Fun Fridays – Director’s Favourite Films – Edgar Wright

Hello Film Doctor friends.

This Fun Friday we turn to another Brit who has conquered the States, Mr. Edgar Wright. After his successful zombie zinger (“Shaun of the Dead”) and crime comedy caper (“Hot Fuzz”), Mr. Wright now adds the third installment to his so-called “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy” – “The World’s End”



Edgar Wright 2013
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Edgar Wright Uploaded by Dudek1337) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
…with Director’s comments for some of them:

  • Carrie (1976, dir. Brian de Palma) // Blow Out (1981, dir. Brian De Palma)I have heard people call themselves Brian De Palma apologists. I am proud to say that I am a huge fan without any caveats. There’s a reason that, back in the seventies, fellow movie brats Spielberg, Lucas, and Scorsese would defer to De Palma as “the filmmaker.” When on form, his work is something to behold. Even the lesser works of De Palma contain flashes of genius, while the best of his movies rank as pure cinema. Blow Out is certainly one of De Palma’s finest. There’s not a wasted shot, not even a wasted corner of frame. In the telling of this audiovisual thriller, De Palma uses Steadicam work, split screens, split diopter shots, and complex optical effects to utterly exciting but never overly flashy effect. Some directors are great storytellers without their presence being felt, but De Palma, much like his cinematic hero Alfred Hitchcock, is a master manipulator of both his medium and his audience. He plays us like an instrument, maneuvers us like puppets, and frequently makes us look where we’d rather not. Blow Out begins with De Palma turning the camera on himself and criticisms against him, then ends with one of the crueller, blacker chapters in cinema.” (E. Wright for Criterion.com, 2013)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972, dir. Luis Bunuel) – As I was a young film fan growing up in a VCR-less household in rural England, my access to international cinema was limited to whatever was playing on the (then) four channels of network television. Which basically meant that Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy and Jacques Tati were some of the only European films I saw until I was in my late teens. During a brief art college stint, my eyes were opened as I was exposed to surrealism. First Luis Buñuel’s Un chien Andalou and L’age d’or, but then later, my favourite film of his, the 1972 masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Dipping into the history of cinema is an exciting yet overwhelming task for some. When appreciating older works, I like to contextualize by tracing back to them from their influences. So if the work of Buñuel ever seems daunting, know this: he directly influenced Monty Python, and John Landis was inspired by this movie for a classic shock sequence in An American Werewolf in London. I know that has now inspired some of you to watch the film immediately. Buñuel has a fiendishly prankish sense of humour to go along with his endless smarts. If you have never watched a film of his, this is a good place to start.” (E. Wright for Criterion.com, 2013)
  • Dames (1934, dir. Busby Berkeley)
  • Don’t Look Now (1973, dir. Nicolas Roeg) // Walkabout (1971, dir. Nicolas Roeg)I am a huge Nicolas Roeg fan and consider this and his 1973 masterpiece Don’t Look Now to feature some of the best editing of all time, with visual and audio juxtapositions that wow even now. “Walkabout” is cinema as poetry. Images rhyme with one another in a truly hypnotic fashion. Scenes are as vivid and intense as they are unreal and lyrical. There’s a phantasmagorical array of images, but also a rigorous, genius sense of structure. Both this film and “Don’t Look Now” open with sequences that encapsulate the movie like thematic overtures. Walkabout’s first five minutes tell you everything while saying nothing: images of the city overlaid with aboriginal music, breathing exercises at a girls’ school that complement the native sounds, an oasis of parkland in the urban sprawl, a lone tree in a concrete square, a patch of swimming-pool blue in an apartment block contrasted with the white-hot nothingness of the outback. It’s a completely stunning collage, one of the greatest openings in all of cinema. And what’s even better? The rest of the movie lives up to it.” (E. Wright for Criterion.com, 2013)
  • Psycho (1960, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) 
  • Head (1968, dir. Bob Rafelson) – Head is my favorite film that stars a musical artist, by some degree. And yes, that includes the brilliant A Hard Day’s Night.  However, the Monkees’ triumph of a movie is a Pyrrhic victory, because Head accelerated their demise, as it sees Dolenz, Nesmith, Tork, and Jones push the self-destruct button. Directed by Bob Rafelson and co-written by Jack Nicholson, the movie shows the Monkees tearing down their wholesome network-TV, pre–Fab Four image with wild style. Much has been read into this stream-of-consciousness movie, with its overlapping dream sequences, surreal song numbers, and drug-influenced chaos. The simplest way of describing it is this: the Monkees are sick of being on their network show and attempt to break out of the studio lot, literally and figuratively. There are several scenes where the Monkees are trapped in a box, a live number where they are revealed to be plastic mannequins, and bookending sequences where the members commit suicide. So basically, the Monkees want out. There have been some claims by the Monkees since the film came out that this message was projected onto it by Rafelson and Nicholson, but the script was clearly born of a very real frustration with their image. The movie bombed in 1968, because not many Monkees fans wanted to know that their idols had painted-on smiles. What remains is a gem of rock music cinema, with great songs and images throughout. Plus, as depressing as the theme of entrapment is, it’s frequently very funny. I got to interview Dolenz about it at a New Beverly Q&A once. A young audience member quizzed him on the deeper themes, and he just replied, “Man, I was twenty-three . . .”
  • This Is Spinal Tap (1984, dir. Rob Reiner) –  Along with “Airplane”,  “An American Werewolf in London”, and “Raising Arizona”, this film is one that I can silently mouth along with every single line of. I don’t know if Reiner, Guest, McKean, and Shearer could have ever known back in 1984 quite how far-reaching the influence of this movie would be. As a British director who made his start in TV comedy, I can vouch for the fact that this film is one of the key texts for every single UK comedy writer, actor, and director of my generation. The fact that it was performed by American actors doing killer English accents just makes that all the more impressive and ironic.  So I cannot overestimate its position as an unassailable comedy classic. Along with Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and Mike Leigh’s 1976 TV movie Nuts in May, it really became one of those movies that create strong bonds in creative partnerships. You either liked Spinal Tap or you were not worth talking to; it became that simple.  And quite right too.  It’s eighty-four minutes of comedy heaven.” (E. Wright for Criterion.com, 2013)

Film Doctor - Edgar Wright's The World's End movie poster

“The World’s End” opens in UK cinemas nationwide today, 19th July 2013.






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