The films in this collection exhibit a distinctive visual flair that often eschews the mandates of realism in favor of a hyper-stylized mode of storytelling. Whether through visual effects, a purposeful use of color and lighting, or cinematography, these visual stunners make a lasting impact.
Take a closer look at four of the films from the Stylistic Stunners Collection:
The Third Man (Lionsgate, 1949)
The Third Man takes place in Vienna where an American pulp novelist (Joseph Cotten) arrives and learns the old friend (Orson Welles) he was to meet has died in an accident. Thus begins his tangled search for the truth. This British masterpiece from 1949 employs the provocative, expressionist visual style typical of the classic era of film noir. The use of harsh lighting and high contrast creates a shadowy world where viewers are lured into the mysterious, foreboding darkness of nighttime Vienna. Striking, often disorienting camera angles frame people and locations in a way that captures both the torment of the characters and the zeitgeist of the post-war era. With its atmospheric aesthetic style that so brilliantly conveys mood and allusion, The Third Man is not to be missed.
THX 1138 (Warner Bros., 1971)
THX 1138 marks George Lucas’s feature directorial debut. The film, starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance, depicts a man who breaks free of the rigidity imposed by his dystopian, 25th-century society. In this bleak, Orwellian future, bald-headed worker drones are kept in line by an android police force epitomized by iconic, emotionless masks. The use of stark white, underground spaces and tight camera angles creates a sense of intense claustrophobia that brilliantly depicts the amount of control imposed upon members of this society. Minimalist set and costume design, innovative locations and an evocatively bizarre soundscape bring this vision of a society devoid of emotion alive on the screen in an unforgettable way.
Hero (Lionsgate, 2002)
Acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou makes his first foray into the wuxia genre with 2002’s Hero. In the film, a nameless character (Jet Li) recounts his battle with three powerful assassins to the ambitious, yet isolated King of Qin. Hero uses bright, saturated colors in an almost painterly style, along with brilliant action choreography and stunning cinematography by Christopher Doyle. These elements combine to create a masterful composition and a stylish, dazzling spectacle. In the fight between Moon (Zhang Ziyi) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), the two women fly through a yellow forest of falling leaves as their red robes swirl and float weightlessly through the air. When Jet Li faces off with Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) atop a mirrored lake, the tips of their toes and swords gently break the surface of the water as they battle overhead. As Roger Ebert notes, “[Hero] demonstrates how the martial arts genre transcends action and violence and moves into poetry, ballet and philosophy.” Hero is a beautiful, spellbinding epic for cinema fans of all kinds.
The Fountain (Warner Bros, 2006)
The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, is a meditation on love and the fear of dying; a rumination on the Fall of Man and the human thirst for eternal life. While narratively the film is an abstract odyssey through time, the power of the film lies in its visual splendor. As the character Tom Creo floats through space in a transparent orb containing the Tree of Life, the swirling brilliance of the universe comes alive all around him. To create this vision of the universe, director Darren Aronofsky shied away from CGI and instead turned to an organic source. Through macro photography of natural elements and fluids, the visual effects team created truly innovative, remarkable space sequences that shimmer and float across the screen. The result is a transcendent, timeless view of space not constrained by the limits of digital technology. In addition to these sequences, the entirety of the film relies on lighting, color, and strong visual motifs to convey its spiritual and philosophical themes. While the film leans toward excess, both visually and narratively, it is undeniably and uniquely beautiful.