The Best Movie Ever | Style
Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros./Rialto Pictures
Hey there. You look fabulous. Why don’t you do a little turn? Yeah… you’re a pretty stylish movie alright. Why don’t you come back to our place and put yourself on? We’d like to watch you…
Was that creepy? Anyway, this week sees the release of Guy Ritchie’s impossibly stylish 1960s spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and that got us thinking: What the most stylish movie ever made?
Related: The Best Movie Ever | Meryl Streep
So, as always, we asked our three film critics – William Bibbiani, Witney Seibold and Brian Formo – to consider the many thousands of films they’ve seen in their lifetimes and come up with one, just one, answer each. They went in very different directions this week… to the past, the future (maybe?), to France… and they each came back with films that look slick as hell.
Check out what they picked, let us know your favorites, and come back next Wednesday for another highly debatable installment of Crave’s The Best Movie Ever!
William Bibbiani’s Pick: Breathless (1960)
I probably shouldn’t be the one to lecture on on the French New Wave, but everyone should know at least a little something about it. This was a period of bold cinematic experimentation from the country, much of it from former film critics like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, who adapted their many observations about American cinema into a refreshingly new aesthetic in the mid-20th Century. The films were familiar with storytelling conventions but not beholden to them. They were born of style and yet seemed to create new styles out of whole cloth. And none of them were more stylish than À bout de soufflé, better known in America as Breathless.
Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Michel, a young criminal who models himself after movie stars like Humphrey Bogart. He steals a car and shoots the policeman who tries to stop him, and spends the rest of Godard’s film on the lam, sleazing it up with his sexy and intelligent girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg). They don’t so much go on the run as they do ponder the goingness of being on the run. Their world is one of affectation, based on affectations developed by older generations who had a reason to be affected in the first place. They wonder about their place in the world and would probably come to realize that it’s a bad one, if they stopped looking in the mirror long enough.
To be honest, Breathless used to piss me off. I think now, though, that that was at least part of the point. It’s a disarmingly casual film, brushing off big moments and jump cutting around like it’s cock of the walk, but I suspect that someone involved knew that these people are basically the cock of nothing. They are all sex and glamour and sunglasses, and all they know about how to behave they learned from manufactured allure. And it looks so damned good on them you want to scream. It’s the most stylish movie ever made, even when it drives me nuts.
Brian Formo’s Pick: Marie Antoinette (2006)
Marie Antoinette is all style. And I don’t mean that as a negative— au contraire, mon ami—the style gives it substantial substance. Sofia Coppola’s rudely dismissed biopic treats the young queen (Kirsten Dunst) as a pop star, because well, history has turned her into a pop star. Her unattributed quip “let them eat cake” was a way to dismiss the French peasants during a national bread shortage has survived as a t-shirt. Queen gave her a song (“Killer Queen”) and at the height of her popularity and shock abilities, Madonna dressed as her. With such a makeover for such a despised ruler, the young Austrian princess cum French Queen was an original reboot.
Coppola filmed Antoinette in the Palace of Versailles. Her cast wore the most exquisite attire befit for the king, queen and their royal company. She also included post-punk tracks from Siouxsie & The Banshees, New Order, Gang of Four, and more—bringing attachments of recent teenagers to the 18th-century.
Many were upset because Coppola (who herself comes from some major American lineage) inserted moments of pity for Antoinette for being thrust into Versailles at such a young age—even though she and Louis XVI ran France into a downward deficit they passed on to the lower classes. Antoinette was a teenager when tasked with ruling France. As such, she’d rather lounge about, throw a ball, and have all the fashionables. But—although it is gorgeous to look at—what makes Marie Antoinette one of the absolute best films of the last decade is Coppola’s ending. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are so isolated in opulence, and so oblivious to the plights of their countrymen, that even when the hoards of people with pitchforks and torches approach Versailles, we still don’t see them, we hear them while the rulers dine. Instead of showing them murdered, Coppola ends the film with images of turned over furniture and an abandoned Versailles. We never see a revolution because the king and queen were too distant from reality (and empathy) in that faraway palace.
Witney Seibold’s Pick: Speed Racer (2008)
In the future, all movies will look like Wachowski Starship’s bizarre experimental blockbuster Speed Racer. The film, based on a corny anime series from the late 1960s, paints a future (or maybe just an alternate universe) wherein humans are named after their professions, every inanimate object (including clothing) is made of an unknown supershiny plasticine material, and everything is so brightly colored, it seems to shine with its own inner light. It’s a live-action film, but you wouldn’t know it from the ultra-electric-purples and aquamarine-orange-mauve-fuschia explosions of cartoony style drilling aggressively into your eyeballs.
If one sees the world as a place where style is constantly evolving into something ever more aggressive and increasingly infantilized, then Speed Racer doesn’t just predict the future of film, but the future of the way we will dress and communicate. Our visual art, our visual language, our very hearts and eyes and minds will eventually exist inside the cartoon universe. Our clothes, our smiles, and our tech will be easy to consume and easy to operate. There will be no room for subtlety, nuance, or anything besides the awesome, high-octane speed.
Hollywood has not produced a mainstream blockbuster as aggressively stylized – and, by extension, about style – as Speed Racer. This film is an abstract meditation on the extremes of style more than it is a story or a drama. Speed Racer takes everything we know about style, about filmmaking, about the very notion of color, and pushes it to its logical extreme… and then keeps on pushing. Is it a good film? That’s a matter of debate. Is it an important experiment? One of the most important of the decade.