Late Spring
Andrew Ahn: 5 Films That Taught Me to Love Cinema
Andrew Ahn
Andrew Ahn
Director

"It's not hard to find movies that I love, you know?" Andrew Ahn says with a shrug. And it's clear from the movies he loves that he loves films about, well, love. Which isn't to say they're all romances, but the director gravitates towards human stories about the ways in which people — lovers, friends, family members — care for one another.

It's evident in the movies he makes, too: His made his feature debut with 2016's Spa Night, about a closeted Korean American teen looking for connection and acceptance. (Spa Night won Film Independent's John Cassavetes Award, with Ahn being named Someone to Watch.) His sophomore film, 2019's Driveway, is an intimate family drama about the unlikely bond between a boy and the elderly widower next door.

Ahn's latest is Fire Island, a queer reimagining of Jane Austen's most beloved comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice. There's romance — and the movie's new take on Mr. Darcy — but more so it's about the bonds between a group of friends (including Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang) as they celebrate their final summer together on that magical little sliver of Long Island.

"I remember pitching the script to Searchlight and to Joel and our producers and I created a pitch deck that included photos of my friends group. And I said, 'I want to make this for them,'" Ahn says. "They bring me joy, and they've supported me in ways that I could not have imagined. I hope this film inspires other groups of friends to just celebrate and cherish each other."

Below, Ahn shares with A.frame five movies that made him love cinema.

READ: Andrew Ahn on Finding Queer Joy and Chosen Family on 'Fire Island' (Exclusive)

1
Late Spring
1949
Late Spring

Directed by: Yasujirō Ozu | Screenplay by: Kôgo Noda and Yasujirō Ozu

My top two are both Yasujirô Ozu films: Late Spring is my favorite film of all time, and Tokyo Story is my second favorite film of all time. I love them because of how emotional they are. They're very restrained films, but I think Ozu wears his heart on his sleeve and the depth of emotion and love that these characters show each other is so immense.

2
Tokyo Story
1953
Tokyo Story

Directed by: Yasujirō Ozu | Screenplay by: Kôgo Noda and Yasujirō Ozu

I remember watching Tokyo Story first, being like, "This is amazing. This family is so messed up but loves each other. It's so painful but so beautiful. This is my favorite film." And then I saw Late Spring a few months later and I was like, "Wait, no. This is my favorite film." I think there's something about the quiet moments where we get to sit with these characters that will never leave me. I'll remember them always.

3
A Woman Under the Influence
1974
A Woman Under the Influence
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Directed and written by: John Cassavetes

I have to go with a John Cassavetes' film. I love A Woman Under the Influence. Gena Rowlands is amazing in it, and there's something about that film that is a meditation on performance. Everybody thinks that Gena Rowlands' character is not performing, right? She's not a mother in the way that they want her to be. She's not a wife in the way that they want her to be. And I think Cassavetes is trying to show us, like, what is performance? What is the performance of life? That, to me, is just such a smart, intelligent way to tell a story. I love the intelligence of it. I love the emotionality of it. And I think Gena Rowlands can do no wrong.

4
In the Mood for Love
2000
In the Mood for Love

Directed and written by: Wong Kar-wai

I remember watching In the Mood for Love on my laptop and thinking, "Wow, this is good." And then I went to go see it in a movie theater — there was a screening of a 35mm print — and I was so moved by it and I was so engaged. And when the credits started rolling, I just started crying. Like, I was bawling. And I don't know what came over me.

I think I was so overwhelmed by how that film talks about love. That it feels ancient and that it feels beyond our control. That it's about more than two people, that it's about our humanity. I love that film so much, and it's a film that I don't think I would ever make — Wong Kar-wai is a very different filmmaker than me — but it's such an inspiration, even just by its quality.

5
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2019
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
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Directed and written by: Céline Sciamma

I think there's something so intense about that film. It really does a number on you, where you're just watching these people behave, you know? These two characters are just existing, but then you slowly start to realize like, "Oh, this is tragic!" There's something about the way that Céline Sciamma has this restraint, but, by the end of the film, lets it blow wide open. And it becomes just this full emotional cathartic release. I love the way that she respects her characters, and that's something that I really aspire to in my filmmaking.

I have a joke with a friend that Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Fire Island happen in the same world, and that Portrait of a Lady on Fire just happens in Cherry Grove. So, while these two women are painting each other, Noah and Howie are having this adventure. But I love that movie.

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