Five Favorite Films

Karyn Kusama's Five Favorite Films

by | April 11, 2016 | Comments

(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images)


Karyn Kusama has been at the helm of several projects that warrant numerous viewings — whether it’s the stunning visuals of Aeon Flux or the alternate history of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, things often aren’t as they seem. Such is the case in her new film The Invitation, in theaters now. When I talked to her about her Five Favorite Films, her choices were reminiscent of the kind of work worth pondering that she’s dazzled audiences with over the years.:

Together (2001) 90%

A film of perfectly realized proportions about broken marriages and failed utopian ideals. Slyly understated and very funny, this portrait of a Swedish commune in the mid 1970s is filled with vivid, affectionately-drawn characters, incredibly sympathetic children, and, in the end, a profoundly moving final scene.  When I have lost hope in humanity (which sadly occurs more frequently than I would like) I re-watch this stirringly beautiful film and feel my faith in the world restored.

The Elephant Man (1980) 91%

Though perhaps an outlier in Lynch’s seminal body of work, this film reveals the depth of his humanity and the care with which he attends to all matters of the tragic, the pitiable, and the grotesque. Lynch demands that we align ourselves with the deformed John Merrick, and in bringing the audience so close to the agony of being this man, we approach the same exquisite, unexpected grace that Merrick experiences. Misunderstood and reviled, ridiculed and feared — this is the terrible humanity that Lynch dares to reveal in all of us. We should be grateful for a statement of such compassion and hope.

The Hustler (1961) 98%

I first saw this film in my early 20s, while on a month-long nannying job in Pittsburgh. Having my nights free, I watched movies to while away the time. This movie descended upon me like an intoxicating cloud of nostalgia and bittersweet regret. Paul Newman‘s soul-crushing beauty, Piper Laurie‘s frank intelligence, George C. Scott‘s lizard-like alertness — this was the powerhouse cast of my dreams. While ostensibly a showdown between two very different pool players — Jackie Gleason‘s seasoned veteran, Newman’s distracted con-man — it’s ultimately a searing portrait of ambition run amok and the failure of the American Dream to deliver on its many promises.

The Parallax View (1974) 93%

Here’s a movie with a political conspiracy plot that’s all too real.  Warren Beatty stars in this elliptical thriller, playing a reporter who insinuates himself into a murderously effective multi-national corporation.  Startling, eccentric, and a scary-close approximation of the world we actually live in today, this film continues to stoke the twin fires of paranoia and mistrust.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1983) 90%

This is a movie to watch when you crave good old-fashioned Hollywood glamour. A young Mel Gibson practically sets the screen on fire with his flinty charisma, as a journalist in way over his head in 1960s Indonesia. With a revolutionary turn by the actress Linda Hunt as a male photographer, and Sigourney Weaver as a British correspondent toying with Gibson’s affections, this is a lustrously intelligent entertainment.

The Invitation  is now open in wide release.

  • Lord Slothrop

    Interesting list. And I just watched The Invitation the other night and loved it. Highly recommended.

  • Jack Nick Olsen

    Nice hyphenated adverb.

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