Film by Film

Looking for film recommendations? Emily Webb-Mortimer and Yoan Dzhugdanov spoke to some of Kent Film’s finest to get their top picks.

 

Matthias Frey

What film would you recommend as essential viewing?

This is one of those things where I can’t choose just one - they’re like children, you can’t have a favourite one. But if I have to choose, the one I’m putting forward is called The Marriage of Maria Braun by Reiner Werner Fassbinder. Essentially it's about a woman who gets married in the closing days of the Second World War, and then shows her life for the next few decades – but it’s a film that’s an allegory for the national past of Germany and it’s one of those films that really did inspire me. I realised for the first time that cinema could do more than offer up a few stars. It could offer a whole new experience.

 

Why is this film important to you?

It's important to me on two levels: one professionally because I thought it was a film that was very innovative, I’d never seen anything like it before and it inspired me to look at more of the works of Fassbinder. But also on a personal level, it was a film that I watched for the first time with my father. At the time we’d talk either about films or about football, and I remember seeing it in the cinema with him and in the last shots of the film, in the climactic scene there’s portraits of the Western chancellors and one of Hitler and we both looked at each other and there was an unspoken dialogue that was essentially “wow, that was crazy, that was powerful”.

 

What made you recommend this film above all else?

I thought your readers probably hadn’t seen the film. I could recommend you Joker or something but I think everybody has seen that already, and I think that it’s good to try and diversify what everyone is reading about and thinking about. I know some of my students don’t really watch films before 2000, let alone 1980 or something.

 

Was this film instrumental in your choice of career?

Yeah, absolutely. It was something that I saw and thought: this is something new, this isn’t just Hollywood, this is in fact a different type of art form in many ways. It made me see film in a different way, it wasn’t through the lens of just stars, but was this kind of higher level of artistry.

 

Can you tell us your favourite scene or line from the film?

There are a few memorable lines, like [the character of Maria Braun] describes herself as the “Mata Hari of the Economic Miracle”. I realise it’s not much of a snappy line like in Pulp Fiction or Clerks but there are still some comic lines and comic timing.

 

Frances Kamm

What film would you recommend as essential viewing?

I would recommend viewing Jurassic Park (1993)!

 

Why is this film important to you?

Because it contains two aspects which have proved influential and inspirational in my own research: the history of visual effects technologies and the representation of gender.

 

What made you recommend this film above all else?

Jurassic Park is a significant film in the development of effects, both in respect to physical effects and the increased use of digital imaging technologies. And in Dr Ellie Sattler we find a character all too rare within mainstream, popular cinema: an intelligent, resourceful and independent woman.

 

 Was this film instrumental in your choice of career?

The film’s effects and depiction of gender had a huge impact on me when I first saw the film and they continue to do so – and that’s not to mention the fact it’s a film about dinosaurs too! Jurassic Park is a film I continue to love personally and professionally.

 

Can you tell us your favourite scene or line from the film?

Sattler’s appropriately droll comeback to Hammond’s suggestion he shouldn’t let Sattler endanger herself as a woman: “We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.” The line says it all…

 

Dominic Topp

What film would you recommend as essential viewing?

I do find this an almost impossible question, so this one – well it’s not random, but it could easily have been one of a hundred others. But the one I’m going to go for today is a Japanese film from the 1950s called Ohayo, or ‘Good Morning’ in English by the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.

 

Why is this film important to you?

Primarily because watching it has given me an enormous amount of pleasure over the years, as has showing it to other people and having them enjoy it too. Ozu the director, is well-known for his unique approach to storytelling and style – which people have written whole books about, so I won’t try to summarise it now. But the pleasure I get from his films is to do with engaging with the story world and the characters.

 

What made you recommend this film above all else?

First of all because it’s a wonderfully enjoyable film, a very funny film, but also poignant and touching. So I guess what I’m talking about is the emotions it evokes, which is an essential part of why we watch movies: to have an emotional

 experience. [The film] is about a group of people that live in the same neighbourhood in Japan and it’s about the various interactions between them.

 

Was this film instrumental in your choice of career?

It’s not a film I saw very early on, I think I did see it before I did a masters in film studies, so I suppose I saw it at a time when I was approaching looking at film in an academic context and exploring films like this and many others and reading about it in scholarly articles was steering me towards [a career in film studies], so I suppose yes.

 

Can you tell us your favourite scene or line from the film?

I wouldn’t say I had a favourite scene because one of the things about the film is the way it’s structured around various different motifs, so the relationships between scenes are what make them great. But in terms of a line of dialogue – which won’t mean much until you watch the film – is a little boy who says repeatedly throughout the film to various characters, in English: “I love you”.

 

Murray Smith

 What film would you recommend as essential viewing?

The film I'm going to suggest is Koyaanisqatsi, shot by Godfrey Reggio and his collaborators from 1975 and released in 1982.

 

Why is this film important to you?

Well, it blew my mind and widened my horizons, in the period when I was really immersing myself in film. It's a feature film but not a conventional fiction film or documentary; you might think of it instead as a kind of poetic documentary, or cinematic symphony. What we see in the film is a huge variety of American landscapes, natural and man-made, ancient and modern. The film makes extensive use of both time-lapse cinematography and extreme slow-motion, so we see clouds and shadows sweeping across landscapes, but also explosions unfolding very, very gradually.

 There are human figures in the film – crowds and individuals – but we see them as part of the landscapes they inhabit. The title is a Hopi [Native American] word meaning 'life out of balance.' The tone of the film is poised between dream and nightmare. It isn't didactic - that's one reason I call it a poem – but it does suggest that modern technology is destructive and puts us out of tune with the natural world. It's a very prescient expression of the ecological concerns that have come to dominate our world.

 

What made you recommend this film above all others?  

I always struggle with questions like this, as there are so many beautiful and powerful films out there. But I wanted pick something that most people won't find out about unless they're pointed in the right direction. Koyaanisqatsiis readily available on disc and streaming platforms, but you're unlikely to stumble across it in a mainstream space. You have to work a bit harder to discover the gems of art, avant-garde, and festival filmmaking. As you can probably gather, it's a visually stunning film. But thanks to the remarkable score by minimalist composer Philip Glass, it's also audio-visually captivating. If classical music isn't your thing, Glass' music might make you think again! The score ebbs and flows and pulsates across the entire film, helping to shape and structure it. Unlike a traditional score, which mostly sits in the background of our attention, Glass' music for the film is front and centre in our experience.

 

 Was this film instrumental in your choice of career? 

 Yes, I think it played a role, albeit alongside many other films. It opened my eyes to what can be done with film, beyond the forms that we're familiar with from mainstream film and tv. Can you tell us your favourite scene or line from the film? It's virtually wordless, and it doesn't contain scenes in the usual sense! It has countless sequences of spectacular beauty, and some of equally spectacular weirdness. One of my favourites is a shot showing people sunbathing in front of a gigantic nuclear power station.

 

This article is part of our one-off edition of IQ Magazine, out from November the 29th 2019. Pick up the magazine on campus in our InQuire distribution bins in Keynes, Co-op, the Templeman library and other locations on campus.

 

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