MARTIM VIAN’S 5 FAVOURITE FILMS – TEXT LUKE TIERNEY
Portugal raised, LA-based, Martim Vian. What a guy. Following on from his WICTV video interview with firm favourite director Ian Pons Jewell talking about Vince Staples – Señorita, we’ve now dug a bit deeper and found out what Martim’s favourite films are. Music video and commercials DOP, Martim has shot with artists Haim, Bastille and of course Vince Staples, as well as Skittles, Axe and Levis within commercials… But who cares about that…
Always one to be succinct with his thoughts Martim has produced a list which started at around 20 films and somehow whittled it down to just 5. A list of classics and obscure champions. A list where you learn even if you’ve already seen the film. So through the eyes of Martim Vian, enjoy.
“Once Upon a Time in America” directed by Sergio Leone
I watched this movie as a teenager and the feeling of nostalgia was so strong afterwards. Years later, when I watched it again, I realized that what made the movie such an “epic” was not necessarily the story or plot, but the way it was executed. Form was such an important factor in Sergio Leone’s filmmaking: the transitions between time periods, the classic camera movements, the sets – they all help create a world that looks real, but somehow feels like a memory by the addition of Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score. To me that’s the most fascinating part of the job – finding ways to tell a story and in the process discover the specific language of a project.
“Funny Games (1997 original)” directed by Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke might be the most brilliant filmmaker alive. I think very few have the control and understanding of the medium as he does. His movies have a technical precision that is inspiring to see, yet from that efficient and almost clinical language comes out something very emotional and gut punching. Funny Games was a movie I saw almost accidentally, when it played on TV in Portugal one night. I couldn’t look away. It’s a raw but very human look into a terrible event and it dealt with loss in a way that just rang so true. Since then, I’ve watched it multiple times and I always react the same way. Despite knowing exactly how it all ends, I’m still pulled in emotionally and manipulated to hope – until the last minute – that something will change this time around and someone will make it out alive. My efforts to analyze it never last more than a few minutes until I become just a spectator again, oblivious to the filmmaking at play.
“Blade Runner” directed by Ridley Scott
I wasn’t especially interested in Science Fiction until I saw this movie. It made me realize how that genre was particularly suitable to highlight certain human qualities or questions that could seem more on the nose in other formats. Blade Runner goes way beyond being a genre film, because at its core it’s so universal, its themes so timeless. The movie is as relevant today as ever, which is a testament to its quality and even rarer for a piece that has to imagine a future world. The cinematography is exquisite in creating not just a beautiful movie, but also an unsettling tone that permeates the film, and works in conjunction with the Production Design to literally build a world, not just capture it. It’s also a fascinating piece of film history, given the difficulties of its making and its editing, and the various versions that came out. When a project I’m shooting is turning into a difficult process, I think of movies like this, and how sometimes the more challenging it is, the better the results might be.
“Taste of Cherry” directed by Abbas Kiarostami
I like movies that aren’t concerned with giving all the answers. It’s easy to get complacent with the act of watching a film these days, and expecting a certain set of rules to be followed, or a series of events to take place in a certain order. When I saw this movie in theaters, I was so much more aware and attuned to the characters because of the way the movie was written and shot. The humanity came out of the littlest things, and those details became the reward for watching – just like the cherries mentioned in the beautiful scene that gives the movie its title. And the mysterious last sequence still makes me wonder today, almost 20 years since I’ve watched the movie.
“Little Children” directed by Todd Field
As a director of photography I interact with almost every department on set and try to learn a bit along the way. Of all jobs, I’m probably most fascinated with that of the actors because I could never do what they do. When you choose a career behind the scenes, the magic of “film-watching” is quickly replaced by the reality of “film-making,” and all the tricks and wires become exposed. But seeing an incredible actor get it right on set, through the lens, can still be a magical moment. The technicalities go away, and you witness something real, which can be a truly rewarding experience. Little Children is a character based movie, focused on people and the nuances of their feelings – and those are the hardest to photograph. While there’s no ticking bomb to cut to for added tension in this movie, the tension surely rises still. The cast and filmmakers are sublime in making us more and more aware of the desires and subtext of each character. Antonio Calvache’s beautiful cinematography is subtle and full of meaning, the hardest balance to strike, I think.