Movies have without a doubt been the most profound and constant source of inspiration to me as a designer - to me, nothing beats an immersive, layered narrative with beautifully art-directed visuals and wonderful composition.
Here is a list, in neither chronological or favorite order, of the movies that have inspired me, challenged me, changed me and moved me the most.
The Color of Pomegranates, a 1968 Soviet film, written and directed by Sergei Parajanovis, is a biography of the Armenian Ashug Sayat-Nova (King of Song) that attempts to reveal the poet’s life visually and poetically rather than literally. I saw this at college and it blew my mind - presented as a series of static tableaux depicting the poet’s coming of age, discovery of the female form, falling in love, entering a monastery and dying, all framed through both Parajanov’s imagination and Sayat Nova’s poems. Rent immediately.
Koyaanisqatsi is a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass. It consists primarily of slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and many natural landscapes across the United States, and contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music. Years later, Madonna plagiarized to great effect for “Ray of Light.”
Hitchcock, bien sur. The Birds is a 1963 horror film loosely based on the 1952 story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier. It is set in Bodega Bay, California which is, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks over the course of a few days. Crazy, utterly unbelievable, and of course Tipi Hedren rowing across a lake in a twinset and heels.
Diva. The one that I still, to this day, have on my laptop in case I have a content-crisis-of-faith. Jean-Jacques Beineix art directs every single frame so completely that you could literally freeze at any random moment and it would still be perfect and beautiful. And the best soundtrack, hands down, ever.
Now Voyager. Betty Davis and her eyes. The original (and still the best) makeover movie.
The Big Blue. Of course, Jean-Marc Barre and Jean Reno, but also amazing underwater photography, music by Gabriel Yared, dolphins and coastal France. I went through a serious “Big Blue Phase” as a young fashion art director.
Rosebud. Citizen Kane. Panned by critics on its release, it has subsequently been voted the greatest film of all time in each of the last five Sight & Sound’s polls of critics, and is particularly praised for its innovative cinematography, music, and narrative structure. Taught me the power of lighting, and of suspense in narrative.
Too gay, but I will say it. The House. Sleeping With The Enemy taught me the value of fantastic set dressing, created a lifelong obsession with beach houses (which I thankfully now have) and of course, Julia Roberts as the perfect victim.
Alien. HR Geiger is a total genius, and this looks as modern now as it did 1981 when it was released. The ultimate pervy fetish serpentine lizard-monster, the best lighting ever (perhaps next to Ridley Scott’s other classic, Blade Runner) and amazing characterization with Sigourney Weaver’s tour-de-force Ripley. Breathtaking.
Sci-fi meets reality show. The Andromeda Strain was the best of the 70’s genre. Amazing, scary in it’s minimalism, showing almost nothing, but the silence was terrifying. And the art direction still looks great today.
The Sound of Silence. The Graduate was Mike Nichols at his best, a beautiful narrative and storytelling, fantastic visuals (Dustin Hoffman sinking to the bottom of the pool whilst his party goes on overhead is a classic) and incredible acting. Anne Bancoft as the original cougar.
I love me a teen girl movie. Clueless, Mean Girls, Heathers and Bring It On are on constant rotation on my laptop. Visual and intellectual Xanax, in the best possible way.
Nine And A Half Weeks. OK, the film is crap, but two things inspired me: Mickey Rourke’s SoHo loft made me move to New York, and his wardrobe (matching rows of Yohji Yamamoto pants and white shirts) is a dream I still have. Shallow, but there you go.
The Curse of the Golden Flower. Just. Breathtaking. I am humbled by director Zhnag Yimou’s bravery, sense of scale, color, set design, costume. Everything is mega.
Blade Runner. Sheer genius. Everything. I quote the movie more than any other, as my colleagues can attest.
Betty Blue 37°2 Le Matin. I saved the best for last. No movie has ever moved me so, inspired me as much, constantly occupied my thoughts, perhaps even been part of creating my career. Narrative, art direction, color palette, music and acting in perfect harmony. Again, I bow to Jean-Jacques Beineix. So visceral you can almost smell the garlic and sex. Genius.