Karyn Kusama has been attracting critical attention and acclaim since her 2000 directorial debut Girlfight. Having worked in multiple genres such as horror and science fiction, Kusama has maintained a parallel career in television by directing episodes of popular series such as The Man in the High Castle as well as recent shows like Yellowjackets.
Born in Missouri, Kusama received a formal education in filmmaking at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts where some of her work earned accolades. Starting out as an editor for documentary films, Kusama eventually managed to work as an assistant for well-known independent filmmaker John Sayles before launching her own directorial career.
After multiple years of struggling with the financing, Kusama managed to finish Girlfight in 2000 and it immediately put her on the map because it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance among other prizes. Kusama went on to direct other popular projects such as Æon Flux and Jennifer’s Body that have reinforced her status as a significant presence in the contemporary landscape.
While speaking to Rotten Tomatoes for an interview, Kusama was asked to name some of the cinematic masterpieces that have had a lasting impact on her personal life as well as her professional journey as a filmmaker. She cited American classics by the likes of David Lynch as well as some modern films such as Lukas Moodysson’s Together.
“A film of perfectly realised proportions about broken marriages and failed utopian ideals,” Kusama commented while talking about the beauty of Together. “When I have lost hope in humanity (which sadly occurs more frequently than I would like) I re-watch this stirringly beautiful film and feel my faith in the world restored.”
She also singled out the unique artistic sensibilities of Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View: “Here’s a movie with a political conspiracy plot that’s all too real… Startling, eccentric, and a scary-close approximation of the world we actually live in today, this film continues to stoke the twin fires of paranoia and mistrust.”
Check out the full list below.
Karyn Kusama’s favourite films:
- Together (Lukas Moodysson, 2000)
- The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
- The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)
- The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 1974)
- The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982)
Describing her love for The Elephant Man, Kusama admitted that it does not have many of the characteristic elements that David Lynch is famous for. However, it is because of its separation from some of Lynch’s other films that Kusama fell in love with The Elephant Man.
The director argued that The Elephant Man is one of the greatest cinematic explorations of the human condition. “Though perhaps an outlier in Lynch’s seminal body of work, this film reveals the depth of his humanity and the care with which he attends to all matters of the tragic, the pitiable, and the grotesque,” she stated.