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Photographers Share Their Influential Films

Favorite Influential Films

Photographers Share Their Influential Films

Five photographers share the films that influenced them most.


Gregory Crewdson's Five Favorite Films


Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest film is a meditation on the nature of images, identify, and desire. The protagonist, Scottie, falls obsessively in love with the image of a woman, Madeline. He is, essentially, obsessed with a mirage - as this woman does not actually exist. Unable to possess her, he finds another woman, Judy, and tries to transform her into the woman he desires. Unbeknownst to him, the woman he is shaping and the woman he desires are the same person. His romantic obsession culminates in an extraordinary scene that takes place in a hotel room, when he is trying, fixatedly, to re-make Judy in Madeline’s image. After completing the makeover, she emerges from the bathroom and walks toward him, ghostlike, in a haunting green haze. It is among the most surreal and dreamlike moments in film history. The film’s lush, saturated beauty can barely contain the profound sense of loss and regret that exists beneath its shimmering surfaces. [Buy]


Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is among the most haunting and visually stunning movies ever made. Shot in luminous black and white, the film depicts an ordinary small town as a place of dark shadows and secrets. The gothic tale is set in motion when an evil preacher comes to town in search of money, kept hidden by two children at the behest of their deceased father. In his maniacal efforts to uncover the money, he marries their mother and then ceremoniously murders her in their wedding bed. The image of her corpse floating among weeds at the bottom of a riverbed is as beautiful as it is terrifying. The orphans’ journey downriver in flight from the preacher is a magical play between good and evil, light and darkness, and innocence and corruption. [Buy]


Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg’s epic film finds a perfect tension between domestic normality and transcendence. When Roy Neary witnesses a series of extraterrestrial events in the night skies over his suburban subdivision, he begins making a series of totemic mounds made from shaving cream, mash potatoes, and other household materials. This obsessive activity climaxes with him constructing an extraordinary structure in his living room, built from appliances and backyard debris. This sequence brings the normal and paranormal together into a perfect and inescapable union. [Buy]


Blue Velvet

David Lynch’s film reinvents American iconography, to explore the darkest most private fascinations and sinister fixations existing behind the closed doors of an ordinary non-descript town. Bright saturated color turns into darkness. Jeffrey Beaumont, a wholesome, innocent, young man, happens upon a grotesque discovery that hurtles him into the midst of a decidedly unwholesome series of events, and a journey into the dark characters populating the intoxicating underworld of his town. He becomes dangerously obsessed and illicitly involved with Dorothy Vallens, Frank's terrified sexual slave - a beautiful and mysterious woman. In an emblematic scene, Jeffrey watches Frank and Dorothy from inside a closet in her apartment; blurring the line between witness and participant, desire and guilt and love and violence. [Buy]



Todd Hayne’s haunting, dreamlike film is set in the 1980s in an affluent Los Angeles suburb. The protagonist, Carol White, is an empty vessel who wanders through the film as a wanton somnambulist. The heightened color and carefully stylized light operate in contrast to Carol’s hollow interior. In a central scene, taking place in the aftermath of a failed sexual encounter, the motionless camera witnesses the despair and anxiety between Carol and her estranged husband. As they sit, separately on their bed, the frame perfectly describes their isolated situation: the décor, lighting and mirroring, all heightening the gulf between them. [Buy]

Gregory Crewdson
Gregory Crewdson - LEADPHOTO

Gregory Crewdson was born in Brooklyn in 1962, and grew up in the borough’s Park Slope neighborhood. In his teens, he played in the band The Speedies, whose first single, “Let Me Take Your Foto,” anticipated his future career. He attended SUNY Purchase, where he was taught photography by Laurie Simmons and Jan Groover, and subsequently gained an M.F.A. in photography from Yale. Since choosing the area as the subject of his Yale graduation thesis, Crewdson has drawn inspiration from the town of Lee, Massachusetts, where his family has a cabin: it was the setting for his Natural Wonder series (1992-97), which fused the natural and domestic worlds in surreal, vividly colorful images; Hover (1995-97), which revisited collisions between the tame and the untamed in the town, but this time from above (the title referring to the pictures’ avian perspective) and in black and white; and Twilight, in which he increased the scale of his photos significantly and utilized Hollywood-style lighting and carefully staged sets to create photos that owe as much to contemporary cinema than they do to photography. He recently collaborated with novelist Russell Banks on his latest project, Beneath the Roses, which continued his preoccupation with elaborate staged photos.

FilmInFocus asked Crewdson to pick five films that been an influence on him as a photographer.

Untitled, Winter 2005 by Gregory Crewdson (left) and a scene from Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo (right)

Untitled, Winter 2005 by Gregory Crewdson (left) and a scene from Alfred Hitchock's Vertigo (right)

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