How should I describe the beauty of women? Remember those lines from ‘Scent of a Woman’ spoken by the great Al Pacino: “Women…What could you say? Who made’em? God must’ve been a f***ing genius.” I am neither a fan of that film nor of that performance but I completely agree with Pacino on that.
Honestly, how could you possibly describe the beauty of these gorgeously enigmatic creations? I think I could try but I’d rather not waste time with my meager words here and instead I’d like to talk about filmmakers who’ve managed to depict the beauty of women on-screen in ways you couldn’t possibly even imagine. So here is a list of top films that masterfully depict the beauty of women in startlingly different ways.
15. Climates (2006)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s experimental drama revolves around a young couple who seem to have grown tired of each other. The film has Ceylan himself playing the lead role and his own wife, Ebru, portraying his partner. There are many scenes that Ceylan uses here to depict his wife’s remarkable beauty. There’s a lovely scene where a sweat drenched Ebru lies in the sand with her eyes closed and Ceylan comes close to her, kisses her and whispers, “I love you”. It’s a beautiful scene that displays such raw intimacy and also manages to capture the ravishing beauty of Ebru Ceylan.
14. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
It annoys me when people watch ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ for THAT one scene. This is a film that shook me with its brutal honesty and painfully realistic depiction of relationships. Abdellatif Kechiche’s intimate style seamlessly captures the raw beauty of Lea Seyodoux and Adele Exarchopoulos in not just the famous six-minute long sex scene but throughout the movie, right from where they first meet in a bar and talk about each other’s lives up to that last scene where Adele dresses up in blue and arrives at Emma’s art exhibition. The way Kechiche’s camera looks at them feels so profoundly intimate and it’s almost as if he manages to capture every facial contour of his characters.
13. In the Mood for Love (2000)
The master of romance, Wong Kar-wai is a genius at crafting seductive mood pieces. Some people often complain about his films often being very style over substance. Now I can’t say they are wrong but the point they seem to be missing out is that the substance in his cinema is so gelled with the style that it makes them inseparable. ‘In the Mood For Love’, one of his most acclaimed works, is easily one of the greatest romantic films ever made and at the heart of it is Maggie Cheung who might probably be one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced the screen. Kar-wai portrays her as a tragic beauty and she perfectly embodies every bit of the pain and sadness her character goes through. You could feel her longing and heartache and those gorgeously crafted melancholic frames further adorn her beauty.
12. La Notte (1961)
Women in Michelangelo Antonioni’s cinema were always so beautiful. Whether it’s Monica Vitti in ‘L’Avventura or Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Blowup’, there was something so special in the way they looked and they were always so beautifully stylized. In ‘La Notte’, both Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti are astoundingly gorgeous and have a spellbinding effect on you. The film mostly revolves around three characters and focuses on their interaction during a party one night. Antonioni takes utmost care to stylize his already beautiful women and it’s an absolute treat to watch the two of them whenever they share screen space.
11. Chungking Express (1994)
Wong Kar-wai continues to astonish us with his vibrant, seductive depiction of the beauty of women. In ‘Chungking Express’ he uses the second narrative, which involves a cop and a snack bar worker, to depict the seductive charm and endearing quirkiness of Faye Wong. We first see her in a tomboy-ish look, working at a snack bar. She is seemingly attracted to the young cop but is too shy to admit her feelings for him. She would later leave for California and return as a flight attendant towards the end of the film. Kar-wai stylizes her and we now see her as a highly attractive, fiercely independent woman. Faye Wong oozes charm and elegance and we are left in complete awe of her dashing flamboyance and visceral beauty.
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10. Contempt (1963)
Jean Luc-Godard films are a feeling. An attitude. The kind of emotions that man could evoke in you with a single shot is simply astonishing. ‘Contempt’ like most of his other films is also a feeling. The opening scene perfectly sets the tone for the film as we see the beautiful naked body of Brigitte Bardot. This scene was, in fact, a spit on the face of the producer by Godard as he was interested in earning profits by exposing Bardot’s body in the film. The scene does not technically qualify to be called a nude scene as Bardot isn’t fully exposed but Godard’s masterful use of colors and Bardot’s perfectly toned body turn this scene into one of the most erotic movie moments of all time.
9. L’Avventura (1960)
Monica Vitti is the face of ‘L’Avventura’. It’s her poignant beauty that carries the film and beautifully paints the desolate atmosphere the movie is soaked in. Those scenes where the wind blows across the sea and her gorgeously messed up blonde hairs cover her beautiful face are truly beyond words. Right from the moment she first appears on screen, you begin to feel something for her. You could see her sadness. The feeling of emptiness on her face is almost palpable. There’s something so delicately poignant and inexplicably beautiful in the way she walks and even when she so lovingly holds Sandro in her arms.
8. Broken Embraces (2009)
Oh, you thought a Pedro Almodovar film starring Penelope Cruz won’t make the list? Well, no way! What attracts me about Almodovar’s films is the raw emotional energy and his unconditional love for women. And the way he goes about displaying it, unabashedly, with such passion and verve is always a treat to watch. ‘Broken Embraces’ is one of his most underrated works and the romantic sucker in me would even dare call this his greatest work. Almodovar masterfully uses the lethally intoxicating beauty of the gorgeous Penelope Cruz, splattering colors of red all across the frames as her raw beauty elevates the film to a whole other level.
7. Mulholland Drive (2001)
I was just wondering how easily this film manages to sneak in to every list. What could possibly be the reason? I could only think of one; because it truly is a great film. We’ve talked about many things about this film but what one aspect that remains to be talked about is the way Lynch manages to capture the beauty of Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. We get to see their emotional and physical beauty as Lynch captures them at their most vulnerable edges. The scene where Betty and Rita make love is so beautifully wrapped with passion, delicate intimacy and yet feels too painful to look at because of its brutal power and disturbing intimacy.
6. The Mirror (1975)
There is a kind of universality in the way Tarkovsky manages to depict the feminine beauty in ‘The Mirror’. I don’t know but every time I see Margarita Terekhova on-screen, I feel as if she was my mother. That eerie resemblance with my mother was something I found strangely fascinating. Terekhova is a beautiful woman and there are many scenes where Tarkovsky uses her beauty to profound effects. The scene where she sits on a fence, smoking is simply one of the most beautiful scenes ever filmed. Margarita is the soul of the film and the last scene where she breaks into tears is possibly one of the greatest single pieces of acting ever put on screen.
5. A Short Film About Love (1988)
In ‘A Short Film About Love’, Krzysztof Kieslowski does not present his character as a highly stylized woman. Instead what he does here is depict the raw beauty of an ordinary woman. Magda is a promiscuous woman with whom her teenage neighbor is deeply infatuated. He spies on her using a telescope and we see and feel her beauty through his eyes. Kieslowski brilliantly uses Grazyna Szapolowska’s irresistible beauty and her seductive charisma which plays a huge part in turning this film into one of the greatest romantic films ever made. She’s bold, intimidating, gorgeously seductive and yet so beautifully broken inside.
4. Vivre Sa Vie (1962)
Many people often complain about Jean Luc-Godard’s films lacking any kind of emotions. ‘Vivre Sa Vie’ is one film that I would like to show them. The last shot alone speaks volumes of the sheer brutality of human nature than any other filmmaker could ever do with an entire film. ”Vivre Sa Vie’ could have earned a place on the list even for that single scene alone where Anna Karina’s character looks over the shoulder of one her clients and smokes a cigarrette. This scene alone is simply one of the most beautiful depictions of the beauty of women. It’s just the style of it. The way Karina’s hair is stylized, the way the scene is shot, the smoke that emits out on to the screen. It’s just a raw feeling that Godard strikes in you. And that, to me, is a stroke of genius.
3. Three Colours: Blue (1993)
‘Blue’ is the first installment in Kieslowski’s iconic ‘Three Colors’ trilogy and is possibly the most tragic one of the three. Julie survives a car accident in which her husband and daughter are killed. Struck with grief, she decides to abandon all her relationships and sells her house and goes on to live somewhere far off in Paris. The rest of the film focuses on her struggle to cope up with the loss and how human connections possess the power to heal the most painful of tragedies. Julie is played by the great Juliette Binoche who is truly stunning here and her impeccable acting abilities and otherworldly beauty get the right tone for the sad, haunting atmosphere of the film.
2. Three Colours: Red (1994)
Irene Jacob might just be the most gorgeous woman in the history of cinema. And for those who’ve seen her in ‘Red’ would find it hard to debate on that. ‘Red’ follows a young woman who happens to meet a cynical old man and develops an intimate bond with him. The film is about the tragedy of human destiny and the beauty of coincidences and how human lives are all connected in some way or the other. Irene Jacob plays the lead role of Valentine and she is unbelievably gorgeous here. Kieslowski uses red to adorn her beauty and her tenderly sweet melancholic face is one you’d certainly find hard to not love.
1. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
Can we ever get enough of Irene Jacob’s beauty? Kieslowski sure couldn’t. No film has ever managed to depict the melancholic tenderness and raw sensuality of women the way this Kieslowski masterpiece does. ‘The Double Life of Veronique’ is about a young woman who begins to sense that there’s someone like her in this world and gets lost in her dreamy consciousness. Irene Jacob plays both Veronika and Veronique and Kieslowski uses her angelic beauty in a way that leaves you completely overwhelmed. Irene Jacob is just the perfect for the film’s hauntingly sensual aura and it’s intoxicating to watch her on-screen, melting in raw sensuality and striking such profoundly human, inexplicable emotions in you.
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