Thursday, December 14, 2006

Go My Own Way

Back from Christmas drinks with the circle of friends. It was good to get together but... I don’t think I was really in the mood for it.

I don’t want to sound like I’m antisocial. I’m not really a party person. I prefer smaller groups where you can actually talk about real things. If that makes me some kind of a killjoy... like I care.

At least our friend Dick from the BFI stopped by. While everyone else was goofing around we discussed the state of television for a while before we had to head off.

Another end of year tradition is choosing your best films of the year. My top five should be easy, because I’ve only been to the cinema five times: The Jacket, Inside Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Casino Royale and The Prestige.

There were other films I meant to see but didn’t get around to because either we were too busy or in the end I couldn’t be bothered. I’ll see them at some point. Having watched the trailers I can pretty much guess what happens.

Years back it used to be lots of movies and little television. Of late they’ve been flipped around. I’d prefer to sit down to a couple episodes of Battlestar Galactica or Heroes or The Wire than schlep into town, sit on some dried up kernels of popcorn amongst a room full of twittering twerps and leave two hours later vaguely disappointed.

I’m not saying the five I saw left me disappointed. I actually enjoyed them, even though in The Jacket there was a logic point they sidestepped – testing for gunpowder residue - that would have smashed the rest of the film over the head with a snow shovel. What puts me off is the incessant badgering and bombardment in the media and everywhere else to see a film.

After the British Comedy Awards on ITV1 I watched the marvellous Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The DVD had been on the shelf for a while and I realised I hadn’t seen it. A lot of the DVDs are older films.

Rather than buy new releases, I tend to pick up older films nowadays. These are the films that I was allowed to discover myself. These are the movies by the likes of Powell & Pressburger, Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, and Preston Sturges, and their contemporaries, that I caught up with when they were screened on television or shown in repertory cinemas dotted around the capital.

With Peter Boyle’s passing every talked about his turn as the monster in Young Frankenstein. My strongest memory is seeing him in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, watched on the old B&W set I had in my bedroom when it was part of a late night season of American films shown on BBC2. It might have been around that time that I first saw Night Moves, Prime Cut and Point Blank as well.

Here’s the prime example of finding a movie for myself. There was a VHS rental outlet in Devon I’d go to when I was doing my arts foundation year prior to my degree. Scanning the shelves one Saturday afternoon I came across this:

Violent Streets isn’t the kind of title that would inspire me to grab it with both hands. But it starred James Caan. And I liked the graphic illustration.

I later found out that Violent Streets was the UK release title. Just about everywhere else in the world saw it under its original name: Thief. It’s the first feature by Michael Mann. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to. A couple of years later when I was working summers in studios and money was coming in I bought a copy in a sale, still in the same big plastic packaging.

That one I came to blind. Since then, I’ll read a review in a broadsheet maybe. But to discover a film for myself is much more rewarding. It’s like finding treasure without a map to guide me. One of the next perfect examples that comes to mind is Whit Stillman’s sublime Metropolitan.

I don’t want the side of a bus or some fast food tie-in or words coming out of the empty head of some boob who has got themselves on television to tell me to watch a movie. I’ll make the decision myself.

Throwing it out to the gallery, what's your self-discovered treasure?


At 5:14 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

At least our friend Dick from the BFI stopped by.

I read that as FBI first time round..

At 5:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Quiet Earth

It's a 1985 film from New Zealand. A man wakes up. And pretty soon, he discovers that everyone else has just... gone. Vanished overnight.

It's beautifully written, made, and acted. I caught it originally on TV many years ago, and it still holds up today.

You can get a copy at amazon for six quid, but don't read the comments or Amazon's review, as there are spoilers aplenty.

At 9:58 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

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At 9:59 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:01 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Recently, I saw the trailer for Thank You For Smoking and checked it out based on that. Great flick.

Then a while back it was The City Of Lost Children. I think I may have seen a couple of images from it and just wanted to check it out based on that. Marvellous stuff.

I also keep going back through the early, completely bonkers films of Pedro Almodóvar which I ended up watching because I have a thing for Rossy de Palma... ;-) Kika is such a wonderful dose of insanity that could only come out of post-Franco Spain. Glorious!

PS: I think Potdoll's worked out your espionage double life...

@Piers: I seem to remember a scene with two moons from the end of The Quiet Earth. Very gentle, yet unsettling film, as I recall.


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