Early Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are not only credited with expanding the possibilities of the human mind but were among the first writers to begin challenging the idea of the human mind; to begin thinking about thinking. Film, on the other hand, was first created mainly to function as a fairground entertainment, a magical process by which the moving images of reality could be viewed and screened back to the very beings that inhabit reality. Early films were a ride, a thrill, and an entertainment machine, one that was far from inhibiting the high-cultured, intellectual world of philosophy. So then, how is it possible that the two could, in fact, be completely inseparable and essential for each other’s existence? How can a film engage in, not just simply highlighting and presenting a philosophical idea, but in actively ‘doing’ philosophy? What does it mean to say that a film can think? And, more importantly, what does it mean to say that a film can think about thinking?
This list was compiled from the individual bottom ten lists of Scott, Josh, Aaron, Rita, Craig, Sarah, Darrell, Alexander, Matt, Tyler, and David. Each film was weighted according to its placement on each individual list. As such, a film that appeared on only two writers’ lists could still wind up on the finalized list if it placed particularly high. Conversely, a film could conceivably be on everybody’s list, but not make the final list, due to low point value.
10. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
There is something so pure and simple about how Roy Andersson captures humanity in his films. The people depicted in his movies are always otherworldly, always separated from how we view ourselves as humans, yet always awkwardly and strangely entertaining; and no, that’s not just because they’re Europeans (I’m British, so I’m allowed to say that… I think) Here, Andersson rounds-off his ‘Living’ trilogy in the most spectacular of ways. He captures a wide array of fascinatingly quirky characters in a way that Wes Anderson could only dream of (I just lost half the audience with that comment). Using single take, lingering static shots of individual human social situations, Andersson forces his audience to continuously look deeper into his frames; to keep looking at his characters, at how they feel, at what they’re thinking, and at who they really are. Experiencing the film, we are not so much placed in the position of a human observing these strange creatures on screen from a distance, but we are the aliens, watching to witness just how peculiar and unusual humanity really can be.
The Last Metro was made in 1980 by the former French new wave director, François Truffaut; the film stars Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu in its main roles as Marion Steiner and Barnard Granger. The film itself tells the story of a small theatre production group during the occupation of Paris in the Second World War. Marion takes control of the theatre after her Jewish husband Lucas Steiner is forced to hide from the Nazi’s in the building’s cellar. When Marion begins to formulate a new stage play, actor Barnard is cast in its leading role; this then leads to the creation of a passionate love triangle that sees Marion romantically torn between Barnard and her husband. The sequence shown takes place during the final few moments of the film, at which point, the Nazis have left Paris and the play has been a success. During the sequence, we see multiple plot points begin to close, but we also receive something of a resolution for the film’s central love triangle conflict.
Hollywood mainstream cinema has often been criticized for the ways in which nature and the environment is presented within its productions. Animated films such as Happy Feet (2006), or Disneynature’s Bears (2014) provide us with a largely dramatized and playfully anthropomorphic tone within their methods of capturing nature and the natural environment. Through these fluffy and entertaining portraits of disguised human subjectivity, we are forced to mentally break down boundaries between the living and the natural world. However, this break is not achieved in the films by removing binaries, but rather, by dismantling the natural world, only to build it back up in ways that suit our own human perception of it.
The Gold Rush (1925) is a silent comedy film; it was directed by Charlie Chaplin and produced under the newly formed production company, United Artists. Prior to making The Gold Rush, Chaplin had only directed two feature films, the first was The Kid (1921), of which, was primarily a comedy, and featured Chaplin’s globally famous screen icon “The Little Tramp”. The second, A Woman of Paris (1923), was a somewhat dark and tragic drama, to which, Chaplin states in text before the film opens “… to avoid any misunderstandings … this is my first serious drama”. A Woman of Paris was a box-office failure, but within it (and his earlier short films), Chaplin, a man best known for encapsulating a comical and entertaining clown figure, expressed a deep interest in drama and the tragic. In 1925, while making The Gold Rush, Chaplin would return to comedy and his classic “Little Tramp” character, only this time, introducing undercurrent tones of deep depression and desperation more tragic than anything he had made prior, while at the same time, making audiences laugh just as hard. How and why did Chaplin make one of cinema’s classic foundational comedy films under such darkly tragic themes?
Jean-Luc Godard’s A Woman is a Woman (1961) opens like a grand theatre production, as we, the audience, are sat surrounded by darkness, in anticipation for the show to begin. An orchestra is heard warming up, a conductor is heard preparing, and huge blocks of one word text engulf the screen itself, quickly flashing relevant cue words such as “Eastmancolor”, “Musical” or “Sentimental”. Suddenly, the sounds cut, the words vanish, and from the silence, a French voice using American words shouts, “lights, camera, action!” From here on in, we are thrown into the magical world that is Godard’s A Woman is a Woman. The effect of this opening prologue is a startling one; the film feels unprepared, as though the audience caught a rare glimpse of the show before it began, while the curtain was still lowered, and the actors still in their dressing rooms. Godard, in this segment, seems to be setting up what is to come throughout A Woman is a Woman, in terms of its formalist aesthetic to emphasise the real, as well as laying down foundational rules of how we may view theatre, how we may view film, then attempting to mix and blend those contrasting sets of rules and expectations together. The first few shots of A Woman is a Woman see Angela (Anna Karina) walk into a bar, taking life, energy, and colour in with her. However, she leaves quickly due to lack of time, winking playfully at the audience as she does. In this wink from Karina, as well as in the opening sequence, Godard has created the sense of a musical, the sense of Hollywood, and the sense of the golden age. A Woman is a Woman is both a parody and pastiche of Hollywood musicals, while all the time never failing to give its audience a small, discrete and playful wink.
David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows doesn’t particularly add anything new to the discussion of horror convention. Its central themes are as you might expect. The film deals with teen protagonists, with gruesome deaths, with sexual encounters, coming-of-age awakenings, and its supply of loud jump scare moments are plentiful. So, what then makes this film so unique, so challenging, and so very tense? The answer may be found within our nature as human beings, our expectations, our fantasies, and our primal fears.