Our Essentials series is an interview format we run with film and video directors. We ask directors to name key and influential works under the film, campaign, and music video categories. The series aims to broaden horizons of reference and acknowledge works from the back catalog.
You can check out one of AB/CD/CD’s shorts below:
Server Room (2019)
Directed by AB/CD/CD
Below are AB/CD/CD’s picks and what they had to say:
La Collectionneuse (1967)
Directed by Éric Rohmer
Truffaut used to say that films were here to teach us how to live and to see how other people live. With Rohmer, you’re here to witness how characters live casually on the edge of morality. The philosophical depth that comes as a result of this is, to us, one of the greatest qualities a movie can have. This film also has a great plot: dicks fighting for a girl… Visually it’s minimal but still very charming with very good compositions and color palettes shot in 35mm, and despite the distance from the acting we are stuck in the action. The performance of French artist Daniel Pommereulle playing his own role is fantastic and so funny.
Clément: This film, like any of Rohmer’s films, doesn’t use music. No music makes good movies much better for me. Like in a good restaurant, there’s no music.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Directed by Orson Welles
This is quite the opposite of Rohmer in a way. As directors, we always love telling simple stories in an original way. With ‘Citizen Kane’ the script and the direction are so original that is a little bit more complex, this film was so modern at the time and still is today. It defined a new way of telling stories visually, the framings, lighting, FX, all of which is still working today, insane. More so, it was the 1st feature film of Orson Welles, can you imagine? It was a bunch of young guys doing cool stuff how they could, which is always a great energy in any project. Emotionally this is a rollercoaster going up and down. We are following the entire life of our hero, in a magical piece of work. What else to say? Rosebud.
Directed by Harmony Korine
Like ‘Citizen Kane’ this was the first feature film that Harmony Korine directed. It’s raw and stylized at the same time. The image of Jean-Yves Escoffier defined the aesthetic of the ’00s. It was a massive shock watching it at the cinema. The direction seems to follow the actors’ misbehaviors wherever they go. It’s probably not the case (as most of it must be planned in a way – the costumes for instance) yet nothing feels artificial. It’s immersive, real, on the edge, the narrative is strong. The soundtrack helps a lot with the ambiance, it is quite a musical film.
Camille: 2 years ago when I was directing a doc about black metal (Bleu Blanc Satan), I had this film always somewhere in my mind, the mixed sources, proximity with characters, the intensity of the characters, these are things that massively influenced me.
Ghost In The Shell (1995)
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Anime is a big part of our visual education, and we are always using it in our projects in one way or another. Ghost in the Shell is at the top with its metaphysical theme and dystopian monologues. It’s highly philosophical and haunting, for instance when we wrote ‘Server Room’ we discussed a lot about it. It’s also one of the best soundtracks ever, gathering two different cultures and what emerges is something so strong artistically, it gives you goosebumps each time you see it. The idea of the film is not so far from Blade Runner, another film we love that still feels relevant to today.
Punishment Park (1971)
Directed by Peter Watkins
Both theme and direction are stunning. We’re quite fascinated by reality vs artificiality, how blurry the lines are in real life and in cinema. Being a director is to control a message, making it true emotionally, whatever film you’re making. The truth of Punishment Park is huge yet everything in it is fake. Except for the actors I guess, they are real people… And like in Gummo or La Collectionneuse, the camera captures its actors. It lets them act but also be who they are. With a camera that witnesses, with long shots, there’s a lot of space given to the actors and their expressivity. It gives a lot of floating moments that are much more eloquent than “efficient” performances.
Now the accuracy of the story within it’s absurd setup is very disturbing and absolutely genius. It feels so obvious and simple. And as often with great films, it resonates with news stories today…
Essential: Music Videos
‘Turn Down For What’ DJ Snake // Lil Jon (2014)
Directed by Daniels
It’s so great when you see someone just proposing an idea, people going for it and the result being pure fun. A lot of guts and creative energy and less thinking things through too much! We’re missing a good old ‘Just go for it’ from time to time! It’s a kind of remake of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Push the Tempo’ but it’s still so good! Well done guys.
‘All Is Full of Love’ Bjork (1999)
Directed by Chris Cunningham
We are huge fans of Chris Cunningham, he’s always been artistically challenging, only working with great artists. We’ve always been more interested in videos that are more conceptual, formal innovating, more than the performance videos. Yet a great video finds a way to show the artist. There is no better example of that than this video, how Bjork is portrayed here and integrated into the (very minimal) narrative. It is visual perfection, nobody has done it better yet. Not so many videos are so simple yet so poetic and hypnotic like this one, with a beautiful song.
‘Invisible Light’ Scissor Sisters (2010)
Directed by Canada
This video is a masterpiece on so many levels. The theme is incredible: a pop video with psychanalytic images and situations. Paul Verhoeven said once that there are only 3 main subjects: sex, god and violence… mix two of them and you have a great film.
Creating meaning in a music video is a bigger challenge than it seems. Most of the time it is gimmicky, botched or feels out of context. And who would have thought that recreating Bunuel’s shots wouldn’t be sketchy? They had the guts and the intelligence of understanding what they were recreating (and interpreting!!) which is not the case of most of the people who try to do the same.
Their approach defined a style and is still very modern in way… and their sense of rhythm is incredible.
‘cellophane’ FKA twigs (2019)
Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang
A great music video is always the perfect track matching the perfect visuals, precision and sharpness, feelings. Of course, we love directors who develop their own/particular style. This is excellency. There is a very special ambiance, it’s surreal, FKA twigs’ performance is unexpected and strong. The film develops in the mental environment of Andrew Thomas Huang and it is massive. It looks crazy but if you look carefully everything is ‘simple’ and perfectly executed. Doing only the necessary things in the right way to tell the story, and keeping it minimal, is something we try to aim in each project. It’s not that easy.
‘Questions’ Direct TV (2012)
Directed by Tom Kuntz
Tom Kuntz and John Cleese from the Monty Pythons! What?! The best commercials are the ones that make us laugh. We love to laugh. Period.
‘Flora’ Gucci (2009)
Directed by Chris Cunningham
Cunningham again. He’s a director that gave us the will to do the job we’re doing. This particular film is a seminal work to us, it accepts its references from the anime world with a lot of attention to movements and giving superpowers to the girl, close to witchcraft. Insane and fatal.
‘Egoiste’ Chanel (1990)
Directed by Jean Paul Goude
On top of being the result of an era where you could replicate a building for a commercial, it’s strong and haunting. The world of fragrance is so shallow yet Jean Paul Goude has always been able to bring fun, style and therefore meaning to it.
‘Odyssey’ Levi’s (2002)
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
The force of commercials is the opportunity to do strong visual metaphors that the audience can embrace and identify with instantly. Here, a couple literally breaking through walls is simple and awesome. It’s straight forward. And, as we go, it multiplies, gets bigger and bigger. The execution is perfect.
Camille: Nicolas Duvauchelle (the actor in the commercial) lives above my flat… I wake up at night worrying that he might fall through the ceiling.