Poets' Favorite Movies
These are films that took me on a
journey and that have stayed with me through the years.
by Jacques Doillon. An extraordinary film about a little girl, whose
mother dies, and who comes to terms with her death. Played by Victoire
Thivisol when she was only four years old. Absolutely breathtaking. I
had the pleasure of working with her in Chocolat.
by Akira Kurosawa. A beautiful collection of short films inspired by
dreams. The photography is stunning.
Uncle Vanya, by Andrei
Konchalovsky. The best film adaptation ever of the Chekhov play. With a
unique sense of humor that is absent from most Western adaptations.
Burnt by the Sun,
by Nikita Mikhalkov. Simply loved this film.
by Andrei Tarkovsky, son of poet Arseniy Tarkovsky. A slowly unfolding
meditation, like a poem.
Au Revoir les Enfants,
by Louis Malle. Very moving, set in a Catholic boarding school during
World War II. Based on his personal experience.
The Double Life of Véronique,
by Krzysztof Kieslowski. A gem.
The Magic Flute,
by Ingmar Bergman. A tale for adults and children alike, with Mozart’s
music. The camera panning the faces of the audience is like a series of
by Francis Ford Coppola. A little masterpiece.
Suddenly, Last Summer,
by Joseph Mankiewiscz. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, with a
screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. A classic.
This was an interesting exercise. I
never really noticed, but most of my all-time favorite movies seem to
star Paul Newman. The Hustler
is one, with Newman as fast Eddie and Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats.
the Sundance Kid
is a movie I watch any time it is on. Redford and Newman pair again in
another entertainer (as was the music by Scott Joplin). I have a legal
background, and loved The
Verdict, about a down and out
ambulance chaser who gets an accident case that reminds him of why he
became a lawyer in the first place.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
was a great performance, as was
and Cool Hand Luke.
I never realized I was such a Paul Newman fan until now.
Another memorable movie for me is
A Streetcar Named Desire.
Brando, of course, ranks among the icons of the industry. But I also
love John Wayne. The Quiet Man
is one of my favorites. Perhaps because it’s set in Ireland, and even
features Maureen O’Hara speaking Irish against the background of
Innisfree. A great movie I can see again and again. There aren’t many
John Wayne films I don’t like, but
is another standout. The one-eyed Rooster Cogburn takes on all comers.
No grit? No, not much. He has a rat writ writ for a rat. I am an
unlikely fan of the western genre, and loved
and The Cowboys.
I am also a big Clint Eastwood fan.
is top of the line. When Clint picks up that bottle and takes a few
swigs, we can see all hell breaking loose. He switches from a broken
down pig farmer to a killer of just about everything that ever walked or
crawled on this earth before our eyes.
While I still can’t pass up a good
Bruce Lee flick, like Enter
the Dragon, I also love
feel-good movies, and most movies with Irish backdrops. Thus, I am
enamored by The Secret of Roan
Waking Ned Devine,
and of course,
which features Johnny Depp doing an Irish accent, and my very favorite
actress, Hélène Cardona.
In John and Hélène's case I was interested in both the
international perspective they could bring to their choices and also in
the idea of movies as a shared experience. I asked them to supplement
their lists with examples of films that had been important to them both.
John: Hélène and I both enjoyed the movie Gloomy Sunday.
We saw it in a local arts theater, where it had run a year straight on
word of mouth alone. The movie revolves around a true life song, "Gloomy
Sunday," that because of its haunting nature, caused a number of people
in 1930s Budapest to commit suicide when they heard it. One of the stars
of the film, Hungarian actress Erika Marzosan, was at the screening.
Although all of the dialog is in German, the actress did not speak a
word of it, but learned her lines phonetically. They had flown her in
specifically for the year anniversary of the run.
Hélène: The Illusionist, directed by Neil Burger, is a
wonderful film that John and I saw recently. It’s a very clever love
story set in Vienna in the early 1900s, beautifully filmed, with a
gorgeous score, great performances and a surprise ending. It’s very rare
now to see a film that leaves you elated and uplifted. The Illusionist
is a magician and the acts he performs are so stunning they are beyond
anything anyone has ever seen. They are filmed in such a way that you’re
witnessing pure poetry.
John: Hélène and I are what you might call “movie buffs.” Of
course, Hélène is in the business, so we attend a lot of screenings and
receive numerous screeners. I am not much of a critic, and am eager to
suspend disbelief wherever possible.
Hélène: John mentioned the screenings, and I have to say the
British Academy has been very good to us. I first entered parallel
worlds reading novels. I’d open a book and would be living in two worlds
at once. Then came the theater (the stage) and movies. The great thing
about growing up as a teenager in Paris is that I’d go see films all the
time. There are movie theaters there that play old classics on an
ongoing basis. So I’d see the new releases and all sorts of films. I
consider the screenplay the backbone of a film. Yet the striking
visuals, a stunning photography, as in Terence Malicks’ The New World,
for instance, and the music, a score as haunting as that of Philip Glass
in The Hours, will tell the story in a very direct way, affecting
you on an emotional level, that cannot be explained intellectually right
away. Film, music and poetry work in the same way, in the sense that you
know you've been moved. But you don't know what happened at first except
that you've been stirred in the depth of your soul. They're
John: Fanny by Joshua Logan. It stars Leslie Caron, who
gives an incredible performance. It’s one of the funniest movies I've
ever seen, and it’s timeless—the dialogue so well written and funny it
keeps you in stitches.
A citizen of the United States, France and Spain, Hélène Cardona
is a poet, actress, translator, interpreter, teacher and dream
analyst. She holds degrees from Hamilton College and the Sorbonne,
Paris, where she wrote her Master’s thesis on Henry James. She speaks
French, English, Spanish, German, Greek, and Italian. A graduate of the
American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, she studied with Ellen
Burstyn at the Actors’ Studio and played Candy in Lawrence Kasdan’s
Mumford and Fuffi Drou in Lasse Hallstrom’s Chocolat. Her
first book, The Astonished Universe, a collection of poetry about
consciousness in English and French just came out from Red Hen Press.
A dual citizen of the United States and Ireland, John M.
FitzGerald is a poet and attorney in Los Angeles. He attended UCLA
and the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, where he was
editor of the Law Review. His poems have been published in
numerous journals and anthologies. Spring Water, a novel in
verse, is a Turning Point Prize selection. His other collections include
The Mind, Telling Time by the Shadows, The Charter of Effects,
and Question Creation. He has just completed his first novel,
Primate, and has turned it into a screenplay. He has lived in
England and Italy, and currently resides in Santa Monica.