When hospital forms ask me for my religion, I answer only semi-facetiously: "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!" The world may have its Rwandas and Sarajevos and Chechnyas, but it also has Mozart; and believe it or not, this makes it easier for me to trudge forward and not lose hope in our species. This movie aptly captures the inimical genius that was Mozart, spinning out sparkling gems of human artistry even in the extemporaneous work of his left hand -- not to mention his best moments where ineffable beauty and god-like perfection combine to transport the listener to a parallel universe where "beauty is truth, truth beauty."
"Amadeus," by Milos Forman (1984)
Effectively captures the brutality of war at the same time highlighting the concepts that make it an inescapably "human" endeavor: camaraderie and the quality of sacrifice, the primeval fear in looking one's mortality in the face, the desire to survive. You cannot get a better first-hand look at war without smelling cordite and having people shoot at you. My extended reflections on this painful, difficult film can be read here.
"Saving Private Ryan," by Steven Spielberg (1999)
Gorgeous visuals of vast Egyptian deserts and lush Italian countryside run concurrently with a haunting, elegiac soundtrack by Gabriel Yared that sings of loss, love, and betrayal in what Yeats called the "ragged bone-yard of the human heart." Watch a badly burned man muse over the disaster that irrepressible passion has brought into his life, as he waits to die. "Read me to sleep....," he tells his nurse. She does.
"The English Patient," by Anthony Minghella (1996)
"Blade Runner" by Ridley Scott (1982) The lugubrious dark visuals of this futuristic vision of my hometown, Los Angeles, combine with the plangent, stately observations on mortality stay with one over time. "I have seen spaceships burning over the planet of Alpha 5..." If a human
"To Live in Die and L.A.," by William Friedkin (1985) This movie brings me back to a time when I was young, lived in Los Angeles, lived by my wits, lived on adrenaline, and lived for excitement. The dream of youth, so reckless and dangerous and alive! Life on the edge of a razor, the dark sullen energy of the young.
"Shakespeare in Love," by John Madden (1998) Reminds one perfectly why life holds no value without poetry and romance. If true love exists not and muses are merely myths, then I never read poetry, nor no man ever loved.
"Apocalypse Now," by Francis Ford Coppola (1979) Somewhere between the blurry land of sleep and wakefulness, lies the world out of sorts; and from beginning to end this movie never leaves this landscape of the surreal and bizarre. To watch this film is to enter into a visual nightmare, drifting up a dark river from mere insanity towards complete psychosis. It reminds one that if you travel into the "heart of darkness" in search of monsters, beware of the "horror" you might find: this river leads deep into the increasingly impenetrable jungle of the unconscious mind and its shadowy ghouls and demons, hauntingly and strangely.
"Before Sunset," by Richard Linklater (1995) 14 hours in Vienna, A beautiful scene
A group of average, flawed young people from an average, mid-American city arrive at young adulthood and are savaged by the harshness of the world -- and not all of them survive it. Life is serious, life is earnest. How will you react when the crucible of life holds you in its claws and squeezes? How will your friends fare?
"The Deer Hunter," by Michael Cimino (1978)
Reminiscent of a time when music held an austere beauty that required sensitivity and patience to appreciate, director Mr. Corneau slips us into the nether regions that divide and bridge the world of the dead and the world of the living, to prove the truth that every true husband and wife, lover and beloved (and even teachers and pupils!) know to be real: love is immortal, that the imagination is more important than reality, and art is how we best know this to be true. And so Mssr. Sainte Colombe caresses his basse de viole and makes his music, the sounds of his "pleurs" echoing softly and somberly through the quiescent French countryside, reminding us there is beauty in sadness, even in death.
"All the Mornings of the World," by Alain Corneau (1991)
"To be a wit, intelligence is enough; to be a poet takes imagination." claimed Cardinal de Bernis, piercing the grandeur of kingly courts and understanding the limitations of ambition when it is not accompanied by anything deeper. He was right.
Every true artist lives in a state of perpetual astonishment and rapture, acknowledging that beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world there lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. Nevertheless, the world is full of busy fools hurrying here and there oblivious to the inner music of the soul, the real poetry of life, and always has this been true as success is chased and acclaim courted; but Sainte Colombe reminds us of the beauty and passion inherent in life, even when it is most tragic, when it is lived fully. This, in the end, is our proper study and care: the study of the health of our soul. All else is vanity and chasing the wind, Amen.
"A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes."
he is a poet of the viol, with his somber, otherworldly music. Musicians of his epoch wrote as powdered sycophants to princes and kings who wished to be pleased by graceful, sweet-sounding melodies; Sainte Colombe
Collected works of William Shakespeare
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