Life Savers

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan is a four-CD package of many, many artists signing Bob Dylan songs. The revenue goes to Amnesty International, hence the copy line “this album saves lives.” But my reaction when I saw this poster was that music itself can do this. Regularly, I imagine.

All great art in fact — films, plays, paintings, novels — has the power to lift people out of the doldrums and turn them on and nourish their souls to some degree. Dylan’s music alone made a huge difference to hundreds of thousands in the ’60s, I’m sure. You could list any number of albums, films, books, TV shows, documentaries.

So what movie, if any, has saved anyone’s life out there? Or at least delivered some kind of spiritual bloom effect? You were in a kind of downish, despairing place when you went into the theatre or popped in the disc, and when it was over you felt significantly different — aroused, aflame and no longer fluondering. Jim Hoberman was recently quoted saying that Jules and Jim had this effect when he was 14 or 15. Costa Gavras‘s Z had this effect upon me, to some extent. I’d never felt politically engaged by a film until I saw it in my mid teens…wow. Second most arousing: Hearts and Minds.

What movie changed LexG‘s life? Or Glenn Kenny‘s?

  • Pjm

    “Midnight Cowboy” and “Nights of Cabiria” First time I realized that movies could make you cry.

  • Raising_Kaned

    I’d be a little leery of anyone that said a movie/book/album “saved” their life and actually meant it, but shit happens (esp. when you’re younger), I suppose.

    In terms of “changing” me into the cinema-obsessed guy I am today, the gateway film would probably be Pulp Fiction.

    Pretty sure watching Breathless, Taxi Driver, 2001, Ikiru, and Citizen Kane (natch) for the first time all had subliminal little ripple effects on my essence of being — nothing too major, though.

    Probably not a very “original” list, but there’s a reason these are all widely-considered masterpieces of the form.

    Pre-Pulp, my favorite thing to watch was — no joke — probably Demolition Man.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Interestingly, all of the songs on the album are performed by The Byrds.

    “The Graduate” for me. Rock (okay, pop) music, wonky camera angles, crazy edits… it was the first “art” film I ever saw. (on TV when I was 12).

    And being so completely turned on by Anne Bancroft made me think I had this perverted, kinky thing for old women. (only to realize years later that she was only 35 and smoking hot….of COURSE she turned me on)

    Seeing “Blow-Up” on the Saturday Late-Nite Channel 5 movie kind of blew my mind, too.

  • The Reek

    The thin blue line.

  • Travis Actiontree

    Blah blah blah GOLF CLUBS.

  • Alexander

    In the vein of Raising_Kaned’s point of a “gateway film,” I offer no apology for saying Minority Report. I was 15 and it made me come to terms with the reality that I really, truly loved film. I had been partly marinated in it from a tot, seeing Citizen Kane and The Lady from Shanghai, and Leone’s The Man With No Name films trilogy and many of the Bond movies God knows how many times, and I already knew I *enjoyed* movies, but it was frankly Minority Report that turned me on at just the right age to make me say to myself, “This is a truly wonderful art form when it’s in the hands of an inspired director,” and within two weeks I was reading up on Sight and Sound and Cahiers du Cinema, poring off critics top ten lists and seeing all kinds of exciting films, many of which I had indeed heard of, others I had, until that time, not. By the end of that summer I had seen just about everything by Scorsese, Lean and Herzog, and was working on guys like Fellini, Bergman, Godard and Kurosawa.

  • wester

    Persona, Persona, Persona.

    The whole world opened up to me. Not just movies. Art, literature, music, poetry… becoming comfortable with ambiguity, realizing that there is no earthly way to express what is expressed in Persona in a literal, feet on the ground, moving through the real world fashion… knowing that I LOVED what I was seeing despite not understanding it exactly, and knowing also that despite not understanding it exactly, I DID understand it entirely with a completely unused, heretofore unnoticed part of my brain.

  • LexG

    How the hell was anybody 15 when MINORITY REPORT came out, or GOING TO THEIR PROM the weekend IRON MAN 1 was released??? Even Kaned all PULP FICTION WAS THE FIRST MOVIE WHERE I UNDERSTOOD MOVIES from *1994* when I was finishing up college is bizarre, and I generally think I’m a decade or so younger than the norm on H-E.

    Feeling fucking old now.

  • LexG

    And to answer Jeff’s query, I was kicking this around in my head, thinking what movie would be a life-changing experience, and I was wondering, do I go with the first wave of “big” movies from when I was really little that got me to understand what movies were, what a director does, stuff like The Shining or Halloween or Jaws?

    Do I go with the high-school era stuff that’s the “generation” when I was coming of age and sort of defined my synth-music mullet-obsessed early MTV stuck-in-the-80s sensibilities, stuff like Top Gun or Risky Business (lotta Cruise) or prime-era Ridley stuff?

    The late high-school/early-college stuff that defined my downcast, depressed, repressed, rageful, woman-fearing angry longer persona– Scorsese, Schrader, Ferrara type stuff, Taxi Driver, Ragng Bull, Madonna/whore complex filmmaking about blues balls as pathway to explosive rage… (this one’s probably a BINGO)…

    Or maybe the mid-90s trio that marked the last time I was really enthusiastic about life, sex, possibilities, had even a SHRED of hope, egged on by then-to-me new instant classics like Pulp Fiction, Heat and Boogie Nights that presented this film-geek exciting Los Angeles and I was all thinking I’d be some real filmmaker and I’d finally arrived in the city I needed to be in, an d whatever other embarrassing BULLSHIT every hayseed thinks when they get “here.”

    But, really, if I’m being honest, much as I like or love any movie, as seminal as any of the above might’ve been, not one of them has been enough to blast me out of a life of complacency and voyeurism and being passive and self-defeating and afraid… I get a high from movies, but it’s the high of a total douche who’s a watcher not a doer, sitting back living vicariously and thinking FUCK YEAH I’M GONNA CHANGE MY LIFE– even THE GREY last weekend gave me a bit of this. Then two hours later I’m still sitting in a depressing office doing a job I hate or sitting at home hitting refresh on the Internet looking for someone to talk to me, and basically never making any appreciable change, so all the wonder and possibility and inspiration of Cinema is totally absorbed then LOST immediately.

    I see 150 movies a year every year and have been movie-obsessed for 31 years now… Sometimes I think it’s been a big fucking waste a time and just appeals to some OCD collector sensibility where I just gotta see everything, crossed with the depressing charge you get from watching other people have fun.

    Movies are like porn, in that you get off from watching them but you don’t get laid.

  • patches23

    Broadway Danny Rose. Shawshank Redemption.

  • Travis Actiontree

    No shit, Lex. I’m still trying to get my brain around that one.

    Seriously? 15 when “Minority Report” came out?

    Holy fuck. That was like, a couple months ago or something.

  • ROTC

    “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan is a four-CD package of many, many artists signing Bob Dylan songs.”

    Nice of them to do that for his deaf fans.

  • Pjm

    You wanna talk old!? The first two films I remember seeing in the theater were “2001: A Space Odyssey,” (probably the ’71 re-release) and Cocteau’s “La Belle et La Bete.” “Pulp Fiction”!? Oy. I felt like an old fart watching the homages pile up so high that the movie ultimately ended up referring only to itself – a disease that apparently has no cure. Can you imagine a filmmaker referencing anything except other films these days? Where are the Cocteaus of today? Even Scorsese has been reduced to making movies about movies. When was the last time you saw a movie where you came out saying “I’ve never seen anything like that!”? That’s how I felt seeing “Beauty and the Beast.”

  • patches23

    Also Little Big Man.

    And La Dolce Vita. And what’s weird about this one is I don’t know why. It must touch something in my unconscious because all I know is it had the effect of saving my life.

  • The Thing

    Pfffftt, Alexander is so fucking old. I was 7 when The Thin Red Line came out. Wrap your mind around that, Lex.

  • Travis Actiontree

    After seeing “Crazy, Stupid Love” I came alarmingly close to climbing the nearest clock tower and firing at random passersby with a high-powered rifle.

    So in a way I guess you could say that some films could actually cost lives.

  • iamjoe

    One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

    Watch it for the first time when I was sixteen years old, right before myself and my friends had an forced appointment with the local yokel Sheriff Departmant at 10 in the evening. They wanted to “talk” to us about 4 or 5 mailboxes that got destroyed Stand By Me mailbox-baseball style. Seeing that movie gave me the temporary charisma to organize the three other guys into standing up to the local authority’s interrogation and walk away clean. Good thing too, because the real number of on-base hits for that night were well into triple digits. Thank you, RP McMurphy.

  • The Thing

    I’m wary of saying “life saving” media; I mean, I think stopping the use of child soldiers saves a lot more lives than listening to a song or reading a book or whatever. Maybe it changed the way you thought or looked at life, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll save your life or anyone else’s (although Sarah McLachlan’s song Angel stopped Run DMC from killing himself, so there’s always an exception).

    As for the movie that made me love film was 2001, which I saw when I was about 14, give or take (which was around 2005/2006, you old farts). I was so taken that something that was so boring, could still keep me transfixed, I wanted to know how it was done.

  • Joe Leydon
  • Raising_Kaned

    “although Sarah McLachlan’s song Angel stopped Run DMC from killing himself, so there’s always an exception.”

    That’s funny. Not so much because it’s unbelievable or anything, but because I try to imagine the opposite happening — Sarah M. putting on her BOSE headphones and trying to groove to “Mary, Mary” or “Christmas in Hollis” — and in my head it inevitably ends with her slitting her wrists.

    Back to the discussion at hand, I’m pretty sure if Kubrick had some out with anything between, say ’89-’97, it would almost have certainly been running for the most influential movie of my adolescence.

  • Raising_Kaned

    But FMJ was just a hair too early (I still loved it, but I didn’t really understand anything about it except that Animal Mother saying killed women and children by not “leading them so much” was about the most side-splittingly hilarious thing this side of Letterman’s monkey-cam), and by the time EWS came out I was already in college (an obvious masterpiece, but it was sort of weirdly non-violent for a Kubrick flick, which vaguely disappointed me the first time out). The weird thing is — you split the releases of the two pictures and FMJ is probably right there, neck-and-neck with PF.

    Speaking of ’99, Fight Club‘s probably on my short list. It came along at just the right time — it was the peak of my cinema-craze, plus I was a full-time student so I had plenty of time to burn not being a wage-slave (also possibly a reason I may slightly overrate the overall importance of this year in film history).

  • Rashad

    Jurassic Park is the film that really got me into movies. If anyone ever asked what are movies capable of, I’d show them the T Rex scene over any other. There’s other landmarks for me, – Heat, King of New York, Fight Club, both Before Sunrise/set movies, AI – but a couple years ago, I was just plain tired of movies, and just didn’t keep up with any of it. Then I saw Basterds and later on in the year, Avatar in IMAX 3d (don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it). Just renewed why I liked movies in the first place.

  • LexG

    Shorter answer:


  • dino velvet

    Very similar to Kaned, my gateway was seeing Reservoir Dogs at the movies. What the hell was this dialogue? What’s going on with the music? Holy shit this dude just got his ear hacked off? This stuff DOESN’T HAPPEN in movies! It turned me on to the realization that there was something more beyond the crap at the multiplexes.

  • Luke Y. Thompson

    I’ll tell you one movie that really lifted me out of a depressing time was THE FULL MONTY. I was super-stressed because I had moved in with one of my best friends, but she lost her job and couldn’t pay her half of the rent, and the landlord was threatening to kick out both of us.

    She seemed paralyzed by inaction; I was getting ready to have to kick out my longtime friend and find a complete stranger to help share the cost…and that movie totally took me away from my issues for whatever its running time was. And I was watching it at my place of work at the time, the Sunset 5 movie theater.

    Seeing Excalibur late at night when I was like 9 or 10 was a pretty huge deal too. Fantasy that was totally R-rated. Still amazed my mom let me watch it with her.

  • Edward Havens

    Gone in 60 Seconds. The original one, not the crappy remake.


    I was five when it was made, and my mom was dating the guy who wrote, directed, produced and starred in it. I spent that summer on the set, every day. Got to watch this junkyard guy live out his dream of making a movie, and my mom and I are both in the movie. I knew right then and there, I wanted to be a filmmaker.

    Okay, so I never became a filmmaker. Got close a couple times, but it was not meant to be. But getting to see the magic of filmmaking that close-up at that young an age… that made me a cinephile for life.

    Oh, and the Flogging Molly version of The Times They Are A-Changin’ alone is reason to buy the Dylan set.

  • I agree music can save lives, certainly “Rock and Roll Suicide” by Bowie got me through my teenage years.

    Noticed that bet 365 are betting on the Amnesty record charting in the top 3 – wish it the best of success. These things are great, like the Warchild album a few years back.

  • Glenn Kenny

    I’m flattered that you ask, Jeff, but I also recall the kicker of a Nick Tosches review of a collection of Raymond Carver poetry: “I was paid, albeit quite modestly, to linger amid these lines. I suggest that others await a similar circumstance.”

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    If you were 13 in the late 70s and didn’t want to be an anarchic British comedian in the Fab Six, I didn’t want to know you then and I don’t want to know you now.

  • Paul

    Edward Havens, I should tell you that I have a good friend who has listed the original “Gone” as his favorite film since we were kids growing up! Sounds like a pretty awesome summer. He was heartbroken though when the DVD finally came out and the original soundtrack was replaced.

    For me, it was “Star Wars” that introduced me to the majesty of film and the effect it can have on imagination and dreams. It’s also part of the joke of the worst movie-going experience of my life! When I was six, Star Wars showed up as a rerelease. We went to the cinema to see it, the showing was sold out, and my friend and I were dragged to see whatever movie was starting next. The movie we went to see? “Going Ape”.

  • Paul

    By the way, Joe, just read your “In The Heat of the Night” article! What a great story!

  • Barracuda

    I wanted to be a lawyer until I saw And Justice For All in high school, so I suppose that on some level you could say it saved my life.

  • Barracuda

    I wanted to be a lawyer until I saw And Justice For All in high school, so I suppose that on some level you could say it saved my life.

  • Barracuda

    …though it didn’t save me from the dreaded double-post…

  • Jason S.

    Raiders Of The Lost Ark was the movie that made me love movies when I was 11. Then it was Star Wars and Empire, The Godfather enhanced that a few years later (although as I was only 15 it took a few attempts to really appreciate.) In the span of a year shortly after I saw Goodfellas, GFIII, Cape Fear, Last Temptation Of Christ 2001: A Space Odyssey, Schindler’s List and Carlito’s Way in 93, discovering more Kubrick in 94, Pulp Fiction the night before Halloween 94,and watching Fellini’s 8 1/2 for the first time on a warm June night in 95. They would be my milestones.

    As for this Dylan set – it’s worth it just to hear Sinead O’ Connor’s furious version of Property Of Jesus. I am blown fucking away.!!!!

  • Floyd Thursby

    I first consciously thought about the aesthetics of film after seeing A Hard Day’s Night and Tom Jones a few weeks apart, little knowing that Lester and Richardson were lifting from them French fellas.

  • Raising_Kaned

    This thread didn’t exactly take off like I thought it might (I blame the picture of Dylan…some people thought it was a music article and moved on), but I’m a little amazed by the depths of Jason S.’s obsessiveness. I generally remember the year in which I see a movie, and where (and with whom, although 90% of the time now that’s alone),

    But pinpointing the exact date you first viewed something some 15 years ago — what is that about? Do you have a photographic memory? I couldn’t even really give you the date when I checked out Haywire anymore, although I know it was sometime last week (not Friday, because that’s when I saw Man on a Ledge…and the only reason I remember that is because I saw it on opening day).

    Unless I see a flick on a holiday or the same time something else monumental in the world happens (i.e. 9/11), I’m almost never going to remember it without the aid of a ticket stub. Don’t pretty much ALL days blend together once you hit 25 or 30?

  • JLC

    I was an obsessive movie watcher as a kid and through my teenage years. However, it was almost all genre stuff- sci-fi, fantasy, gangster, comedies, etc.

    Oddly enough, when I saw Chariots of Fire in high school, it changed my perspective completely. Here was a movie that didn’t have aliens, or gore, or breasts, and I was still utterly absorbed. I think that was the moment when I realized any story could be interesting, if presented properly.

  • MechanicalShark

    There’s a couple films which, collectively, I’d say, over a period of time, pushed me into a deep, passionate interest in film. The first is Princess Mononoke, which I saw when I was 10 (I know, I know, this makes me pretty young. I’m 22, so sue me). Another I guess would be Eternal Sunshine. It’s such a cliche fucking answer to say that, since it’s basically Baby’s First Art Film for a lot of people, but it really set me on the path to film appreciation. And then what really cemented me on that obsession/love was seeing There Will Be Blood in theaters.

    In terms of life-changing, I think Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru may have saved me from sinking into a perpetual depressive fog.

  • Phatang!

    I’m just surprised so many artists even know sign language.

  • fghgh

  • I just have to have anything that has to with Bob Dylan. Too bad this wasn’t hyped so more money would go to a good cause.

  • Drond2

    Raiders Of The Lost Ark was the movie that made me love movies when I was 11. Then it was Star Wars and Empire, The Godfather enhanced that a few years later (although as I was only 15 it took a few attempts to really appreciate.) In the span of a year shortly after I saw Goodfellas, GFIII, Cape Fear, Last Temptation Of Christ 2001: A Space Odyssey, Schindler’s List and Carlito’s Way in 93, discovering more Kubrick in 94, Pulp Fiction the night before Halloween 94,and watching Fellini’s 8 1/2 for the first time on a warm June night in 95. They would be my milestones.
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  • flem

    Good food for thought here. Thank you very much for the extensive explanation.
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  • wow its good cover Rafflesia for me

  • saksuk

    Is true that all you have seen and read,sometime when it is raining I have to move my office in the walk to keep working.
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    I had a put up a couple of very droll comments but they were “accidentally” erased by Jeff. I’m sure that my saying that if the grain monks ever got together with the 1.85 fascists they could make Jeff feel sufficiently oppressed to write his own “Darkness At Noon.”

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