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What I Watch (and a little why)

David Fiore wanted to know what movies other comics bloggers love. I can’t comply with a list of 30 or more like other people, although if I did a longer list, I would have some overlap with those and especially with Eve Tushnet’s. Instead these are the pivotal references in what Dave and Rick Geerling are calling spiritual autobiography, and they seem to come in pairs for me. And since one goal of this is analysis of the links to comics preferences (ok, and simple voyeurism/curiosity and characterization, I assume) I should let it be known that I’ve just realized that most of my favorite superhero stories are fill-ins not parts of storyarcs.

It’s only a roughly ordered list, but I still need to start with A Moment of Innocence, Farsi title Noon va Goldoon, literally Bread and Flower, directed by the Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It’s about autobiography and representation and love and idealism and, well, the loss of innocence implied in the title. In reality and the movie, back in the 1970s young dissident Makhmalbaf attacked a policeman with a knife, trying to steal his gun. Makhmalbaf was jailed for the offense, and the young officer left the force. Years later, Makhmalbaf, now a respected director, reencountered the policeman, who’d shown up at a casting call for extras. They decided to film their story, and this is the result. Each picks a younger version of himself, perhaps a bit more handsome. Each independently (and this is where I have to take the story on its own logic; I don’t know whether Makhmalbaf actually oversaw all the shooting or if he didn’t know until afterwards what the police side of things was looking like) took and trained his younger self to understand what he was thinking and feeling, how to live his memories in the days leading up to the event. That’s all I’m going to say for now in hopes that someone among my readers will then go see it (or has seen it already) but this was heavily on my mind when I started talking about “creation of self through narrative,” and it sticks with me still. No movie has given me chills like the last scene here did, because how people make themselves is the most compelling story.

Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders. I could believe in angels who exist only to pull the tiny fragments of poetry out of life and record them. I know well how that life is not satisfying. And the music!

Moving way back to me as a 5-year-old, Return to Oz was a formative experience indeed. I’d read the books and so my parents took me to the movie, not knowing how much I’d be overwhelmed by the visuals. I grew up without television and remember this and a few other movies I saw as a child as engrossing and amazing movies, so big I couldn’t even really process them. Steven and I saw this last winter and it’s entertaining, but odd. I realize I’m also obsessed with the idea of audience, but I really don’t know how this movie got made. It’s too dark and disturbing for children (and I carried with me a slight distrust of optometrists’ machines, even though I knew that they weren’t quite what threatened Dorothy) and far too simplistic for adults. But it’s lovely, and perhaps where I started an obsession with set design.

I was perhaps nine or ten when I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock on television at my grandparents’. I was surprised to find when I saw it again last year that the scene I remember most vividly didn’t occur onscreen but was merely narrated. Typical! I haven’t seen any of Peter Weir’s films, but I probably should if they can manage the chilling, understated longing and melodrama that captured me then and now.

High school means Heavenly Creatures, and I’ve certainly gone on to watch more Peter Jackson! At the end and for half an hour after my first viewing my stomach was clenched with the thrill and horror of a love not worth killing for and the pain and power of self-delusion. My mother had taken me to see it since I wasn’t technically old enough to get in alone and she, perhaps predictably, was unimpressed and disgusted.

A few years later I developed a not-quite-inexplicable addiction to The Full Monty. It managed to humanize men for me, which seemed at the time like a fairly impressive feat.

And then there’s the last year or so, in which I’ve seen more films than probably any other time in my life, which isn’t saying much. Russian Ark was a standout for its audacity and precision and costumes and for a tiny unspoken subplot about quarreling lovers that I think I see. My favorite, though, was Dirty Pretty Things, almost a template for what I like in a movie. Sensitivity to culture, gorgeous dialogue, strong settings, candid and not exploitative looks at gender and violence as part of an actual story with actual characters. Actually, I’m not sure how it could be replicated, so it probably isn’t a good template, but is an impressive movie.

And then there are life-changing experiences. Casino Royale has opened me up to amazingly ridiculous humor and light-hearted happiness and Burt Bacharach and the Tijuana Brass! And after Annie Hall I cried for three days and then got the first burst of strength to really stop for good.


  1. David Fiore says:

    This is a wonderful “spiritual autobiography” as film list Rose. You, Eve, & Bruce have made me regret that I did not bother to give any reasons for my extremely arbitrary top 30 + 20… I’ll get back to it though!

    You’ve certainly got me thinking that I should see A Moment of Innocence–it sounds like the kind of thing that appeals to me.

    It’s interesting that Annie Hall had the effect on you that it did. I like it a lot, of course, but I tend to remember Walken talking about his driving habits and the lobster behind the fridge more than anything else… but Manhattan, well, that one really gets emotional! Obviously, this doesn’t prove anything, except that every person will have their own unique reaction to a work of art, and that the circumstances in which said art is encountered matters, and we knew that already (that’s what makes these lists great!) , so I’ll shut up now!


    — 30 March 2004 at 7:44 am (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Well, I sort of wish I’d done a longer list, but it seems too hard to try to pin things down like that. It’s easier to say what’s pivotal.

    And you should see A Moment of Innocence, although I really don’t know if other people like it as much as I do, but I think it’s brilliant and one of the most emotionally true movies I’ve ever seen.

    As for Annie Hall, it was all context. Maybe anything would have worked as well there, but it helped to have it be a great tragedy then, and nowI can enjoy the comedy elements.

    And unrelated to movies but having to do with inspiration, we got a copy of The Blithesdale Romance, the Norton (I think) Critical Edition with all sorts of fun secondary sources. I hope to have a book report within the week.

    — 30 March 2004 at 2:08 pm (Permalink)