Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) – Alain Resnais

A mysterious film that redefines the intimacies of visual storytelling. Hiroshima Mon Amour is the first time a film has had a deep melancholic impact on my understanding of time. The film blends into its dire past, ill-fated present, and uncertain future. It instills in the viewer indescribable spontaneity to experience the unstudied moments of life.

The kind of curiosity that hesitates to step out of its shadow and play with the light. You can feel this game of shadow and light as you watch the film. Its poetic capacity lies in its execution. But its soul is in the way the director, Alain Resnais, has realized the scope of the story, its characters, and its philosophy.

Hiroshima Mon Amour remains, to this day, a reminder of the scarred footprints of time abandoned after the winds of war have passed. The cinematography is rememberable. Some scenes in the film, subtle and visceral, reveal the vulnerability of a historic phenomenon. While the others are charged with intellectual and temperamental vigor.

It’s a film that yearns, remembers, and celebrates its singularity. It stops the flow of time. Sharpens your presence through the lives of its characters. And allows its viewers complete scrutiny and soul-searching as instances of death, survival, and memorabilia are meditated upon.

Hereditary (2018) – Ari Aster

The scope of Hereditary is much deeper and coarser than what you might assume within the horror genre. The film evokes an emotional and psychological reaction; destroying the cliched setting of a scary film.

The process of grieving is a stagnant and remote one. And it brings feelings of isolation as much as the destruction of self. What this film does is it creates an atmosphere in which it is impossible for the characters to relate to one another. They grieve but secluded, confined, and forsaken. And so the film is inspired in the way it is executed.

The most gratifying aspect of the film lies in its cinematography. It does more than capture the essence of the characters; it escalates their every movement. And as the movie gains momentum, the weight of every scene is chilling to the bone. You don’t know what’s going to happen next until it does and you’re so completely shaken by it.

I’ve had unsettling thoughts about the film when I first saw it. But now, after having watched it again, I did not resist its disturbing and disquieting personality. It does tackle the traditional family tragedy in a consistently horrifying and complicated way. Which is central to its appeal: that it’s not cut out of the ordinary jump-scare tactics. To watch it is to drift into the most unexpected corners of terror that are hard to shake off.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

The tide of loneliness is a personal one. Its fabric is shrouded in a sort of reverie that floats over the horizon like a mirage. Only visible to you, it blurs every path in your way. As much as you want to get closer to it – to embrace it, make something of it – the farther and farther it walks away from you.

Inside Llewyn Davis tells a tale of what it means to be far inside of oneself and far outside. It connects with you, in the strangest way, because it’s an honest film. Films like these are hard to come by. And once they do follow through – a bittersweet pill that is hard to swallow – it’s memorable.

The film is cloaked in isolation and sadness. About a struggling musician in the early sixties, the protagonist embodies an inner voice. Fragile, intense, and unheard in a world defeated with people. Inside Llewyn Davis creates an unbeatable world in which you see him travel from a single point of failure to another. Rejection after rejection pulled into the direction of numbness and apathy. Such is the gruesome path of loneliness in art that couldn’t have been art without it.

It’s an unforgiving film which is quite characteristic in its making. The cinematography is deeply inviting and pulls you in instantly with the help of subtle cues shadowing some of life’s most significant questions. Dialogue which is as surrealistic and shattering as the setting in which it is being said throws humor into the mix beautifully. It really contemplates what we find difficult to finish; that is the ability to map our struggle in a territorial world.

Frances Ha (2013) – Noah Baumbach

A poignant film about choice and the sum of one’s microscopic dealings with life. Frances Ha is what leads to up your grandest moments in life and what they cost you. At the expense of a miserly and lonely life does the protagonist, Frances, swim through a diminishing reality. A reality in which there are blurred friendships, scintillating conversations, awkward encounters, unfulfilled dreams, and insufficient desires.

Maybe there’s also a hint of truth in them all. A sense of raw goodness that is often the extension of one’s true self. And through that path is the ethos of self-expression and sentiment. The kind that sticks for a long time; like the first rain falling on thick, dense grass.

Movies like Frances Ha must continue being imperfect, a bit unsure, but revelatory and comforting, nevertheless. Watching this film is like looking into a mirror and having life’s story told. Its manifestation, intention, failures, and rewards. What life takes with it and what is left behind.

For such movies do not remedy the sharp edges that often soften our skin. They are involuntarily attached to the world. They must impinge upon our self-made delusions about love, passion, and attachment. Until what’s left is a reflection that looks back at us; that is, on days we don’t feel strong enough to look in.

Moonlight (2016) – Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight guards the fragility of what it shows to be a man. It gains most of its sentiment and volition in the way it’s told. Every nuance is engrossed in its own story. The film is divided into 3 chapters: from when the protagonist was a boy to a teenager and finally as an adult with roles to fill.

The film takes a microscopic perspective on the life of Chiron. The groundwork laid down to express such inexpressible feelings is difficult to compose. And yet, Moonlight draws you in so effortlessly into Chiron’s world. And through it all, the experiential capacity of this film is colossal.

We are all measured against our ephemeral presence in this reality. But to a young boy struggling with identity, this existence doesn’t feel so short any more. And to bring such fragile life questions with you and to have them unanswered as you grow can be even more daunting.

Moonlight makes this sentiment seem emphatically perceptible in a limited and questioning reality. Which is one of the most significant aspects of the film. To watch it is to endure some of the most important questions of existence and identity.

Chungking Express (1996) – Wong Kar-Wai

A melancholic film that is comfortable within its own set of rules, Chungking Express is silence suffused with expression. The film is soft in the way that it’s unrestricted. It is packed with dialogue that transcends normalcy and with colors that beget an eccentric reality.

The film materializes more than just a feeling. Hence, it stands as its own defense against the justification of that feeling. And so there’s no knowing what lingers within the surface of the film; at least not until the deep presence of each character’s realities is sought. And to do so takes much courage and empathy which isn’t well-suited for a light-hearted audience.

The film is ambiguous but with its own rare personality. It digs into everything from loneliness, loss, heartbreak, and expectation to what it means to earn a living and how one’s livelihood can never be one’s true reflection of self.

The structure of the film and its narration take up a poetic place. The cinematography pulls you in, from time to time, in an engaging and comfortable manner. Until finally, it drops you into its intricate elements so thoughtfully and sentimentally – it’s discovering life in its purest form.

If you pay attention, you will find that this film’s details contain its whole. The gestures, stillness, and generosity of the first story are portrayed alongside the second. But fate is such that they’ll never meet. Maybe this is what gives Wong Kar-Wai’s films a unique and nostalgic sense of wisdom. To watch it is to instill essence into the simple as much as the grand scheme of things. A gentle, corrective reminder that the proof of our existence is not in what happens to us, eventually, but what we do, as much in our thoughts as in our actions.

The Double Life of Veronique (1991) – Krzysztof Kieslowski

A film intricately shot, as the life of Veronica, and then the life of Veronique, is reflected back and forth in a dreamlike and hypnotic way. The Double Life of Veronique illustrates the power of unaffected beauty. It’s a pure and sentient film. It moves as you do, in time and feeling, just when you’re about to grasp the whole of its atmosphere and rhythm.

The film is like a reflection you’d see on a deep and translucent patch of water. And you want to lean in closer and closer and tap the almost-too-perfect surface until you realize that it’s perfect because it is still. A film that evokes such a sentimental canvas is a film that remains unforgettable. There’s no other way to understand it, but with profound love and empathy.

Love and empathy for the lives that live parallelly to our own. The faces we make up and shed and go back to and that, in the end, perish only because we evolve and the masks don’t fit anymore.

The film is about identity and becoming it. Which often collides with the possibilities of human destiny. What’s so cruel yet honest about this film is that we are only capable of loving others in our thoughts, feelings, desires, and fears. This is not because we’re made from the same star-stuff. But we carry within us all of nature’s vibrations and hues; intricate, boundless, and personal. And so we can never truly recognize others as they really are but only as we are. And in that, is loving and living, as we know it.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – Stanley Kubrick

Eyes Wide Shut forces you to imagine the unimaginable and allows such foreplay to solidify into ripples that often disturb a still surface. These ripples are made from the stuff of dreams, fears, desires, and fetishes. No matter how vehemently we deny such invisibles in life. Sometimes out of sadness, loneliness, ignorance, or fear. They are often celebrated in our subconscious and never deny to show up in dreams.

Eyes Wide Shut invents such a fable and as a film comprising of such profound and strong characters, it is fulfilling and cerebrally fictive. It illustrates how delusional, limited, and too ‘into our heads’ we can be. That our external surroundings become fragments of not an objective reality but a product of our own imagination and fancy. What we seek, we shall find.

Stanley Kubrick’s masterful stroke on a blank canvas is done in strikingly audacious colors. This film uses language and gesture in the most idiosyncratic manner. With ephemeral subplots like the pianist, the hooker, the daughter of the owner of the costume store, and Mandy, it gains its dreamlike personality as much from them as from the lives of William and Alice.

Where the mind uses reason and logic to curb the imagination. The imagination, too, has its own intellect and intuition. Eyes Wide Shut is the consummation of this abstraction of the self. And it often shoots up to the surface in symbols such as the face mask, drugs, money, Rainbow Fashions, William’s New York State Medical Board Card, and the Christmas trees.

To watch it is to unmask the repressed nature of human’s spiraling sexuality and desires. And how such impulses are often compromised because of what we think is good or bad for us.

The Master (2012) – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Master is one such film that I’d love to deconstruct over and over again to watch it from different perspectives. The film reiterates the hidden layers of one’s cognitive functioning veiling the boundaries of emotions. It’s a spellbinding film intended to introduce the concept of Scientology to those totally unaware of it. The concept of the “knowing” of knowledge. As vague as that sounds, the film makes a good show of it.

The movie has plenty of cues – elements if you will – that demonstrate an idea or a consciousness. Such as the motorcycle, the sand sculpture, and the intoxicating scene where Freddie Quell is made to walk to and away from the glass window. The film is coarse, imaginative, and persistent. But is it real? That remains a mystery – a reflection of its own inevitable path.

The Master is experimental and profoundly attached to its personality – which is nothing short of inventive and extraordinary. To watch it is to see the universe in a flux of fears, desires, emotions, and feelings. The pull of consciousness that separates a dream from reality as soon as you are caught in a wake. But is that necessarily an awakening? This is where the depth of the sea of limitations of knowledge runs the deepest.

The 400 Blows (1959) – Francois Truffaut

Watching Jean-Pierre Leaud as a young boy trapped between his defining moments with a friend and his duty as a son to detached and bleary parents is a journey. The film, The 400 Blows, is about identity as much as it is about the extraction of one’s self from conditioned consciousness. The agony of growing up is painful but surviving it is even more harrowing.

The boy, Antoine Dionel, seeks a relationship which is fundamental for all those who appear to be. But who are these people? And do they or can they love and appreciate us in the way we’d want them to? Do we truly know how we want to be loved? Such questions often rise to the surface of the film and they sink back in again just when you think you know the answers.

To evolve – for instance – in ways as if one rebels and seeks strange yet stimulating experiences is feeling free, even for a day. But then you’re back to playing a role; into setting a table in which you’re nothing but the spitting image of the chair next to you. Is that the good life?

The film is told in detailed melancholy. It’s expressive, intelligent, and amusing. It’s at a crossroads between being a sad and poetically modern film. The kind that redeems itself with every scene, that is, if you’re willing to open yourself up to exploring new dimensions in a black and white film. Because it arrives with a strange longing to be seen and understood. And departs as being one of the greatest and purest films about searching for one’s true identity.