chaos, this film touched my heart. I felt sympathy for the patients, they are caught in the crossfire of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy. The two have a consistent battle for power, which ends when the systematic dominance of the institution finally beats McMurphy down. The relationships that McMurphy builds with Chief is wonderfully brotherly; my favourite scene is where the deaf and dumb giant, thanks him verbally for a piece of gum… And it is revealed that Chief is playing the same game as McMurphy – beautiful moment! Revealing tortured parts of his character throughout, McMurphy often displays of attitudes of misogyny, anger and disrespect towards authority. This film is one of my favourites because it tackles the uncomfortable issues of mental illness and the ways in which the system treated and dealt with the mentally ill at that time. Absolutely heart breaking, eye opening and of course, enlightening. This film taught me that people are never safe from mental illness, it’s not something people can hide from, avoid, or ignore. But the main reason why I have to name this film as one of my favourites of all time, is because of the raw emotion I felt torn out of me, the throb in my throat, the real distress this storyline caused me to have. I felt the pain in Chief’s chest. I felt the horror in McMurphy’s eyes. I felt betrayed, robbed, distraught at the lack of a happy ending I hoped for, but never got.
#3 Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001)
French cinema is so, so beautiful. Amélie is a perfect example of fabulously stylish and uber romantic French film making. A fairy tale plot that is given a magical touch by the talented Audrey Tautou. Her conventionally French chic mannerisms are incorporated into the films theme of idiosyncrasies. We see a lonely, awkward yet endearing girl stalk the man of her dreams. Her affiliation with Matheiw Kassovitz, I totally understand. He is, like, so gorgeous. Amélie’s chase to first, solve a mystery of a little box she finds tucked in her bathroom wall, and then catch her ghost lover is so special, so adorable and so original – you cannot help but fall a little bit in love with the story. Stereotypes are broken when the girl meets boy plot is twisted into a obstacle course of history, rumours and a very odd photo album. My favourite scene is when Amélie decides she is going to become a full time do-gooder, and guides the sights, smells and feels of a blind man around a market. This film is for hopeless romantics, it tugs at the heart strings, makes you giggle and wells you up. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and the mis en scene is so fabulously belle, it almost demands you to go and redecorate your home into a shabby chic haven of nudes, rusts and mysterious greens. Although this film is less serious and more whimsical and playful than my other favourites, it is a film I love greatly. It’s my go-to chic flick whenever I start to doubt true love, feel down or ridicule men. This film does have a happy ending, and I refuse to give you any spoilers, because it’s a gem of French cinema and I advise you to watch it yourself!