Film In Focus asked Gregory Crewdson to pick five films that influenced him as a photographer. And here they are:
2. NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
3. CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE THIRD KIND
4. BLUE VELVET
Vertigo is one Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films and is a meiaon on the nature of images, identity, and desire. The protagonist falls in love with the image of a woman who, incidentally, doesn't actually exist. Unable to possess her, he finds another woman and tries to transform her into the woman he desires. His romantic obsession culminates in an extraordina scene that takes place in a hotel room, when he is trying to transform the woman. After completing the make-over, she emerges from the bathroom and walks towards him, ghostlike, in a haunting green haze. It is among the most surreal and dreamlike moments in film history.
Night of the Hunter was Charles Laughton's only film as adiector and is among the most haunting and visually stunning movies ever made. Shot in luminous black and white, the film depicts an ordinary small town as a place of dark shadows and secrets. The gothic tale is setin motion when an evil preacher comes to town in search of money, kept hidden by two children at the behest of their deceased father. In his maniacal efforts to uncover the money, he marries their other and then ceremoniously murders her in their wedding bed. The image of her corpse floating among weeds at the bottom of a riverbed is a beautiful as it is terrifying. The orpans' journey down the river in flight from the preacher is a magical play between good and evil, light and darkness, and inocence and corruption.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a Steven Spielberg film which finds a perfect tension between domestic normality and transendence. When Ray Neary witnesses a series of extraterrstrial evens in the night skies over his suburban subdivision, he begins makin a seres of totemic mounds from household mateials. This obsessive activity climaxes with him constructing an extraordinary structure in his living room, built from appliances and backyard debris. This sequence brings the normal and the paranormal together into a perfect and unescapable union.
Blue Velvet is a David Lynch film which reinvents American iconography, to explore the darkes most private fascinations and sinister fixations existing behind the closed doors of an ordinary non-descript town. Jeffrey Beaumnt happens upon a grotesque discovery that hurtles him intthe midst of a decidedly unwholesome series of events, and a journey into the dark characters populating the intoxicating underworld of his town. He becomes dangerously obsessed and illicitly involved with dorothy Vallens, Frank's terrified sexual slave. In an emblematic scene, Jeffrey watches Frank and Dorothy frm inside a closet in her apartment; blurring the line between witness and participant, desire and guilt and love and violence.
Safe is a Todd Hayne haunting, dream like film set in the 1980's in an affluent LA suburb. The protagonist is an empty vessel who wanders through the film as a wanton somnambulist. The heightened colour and carefuly stylized light operate in contrast to her hollow interior. In a central scene, taking place in the aftermath of a failed sexual encounter, the motionless camera witnessesthe despair and anxiety between the protagonist and her husband. As they sit seperately on their bed, the frame perfectly describes their isolated situation.
I've only seen Night of the Hunter, but looking at pictures from the films, I can definitely see how these films have influenced Crewdson's work. In particular Vertigo, Close Encounter of the Third Kind and Safe all resemble a close likeness to Crewdson's photographs. They all have that eerieness that is depicted so well in his photographs, more so in his Twilight and Beneath the Roses series.