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The Film That Changed My Life

Friday 16 December 2011, 10:13

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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Blogging about Mark Cousins' documentary The First Movie made me think about the experience that made me fall in love with cinema. In my case it was Krakatoa East Of Java - but what was the film you remember seeing that changed everything.

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The First Movie - an appreciation of Mark Cousins' doc

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    Comment number 1.

    Right Mark isn't going to like this. I was 11 when i first saw Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. It blew me away. I loved it, and I wanted to see more films like it. I watched all the British gangster films I could find; Sexy Beast, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday. It also made me take notice of the work of Martin Scorsese's gangster films (eg. Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets) and Tarantino's (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs).
    I've now finished my first film. But when people ask me what's my most inspirational film, I always say Lock Stock. As it started my passion for cinema, and I've been addicted since.

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    Comment number 2.

    My Dad showed me The Day of the Jackal when I was about 13, and told me simply to watch past the first half hour. The first half hour was very slow and I considered not continuing with it. But, as Dad had said, I carried on past it. I then came to realise how brilliant it was and sat silently throughout the rest of the film.

    It was the first time I'd sat through a 'grown-up' film and that had a sense of achievement - I was delirious that I'd watched, understood and actually enjoyed such a clearly mature film. It made me feel on top of the world.

    And I always remember the credits rolling and Dad saying - 'And that's why it's my favourite film.'

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    Comment number 3.

    In truth I didn't go to the cinema very often until I was about 12, my parents weren't interested. But in 1995 by parents bought me The Lion King on VHS for Christmas and at only 2 years old I was completely captivated I loved it, from then my mum and dad couldn't stop me. They showed me Star Wars and then Jurassic Park which was recorded from the telly. And that was that my love of films was born.

    My experience doesn't come from seeing films in the cinema and I imagine a lot of my generation became fascinated with films due to accessibility of material on home video and TV.

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    Comment number 4.

    Personally, The Matrix. Maybe it's due to time or the fact that the sequels were, for the most part, pretty awful, but I don't think people appreciate how utterly mind-blowing and ground breaking that was at the time.

    And what's more, it blew your mind on every level; the concept was just as brilliant as the action and then of course there were the special effects. It was the perfect movie to (re)introduce a Western mainstream audience to kung fu cinema. All of those outlandish moves you see in Hong Kong cinema was justified by the concept in The Matrix.

    Finally, and people forget this the most, the cinematography is ASTOUNDING, especially in the first half of the movie before Neo's mind is "freed". Some of the angles and way the Wachowski's framed a face were incredible. And then of course the beauty of the "Pills Scene" which is a fantastic metaphor that can be recalled on for believing the harsh truth or ignoring it for bliss.

    In 1999, at the age of 11, this was what cinema was made for. It enlightened me to what you could achieve with the medium. It hooked me and changed my life, it made me want to study philosophy and work in film.

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    Comment number 5.

    I was about 14 years old and entirely uninterested in films when late one night I turned on a TV just as Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies was beginning. That extraordinary first shot, circling dancing drunkards in tune with the incredibly moving score, was a bizarre and unforgettable experience, and the kind of indoctrination into the power of cinema that still has me completely addicted to the medium.

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    Comment number 6.

    For me, it wasn't an individual film, but the fact that once a film you'd enjoyed exited the local 3 screen flea-pit, the next time you'd see it would be years later when it appeared on telly, or finally turned up on video. It was a real case of absence makes the heart grow fonder. I really wanted to watch Blade Runner, Tron, E.T. all the original Star Wars trilogy, even "Blue Thunder" (for God's sake!) but couldn't for years because a VCR didn't turn up in my house until the late 1980s, and the 3 or 4 available channels had limited room for the films I wanted to see.

    My love for cinema was borne out of a longing to just see more and the absence of any means to get a fast fix. Now, with on-demand and DVD by post, it doesn't seem quite so special now - not the event it was 30 years ago!

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    Comment number 7.

    This one's easy:
    I must have been about 6 or 7 dependent on when the rental became available. My Father was a video rental junkie and often dragged me along to the local rental store to pick a film for myself.
    One day I was gazing at the posters and saw one that absolutely captivated me, I absolutely had to see it...

    Big Trouble In Little China

    Unfortunately it wasn't out yet and I had to wait a few weeks, but at that age it seemed much longer. The store handed out these small booklets which detailed new releases and upcoming releases and there was a full page poster for Big Trouble In Little China that I kept obsessing over, making up the story in my head from the various parts of the poster.
    Even at my young age I had seen quite a few films I probably shouldn't as my Father was very much into his action and martial arts films and I'd already seen Enter The Dragon, with the nunchuck scene intact (ITV aired it, odd...), so I was familiar with the tropes and mythology of the genre.

    Finally the day came when my Father finally came home with the film and after my brother and sister had gone to bed, we watched it...

    I was astounded, all my imaginings were nothing as compared to what i was seeing. When it finished I asked to watch it again right away, there aren't a whole lot of films that I've ever felt compelled to watch on repeat but this was my first...

    From there I developed an interest in the works of John Carpenter, aided by the fact that Starman was on TV sometime shortly after solidifying my thoughts that this was the best film maker in the world.

    Since then I've been avidly into film, taking in as much as I possibly could and hijacking my Nan's VHS recorder to tape anything on TV that sounded remotely engaging, I'm kind of lucky that I was left to my own devices as I watched a lot that would have been deemed unsuitable for young eyes...

    To this day, despite some of his later films, John Carpenter is still my favourite director, but he has been joined on that pedestal by Dario Argento.

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    Comment number 8.

    I was five years old when i saw Rumble in the Bronx. But then i didn't fell in love with cinema but in martial arts. So until i became like 17 years old the only thing that really interested me was martial arts. But then i started to buy random dvd's in the store and between one and two years i own over 500 dvd's can name pretty much anyone between Jack Hill And Kurosawa. But the absolute first film that i bought was a French Film. I was eleven and the film is called Total western By Eric Rochant. A true gem thats been completely overlooked. /cheers from Sweden.

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    Comment number 9.

    The earliest recollection of cinema I have was when I was 6 years old. A trip to the Cinema to see Star Wars - Empire Strikes Back. Most children, even adults would have been eager for this event. However, for me this was not the film that caught my attention and made me aware of "cinema/film". Mark you will be pleased to read this...............I fell asleep less than halfway through.

    What really made my eyes open to film was when I was about 8 or 9. Saturday midday/afternoon. Grandstand was a regular feature in our house then one afternoon my dad switched over to BBC2. My first sight of Samurai's. Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. I was hooked from the moment the Samurai were lost in the forest with their horses having been disorientated by the fog that surrounded them. I don't recall if it was dubbed or subtitled, and I am sure I didn't understand what was going on at time, but the vision of the film was enough to pull me in. Then following weekend my dad and I sat down and watched Seven Samurai. My eyes were truly opened.

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    Comment number 10.

    I only started watching films about 4 years ago, one of the films that really affected me was Pépé le Moko (1937). It was French, so I had to read subtitles, in black and white and absolutely fantastic. It isn't Jean Gabin's best film, it isn't the best French film of that time, it isn't even the best black and white film I've seen but it started my love affair with film. Better late than never I suppose!

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    Comment number 11.

    Saw an Italian movie in the Glasgow Film Theatre called Mediterraneo. A group of stereotypical Italian soldiers abandoned on a Greek island during WW2 might not the best movie I've ever seen but it made me realise I could enjoy subtitled foriegn language films which opened up a whole new cinematic world to me long before Crouching Tiger or even Let the right one in.

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    Comment number 12.

    Hi Mark. I'm 21, but my moment of cinematic revelation came comparatively recently, in late 2009. Living in the middle of the countryside and not able to drive at this point, I found it hard to get to the cinema and, as such, watched alot of films on DVD, alone in my room with the lights off and headphones on (a far more immersive experience than 3-D will ever be!) It was in such a way that I watched Let The Right One In, Thomas Alfredson's masterwork. I remember just sitting there in the dark, as the credits rolled, slightly lost, not entirely sure what to do with myself... I then turned on the radio and Beethoven's Pathetique sonata was playing. Within seconds I was crying my eyes out. I havn't watched the film since, terrified that it won't live up to my blissful memories of it, but it was at that moment that I knew cinema was my life. I am now at the university of Manchester studying drama and film and, incedently wrote a rather glowing article about you in the film section of The Mancunion. Check it out, I hope you approve. :)

    http://www.student-direct.co.uk/2011/10/17/all-hail-king-kermode/

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    Comment number 13.

    It was never like that for me. Born in the late '80s, I was, if anything, a video child. And to tell you the truth, my VHS intake wasn't quite that of a cineaist, it mostly consisted of all the boysy stuff my older brother recorded off the telly; a lot of James Bond, Star Wars, Terminator, that sort of thing.

    I know, it's not nearly as romantic as getting hooked via obscure Hungarian cinema, but what began with Star Wars later came to involve Blade Runner and then later Planet of the Apes series - here in Sweden they used to air them all during the summer holidays, and I'd stay up late for each one of them. In all honesty, I only managed to stay awake for some of them, but I like to think I turned out okay.

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    Comment number 14.

    It was never like that for me. Born in the late '80s, I was, if anything, a video child. And to tell you the truth, my VHS intake wasn't quite that of a cinephile, it mostly consisted of all the boysy stuff my older brother recorded off the telly; a lot of James Bond, Star Wars, Terminator, that sort of thing.

    I know, it's not nearly as romantic as getting hooked via obscure Hungarian cinema, but what began with Star Wars later came to involve Blade Runner and then later yet, the Planet of the Apes series. Here in Sweden they used to air them all during the summer holidays, and I'd stay up late to watch each one. In all honesty, I only managed to stay awake for some of them, but I like to think I turned out okay.

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    Comment number 15.

    I am only 19 and so for me it has been a gradual love starting with films like Armageddon, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Dark Knight and Pan's Labyrinth. But one film that did change it all for me was Slumdog Millionaire in March 2009 and it still remains my favourite film

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    Comment number 16.

    It was probably The Matrix for me.
    You really can't deny that when you see the special effects set pieces in that film, they just completely blow your mind. That was the first film I saw that I truely fell in love with.
    However, in terms of a film that solidifies an agreement into the medium of cinema, for me, it has to be Fight Club.
    It was the first time I saw cinema in relation to art.

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    Comment number 17.

    My cinematic Road to Damascus moment wasn't a film - it was a trailer, or, rather, a specific moment lived while watching a trailer. It was the late 1970s. I was eight or nine years old and I had gone to my local cinema with my Mum and two sisters to see The Spaceman and King Arthur or some such forgettable nonsense. We were waiting for it to start when the trailer for a new film, Star Wars, came on. I was blown away by it. It was fast-moving, exotic, unique. While it was running, my Mum turned to me and said, with a big smile on her face, "Doesn't it look exciting?" That was the moment - because, at that moment, I realised - as young as I was - that film could speak to everyone and that a film like Star Wars was not merely the property of one gender or generation but a real force for shared experience and emotion. I have been in love with cinema ever since...

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    Comment number 18.

    I had a moment as a child which started a couple of my obsessions. Aged 7 I saw the opening section of 2001 on the telly, and was amazed. I can't recall why we couldn't watch all of it, but as I was interested my Dad dug out his copy of the book. I have no memory (I wish I did) of just what I made of 2001 at that age, but I loved it. So my love of film and SF perhaps started there.

    I really got into film in my teens, and had a great time going to see things at the arthouse cinema's around Birmingham with some friends. I remember coming out of Short Cuts at the Triangle in Aston, completely spellbound, wondering how my watch could account for the time as I had just been in moment for all of it. I haven't watched it since in case it doesn't live up to that moment, but perhaps 20 years on I should give it a go.

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    Comment number 19.

    I'd always loved films as far back as I can remember. I recall badgering my parents to let me stay up to watch House of Frankenstein (1944) on BBC2 at 12.20am; I was 11. The film that changed it all for me though was The Empire Strikes Back, I was 14. It opened my eyes to the possibility of film and I even persuaded my family to remain in the cinema and watch it all over again.

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    Comment number 20.

    ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, aged 8, in 1963. My dad loved special effects cinema, so we saw plenty, and in those days they were indeed, special. Today this film stands as a monument to Ray Harryhausen’s brilliance - filling the screen with exciting, imaginative creatures that had power and personality. I feel sorry for today’s young cinema audiences - digital effects have become so commonplace that they are no longer ‘special’. Back in the day, a film like ‘Jason’ was a rare and special treat, while today a new effects-driven movie hits the screen just about every week.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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