What are must-see movies for photographers?
November 16, 2010 4:46 PM   Subscribe

What are must-see movies for photographers? As a photographer I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration. Recently I saw High Art, and was deeply moved by the way the movie conveyed a way of seeing, which I feel is now available as a direction for myself.

I feel influenced by: The Duelists which was shot mostly with natural light. In Bruges showed me beautifully lit interiors; M created a grotesque world with minimal lighting.

I am wondering, what are other films that opened the door to seeing differently, or inspired you as a photographer? Whether directly about photography, or not, please share them below and tell me why are they important to you?
posted by andreinla to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Start with Blow-Up.
posted by BostonTerrier at 4:48 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Under Fire made me want to be a photojournalist.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2010

Well, the obvious choice is Antonioini's Blowup. It still holds some weight today, even though its 60's pedigree is evident.
posted by jeremias at 4:52 PM on November 16, 2010

Best answer: Check out this thread
posted by Lorin at 4:52 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's mentioned in that thread linked by Lorin, but definitely watch the Three Colors Trilogy by Kiéslowski.
posted by yaymukund at 4:55 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kubrick was so intent on having Barry Lyndon shot sans electric lighting, he had to buy a lens originally made for NASA so he could shoot in candlelight.
posted by griphus at 4:55 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

At the top of your list should be City of God.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:00 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a documentary but I found John Berger's Ways of Seeing to be helpful. Recently I found the beginning of Lars von Trier's Antichrist to be visually compelling. Be warned that it can be hard to watch for the graphic subject matter. I don't even know how the rest of the film is because I couldn't finish it.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is interesting as it uses a Lensbaby to show how the main character sees.
posted by acheekymonkey at 5:08 PM on November 16, 2010

The edge of heaven
posted by fire&wings at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2010

The Eyes of Laura Mars. Closer. Rear Window.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:21 PM on November 16, 2010

I should add that Paris, Tx would be high on my own list. If you're into colour photography it's a must see.
posted by Lorin at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the answers! It is very helpful to know what about a film inspired you.
posted by andreinla at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2010

posted by Lobster Garden at 5:40 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cocteau's La belle et la bête (1946) shot by Henri Alekan did it for me in glorious B&W. (For color, the aforementioned Blowup.)

Honorable mention to Malle's first film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, also in B&W. (Music by Miles Davis!)
posted by phliar at 5:47 PM on November 16, 2010

I don't know if it's available on Netflix or if it has ever been in wide release but I saw a great documentary titled The Woodmans. It's about a family of artists, but the focus is on the youngest daughter, Francesca Woodman, who was a photographer. Although she died in 1981 at age 22, I understand that she's become something of a cult favorite among art school students. Her work was rediscovered by a gallery owner who saw one of her photographs at the home of her parents several years after her death.
posted by kaybdc at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2010

On preview, I heartily agree with phliar's recommendation of Alekan's cinematography in La belle et la bête. It is so rich, the middle gray tones are almost like pewter. Alekan was also the cinematographer for Wim Wender's Wings of Desire (one of my all-time favorite films).
posted by kaybdc at 6:07 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Visions of light. (This documentary is kind of a greatest hits of cinematography.)

Here's a preview.
posted by bodega at 6:19 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

La Jetee is a short film constructed almost entirely out of photos.
posted by griphus at 6:27 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rivers and Tides (documentary of Andy Goldsworthy. He does sculptures in natural places using natural things, so capturing them via photo is an important part of his art.)

The Fall (super super fantastic cinematography. Sometimes when I need drawing inspiration, I browse out this screencap gallery)
posted by itesser at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2010

This review of Manufactured Landscapes should tell you whether Edward Burtynsky's film of Chinese urbanization would have what you seek.
posted by thatdawnperson at 6:39 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Verticle Ray of the Sun, or any other film by Anh Hung Tran, for that matter. This film actually compelled me to move to Vietnam.

Any Carlos Saura film. One of Victor Erice's five films. Any film lensed by Vittorio Storaro (of course, when he teams up with aforementioned Saura, it can't get much better).
posted by war wrath of wraith at 7:29 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last Year at Marienbad is visually composed to a degree that I have seldom seen in movies. I'll also second itesser's suggestion of The Fall, which is incredible for its use of saturation and shadow. I also think Kurosawa's work with Asakazu Nakai is beautiful; they worked together on Ran, Throne of Blood, and Seven Samurai, with Ran's pivotal scenes standing out in particular.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:32 PM on November 16, 2010

I also forgot Chungking Express, which has some beautiful visuals.

...and of course Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters, which switches effortlessly between black and white, desaturated realism, and hypersaturated flights of fancy...
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2010

Barry Lyndon, which was shot with ambient lighting appropriate for the period, and Kubrick had special lenses made. It's gorgeous.

Days of Heaven
, shot by the great Nestor Almendros.

Visions of Light is a documentary about cinematography.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:20 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I Am Cuba (forget the propaganda...it's a Russian film about how Americans are destroying the poor Cubans and made during the height of tensions. Absolutely beautiful black and white that resembles a lot of edgy contemporary photojournalism)
Days of Heaven
Barry Lyndon (Kubrick was a photographer first so a lot of his visuals are astounding)
Eraserhead (actually any of David Lynch's films are really good at getting an idea of contemporary photography. you can press the pause button at just about any time in Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive and get a beautiful, artful still image. that technique with the pause button is actually a really good exercise at looking at composition and everything else that makes good pictures. you can't hit the pause button in the middle of an episode of lost and get a good picture. The Office is even worse. but some directors and cinematographers are amazing with what they can pull off in even the most throwaway scenes)
And one of my favorite scenes in recent memory is the opening train robbery in The Assassinationg of Jesse James. The movie didnt stick in my mind, but that scene is visually stunning. Also the strobe-lit fight scene toward the end of Kick-Ass. Completely unlike the rest of the movie and evocative of 60s era flash news photography and bondage-style fashion work like that of Von Unswerth.

sorry for any spelling errors and no links. typing on a phone. for that reason, too, i'm calling this comment long enough already.
posted by msbrauer at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2010

Funny Face.
posted by misteraitch at 12:50 AM on November 17, 2010

Fellini's La Dolce Vita. 1960. A cinematographic masterpiece.
posted by rmmcclay at 1:14 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mabrosi is gorgeous and shot with natural light.

Proof I remember as a slightly skewed take on how photography structures our memories and relation to the world.
posted by OmieWise at 5:08 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the answers! It's difficult to select a best one, so I'm going with msbrauer's list type on a phone.

I also found Lorin's link to a similar flickr discussion useful.

I will soon start screening some of these movies; if you live close to Mar Vista (Los Angeles), CA, PM me -- it would be nice to watch and comment with someone sharing the same interests.
posted by andreinla at 3:31 PM on November 17, 2010

One Hour Photo. Not because of the plot as such but because of the way the film is shot.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:06 AM on November 18, 2010

Response by poster: I'd like to add Cashback.
posted by andreinla at 11:29 PM on December 23, 2010

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