The Films That Changed My Life: Luke Shanahan

August 27, 2018
The director of Rabbit gives us the low down on his formative filmic experiences.

Star Wars

The moment. I can still remember my father telling me that when I saw and heard the Imperial Star Destroyer passing through frame in that first scene, my 4-year-old self was looking behind – and above – me wondering just how this was all happening.

For the generation before me, they had Kubrick with 2001: A Space Odyssey – which I came to love a decade later – introducing them to space, but I had George Lucas and what a magnificent tale it was.

The franchise may have lost its way or indeed become too overblown of late but it was a wonderful way to meet cinema – head on.

The Shining

My Kubrick moment could have been A Clockwork Orange but The Shining was one that sat with me for weeks and then years. His use of craft is, as we all know, technically masterful and although it descends into a Nicholson tour-de-force that does go places not quite matching the narrative, who cares! I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, and still bring it out regularly for repeat viewings.

if…

Well, I do manage to get a Malcolm McDowell piece onto the list. One of those film school pieces that you sit down to watch and still think about all those years later. At this stage of my life I was listening to Dead Kennedys, Fugazi and Black Flag while watching Lindsay Anderson’s masterpiece. I was just yearning for a cause to get angry about and this film offered an allegory to the question… what if? Such an amazing film and one that in today’s political environment remains as vital as ever.

The Wicker Man

This film scared the hell out of me as I’m fairly sure I watched it when I was too young to “watch” it. I kept waiting for a happy ending as I was, no doubt, at that time surrounded by the hope and optimism of a Spielberger, but the creepiness of it lingered on far beyond the end credits. I adore this film. Technically, it has a few flaws but it changed me. It felt real. And the soundtrack by Paul Giovanni and Magnet is the scariest soundscape you will ever hear. This film was a huge influence on Rabbit.

Lost Highway

I was one of three people that watched this film in the old Walker Street cinema in North Sydney in the mid ’90s. All three of us couldn’t speak after it for a few hours. David Lynch has never made anything I’ve turned off or even been able to really look away from. This film polarised even the most ardent of Lynch fans but something about Robert Blake and that scene – “we’ve met before haven’t we?” – still wakes me up in the middle of the night. The fact that Bill Pullman was shooting this at the same time he shot Independence Day speaks volumes of his performance and obviously the space he needed to get to after walking from a Roland Emmerich set.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

An American Werewolf in London, Mad Max, and Rosemary’s Baby.

Luke Shanahan’s sublime thriller, Rabbit, is screening at Adelaide’s GU Film House on Thursday, August 30 at 7pm (tickets here),  Sydney’s Dendy Newtown at 7pm, with pre-screening Q&A (tickets here) and Melbourne’s Cinema Nova on Friday, August 31 at 6.45pm (tickets here), with more dates to follow soon.

read our review here.

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