Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

Nobody keeps you in suspense and surprise in the same breath as masterfully as Alfred Hitchcock. His films explore the guilty pleasures of mankind. Though the surprise is not as memorable as the suspense, it still lingers to keep you wide-eyed and craving for more. And Rear Window, which is about a man looking into his neighbors’ houses as he’s stuck at home with a broken leg, is a sensational film so artistically shot. The beautiful and bright visuals strike the perfect chord with the intellectual and philosophical dialogues. The camera moves back and forth between each house, into a person’s private and lonely and repetitive life. And that’s what so interesting about Hitchcock’s vision. He went beyond the ho-hum of routine and made it look imaginative and picturesque.

On closer inspection, you feel the anticipation and wonder of our most beloved protagonist, played by James Stewart. His refined inquisitiveness and charming sensibility evoke a realistic and entertaining atmosphere. When paired with Grace Kelly and her calm and poised disposition, the film is hard to resist. The film elicits an acute and unwavering feeling. As if you’re looking out of and into the rear window simultaneously. You’re the one watching and the one being watched. For a minute you’re there looking in, and soon after, you’re here looking out.

The cinematography allows no mistakes, nothing passes that you didn’t already see, and each movement goes directly to your memory, where films like Rear Window stay for longer and are often unforgettable. It’s a delicious and entertaining tour-de-force that explores the profanity of everyday lives, the ordinariness of it, and its imperfect clumsiness.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos’s exceptional and piercing attention to detail gives his film, The Favourite a rare quality. It’s upsetting but in a graspable and interesting way. It’s riveting but without the typical character arcs that makes a drama and comedy film entertaining. I want to dissect each aspect of the film to illustrate its beauty and charm. The air around Queen Anne, Lady Sarah, and Abigail is purposefully cold as Yorgos isolates each self from the other and from its own being. The costumes, music, and camera-work exist to elevate this tense and dense atmosphere.

Off the story goes, drumming a savage, naïve, and sometimes repulsive rhythm and you, the unfortunate witness, can’t not take your eyes away from it. The use of wide lens is a sensational approach to conveying a twisted attachment between the characters. But it’s versatile in the way it is shot. You see a close-up which is soon followed by an immediate and cutting wide-angle shot. So it’s crisp and keeps you on your toes throughout. Perhaps this is what keeps the actors on their edge too.

The film, overall, is a tough nut to crack. But it remains one of the greatest triumphs of cinema. With striking resemblance of its time, its world is suffused in such contemptible and realistic colors, so crucial and transformative that, no doubt, you won’t be able deny its realness and intimacy. The film keeps you in a continuous state of anticipation and concern. And the compelling and detached humor is generous and forbids you to make your own personal assumptions. If I am pressed to say one more thing about this film, I’d say that it exists to shock you into complete visual paralysis so that in every scene, before the next, you’re waiting for something to go terribly wrong. And that the acts of defiance in the film always surpass each other in their intensity and vigor.

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

Choreographing movement is everything. If you’ve seen most of Kubrick’s films, you’ll understand the emphasis on diagramming – actors, objects, and the spaces in between. It’s a strong reason to want to watch a film. Especially if it’s a film as messy, sadistic, and verbally vague like A Clockwork Orange. Based on Anthony Burgess’s book, the film started off as being a dystopian horror but soon transformed itself into a glorified drama.

The film’s motive is simple. It is to present to you the life of people without the immediate effects of law and order. And by those virtues, it portrays distasteful and offensive acts that the world (perhaps inevitably?) would carry forward. The story is about Alex, a hedonistic, sadistic, and young man, who spends his nights listening to Beethoven’s 9th, and his days frolicking. He’s violent, a rapist, and a sex addict. If you’re wondering if there’s any hidden philosophical purpose to the story, there isn’t. But that’s not to say there isn’t a psychological one.

Stanley Kubrick composed the film’s frames imagining how one would a contradictory and conflicted world. He dehumanized Alex to the point of insanity. It’s focused – it’s not clear why Alex is but his existence is seen and purported as an object. The scene where they’re all walking in a tight circle in prison externalizes this aspect. It compresses their crime as striking not a moral nerve but only a bureaucratic one. One that serves a society; someone we raise to the stand to desensitize and terrorize the masses.

The film has no telling, instrumental moment. It’s harsh and radical. That some things never change. That’s the moral of the story. Only Stanley Kubrick presents it in a way that it is bound to confuse you. With the help of religion and psychiatry, the film is long and psychopathic. You’re not supposed to feel something for Alex – even though it’s his life you plunge into all throughout the film. And for me, that’s a tough thing to achieve. To present a character for the length of 140 minutes and not give away any emotion to the audience (that is you) to take home or sit with.

Ronny Sen’s Cat Sticks

Shot in cut-throat black-and-white, it’s hard to shut your eyes to Ronny Sen’s inviting, bold, and definitive film about addiction. Capturing the solemn streets of Calcutta where time seems out of focus against the stinging effects of the night that inhabits it. Cat Sticks follows a structure that is not limited to the dark and abandoned alleys. It extends out to the lives of the people wandering these very lanes. All of which strikes a solid and memorable emotion. Somehow, the cinematography portrays the streets of Calcutta as more familiar and beguiling than one’s own home. .

The film is not artistic in that it doesn’t exalt the world it creates. It is merely there to reflect it. Strip away the red herring and show what’s real. From the start of the film, you feel the humor and detachment in your bones; you quickly identify with the darkness, cutting shadows, and heaviness of the silence. Which forms the recesses of how you experience the film.

Out of many, there is that one scene that portrays the striking fluidity of human life, its nakedness, and fragility. Then there is one that portrays the ridiculousness of human life, its humor, and impassivity. Once you watch the film, you understand which is which. And if you don’t, well, you’re meant to watch it again.

Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour

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.