Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Film critic / journalist
Chile / Canada
|Breaking the Waves
|Lars von Trier
|North by Northwest
It's the perfect movie: well-rounded, complex characters that happen to stumble into a situation that forces them to challenge themselves and reevaluate their relationships. It works as a romantic drama, a thriller, and as a comedy. It's Hitchcock at its finest.
Parasite's incisive commentary on capitalism and those left behind fighting for scraps is as fiery as is accurate. The fact it uses comedy to drive the point home makes it even more extraordinary.
Imagine a movie able to unsettle you to the core even in the worst possible viewing circumstances. Michael Haneke is a master at finding our comfort levels and shattering them. In Funny Games, he does it constantly, while criticising us for sticking with the increasingly violent film. What a feat.
Breaking the Waves
Lars Von Trier's exploration of religion is both exhilarating and profoundly sad. He dares to ask if the divinity of choice so many would sacrifice their lives for doesn't have your best interest at heart. Beautifully written and performed by Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgård, Breaking the Waves is one of the deepest experiences I've ever experienced in a movie theatre.
Hitchcock knew men's foibles and couldn't get enough of them. For a populist like Hitch, Vertigo is rather obtuse, stingy with the answers, and thoroughly uncompromising. Yet, we're captivate it by it 60 years later. This is a movie in which the script is less important than the atmosphere (Bernard Herrmann's extraordinary score does a lot of heavy lifting) and slyly introduces surrealism to the mainstream.
Romance, youth, love are subjects as compelling as they are abused and mistreated on film. Richard Linklater and collaborators Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke found the perfect balance in the definitive love story of the 1990s. The fact they managed to build on Before Sunrise and deliver two equally strong sequels is just gravy.
Existential dread and physical horror are hard to conjure on screen. Imagine achieving both simultaneously. John Carpenter's best movie is ruthlessly effective and lingers long after the closing credits.
North by Northwest
My third Hitchcock on this list is pure, unabashed fun. The script and particularly the dialogue crackles and Cary Grant seems alternatively amused and annoyed by his dire circumstances. Hitch makes the most of the medium and comes up with the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
Martin Scorsese is at his best when he indulges the dark side of his artistic sensibilities. In GoodFellas he lets them run amok. The film addresses the question what happens when morality goes out the window and self-interest takes over. It's a portrait of capitalism that only grows more accurate with time.
Seven is a good yarn spun phenomenally. Fincher elevates the script by staging it in a way that enhances it. The griminess, the grays, the decay, the score, the David Bowie tune at the end, it all amplifies the themes of the movie and strengthens the thriller elements of the film.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of cinema's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Like any art form, film evolves, goes through ebbs and flows, but it's still there, pandemics and streaming services be damned.
At best, cinema works as a slightly askew mirror of our society, revealing more than we know or want to know about ourselves. It remains the most immediately accessible door to other cultures: film's uncanny ability to generate empathy fosters understanding between diverse peoples.
Granted, it's unlikely a rube like Donald Trump would ever watch A Separation and gain a modicum of understanding of the Iranian population, but the possibility is there. Films from across the world are more accessible than ever. Hard not to feel optimistic about the future of the medium.