Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The "Perfect" Movie

As part of taking care of some unfinished business, there were a couple of questions asked of me in older editions of "Ask Me Anything" that I never got around to answering. Since the whole purpose of my hosting "Ask Me Anything" is to provide you with answers to your questions I feel compelled to do my best to provide said answers, no matter how difficult the question.

Now I'm going to answer of of these long neglected questions. This comes from September 2011, and was put aside, but not forgotten,  as I became consumed with last minute preparations for the Countdown to Halloween.

The question comes from Robert Pope, my pal and longtime collaborator on the Scooby-Doo comic book series. Robert's question:

Bruce Timm has called "Jaws" a "perfect film." Which film produced since 1970 (just to make things easier) do you consider to be "perfect" and why? 

As you can see, not an easy question to answer. This would also differ from my favorite movies ( an expanded list can be found under "notes" on my facebook page), but actually includes a couple of them.

I would have to say that there are four films made since 1970 that I consider perfect. 

Heavenly Creatures (1994) - This is the Peter Jackson movie which introduced the world to Kate Winslett (though I found her co-star Melanie Lynskey just as compelling). The movie was about a notorious murder case from 1954 that happened in Christchurch, New Zealand in which two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme (now author, Anne Perry) murdered Parker's mother. 

From the scream that starts the movie all the way to the end, this movie was simply riveting. Beautifully shot, written, and acted, I was sucked into way this story built to it's tragic climax. The way Jackson merged and overlapped the real world with their shared fantasy world was also really impressive. There was nothing extraneous or missing from this movie. I saw this opening night and when it was over I went to the lobby and bought a ticket for the next show. 

Blue Velvet (1986) Wholesome Kyle MacLachlan finds a severed ear in a field and what starts off as an almost Hardy Boys like story quickly becomes a nightmare as he becomes immersed in the dark underbelly of suburbia. 

This was another movie I saw opening night and I just remember feeling that finally someone made a movie that was aimed just at me. The fact that it was this one, probably will make people reevaluate me, but it's true. It's like a secret door in my brain was opened and I could really identify with the protagonist.   Lynch's overly saturated colors and dense soundscape made the wholesome world seem as unreal and nightmarish as the rotten core that it was hiding. It's almost like a fairy tale taking place in the contemporary world. This was like watching a dream transplanted onto film. This is a really dark, beautiful movie. 

 In the Mood For Love (2000) -- This is I think the most perfect movie I can think of. It has an incredible rhythm to it which is very relaxed with a repetition enhanced by the beautiful score. Wong Kar Wei is one of my all time favorite directors and Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are two of my favorite actors. The movie which is about a man and a woman who are neighbors drawn together because they're spouses are having affairs was organically made, with everyone improvising and changing the story as they made it, resulting in an incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking movie where so much is conveyed in body language and reactions. The movie also has an incredible color palette and costume design.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) Like Heavenly Creatures, Guillermo del Toro's movie masterfully merges a fantasy world with the real world, but here the fantasy world offers an escape from not the mundane, but the horrors of war and change. Fantastic performances, pacing, use of color, creature design and direction combine into an amazing, engaging, dark fairy tale. It also really appeals to in the conveyance of a mysterious world abutting close to ours and for taking this idea as something natural.  

I'd also almost inlcude Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) except my willing suspension of disbelief is always knocked out of commission by the notion of Indiana Jones traveling for hundreds of miles strapped to the conning tower of a U-boat. Except for that, really quite perfect. 


Dave Lowe said...

"Raiders" is on my list as a perfect film. It's funny, I've always loved the u-boat scene. The fact that it never shows how he made the trip is perfect. At that point, you knew what Indy was capable of, so it was easy for me to suspend disbelief that he figured out a way.

Stephen said...

Interesting list and good point about Raiders. I've always thought they could have handled that part better. I've always loved the movie, and recently read a complaint by someone about how great it is - until the end, where Indiana essentially does nothing except close his eyes, since he's tied to a pole. I hadn't thought of it like that before. But I still love it.

John Rozum said...

Initially I kept getting tricked into thinking when they showed the German crew dropping into the sub that Indy was disguised among them, which wouldn't have been any more convincing.

Anonymous said...

Heavenly Creatures is good. Perry lives a few miles away, and just a few houses down the street from my father, so when I looked into the true story behind the movie after seeing it I was a bit shocked to find that she was Juliet.

I should make a note to watch Blue Velvet, it sounds interesting.

Greg said...

Wow, it seems like we have the same taste in films! ITMFL is definitely one of the most "perfect" films I've ever seen. Beautifully made from writing, performances, editing, camera work, visuals, etc etc. The story of the two "lovers" are so gripping, I NEVER get tired of rewatching this film.

I'm a Lynch geek, love his work. Blue Velvet was a pleasant surprise when I saw it. Eraserhead and Lost Highway may be my favorite by Lynch along with Twin Peaks.