My Own True Love: Cinema


In an attempt to write something different from what I’m accustomed to, which is writing about one film or genre at a time, I decided to write sort of a personal essay talking about my love for the art form as a whole, one that I feel is long overdue. I write this at a dark point in my life, for the sole purpose of finding my way back to what matters most, and to remind myself that two hours of complete surrender to a Fellini picture or a classic noir is enough to make things alright again.

Casablanca (1942)

My love for film emerged in childhood, where I enjoyed classic Disney movies like any happy kid would, but it didn’t fortify until my early teens, when I started delving into “more serious” films and discovering the giants and pillars of the art form. I remember being twelve or thirteen, and watching Casablanca for the first time, my first black-and-white movie. From the titles screen alone, I was hooked. The film felt old, antiquated, and exactly what I had been searching for. It is funny to me now how much I adored, and in a weird sense, related to Rick, the character Humphrey Bogart plays in the film; for that particular middle school kid, life is not worth living if you’re not a heavy-smoking, hard-drinking, temperamental man tormented by love underneath a gritty façade. Casablanca is often called the best script ever written, and while I didn’t know anything about scripts or filmmaking then, its story still captivated me intensely; I understood that it is a story of morals in an immoral city.

City Lights (1931)

That same year, I watched many great films for the first time: A Clockwork Orange, Hitchcock’s Psycho, and the one that stuck with me the most, Chaplin’s 1931 City Lights. That wasn’t my first encounter with silent cinema, or the work of Chaplin, for when my brother and I were little kids, my dad showed us another of Chaplin’s films, the 1928 The Circus. As a little kid, it was as entrancing as any other moving image on our television set, but at that age, and after getting somewhat acquainted with film, its effect on me was beyond spellbinding. What Chaplin does in that film still amazes me every time I rewatch it. The film moves and drifts seamlessly between comedy and drama, happiness and sorrow, laughs and tears, while never being overwhelming, and after what I consider one of the greatest endings of all time, you are left with nothing but a bittersweet aftertaste that perfectly compromises between all polar opposites the hour-and-a-half before it throws at you; you simply accept it.

Love Streams (1984)

Many years of happy moviegoing went by until what I consider to be the moment I truly knew that cinema will forever be my vocation; I went between watching Louis Malle films to binging 80s teen movies, courtesy of the great John Hughes, delving into classic horror movies of the 1970s, to gawking at Spielberg pictures, but the moment I encountered one film, completely by chance, everything would change for me. If before then, I considered movies to be art, perhaps the one most capable to represent reality or warp it, after that moment, movies to me became holy, religious, and an even bigger mystery. The film I’m talking about is John Cassavetes’ Love Streams. Released in 1984 as the director’s swansong, and after a long career, both as actor and director, that spans decades, influences cinema beyond imagination, and includes many masterpieces, Love Streams is not too different from something like A Woman Under the Influence (1974) or Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), but it still has a certain, indescribable, special something that cannot be found in any of Cassavetes’ other films, or any other film really. Love, the lack of it, community, solitude, the quest for meaning...the film takes a vast array of themes and throws them into a blender, and what comes out is as raw and genuine as film can ever hope to get. Upon every rewatch, which at this point, are too many to count, I discover something new in the film, but what still amazes me, is that its initial effect on me is still replicated with the exact intensity every single time; its truth is unflinching in the face of time.

CrissCross (1949)

Here, my taste in film would take two very different roads, and I would happily walk down both of them. While Cassavetes led me to Fellini, Godard, neorealism, British sociorealism, and various ventures of the art house world, my yearning for mere entertainment and my aesthetic obsessions with shadows and smoke would lead me down to film noir, where I again met Bogie, and he, consequently, would take my hand and introduce me to other greats of his golden generation. The Maltese Falcon was a revelation to me: made in 1941 for the second time after an initial 1931 adaptation, the film features a crime and detective story that is as captivating as it is brutal. Once my first viewing of it was over, which I remember was on a lonely New Year’s Eve more than half a decade ago, I found myself with a sudden unquenchable thirst for more shadowy goodness, a thirst that could only be satiated with more of these films. From then on, it was In a Lonely Place, Kiss Me Deadly, Force of Evil, The Third Man, This Gun for Hire, Mildred Pierce...the titles alone would excite me, before I even put the film on.

Citizen Kane (1941)

There are many films that have marked me irreversibly, from Fellini’s Eight and a Half to Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre, Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz to Nicholas Ray’s A Rebel Without a Cause, Robert Altman’s Nashville to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves to Kurasawa’s Ikiru...the list goes on and on, and even after all the films I’ve seen, my thirst for more is still as overwhelming as ever. The knowledge that there’s always more to watch is both intimidating and encouraging; cinema is a vast ocean, and it gets more violent as you swim it, and if I had to go back again and decide whether to entrust myself to its ferocious tides or not, I would do it every single time. To all the heroes I look up to: Cassavetes, Fellini, Kurasawa, Tarkovsky, Welles, Varda, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Allen, Leigh...masters who had nothing but a brush and a canvas, and created out of it the greatest art form, thank you.


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