Curzon World is an apt name for our company, inhabited as it is by a diaspora of immigrants from the mortal lands beyond its celluloid shores. Bring me your cinephiles, your technicolor dreamers, your dialogue reciters.
Everyone here is the type of cine-romancer who can chart the development of their personality through the films they latched onto during all the usual touch points in a human’s formative years. By the time we arrive at Curzon we’re fully grown adults, raised on concession snacks in dark rooms, and each of us can pinpoint the films that got us here.
What follows is a project that aims to introduce you to the Curzon staff and the all-important films that made us. Our tastes are varied, but what unites us all is a curiosity and fever for film. When we asked our colleagues and friends to pick the films that made them who they are today, the brief was left open to interpretation. After all, a film can ease a broken heart, it can seal the deal, it can console a loser, empower a winner, inspire a dreamer, open a mind or change a perspective.
Some thought of the characters that taught them how to carry themselves through their teenage years. Some chose films that stimulated their minds and led them to the academic pursuits of their adolescence. And some chose the films that, in the arc of a story, offered answers to the more philosophical questions that colour adult life. There are those, unburdened by the wisdom that parenthood brings, for whom being asked to choose a favourite film elicits a response that they might liken to picking a favourite child. The reason for that is many of us consider these films to be a part of who we are, aware that our reasoning comes from within, our choices a reflection of who we think we are.
Just like these films spoke to our staff members, our hope is that their choices and the reasons for those choices will speak to you, and that you will join in with your own take on this collection of sure-fire classics and lesser-known recommendations. Each week we will publish a new staff pick, which will be automatically updated here on the blog and shared across our social channels.
So, without further ado, here are the films that made our once heartbroken, loser, narrow-minded, day-dreaming staff members into the people they are today. Thanks for reading.
Rebecca, HMV Curzon Wimbledon
“More a work of art than a film, masterfully ‘painted’ by the hand of Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth is the ultimate dark fairy tale. The equivalent of a lavishly illustrated storybook made for the screen, but set in the midst of Civil War, its fantasy struggles to overcome brutality."
Kate, Curzon Head Office
"The warning was there, back in 2009. If only we'd seen it then. We thought it was about the global financial meltdown, not a forewarning of things to come.
Wendy is broke. She has nothing but her car, her dog, and her dignity. She's trying to get somewhere, a place where she can earn something and get back on her feet. But then her car breaks down and, suddenly, the perilous line between safety and danger is shattered and she is going to have to make a decision that will make your heart weep whilst, of course, showing the greatest compassion.
Before Wendy and Lucy I had admired Kelly Reichardt, but this film made me fall in love. Ms. Reichardt might have more humanity in her little finger than most people have in their entire body. At the time I thought it was just a film about a girl and an animal. Now, I think it's about the people who get left behind because their lives didn't have to be complex or global, just enough to get by. "
Nicola, Curzon Soho
"Xavier Dolan's Mommy is an unforgettable, visually tantalising watch, an unconventional and moving portrayal of a difficult mother and son relationship, and the speech-impaired neighbour who finds herself in the centre of this complex family dynamic. Each character is vibrant, reckless, on the edge of breaking point, and instantly loveable.
I find Dolan's work compelling to watch as he constantly plays with the boundaries between family as friend and foe. There is a knife-edge tension throughout Mommy, a constant push and pull between mother and son, making the reactions of each character unpredictable and exciting. It's an addictive watch with hours of contemplation to endure once the film ends.
Dolan's follow up, It's Only The End of World, is a film based on the play of the same name by Jean-Luc Lagarce. It tells the story of a writer who returns home to his family after a 12 year estrangement, to announce that he is dying. It will be exciting to see how Dolan navigates the obvious familial tensions and transposes the theatrical script into the colourful landscape of film."
Sarah, HMV Curzon Wimbledon
“I’ve always had a taste for the spooky, but 28 Days Later was really the first movie that showed me that horror could be as beautiful as it was brutal.
The shots of abandoned London are unnerving in their stillness, and all the cast give grounded, natural performances that shows the humanity in the face of horrific disaster."
Grace, Curzon Aldgate
"I started working for Curzon, completely by mistake, in 2014. The cinema had recently opened in my home town, where I’d returned to have a breakdown. I’d just completed a ludicrously expensive Journalism postgrad and hadn’t immediately been offered a weekly column in The Guardian. This crushing failure was too much for me to deal with.
I started working 18 hours a week at Curzon Knutsford, before which I thought Jean-Luc Godard was a brand of perfume, that Al Pacino was just one name, and that Hilary Duff was the greatest actress to walk the Earth. I still love Hilary, obviously. She's my girl. But I cannot describe A Cinderella Story as 'the film that made me'." [Read more]
Mark, Curzon Artificial Eye
"There's one film that practically changed the way I look at both myself and the world - 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If we had to explain to something that isn't human what being a human is all about in three hours then there would be no better way than handing them a copy of 2001. Although, they might not last it. The first time I watched Stanley Kubrick's magnum opus, I was twelve years old and didn't rate it. Films until then had been about entertainment (I literally didn't know there were films in existence that did not have that as a primary goal) and 2001 isn't exactly a white knuckle ride. However, over those teenage years it kept calling me back and, by the end of that formative time, it's ending was able to reduce me to quiet tears." [Read more]
Darren, General Manager at Curzon Aldgate
"I saw Lars Von Trier's gut-wrenchingly emotional Dancer in the Dark when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 where the film was awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or and Björk won best actress award for her haunting portrayal of Selma, a Czech immigrant on the verge of blindness.
The film definitely divides audiences and I recall at the screening in Cannes as the credits rolled the film was met by cheers and boos in equal measure. It's definitely a marmite movie!
After the screening I didn't cheer or boo. I just sat there numbed by the films raw emotion and heart-rending intensity and Björk's astonishing performance.
The film is a devastating musical tragedy that it is incredibly thought-provoking and emotionally compelling. A film had never moved me in quite that way before...or since. Björk vowed never to act again and after seeing this film, and the emotional brutality of it all, I can't blame her."
Joe, Curzon Artificial Eye
"Star Wars has always played a major part in my life. Not only did it transport me to a galaxy far, far away, but it also gave me my first insight into the many worlds that cinema can offer.
Taking influence from every source imaginable, George Lucas created the Star Wars universe by piecing together elements from a variety of genres. The first Star Wars film (now known as A New Hope) borrowed ideas from 1930s Flash Gordon serials, classic Westerns, Akira Kurosawa films, WWII dogfight footage and even Fritz Lang's Metropolis (the design of Lang's robot inspired Ralph McQuarrie's concept are for the protocol android, C-3PO).
Had it not been for George Lucas' eclectic taste in cinema, I may never have seen Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress, John Ford's The Searchers or David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. As a thank you to him for my cinematic education, I guess I can finally forgive him for the appalling Star Wars prequels."
Mick, Curzon Chelsea and Curzon Richmond
"When I was younger I worked as a projectionist for a mobile cinema. This was the late-1980s, in the north east of England, and the job itself was part of a wider community project aimed at putting people back to work, or, in my case, giving me my first job. I’m not sure when or where the concept of “outreach” was first formulated – I’ve always presumed it to be an American term though a universal idea - but looking back, reaching-out was clearly the goal.
Our audiences were invariably made up of people in residential care homes, though we also screened films in youth centres, church halls, and put on race-nights in social clubs (In possession of the outcome of a race, projectionists weren’t allowed to bet.) So our remit was simple: to entertain and delight. Working in teams of two (there was always a driver-projectionist), we would load up our van with a portable screen, a box of films, 1 x 16mm projector, and 2 x 8mm projectors." [Read more]
Jack, HMV Curzon Wimbledon
"12 Angry Men is the ultimate story of reason over judgement.
Seeing Henry Fonda's juror #8 carefully tread through a minefield of bigotry, lethargy and anger during jury duty is a stunning lesson in the importance of humanity in the common man."
Irene, Curzon Head Office
"When you think about the future, do you see technology, space travel, groundbreaking science or Earth-stopping catastrophes?
Shot in 1994 and set in the final two days of 1999, Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days imagines a (then very near) dystopian future in which the U.S.A. are ravaged by social inequality, racial injustice and drug addiction. So far, nothing too futuristic. But the drug of choice is virtual: a technological support through which humans are able to live the lives of others vicariously through a media player which connects directly into the wearer’s cerebral cortex and nervous system. When you ‘jack in’ to this player called SQUID you don’t just watch clips from somebody else’s real life - you physically, emotionally, neurologically inhabit another body, and experience everything that the person recording was experiencing. In the backstory of Strange Days, SQUID quickly becomes addictive, people seek more and more dangerous thrills so an appetite for snuff grows; SQUID is banned, it goes underground, and a black market is born." [Read more]
Ally, Curzon Cinemas Regional Manager
Tina: Have you ever been married?
Danny: No. I was engaged once to a dancer but she ran away with a piano player, so I broke it off.
"Broadway Danny Rose is the perfect comedy and a perfect film. Woody Allen plays the tenderly hapless New York talent agent who gets mixed up in a hilarious screwball gangster chase with Mia Farrow’s tough girl Tina. The script is one of the tightest in all of comedy and has a heart as big as one of the Carnegie deli’s pastrami on rye."
Nigel, Curzon Sheffield
"It was a cinematic experience that changed the way I looked at everything. I realised that a career in the film industry was an option for me. I went to university to study film and met the mother of my children there.
Frodo genuinely changed my life!"
Jon, Curzon Head Office
"It's hard to recall when I first actually saw The Silence of the Lambs. It held such a ubiquitous cultural currency in the '90s that you almost picked up knowledge and understanding of the film by osmosis. It's very possible that I first saw the fantastic French and Saunders take-off sketch long before seeing the movie itself. Even via this second-hand satirical retelling, the tone of the film was translated perfectly, permeating across our collective consciousness so every reference to "fava beans" or "a nice chianti" made sense even without being acquainted with the source.
So I don't remember when I actually saw the film, but I have a feeling one of my reactions was to question why no-one had actually recommended it to me. Perhaps this ties into the above uniquity, that you don't recommend The Silence of the Lambs to people, because the expectation is that of course they've seen it already." [Read more]
Damian Spandley, Head of Progamme
"[Warning: this feature contains awkward clues to the writer's age]
I did consider Jarmusch’s 1989 tri-part Mystery Train as a candidate for a 'Film That Made Me'. The teenage growing pains of adolescence in Blackpool included, unsurprisingly, limited access to a world of cinema beyond the local ABC and Odeon (think Michael Keaton standing on a box in the Tim Burton mid-period Batman reboots). I remember the only way to read Sight & Sound was to fill in an order form at WH Smiths, because nowhere stocked it in the seaside town. I'd proudly take the tram along the Promenade each month to pick up my special personal copy, with glossy cover and tightly packed print.
But our local Blockbuster video rental shop would occasionally, in grave error, order in some gems, which would inevitably end up for sale in the bargain basket after a month or two of neglect on the shelves. That's where I chanced upon my VHS of Mystery Train..." [Read more]
Jenny, HMV Curzon Wimbledon
"A Woman Under the Influence was not my first introduction to the enduring work of Cassavetes, but it was my first time witnessing a compelling Gena Rowlands in what is a devastating examination of mental illness.
It's a raw and uncompromising look at miscommunication and forced gender roles, told through masterful performances and unrelenting direction as Cassavetes presents a film that is both intensely difficult and yet strangely, quietly rewarding."
Kate, Curzon Head Office
"Few actors have inspired me as much as Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace. Despite being a good foot shorter, it wasn't long before I had dyed my hair black, procured a white shirt and splashed out on some rouge noir.
Classy dialogue, characters as dark as Zed ("Bring out the gimp"), this is a slice of filmic heaven."
Lauren, Curzon Bloomsbury
"When Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker (2008), a tough and deeply human film, it was the first time I thought that maybe I could direct films in a big way too. Maybe I could be just like her.
Of course, I knew women could be directors and achieve success with important and well-made films --Nora Ephron, Andrea Arnold, Mira Nair, Amma Asante, Sarah Polley, Ava DuVernay and Deepa Mehta are all proof of that. But until that point there had been nominees, but no winners. Until that point, the possibility was there, nominally, but where was the proof?
Actually seeing Kathryn Bigelow accept one of the highest honours for directing in film made it click -- that this is indeed possible for women. Then I thought back seven years, to when Halle Berry became the first black woman to win Best Actress at the 2002 Oscars. I thought about the number of young girls who had seen someone who looked just like them win that night, and it confirmed to me how much representation matters.
It is one very admirable thing to strive towards a goal with the hope that you'll be the first. But once someone is the first, it sets a precedent -- whether for women from all walks of life who want to be Oscar-winning film directors, or leaders of the free world. It opens the door for millions of other young women to go forth truly believing their aspirations are within their grasp."
Rob, Curzon Head Office
"1999 was a golden year for film and for film directors. The Thin Red Line was the long awaited directorial comeback from Terrence Malick, Wes Anderson gave us the joyful Rushmore and the film debut of Jason Schwartzman, while Paul Thomas Anderson unveiled Magnolia and engendered Tom Cruise’s best-ever performance (and, yes, I am including Eyes Wide Shut). Yet the year’s highlight was Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother, winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and arguably his greatest achievement, only challenged three years later by Talk To Her.
The first time I watched this film I laughed, I cried, I was stunned into silence. It still has the same effect each time I watch it.
The breathtaking first sight of Barcelona accompanied by Ismaël Lo’s Tajabone is simply stunning and lasts long in the memory. Yet even this is surpassed by the three glorious performances from Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes and Penelope Cruz. The film was to be matched the following year in style, in colour and in music by Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love, but 1999 was all about Pedro Almodovar."
Ryan, Curzon Head Office
"Growing up, the majority of my school holidays were spent on building sites at work with my father. Rising at the break of dawn, we’d rustle up a carb-heavy lunch before climbing into his pick-up, dust pluming from the seats as we sank into them, filling the van with a grainy haze that would settle on our skin and stay there for the remainder of the day. All the men on my dad’s side of the family work in construction. I was never really cut out for it, but by the time I saw Ken Loach’s Riff-Raff I had spent many years surrounded by the world it depicted. I could see my dad, his colleagues and friends in the characters Loach and screenwriter Bill Jesse brought to the screen, their place of work, their humour and their spirit." [Read More]
John, Curzon Chelsea
"If Oppenheimer can claim to be the destroyer of worlds, then Ridley Scott is the creator. A cinematic blanket to wrap yourself in, this film defines my obsession with visual cinema.
Perfect production, sound, music and lighting. I get lost in this strange, beautiful world every time."
Lauren, Curzon Richmond
"This film helped define my outlook on life: Be kind just because. Appreciate the small things in life. Stay curious. Send love out and you'll get love back."
Irene, Curzon Head Office
"I grew up as a child obsessed with black and white films; first it was Laurel and Hardy, then the silent comedies of Buster Keaton (always Keaton, never Chaplin), and eventually the thrilling, age-inappropriate masterpieces of German Expressionism became my favourites. As a teenaged member of a rep film club I discovered Lang, Buñuel, Welles and Lynch; their utter madness, the way they confronted the abyss of human motives and the darkness of our desires, and their distinctively arresting visual languages were more striking than anything my contemporaries who posed as Goths could ever get out of the Tim Burton universe.
Given my penchant for surrealism and pitch-black humour, I was bound to travel to the Insitute Benjamenta at some point in my life. The script is adapted from ‘Jakob Von Gunten’, a novella by turn-of-the-century Swiss author Robert Walser, whose wonderful and perturbing work was said to have entertained and delighted Franz Kafka to the point of rolling on the floor with laughter. That’s right: this film would have made Kafka go OMG ROTFL." [Read more]
Michael, Curzon Head Office
"As a child in the 1990s with a serious TV addiction, having access to only 4 channels had a secret benefit in exposure to the excellent programme of arthouse cinema on BBC2 and Channel 4. Our two local cinemas (one since demolished, the other mysteriously burned down) were wonderful with huge auditoriums, however it was on TV that I discovered films a world away from the mainstream.
At 14 I knew nothing of Jean-Luc Godard and one night Weekend was just what was on so I watched it. The crashed cars, blood, monologues about capitalism and the drummer in the woods I found both inexplicable and infectious. The tracking shot of the traffic jam, with stranded passengers in ever more bizarre situations, at 7 minutes long seemed brilliantly audacious.
Film didn't look quite the same again. There's no better inspiration to get into this industry than a film whose final title card announces: "The End of Cinema"."
David, Curzon Ripon
"It was while studying film at sixth form that I started to develop a real interest in the more artistic side of cinema. I'd say the first real 'different' film I watched was Eraserhead, and from that moment fell completely in love with the work of David Lynch.
My all time favourite film is Blue Velvet. Lynch's zooming camera, settling on seemingly unimportant objects, his use of ambient noise with great soundtracks and fading overlays, I find it all mesmerizing, drawing me back to rewatch over and over. And who can forget the sickening Frank Booth, the most vile villain in film. Above are tattos I've had done featuring characters from Lynch's work. I could talk Lynch all day, every day. If it wasn't for finding his work, I don't think I'd be working for Curzon now. That's a strange thought..."
Jenny, HMV Curzon Wimbledon
"Wim Wenders presents a master-class in directing space and silence in this film about loneliness and loss. With memorable, melancholic performances from Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski, Robbie Muller’s beautiful cinematography and Ry Cooder’s spare and emotive score, Paris, Texas cemented my love affair with cinema, the films of Wim Wenders… and that pink mohair jumper."
Sean, Curzon Chelsea
"Dogtooth was like nothing I'd ever seen before at the time. Everything that happens in it is so crazy, and yet the condition and response shown by the characters is undeniably human. It's brutal, yet poignant. Or...brutally poignant.
An analogy of authoritarian state control? Or just a well-rounded absurdist comedy? Either way, dark, black humour - exactly how I like it! And it made it cool to watch Jaws and Rocky again."
Laurence, Curzon Mayfair
"This film is an initiatic journey for me where magical realism mixes with fate, melancholy and our perception of time. The '60s fashion, sultry Rumba, the sublime violin arrangements and the gold and emerald tints make it a real sensory feast.
This film makes me reminisce about the past but It's also a beautiful reminder that we need to enjoy living the moment fully, especially in times when we, instead, try and record it."
Michael, Curzon Head Office
"I knew the images of Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth first from the covers of David Bowie's Station to Station and Low. While I was familiar as a kid with the work of Bowie in the great Labyrinth and the groovy Let's Dance, it was as a teenager the whole new territory of his defining mid-70s period opened up to me.
The image of Bowie's Thin White Duke/Berlin era is synonymous with Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton. Newton is an alien who longs to save his drought-ridden planet by transporting Earth's water supplies across the galaxy. Roeg's epic is peppered with the images of Newton's young family hopelessly distant, gradually dying, unable to save themselves. Newton, stranded on Earth, becomes resigned to the fate of his home planet, remaining forever young as the moronic scientists who hold him captive and experiment on him grow older and older.
On its 40th anniversary (2016), in an amazing 4K restoration, the themes of the film are as prescient as ever. Newton might be commenting on modern internet consumption when, fresh from gazing into 16 TVs simultaneously, he says that while TV shows you everything, it tells you nothing. Roeg's film is as beautiful an ode to ennui as Bowie's "Subterraneans", the amorphous closing piece on Low, composed for but eventually unused on the film's soundtrack."