Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films with Derek Cianfrance

The writer-director of The Place Beyond the Pines on his all-time favorite movies.

by | March 28, 2013 | Comments

Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 drama Blue Valentine earned strong reviews and confirmed stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as among the best actors of their generation. For his follow-up, the filmmaker has again enlisted Gosling, together with Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, as part of an ambitious, three-part drama on the legacy of troubled fathers and sons. It’s called The Place Beyond the Pines, and it opens in select theaters across the country this week. Here, we talk with Cianfrance about his favorite movies.

GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990; 97% Tomatometer)



First one I’d say is GoodFellas. When I was a teenager I slept underneath a picture of Martin Scorsese. I think GoodFellas is just a perfect film. From an efficiency of storytelling standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint, from a performance standpoint, from a use of music standpoint, from a cinematography and editing standpoint — to me it’s just a perfect movie. That’s a movie I saw when I was 16 years old, when I watched it in a theater 30 times. A perfect movie.

You must have been happy to have Ray Liotta in The Place Beyond the Pines.

I was. When I first met with my co-writer, Ben Coccio, I found out that his favorite movie was GoodFellas, too — so we said, “Hey, why don’t we write a movie together and let’s write a role for Ray Liotta in it.” And then five years later there I was sitting in an audition room with Ray Liotta — it was like, you know, dreams really do come true.

Did you tell him how many times you saw his movie?

Yeah. And he said, “Oh, I only saw it once.” [Laughs] Someday, I think they’re gonna carve his face into a mountaintop.

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1964; 94% Tomatometer)



Next choice I’d say would be The Gospel According to St. Matthew, by Pasolini. I saw that movie for the first time when I was 23 years old. I’d gone to church every Sunday and catechism every week for my whole childhood, but I never paid attention; I was always daydreaming in church — and all of a sudden I went to go see this movie, and I knew everything in the movie. I guess all of my Catholic upbringing I had absorbed through some sort of osmosis. Here was this movie which was this Biblical story which was told so beautifully: the cinema was so simple and so beautiful. He had, you know, Odetta playing “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” as the three wise men found Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. It was, you know… I started sweating while I was watching the movie. The whole left side of my body went numb while I was watching, and I was sure that I was having a heart attack. It was all that I could do — you know, I didn’t want to because it was the greatest movie I’d ever seen — but it was all I could do to crawl out of the movie theater and knock on the projectionist’s door and ask him if I could call my girlfriend. I called my girlfriend and told her I thought I was dying, ’cause I was seeing the greatest movie I’d ever seen, and she showed up. I remember it had been snowing in Colorado and she had all this dirty snow on the roof of her car and I was eating all this dirty snow because my mouth was just parched. And I remember being in the emergency room and thinking that when the doctor walks through, if he looked like Jesus from The Gospel According to St. Matthew, I knew that meant I was dead. Fortunately the guy didn’t look anything like Jesus.

Gimme Shelter (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1970; 100% Tomatometer)



Another one of my five favorite films would be Gimme Shelter, by the Maysles brothers. I spent many years making documentary films between my first film and my second film, Blue Valentine, and I learned to really embrace, and be humbled by life, and by telling a story where you’re telling someone else’s story. And there’s something about the Maysles brothers, and especially that movie, where they were able to witness these moments. Especially with Gimme Shelter, you know, these moments of American history — this concert at Altamont that turned into kind of the bad trip of Woodstock. And I love how they frame it with the band, the Stones, watching the footage, watching their memories; this document, this witness to this incredible time in American life — and this crime, this real crime in America. Also, for nothing else than the moment where Mick Jagger has to watch Tina Turner. Again, like watching the Scorsese movie — and the Pasolini movie — their use of music, you know, is to watch a real rock and roll movie in the theater, with that sound. It’s great.

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963; 93% Tomatometer)



Next one would be Contempt by Godard. The first time I ever saw it, on a VHS copy 25 years ago, I thought it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. Actually, every Godard film I’ve ever seen I’ve hated the first time. But it got re-released a number of years back and I was in New York and saw it at the Film Forum, and I felt like I was seeing Halley’s Comet, you know — I couldn’t believe how wrong I was; how much I’d despised this film the first time I saw it and how much my second viewing was completely the polar opposite reaction. I think the performances, from Bardot and Piccoli to Jack Palance, to, you know, Cotard’s photography and Delerue’s amazing repetitive score… to me it’s one of those Godard movies where it’s a perfect balance between heart and mind, you know? Oftentimes his films are extremely heavy, but this film was not only heavy — you could forever gaze into it on repeated viewings, as it appeals to your intelligence — but it also appealed to your soul. It was a huge, huge inspiration for Blue Valentine, especially the middle section of Contempt, where it feels like this 45-minute sequence where this couple is in their apartment.

A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974; 94% Tomatometer)



The last film I would say — and I could pick many of his films, but I will choose Woman Under the Influence, by Cassavetes. I could also have said Faces, or I could have said The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, or Husbands, or Minnie and Moskowitz, or I could have said Love Streams, but — today it will be Woman Under the Influence. I love the structure of it; its two-part structure — it really feels like a film in two movements. Arguably the two greatest performances of all time, between Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands. You know, it’s a home movie, and everything I’ve been trying to make are home movies — movies that take place inside the house and the family. I love the spirit of Cassavetes’ films, in that he’s casting his wife and his best friend in the roles, and his mother and her mother are in it, and the kids. To me it’s a movie that changes, too, throughtout the course of my life. I know the movie isn’t changing, I’m changing; but when I watch it the movie seems to shape-shift. I remember the first time I ever saw it I thought she was crazy; I remember on the 50th time I watched it I thought she was the only sane person in the movie and everyone else was crazy. I love that about movies that are made with a certain openness — that the audience can kind of participate in the imagination of the characters, you know; of their lives and of the story.


The Place Beyond the Pines is in select theaters this week.


Tag Cloud

Tubi Music Classic Film rt archives Premiere Dates Ovation Emmy Nominations MSNBC japanese green book unscripted Paramount Network science fiction A24 deadpool foreign 4/20 nature 2021 dramedy Elton John thriller saw BET Awards mockumentary Rock social media harry potter DC streaming service Creative Arts Emmys TCA 2017 FX on Hulu name the review Tarantino BBC worst movies AMC breaking bad 72 Emmy Awards Sundance Now classics Fantasy what to watch binge LGBT Logo Baby Yoda satire game of thrones Pirates Comics on TV Emmys Disney+ Disney Plus festival Comedy Central series NYCC zombies monster movies transformers First Look Mindy Kaling Christmas Warner Bros. Sundance TV telelvision tv talk parents best Television Academy BBC One independent DC Comics VICE Podcast 71st Emmy Awards Countdown boxoffice Valentine's Day RT21 natural history toy story El Rey Interview revenge technology comic TCM spanish ABC Signature directors vampires award winner PlayStation ratings OneApp Turner Classic Movies Reality hollywood Dark Horse Comics dogs WGN screen actors guild justice league a nightmare on elm street Pride Month critics Pop space book adaptation fresh Super Bowl all-time Sony Pictures nfl razzies Discovery Channel Star Wars serial killer cancelled TV series CNN A&E The Academy adventure Freeform ABC Family Nominations Spring TV Acorn TV ITV 2019 Pet Sematary australia obituary See It Skip It Writers Guild of America indiana jones Turner Crackle batman Arrowverse Chilling Adventures of Sabrina die hard The Witch Grammys war black cancelled TV shows supernatural Animation spider-man diversity Paramount The Walt Disney Company Sundance Showtime Brie Larson reboot spy thriller SXSW Disney Plus Masterpiece police drama crossover The CW Universal book sag awards travel new star wars movies IFC Films SDCC sports based on movie dceu Funimation free movies dragons finale stand-up comedy south america anthology reviews Amazon comiccon Shudder Reality Competition godzilla Marvel Britbox singing competition 99% Hear Us Out APB Hallmark Christmas movies toronto Marvel Studios Lifetime Christmas movies President renewed TV shows Cartoon Network PaleyFest Sci-Fi Kids & Family Walt Disney Pictures SundanceTV Mary Poppins Returns Action sequels joker Certified Fresh versus Western Amazon Studios TV renewals cancelled television Thanksgiving Black History Month Travel Channel Tumblr docudrama streaming Captain marvel Legendary Lionsgate hispanic Awards superhero Broadway prank ID GoT chucky Polls and Games aliens CBS ghosts cats E3 disaster Set visit BBC America Sneak Peek History Summer Red Carpet BET venice VH1 cars Adult Swim spanish language Country nbcuniversal Superheroes blaxploitation screenings kids X-Men Fox News Columbia Pictures twilight DGA witnail National Geographic PBS TV Land elevated horror USA Network blockbuster james bond Amazon Prime Video BAFTA Oscars OWN teaser robots CW Seed doctor who Hallmark Mystery Pop TV Stephen King 2020 festivals dc stoner 007 halloween tv sequel Heroines RT History zero dark thirty Rom-Com Best and Worst FOX Election women Photos FXX Amazon Prime politics Rocketman talk show 45 Netflix Christmas movies TIFF TruTV worst Holidays MTV kaiju Toys Peacock Anna Paquin mutant Teen Mudbound news Marathons WarnerMedia Family 20th Century Fox cops rotten movies we love Hulu Schedule comic books ESPN Box Office cooking The Arrangement YouTube TV indie emmy awards cancelled cinemax TV One Winners king kong Spike DC Universe Ghostbusters child's play NBC superman scary movies Cosplay Alien The Walking Dead HBO criterion Apple First Reviews pirates of the caribbean 2017 Winter TV Apple TV+ kong Paramount Plus Martial Arts Cannes miniseries fast and furious IFC crime drama asian-american laika Women's History Month mission: impossible 93rd Oscars movie Syfy Exclusive Video Drama GLAAD Trivia psychological thriller YouTube Red Academy Awards Trailer dark slashers 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards discovery trailers San Diego Comic-Con sitcom YA Food Network Epix Nickelodeon TLC Extras Comedy GIFs jamie lee curtis Television Critics Association Apple TV Plus Disney streaming service Quiz biography ViacomCBS cartoon concert Film Crunchyroll Lucasfilm werewolf strong female leads 21st Century Fox Nat Geo USA Marvel Television Awards Tour scorecard TBS rom-coms period drama romantic comedy 2015 richard e. Grant YouTube Premium Rocky CMT Disney comics quibi The Purge Character Guide 24 frames football Song of Ice and Fire Horror latino game show LGBTQ archives high school Binge Guide jurassic park Starz DirecTV Watching Series Film Festival golden globe awards Infographic composers Fall TV popular Esquire spinoff Comic Book TCA Winter 2020 christmas movies historical drama heist movie cults Pixar facebook Shondaland TCA animated Trophy Talk franchise halloween movies Superheroe New York Comic Con children's TV spain Black Mirror political drama hist Avengers Spectrum Originals Biopics romance Chernobyl HBO Go anime medical drama golden globes italian Bravo rotten television Endgame MCU Lifetime TCA Awards canceled Opinion remakes hidden camera universal monsters canceled TV shows ABC stop motion documentaries Musical FX Disney Channel casting crime films 2018 Netflix Ellie Kemper crime thriller Star Trek VOD 2016 video theme song blockbusters Holiday french HBO Max Calendar Tomatazos video on demand Fox Searchlight American Society of Cinematographers Video Games docuseries adaptation Year in Review Mary Tyler Moore TNT documentary psycho Vudu zombie Mary poppins true crime comedies Musicals Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt CBS All Access E! boxing