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🎬 #93 Cinema Is Pure Imagination.
More so than any other medium film has the ability to be purely imaginative. Maybe because it resembles the process of imagination the most closely - rendering thought into a real image on the screen, then onto the mind. Resulting in a loop of creation and consumption. It’s so inspiring to see a film really go for it and it paying off big time.
This week’s two films are some of the most imaginative I’ve seen.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
1946 Dir Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
[1hr 45 mins]
Before Spike Jonze, and before Michel Gondry there was Powell and Pressburger. A filmmaking team of incredible imaginative force. Just imagine the guts it takes to make a film about love, death, and the afterlife just after World War 2 and then almost miraculously for it to be an amazing spectacle of pure joy and hilarity. An escape into the pure possibility of the mind. A reminder that film can be almost anything we want it to be and evidence that it can tell stories more powerfully, more imaginatively than even the next best medium.
Sadly though, their films fell out of the limelight for almost 30 years - until Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg got them back into the conversation and have since been massively reappraised. Since then, almost all their films have been recognised as touchstones, particularly this one. As a modern audience member you might think that films from the 40’s are dull, stage play-like and unimaginative - but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This film is daring, bold - beautifully production designed in a groundbreaking modernist way that still feels fresh.
The story itself feels like it could come from A24 today - an airman plummeting to the ground falls in love with his radio operator. He then finds himself caught between life and death and he must fight for his right to say alive to pursue his new found love. The concept is handled with such lightness and beauty that it never feels daunting or heavy. The scenes of paused time and the blend of our reality with the world beyond are stylistically amazing - yes you might see an actor wobble slightly when they’re meant to be frozen but the overall effect loses none of it’s power. One of the more negative reviewers at the time said he didn’t like it because you can’t tell if it’s meant to be serious or not, but that’s one of the reasons I love it. Like I said, a film can be anything, one minute serious, the next minute hilarious, the next minute ridiculous. You love the characters, their wit, their chemistry - all of it works when it almost shouldn’t. It’s operating wildly, at the outer edges of the imagination.
TL;DR Powell and Pressburger’s love story about life and death is as bold and original as anything you’ve seen.
*Available to subscribers of Tubi and Classix’s in the US and for a small rental fee on Apple in the UK.
Fact: The original prop staircase that forms part of one of the central sets in the film was so loud when it was operating that they had to dub the dialogue in post.
FILM TWO: BLONDE
2022 Dir Andrew Dominik
If you want a strict biopic of Marilyn Monroe then this is definitely not the film you want. But as a bold, imaginative take on an icon of cinema, then it’s an experience to seek out. Dominik creates a horror movie - a portrait that is illusory and dramatically vivid. It’s a nightmare and dream combined. The hopes of a woman become skewed and destroyed by the male world she’s entering into.
Dominik’s verve with bold choices make so many simple transitions so memorable - bed sheets to water is the one that stands out for me. It’s a wildly conceptual dive into the life of the star. Fires become symbols of childhood trauma, crowds of adoring fans become monsters.
The cinematography of Chayse Irvin sears the iconic images we know into our imagination in a totally different way. Tragedy is now baked into the textured black and whites, the flashes of the bulbs are burn retinas, stealing the soul of poor Norma Jeana. It’s not a film to watch if you’re feeling down in any way. But as a fictionalised, imaginative cinematic journey through the life of someone we all thought we recognised, then it’s cruelly under-watched.
TL;DR A hauntingly brave take on an icon - check it out if you’re feeling up to it.
*Available for free to Netflix subscribers in the US and UK.
Fact: This is Dominik’s first non-documentary film in 10 years, and he remarked that ‘the film will offend everyone, I’m not concerned with being tasteful.’
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