Andrea Pallaoro can't remember the moment he fell in love with movies, because he can't remember a time when he wasn't head over heels for them and hopelessly devoted to them.
Growing up in Italy, "The cinema played such a crucial role in my life since I was very, very little," he reflects. "I think I've always wanted to be part of that world."
Pallaoro was a teenager when he had the realization that he could be the one making the movies he so loved, which is when he knew he would be a filmmaker. "Creating that world and sculpting those characters became so mysterious and meaningful to me," he says. "I never allowed myself to think about doing anything else. I didn't have any other choice, really. I needed to do it."
He made his directorial debut with the intimate family drama, Medeas, which premiered in the Horizons sidebar of the 2013 Venice Film Festival. His next two films also premiered at Pallaoro's home festival: Hannah bowed in competition in 2017 and won Charlotte Rampling the Volpi Cup. Pallaoro's latest, Monica, made history at Venice, becoming the first film in competition led by a trans actress, star Trace Lysette.
"It's about finding the cinematic language that can articulate the experience that the spectator can have with a character in the most eloquent way possible," the filmmaker says of his body of work. "By that, I mean allowing the spectator to have a very individual and independent relationship, as much as possible, and using that character as a way of self-discovery for the spectator. That is the type of relationship that I want to foster and protect above all things. Cinema as catharsis."
Below, Pallaoro shares with A.frame five films that influenced him to become a filmmaker, and that keep him inspired even now. "The experience of entering a temple — a theater, which is a temple for me — has a magical feeling to it still to this day."
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni | Written by: Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Bartolini and Tonino Guerra
L'Avventura is a film that, no matter how many times I see it, I have a different experience. It's a film that reveals itself in different ways every time to me. I first watched the film when I was in college, and it was a very strange experience, because I didn't know what I was watching. I knew that I was not fully understanding it, but at the same time, I was completely mesmerized by it.
I understood its impact and its power years later. It kept growing inside of me, and it stayed in me without really understanding it so much intellectually. It was more like feeling it. It was a very, very strange experience. Of course, the way Antonioni is able to explore the relationships with women and their surroundings — it's really, I think, one of the most beautiful and exciting cinematic explorations of alienation for me, that film.
Written and Directed by: John Cassavetes
It's an extraordinary performance by Gena Rowlands, and it was such a freeing character for me. The love that you feel from the filmmaker, from Cassavetes in this case, towards the character was to me so, so moving. It's one of those films in which you really let go and you go on this journey, you allow this character to penetrate you. Then the rewards are endless. By the time the film ends, you really feel like it has transformed you, that you have learned something about the human condition, that you are different. Again, the performance by Gena Rowlands is one of the most beautiful, most powerful performances I have ever seen on the big screen.
Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel
Written and Directed by: Chantal Akerman
Jeanne Dielman is the film that shocked me, that destroyed me. To observe this woman in her everyday moments — making her meatloaf, reading the letter to her son, and then prostituting herself — it's really seeing her reaction. And there was so much sincerity in the film. As with A Woman Under the Influence, I felt like I was let into a world, and I was allowed to watch and learn a secret. That's how it felt. Also, cinematically, the language itself had so much integrity. And it felt so vigorous, but vigorous with the intent of preserving a very specific relationship with the spectator.
Written and Directed by: Lucrecia Martel
Let's go with a more contemporary fourth film. I highly recommend The Headless Woman. Similar to L'Avventura, it's a film that, when I first watched it, I was appreciating the craft. I knew that I was watching a film by a filmmaker in control, someone that was crafting a very specific vision for me to understand. But I had no idea of the magnitude, of the impact that it would have on me. It really, really affected me over the years. I kept watching it over, and over, and over again.
One of the first scenes, we see the protagonist have a road accident, running over something that we don't know. And she doesn't know if it is a dog or a little boy, for example. Because she decided not to stop. She decided not to get out of that car. We later learn that a little boy was murdered on that same road, and so it's about the downward spiral of a woman that doesn't know how to perceive reality. It's also a film that's cinematically so brilliant. And Lucrecia Martel is so confident and so eloquent with images. Through composition and use of sound especially, she's able to create an emotional experience. That's a real filmmaker to me.
Written and Directed by: Tsai Ming-liang
Tsai Ming-Iiang is another master that's living. Unfortunately, Chantal Akerman, Antonioni, Cassavetes are not, but Lucrecia Martel and Tsai Ming-Iiang are alive and still making cinema.
The way he explores this relationship on-screen, with no dialogue — it's a film that has very little dialogue, maybe five or six lines. It's a Taiwanese film, and he has chosen not to subtitle it for its international run. Because really, there is no need for subtitles. The very powerful visual way in which he is able to explore this relationship between these two men is so touching, and moving, and powerful, and revealing. So, it was a very big surprise, and it was definitely one of my top films of the last few years.