Hey everyone! I’ve decided to start this blog for my musings about movies (and, on occasion, TV). And for my first post, I wanted to talk about that quality that so many of my favorite movies have — visual appeal. I love a director with a unique eye—Sofia Coppola’s languid, low-contrast femininity, Wes Anderson’s sharp right angles, Joe Wright’s lavish period pieces. For me, a film is as much about the visual sensory experience as it is about the plot.
Not quite cinematography, and more than just production design, what makes a film visually/aesthetically stunning is hard to pin down. It’s a combination of color, framing, visual complexity, and a little dose of movie magic. In no particular order, here are five films that most take my breath away.
1. Atonement (dir. Joe Wright, 2007)
Wright uses the classic trappings of other period romances (Pride and Prejudice, to name a standout) to belie the darker and pessimistic nature of this film. Warm sunlight, lush and verdant dusks, and London’s high-contrast cobblestones provide the backdrop, here, for an unsettlingly unhappy relationship.
2. The Fall (dir. Tarsem Singh, 2006)
An epic tale-within-a-tale of breathtaking proportions, every shot is equally stunningly composed, shot, and edited. The colors vivid, the framing vast, the story takes place in a world without limits, each shot extending in every direction seemingly forever.
3. Life of Pi (dir. Ang Lee, 2011)
Pi’s story takes place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, itself an unexplored world and a verifiable no man’s land. Thousands of miles from any living soul other than the boy and his boat, nature’s phenomena seem almost like they weren’t meant for human eyes. We are not worthy of such beauty, it seems to be saying. But here is the merest glimpse of it.
4. Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze, 2009)
Sparsity and negative space reflect the quiet loneliness and melancholia unique to childhood. Everything is just on the wrong side of accurate, the proportions just strange enough, to exist in the neither-real-nor-unreal world occupied by Max’s Wild Things.
5. Azur & Asmar (dir. Michel Ocelot, 2008)
This animated film—an epic tale of princes, a North African princess, and a quest for knowledge and a mother’s love—uses rotoscoping to create a surreal, almost paper doll-like effect. Paired with over-saturated colors and crisp, clean lines, the film plays out like a dream-child of Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights and a shadow puppet’s play.
1. Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides (1999)
2. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001)
3. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes (2014)
4. Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
5. Pretty much anything and everything by Wes Anderson.