5. The Belly of an Architect (Peter Greenaway, 1987)
Obsession for Etienne-Louis Boullee
It’s almost redundant to talk about obsession in a Peter Greenaway film, given the man’s obsession for architecture and Flemish paintings. Every one of his movies seems to be reenactments of the director’s passion for fine arts. “The Belly of an Architect” features spectacular scenery and architecture from Rome that, somehow, fits perfectly into the story.
The plot follows American architect Stourley Kracklite (Brian Denehy) and his ambition of opening an exhibition dedicated to the art of French architect Etienne-Louis Boullee in Rome. Doubt arises among his Italian colleagues about the legitimacy of Boullee among the pantheon of architects because it is known that he has hardly completed his works and that he was the main inspiration for Hitler’s choice of architecture.
As the deadline for the exhibition approaches, Kracklite’s obsession deepens and he starts to neglect his personal life – his wife (who has accompanied him to Italy) feels left out and starts to seek refuge in the arms of an Italian playboy. To make things worse, Kracklite discovers that he has stomach cancer and that his days are numbered.
In a strange way, Kracklite’s obsession, his disease and the imminent disillusion of his marriage evolve together harmoniously – only Greenaway could make these three elements work together. Kracklite begins to write letters to Boullee expressing his dissatisfaction with the exhibition, his suspicions of his wife infidelities and the sad fate of the true artists.
As the disease starts to take over his belly, the architect wonders if there is a parallel between art, life and death; all of these thoughts and inner monologues (expressed in his letters to Boullee) are alternated with breathtaking images of Rome and its’ superb architecture. Kracklite feels that only Boullee – or at least the perfect Boullee that was built in his obsession – can understand him and hopes that he, like his idol, will not be forgotten.
4. Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999)
Obsession for Django Reinhardt
Woody Allen has always had an affinity for jazz music and with this movie he finally conveyed his passion to the big screen. The film is set in the 1930’s (the golden age of jazz) and tells the story of fictional musician Emmet Ray (Sean Penn). Emmet is a very talented musician but lacks any kind of talent in the other areas of his life; he is an egomaniac, a drunk and very shallow when it comes to women.
Emmet believes that falling in love could seriously jeopardize his musical career. Because of his beliefs he chooses to get romantically involved with a mute whom he thinks will always be at his disposal for lack of a better partner. But there is something that Emmet loves more than music and that is Django Reinhardt.
In Emmet’s mind Django Reinhardt is God and nothing in the world can change that; not his girlfriend, not his friends, not anybody. Woody Allen shot this film as a mockumentary alternating scenes from the movie with real-life interviews of people testifying on the existence of Emmet Ray and his sad life (among whom jazz critics Nat Hentoff, Douglas McGrath and Woody Allen himself).
Despite his ups and downs in life, Emmet never stops believing in himself and his talent and keeps pushing forward. There is a marvelous scene where Emmet (down on his luck at the time) is involved in a car accident with none other than Django Reinhardt. The spirit of Django governs the entire movie as Woody Allen pays homage to the wonderful world of jazz in its heyday, to Fellini’s “La Strada” and to all the unknown artists that make our lives rich.
3. Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008)
Obsession for Charles Bronson
Despite its title, this movie is not the biography of Charles Bronson but of a man obsessed with Charles Bronson. This movie is the unconventional (and partly fictionalized) biography of a very unconventional violent offender named Michael Gordon Peterson.
When he was just 19 years of age, Michael Gordon Peterson wanted to make a name for himself, so he robbed a bank with a sawn-off shotgun. He was quickly captured and imprisoned. Peterson had changed his name into Charles Bronson, after his favorite movie star.
Peterson tried to model his persona after Bronson’s character in the “Death Wish” films but he managed to “achieve” more than that. His violent behavior led to him spending most of his adult life in the solitary confinement cell of the Luton Prison. His violent outbursts are not quite explained in the film leaving the audience with the choice deducting their own conclusions.
Watching the movie one cannot really tell if Bronson is the voice of rebellion against the abusive prison system or if he is just a violent sociopath. The film has a very interesting narrative form – Bronson narrates his life with humor, blurring the line between comedy and shock horror.
Tom Hardy is excellent as the famous criminal; his performance won him praise from Bronson himself, who even shaved off his mustache and gave the hair to hardy so that he can wear in the film. “Bronson” is one of the most innovative films of the 21st century and it will definitely leave a strong impression to anyone – no exceptions.
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Obsession for Jesse James
This film is not your average western; in fact this film has very little to do with the western genre. Andrew Dominik’s film deals with delicate subject such as obsession and its terrible repercussions, the thin line between love and hate and the sad life of a man with no goals in life. It is considered a western because it deals with Jesse James and his outlaw gang but he’s just a pretext to make its philosophical themes more easy to comprehend by the general audience.
The beauty of the shots, the nostalgic gentleness feel and the breathtaking landscape are visible influences from the great Terrence Malick – influences that director Andrew Dominik has acknowledged. Aside from playing the lead character Brad Pitt also acted as producer on this film and made sure that the title of the movie will not be changed for commercial reasons, by adding a special clause in his contract.
The movie is set in the second period of the James gang, when Jesse (Brad Pitt) and his brother Frank (Sam Shepard) tried to reform the outlaw pack. It is in this time that the Ford brothers arrive in the scene seeking acceptance into the gang. Charley (Sam Rockwell) and Robert (Casey Affleck) Ford are outlaws themselves and see their acceptance in the gang as a form of recognition. Robert Ford is obsessed with Jesse James and knows everything there is to know about him.
There is a wonderful and frightening scene where Robert is provoked to state his facts about Jesse James with Jesse present in the room. He starts reciting Jesse’s life with an exceptional accuracy impressing and scaring at the same time everyone in the room. Robert Ford believes that he too can become like his idol and searches for details in his life that match that of Jesse James’.
The two never really develop a friendship – because of Robert’s straightforward adulation and Jesse’s uneasiness towards him – but become rather close due to a series of circumstances. As Jesse James’ reign comes to an end the famous bandit becomes paranoid and his fear of betrayal reaches maximum heights.
In this state of confusion Jesse James comes to believe that Robert Ford might be his only friend. Robert unconsciously takes advantage of this and agrees to murder his idol in order to become him and free himself of his terrible obsession. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is well-deservedly called a masterpiece of the 21st century.
1. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Obsession for 70’s rock bands
Based on director Cameron Crowe’s own experience of touring with rock giants, such as The Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin, as a journalist for “Rolling Stone Magazine”, “Almost Famous” is a film than can make even the coldest of souls fall in love with music. Although the main characters are fictional, the music scene depicted in the movie is not.
“Almost Famous” tells the unorthodox coming of age story of William Miller (Patrick Fugit), a baby-faced teenager and devoted fan of rock music. William gets the chance of his lifetime when he is given the opportunity to follow fictional band Stillwater (based on The Allman Brothers Band) on the road and have his article published in the “Rolling Stone” magazine. What follows is the true life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
William falls in love, loses his virginity, experiments with drugs and alcohol and gets sucked in a world where the party never ends. The world depicted in the first part of “Almost Famous” is the dream world of any music lover; however Crowe does not want to over-glorify the rock’n’roll world and insists on presenting the flip-side of the coin and the dangers of obsession, drug abuse and casual sex.
The supporting characters in this movie are a clear example of starstruck obsession. It’s not just the groupies that sleep with the band members (or as they put it in the film: worship their music), it’s the teenagers (male and female) that worship the bands and fantasize about touching them, talking to them and getting their attention just for one second.
In this movie you will find teenage girls going crazy just at a sight of a limousine which supposedly has the members of Black Sabbath inside, groupies traded off between bands at poker games, a teenage boy in complete shock because he saw Led Zeppelin in the hole way of a hotel, a group of partying teens cheering a rock star that’s about to jump of a roof and many more.
William Miller records all these actions in his article but most importantly in his mind. The fictional band Stillwater is just a pretext to expose the viewer to a crazy but wonderful time to be alive.
Author Bio: Horia Nilescu is a 30-year-old cinephile from Brasov, Romania. He works at a local bookstore as a multimedia & events manager (handling supplying issues in regards to cd’s and dvd’s and also organizing local events). He is passionate about film and fascinated by its diversity. He has created a local film club in Brasov (going of 3 years) in which he handles all aspects. He likes to talk and write about movies but most importantly he likes to watch them.