There are some movies that stay with me because of the way they look. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performers, directors or screenwriters in the following films, it’s the details — cinematography, color, costume design — that contribute to the unforgettable style of each of the these three films.
The opening credits for Drive (2011) are written in a pink 1980s font and accompanied by the equally ’80s-ish song “Nightcall” by Kavinsky (available on the Drive soundtrack). It initially seemed incompatible with the plot – The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a Hollywood stuntman by day, and a getaway car driver by night whose life gets very complicated when he starts to help his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) in modern day Los Angeles. But visionary director Nicolas Winding Refn manages to make it all work with highly stylized action and violence that doesn’t feel gratuitous, but essential to the film.
I Am Love (Io Sono l’amore) (2009) stars a resplendent Tilda Swinton as Emma, the Russian wife of an Italian captain of industry who embarks on a passionate affair with her son’s best friend and business partner, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). The story is not new, and is not unlike soap operas of years gone by. However, the film is so lush – from the award-winning costume design while in Milan, to the gorgeous vistas of the Italian countryside – that it trascends any shortcomings. The lunch scene, when Emma eats a lunch prepared by Antonio, turns a meal into a sensual experience.
Julianne Moore is no stranger to stylish films – A Single Man, directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, is a recent example – but for me, Far From Heaven (2002) is exquisite. Moore plays Cathy, a 1950s Connecticut housewife whose perfect world is shattered when she discovers her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) kissing another man. She seeks solace from Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), the African-American gardner. Director Todd Haynes’ meticulous attention to period detail pays homage to director Douglas Sirk, and it looks and feels like a shining example of mid-century melodrama.