The Power Of Film
WHAT WAS THE FIRST FLICK TO REALLY KICK YOUR ASS? WHAT WAS THE LATEST? WITH ITS ABILITY TO MIX THE REAL AND THE DREAM-LIKE, TOGETHER WITH THE POETRY OF LANGUAGE AND THE BEAUTY OF A SCORE, FEW WORKS OF ART HAVE THE CAPACITY TO MOVE YOU AS MUCH AS FILM. HERE, SOME TRULY POWERFUL FILMS THAT ARE CERTAINLY WORTH YOUR TIME AND JUST MIGHT KNOCK YOU OUT LIKE THEY DID FOR ME.
- By Jason Gorber
The Power to Scare
Horror movies are usually either gruesome or silly, relying upon cheap thrills to shock and scare. Sometimes, however, a classic film can transcend and become something far more chilling. Jaws is a definitive example of a film that should have been terrible. Based on a pulp novel, if Spielberg had just shot his original script it would have been a campy B-movie about an avenging sea creature. Thanks in part to the logistical nightmare of shooting on the open sea with a mechanical beast that didn’t work, combined with some of the sharpest minds to ever work in cinema, the end result is not only one of the scariest films ever made, it’s easily one of the best. True story: for six months after seeing it, I developed an irrational fear of sharks that only came to mind in the shower.
The Power to Hate
The first time I saw Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 Straw Dogs, I was repulsed. Here’s a story where you hate everyone – the protagonist played by Dustin Hoffman, the brutalizing home invaders, even the hapless victims of sexual violence. It’s a cacophony of awful, making you feel anxious and angry watching it all unfold. I finished the film thinking it the worst thing I’d ever seen, and then realized, as a wave of recognition washed over me, that this is exactly what the filmmaker intended. I may be repulsed, but I was affected, and moved by the craft of the work to feel intensely. This film opened my eyes to the dark side of filmmaking, where the brutality of imagery can come in conflict with one’s own limits, pushing you to confront things that repel just as strongly as what you’re drawn toward.
The Power of Lust
I think the one time I truly fell in love with an image – tingly, chemically, down to my soul fell in love – was seeing Hitchcock’s Rear Window on some crappy VHS tape. It wasn’t the first time though, but I’ll always remember catching it at just the right moment where Grace Kelly leans into the light. Her face (there’s been none like it!), her smirk, the way she’s shot with her eyes gazing into the camera. There are few scenes as intensely erotic, and yet, she never even removes her clothing. Rear Window may be Hitch’s best, and that scene may well be the greatest effect ever captured on celluloid.
The Power to Move
Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves is a breathtaking film. Shot with exquisite immediacy using beautifully-composed handheld shots, the bravado take by Oscar-nominated Emily Watson is truly one of cinema’s greatest performances. Moments where a ‘70s rock soundtrack plays over landscapes are interspersed with documentary-like sequences, creating its own collision between the harshness of the real and the ambitions of higher yearning. This harrowing tale of a woman’s belief in ultimate sacrifice and redemption is truly sublime and spiritual. It’s a work that will challenge many, but it’s a truly unforgettable masterpiece.
The Power to Amuse
Comedy is hard, and something that might make you laugh will be just silliness for another. Yet The Big Lebowski is so profoundly entertaining that one has the right to make fun of anyone that doesn’t consider it one of the best films ever made. The Coen Brothers’ sly humour is tied to a Chandler-esque caper involving a kidnapping, a bag full of dirty laundry and refusing to bowl on the Sabbath. Two decades on, the film remains as potent as ever, and if you’ve only thought of it as some stoner flick, you’ve not truly seen how smart, sophisticated, and breathtakingly brilliant this film really is. Don’t like it? Watch it again. Still don’t dig it? Keep trying – this one’s for everyone.
The Power to Amaze
Five years old was the perfect time to see George Lucas’ space opera in theatres, and a hell of a movie to lose your film-going virginity to. Losing a cinematic cherry to the likes of Star Wars may make some other films pale in comparison, and one can only hope that your first was as good as this one! Still, what captivated wasn’t just the zooming spaceships and glowing lightsabers, it was the sense of the metaphysical within this strange spirituality dubbed “The Force” that tied the universe together. It made the explosions mean something, and gave more than a bit of wonder behind all the action. It’s had many imitators and sequels, but it’s that first film from 1977 that truly opened up young eyes to the mysteries of a greater world – even one in a galaxy far, far away.