Narrow, stone-walled streets,
palace, church and square resound
with strains of Mahler.
Narrow, stone-walled streets,
palace, church and square resound
with strains of Mahler.
1. 4 Weddings and a Funeral: 1994
Written by Richard Curtis who also wrote Love Actually and Notting Hill among others. Directed by Mike Newell whose movies crossed all genres, including Donnie Brasco, Love in the Time of Cholera, Great Expectations, and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
The moment for me in this movie involves Rowan Atkinson who plays a clergyman. At one of the weddings the character played by Kristin Scott Thomas tells him that his first wedding is like the first time one has sex. Rowan Atkinson’s face is good enough on its own but he gives this small embarrassed laugh, more of a snigger, a small sound which he repeats while turning his face away. How does he do that? It seems so creative to me. I’m laughing here as I’m writing . . .
2. The Beast with Five Fingers: 1946
This horror movie was a short story in the first place, written by W. F. Harvey and then became a screenplay writtend by Curt Siodmak. Rober Florey directed the movie. He directed other horror films as well as the first Marx Brothers feature, The Cocoanuts.
The story revolves around a death, relations and a will. The left hand of the corpse is cut off and begins to creep around at night and to play the piano. The film is in black and white and the hand glows as it moves. I saw this movie when I was about ten and it haunted me all my youth and gave me many nightmares. The moment that stands out is when a friend, played by Peter Lorre, catches the hand and tries to throw it into the fire but it leaps out and strangles him. I can just about stand to think about it now!
3. Schlinder’s List: 1993
Such a wonderful movie altogether, and my favourite moment is when we first see Oscar Schlinder (Liam Neeson) as he enters a room full of people. The camera is behind him at head level so we can appreciate how tall and imposing a figure he was. I loved that. The film was directed by Spielberg, and adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian. The original book was called Schlinder’s Ark and was written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally.
4. Babette’s Feast: 1987
This Danish movie was directed and written by Gabriel Axel who based the screenplay on the short story written by Karen Blixen (with whom I share a birthday!). In Danish – Babettes Gaestebud. It is set in the 19th century and tells the story of two sisters living in a village in Jutland in West Denmark. They are members of a very strict Protestant sect begun by their father, and we get their sad back stories as the movie goes along. Babette arrives at their door in the middle of a storm. She has escaped from the war in Paris and has a letter of introduction from Philippas’s old suiter, Papin. Babette keeps house for them. When she wins the French lottery she offers to cook a real French meal for the sisters and all the villagers, who live sober, controlled lives without much laughter. The moment I enjoyed the most is the kitchen scene while Babette is cooking; the heat; the smells; the tastes; it’s a magical scene. This movie is in my top ten list and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
5. There Will Be Blood: 2007
This movie, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is based on a 1927 novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. It stars Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview, the oil man trying to convince the locals, in a pit mine hole in New Mexico, that this search for oil will benefit them. However he is opposed by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) a local preacher. The film is magnificent on every front; it is a huge film. The stand-out moment in my memory is when Eli Sunday forces Daniel Plainview to his knees – the faces of those men, the acting, is amazing. It’s the kind of movie that makes me very quiet when I leave the cinema thinking – less than ten euro for all THAT!
6. Gone With The Wind: 1939
I won’t say much about this movie; everyone knows everything about it! It was produced by David O Selznick. The screenplay was written by Sydney Howard, adapted from the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell. And I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say the moment in this movie is when Scarlett, in a red, red dress appears in the doorway at Melanie’s party, when she is suspected of having an affair with Melanie’s husband, Ashley. Head up, shoulders back, brazening out the stares.
7. Strictly Ballroom: 1992
This Australian rom com was written and directed by the wonderful Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliette). It was based on a play written by himself and fellow students while they were studying drama in Sydney. It is much more than a rom com of course. For anyone who loves dance movies this one is a must. It follows the lives of two young dancers – Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) as they struggle to remain partners and to try some innovative moves. For me, the magic happens when the Paso Doble is danced, not by the young ones, but by Fran’s father and grandmother. You’d have to stand up and clap!
8. The Apartment: 1960
Staring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, this movie is a total delight from start to finish. Produced by Billy Wilder, and written by him with I. A. L. Diamond. “Bud” Baxter works for an Insurance Company and in the interests of getting promotion he lends his flat out to his boss for illicit meetings with his mistress. Soon, others want to use the flat as well and Bud’s life gets very complicated. He’s in love with the lift girl (MacLaine) and it all ends well eventually. I’m sure everyone knows what scene I’m going to mention. Of course it’s Bud straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. Jack Lemmon is one of my favourite actors; he can play anything. Look at him in in Glengarry Glen Ross or Days of Wine and Roses.
9. La Belle et La Bete: 1946
I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it many years ago. If you like fantasy and magical scenes you might want to look it up. It is truly beautiful, gorgeous, sumptuous, fantastic, dazzling, and dreamlike. The film was directed by Jean Cocteau, poet and film maker, adapted from a story written in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. It stars Josette Day as Beauty, and Jean Marais as the Beast. One of the stand-out moments (and there are many) is this; Beauty is floating along a corridor in the castle and as she passes, hands holding blazing torches reach out from the wall to light her way. I’m going to have to watch this again now!
10. Some Like it Hot: 1959
In a movie where every scene is one to remember, all I can say is, “Nobody’s perfect!”
I hope any movie lovers who read this have enjoyed the list. I’ll have to do a final one with modern movies this time.
She steps from behind a tombstone,
is delicately there,
as though shaped from those sad poems
about dead deer.
or simply to stop trembling
and accept the caress
of the way I keep my distance,
muffle the trespass
of even a sudden look.
She watches me sideways,
I ogle a Celtic cross
for as long as it takes to be counted incidental
then not to count. At last I can watch her pass
unscared into the morning, so tuned to place she
is its sole movement. How soft must be the air
in her fine nostrils. How sweet the cemetery grass.
1. Manon de Sources – a film by Claude Berri, and follow-up to Jean de Florette. There he is, Ugolin, (Daniel Auteuil) breaking his heart over Manon, (Emmanuelle Béart) sewing a ribbon from her hair onto his chest. His face – I will never forget it, the pain, the anguish – I could hardly bear to watch!
2. Raging Bull, Scorcese of course, with Robert de Niro. I loved the opening sequence of this movie – De Niro shadow boxing to Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. A dreamy, misty, unforgettable image.
3.Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall. The best scene (for me) in this movie is the last one, where the grown up Billy is preparing to go on stage to dance in Swan Lake. The viewer only sees him from the back, wearing a cloak. Someone behind him removes the cloak revealing his broad, strong back and he looks magical, majestic, magnetic.
4. La Cage aux Folles, a film by Eduard Molinaro, adapted from the play by Jean Poiret. I loved this movie so much, mostly because of Michel Serrault who plays the part of Albin, a female impersonator in a night club run by his partner, Renato. When Renato’s son is to marry into a very conservative family, Albin has to pretend to be truly masculine. He has to practice – he dons a man’s suit and makes an entrance. He has to cross the room and sit down, and oh, how he does it. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time. For his inability to play masculine, for his whole-hearted attempts to get it right, for his utter humanity and lovability. I have seen the American version of this movie as well and it copies every scene religiously; the cast even resembles the French cast – except for Albin. To play Albin there is only Michel Serrault!
5. Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – not a scene in this one, only a few moments, when Brad Pitt, impersonating an Italian lifts a casual hand and says – Arrivederci – priceless!
6. Death in Venice, by Luchino Visconti, adapted from a short story by Thomas Mann. Dirk Bogarde plays the part of an aging musician (a writer in the story) travelling for health reasons when he falls madly in love with a beautiful boy staying in the same hotel with his family. He attempts to look younger; he gets his hair and moustache died very black. One day when he is following the boy through the narrow streets he feels weak and sits down in the rain; the hair dye begins to run down his cheeks. It’s like a painting, a very sad painting. And over all the strains of Mahler’s 5th. (One movement of it, I forget which one. I bought the CD but I only liked that one movement.)
7. Glengarry Glen Ross, (from the play by David Mamet) stars two of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. Jack Lemmon plays Levane Shelley, a salesman no longer young, who has lost his touch. There are younger, smarter men in the game now and Al Pacino is ruthless. All day, every day, they chase leads. The moment for me in this film is Levane in a phone box desperately trying to clinch a sale. his face furrowed, almost in tears, with anxiety. I don’t know how actors do it; I believed every word out of his mouth.
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the first Ang Lee movie I saw, filled me with awe. I’m not generally a lover of Martial Arts but I loved every moment of this film. And what I remember best is the scene of a battle which takes place in the tree tops; the combatants swaying in the branches. The trees are so green, so graceful, balletic almost and truly beautiful.
9. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Even writing down that title makes me laugh a bit. The Coen Bros are wonderful and I’m a fan of all their movies. In this one, the moment I can’t forget is when The Soggy Bottom Boys are performing at a music festival. I love George Clooney because he plays the clown so well – and him so good-looking! And I loved all the music throughout.
10. Fellini’s Amarcord. The whole film is wonderful but there’s a scene where a ship is coming into harbour; it’s night time and the ship is lit up with myriad lights, like something out of fairy land.
So this is my list of ten best cinema moments. Do you agree or disagree? And what are your favourites?
From my dear, old, battered, often read copy of 1984. Read and ponder this paragraph. Can we imagine such a world? No words, no books, no conversation. Dante could have included this scenario in his Inferno! My youngest child was born in 1984 – I didn’t call him Winston.
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Insoc is Newspeak . . . Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?”
William Trevor often makes me laugh. There are situations in his novel, “The Old Boys” that I remember at odd times and that make me laugh out loud no matter where I am. And this story does the same, but only at the beginning. It’s a thing that William Trevor does – you think the story is about one thing but it turns into something else entirely. The friendship in question is between Francesca, married to pompous Philip and with two sons, and Margy who livens up Francesca’s life with tales of her various love affairs. The two have been friends since childhood but have very little in common. As Trevor says:
“Their common ground was the friendship itself.”
Francesca seems an ethereal creature, tall and blonde, hardly aware of her surroundings, or of what her boys are up to. Margy, however, sees everything, She is small, dark, quick, with a touch of spite, especially where Francesca’s husband is concerned. And this spite is what eventually wrecks the friendship. Philip doesn’t help himself however; he is known as “bad news” in their dinner circle:
” . . . he displayed little interest in the small-talk that was, increasingly desperately, levelled at him . . . he was not ill at ease; others laboured, never he.”
Margy, on the pretense that it was time she thought about settling down, proposes that they contact their old college friend, Sebastian. But Sebastian had always fancied Francesca, and shortly after they all meet up for lunch, he and Francesca begin an affair. Margy facilitates this by lending them her apartment from time to time. Philip finds out by accident, a slip in conversation:
“Oh heavens, I’ve said the wrong thing!”
Philip pretends that he and Francesca often meet up with Sebastian. He confronts Francesca, who is contrite and says it wasn’t much. They have a row, clear the air, and decide to continue as before, with one difference:
“‘Drop me?’, Margy said, and Francesca nodded . . . ‘It’s how Philip feels.'”
“On the pavement . . . they stood for a moment in a chill November wind, then moved away in their two different directions.”
This is the body of the story, but it begins with Francesca’s two sons, aged six and eight, pouring wet cement into their father’s new golf bag, complete with new clubs. Even thinking about this makes me laugh. Trevor writes it down in such a matter of fact way, without as much as an exclamation mark.
“Sharing the handle of the bucket, they found they could manage to convey their load . . . they had practised; they knew what they were doing.”
“‘We know nothing about it,’ Jason instructed his brother. ‘Nothing about it,’ Ben obediently repeated.”
Francesca is oblivious; Margy sees it straight away but says nothing and the four sit down to lunch. Ben decides to break the monotonous silence and mentions his teacher:
“‘Miss Martindale’s mother died . . . a man interfered with her.'”
His mother is shocked but Margy is amused.
“Ben said all the girls had cried, that Miss Martindale herself had cried, that her face was creased and funny because actually she’d been crying all night. Margy watched Jason worrying in case his brother went too far.”
And that’s all there is about the boys, except for a sentence to say that when tackled by their angry father they said it was just a joke. But for me, they make the story memorable. I loved the pair of them. Very often children are interesting and exciting and you wonder what will become of them. But generally very little does; they grow up and stop pouring cement into new golf bags.
The writing, as always, is delicious.
“The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.”
“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”
The most loving story I ever read; I made family and friends read it too – years before the movie, which I also enjoyed.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN by Annie Proulx
The punch is spiked with glory
My senses leaping and alive
For tonight to listen is enough
And through the music of the music
Runs an old familiar voice
A thread of scarlet joy, moving
In my blood, weaving through my heart
And lungs and lights, pulling tighter
Ever tighter ‘til I scarcely breathe
Caught like a bunch of doe-eyed pansies
My eyes are dark and wild with wonder
At such intensity of being
That I must weep for being almost whole.
I’m going to stop here. There are still quite a lot of 2019 movies I’ve to see; I’ll probably have to rewrite the list again . . . Anyone else like to post a list?