Gerard Alessandrini: The Films That Changed My Life

One list that pops up frequently in movie discussions is “Films That Changed My Life.” I am happy to contribute my list—but in my case I find that it’s not so much a whole film that changed or enlightened my life but rather one segment, scene, or moment. In some cases, it may have even been the trailer.

Now, in reporting my list, I am not listing my favorite movies or even what I think are critically the best movies ever made. A few are blockbuster favorites, but most of the films here are obscure or even inferior to the great classics.

It’s important when reviewing my list to remember the persuasiveness of film and the moving image. It can be very powerful even if it lasts for just a few minutes. It’s also important to remember that a young mind is most susceptible to the influence of film. Conversely, sometimes seeing a film later in life can give you a whole new vantage point on what it means to you. I will therefore put these film moments in the order in which I experienced them. These five entries might therefore read like a child’s-mind view of the motion-picture experience.
I can assure the reader of this list that my young mind was already just as warped as any Powell & Pressburger “Nuns in Tibbet” movie.

1) The Last Scene in Vertigo

My parents were avid movie lovers and began taking me with them to the movie theater when I was about three years old. They had no problem with bringing me along since I was a well-behaved child and often fell asleep.

But I often wouldn’t sleep through as much of a picture as they thought. At age 4, they brought me to see Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I assume they assumed I would sleep through it or it would go over my head. Wrong. Although I did doze at certain points, I was wide awake when the beautiful blonde lady with her hair up in a bun threw herself off the tower and crashed to her death with a blood-curdling “Motion Picture High-Fidelity” scream. No doubt, this was somewhat disturbing to the four mind.

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