Wednesday, May 30, 2007

War Starts At Midnight!

Thinking back to Channel 4’s 50 Films to See before You Die, which included films where I’d actually prefer to die rather than watch, I’m always interested by the responses this sort of list elicits. It also makes me wonder what kind of list I’d propose.

An article in this week’s Radio Times sees a number of directors who learnt their craft on British television asked, amongst other things, what their favourite film is. Terry Gilliam plumped for The Apartment, Martin Campbell – who directed Reilly, Ace of Spies and Edge of Darkness before going on to reboot James Bond – chose Lawrence of Arabia, and Alan Parker picked Raging Bull (after deciding Citizen Kane is too obvious). Ken Loach opted for Bicycle Thieves, Richard Curtis favoured White Christmas, and Peter Webber went for Apocalypse Now.

From that shortlist, I’d go with Campbell. While Lean’s masterpiece is one of my favourites, it is not the favourite. Bicycle Thieves, along with Humphrey Jennings’ Fires Were Started, was screened as part of the Complementary Studies programme at The Esteemed School of Art. Both are admirable films but I can’t say I’d rush to watch them again. The same is true for Raging Bull, which I find uncomfortable viewing to say the least and to this day haven't managed to watch all the way through a second time.

Sometime back in the 1980s, one of the trade magazines ran a regular feature that asked industry figures to pick their Desert Island Movies. The various choices I can’t remember, but in such circumstances it gave a whole new criteria to the choices. I know for a fact there wouldn’t be any Italian Neo-Realism and Chaplin, but I doubt there’d be space for the likes of Citizen Kane, The Godfather or The Godfather, Part II, It’s a Wonderful Life, or even The Third Man.

2001: A Space Odyssey probably wouldn’t get a look in either because, for enjoyment and entertainment value, the Kubrick film I watch more than any other is Dr Strangelove. In a situation where I had only ten films to watch repeatedly – although since Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs allows the “castaway” eight records to chose from there may be less – I’d be looking for films to be enjoyed as well as admired.

Which means there would probably be this (as long as the three films were combined into one, in their extended form):

And especially this:

But there might also be either of these two:

Or maybe even one of these:

But however short the list is, the one film I do know would be there for an absolute certainty, that I’d be happy to sit down and watch time and time again, day in and day out, come rain or come shine, is this:

In the capsule review for Time Out Film Guide, Chris Peachment wrote:

Like much of Powell and Pressburger's work, it is a salute to all that is paradoxical about the English; no one else has so well captured their romanticism banked down beneath emotional reticence and honour. And it is marked by an enormous generosity of spirit: in the history of the British cinema there is nothing to touch it.

It is of course Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s utterly magnificent

If you had to choose your “Desert Island Movies”, which films do you know for certain would be there?

Then, if you had to pick just one from your shortlist that you’d be happy to watch over and over, which one would it be?


At 8:14 pm, Blogger Ian said...

Tough ones to call. I'm probably forgetting some but from the 50's Truffaut's "Les Quatre Cents Coups" would definitely be in the list, as would "All About Eve". From more recent offerings I'd pick "The Sixth Sense" (simple story, but beautifully told), "The Killing Fields" (very powerful despite sacharine John Lennon "Imagine" ending), "Midnight Express" (couldn't stop thinking about the film for weeks afterwards), "Shooting Dogs" (a kind of modern update of "Killing Fields" I guess), the original "Planet of the Apes" (the iconic ending alone earns it a place in the top) and (very recently) "Hard Candy" (small budget, a cast of pretty much just two people talking a lot, but had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish).

But top of my list I think would be "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". The joy of Nicholson's character, the wonderful super-villainess Nurse Ratchett, one of Brad Dourif's best performances (and he's never a slouch) and an ending that didn't cop out.

At 11:23 am, Blogger English Dave said...

mmmmmmmmm, in no particular order

Goodfellas [great performances]
Casablanca [Just because]
Infernal Affairs [better than remake]
Sunset Boulevard [for the biting HW satire]
Airplane [ Just because]
Treasure of The Sierra Madre [for it's handling of greed and madness and 'We don' need no steenkin' badges']
The Quiet Man [was my grandfather's favourite]
Annie Hall [ cos we all have that angst and insecurity in us]


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