Tacita Dean

Kodak; FILM

UK

Voted in the directors’ poll

Voted for

Blow Up

1966

Michelangelo Antonioni

Close-Up

1989

Abbas Kiarostami

Festen

1998

Thomas Vinterberg

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

1975

Chantal Akerman

Jubilee

1977

Derek Jarman

Kes

1969

Ken Loach

Man Escaped, A

1956

Robert Bresson

mépris, Le

1963

Jean-Luc Godard

Providence

1977

Alain Resnais

Quince Tree Sun, The

1992

Víctor Erice

Comments

I always cite Providence as my favourite film when asked. It was Alain Resnais’s first film in English and has a perfect script by David Mercer. With an impeccable cast of five principal actors – John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde, David Warner, Elaine Stritch and Ellen Burstyn it deals effortlessly with the problems of enacting the fantasies of a writer’s imagination. It mixes places and time within single sequences to create an uncanny sense of dislocation but its brilliance is its leanness – not a single moment of excess.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is an extraordinary piece of cinema in which the tension is built up over the more than three hours of its duration through the unbearable monotony and domestic repetition in the daily life of the main character, played by Delphine Seyrig. It is rigorous, sparse and brutal and taught me a lot about economy of means and observation.

Festen is the only film I ever went to see again immediately. It was radical in what it proposed with the new medium of digital and how it could change cinema and take it in new directions. My argument has always been that film and digital are different mediums and it’s exciting when all that is different about them gets exploited to the full.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen Jubilee but I remember it with enormous affection. John Dee and Elizabeth I walking along together in an English garden before encountering the dystopia of punk London… Derek Jarman had a very particular vision of England and always made filmmaking feel approachable and possible for anyone, as well as allowing it to be a place for very personal imagination.

Un condamné à mort s’est échappé’ is a beautiful black and white film, full of psychological tension without recourse to too much action, and which immediately places you in that great French existential cinematic space which is so salutary and powerful. I love Le Mépris in all its extravagance and indulgences, from the spoken title sequence at the beginning to Delerue’s never-to-be-forgotten score. Bardot, Piccoli and Palance all become the characters they play so convincingly – superficial, spoilt, stylish but nonetheless monumental – that it is like watching a Greek tragedy unfold contemporaneously. It is also a film about film.

Quince Tree Sun is a film about a painter painting a quince tree in his courtyard in what feels like the suburbs of a Spanish city. I have seen it only once but I remember it very clearly: the fruit hanging from the tree, which, as it ripens, sinks in the frame and frustrates the painter who is methodical in his process. It is a film about observing observation. I remember clearly the soundtrack of incidental urban life shifting gradually until dusk falls and televisions are switched on.

Kes is a brilliant and unbearably poignant film, which shocked me when I first saw it at a young age for its realism and the unremitting toughness of Billy’s life. It offers little redemption but is beautifully acted and depicted and showed me a different world, both culturally and cinematically.

Close-up was my first experience of Iranian cinema and I loved it: the layers of documentary and intervention as well as the insight into Iranian life and, like the recent film A Separation, into Iranian justice and the Islamic court system. I found it immensely moving and it recalls for me the Fluxus artist Robert Filliou’s premise that ‘art [in this case ‘cinema’] is what makes life more interesting than art’.

The scene in the park in Blow-up is what I consider to be one of the best evocations of the creative impulse in cinema. David Hemmings grabs his camera on a whim and enters the park. It is a moment that is briefly empty of everything except, but for the wind in the trees, the desire to make photographs. Within this ecstatic narrative emptiness, and of course because of it, he finds something – in this case, the plot. It is a film about the materiality of a medium, which I hope won’t become incomprehensible to a generation with no experience of the negative and the positive.

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