This will horrify you all. I am NOT a film buff. If critics rave over a new movie, the chances are I’d better not watch it, as it will be gruesome or upsetting, or probably both. I watch maybe two new films a year. The rest of the time, if I want to see a film (and that’s rare), I much prefer to watch an old favourite. And I crave old-fashioned movies, where actors are allowed to act and the script is not written by nineteen people and in consequence is coherent and witty and sharp. Take all your fancy CGI and drop it off the edge of a cliff, as far as I’m concerned; the fact a movie is in 3-D, for instance, will deter me entirely from watching it.
Thinking about it, I could probably have put together my ten worst movies easier than my ten favourites. In the early days of dating Mister Litlove, his home town boasted a tiny arts cinema and he would often take me there, before he knew better. The turkeys I sat through! I will never forget Kamikaze, a French film about a madman in an attic who had created a special machine to shoot television continuity announcers on screen. Or the one about the gay Spanish architect, building a room on his house for his mother. When you are very squeamish, as I am, and dislike being confronted with images you are unlikely to forget in a hurry, you learn to tread very carefully with films, and for years I saw almost exclusively children’s movies, although they were differently disturbing as they made me weep buckets. Take away violence, take away tragedy, what have you got left, film-wise? Well, here are the ones I will gladly watch:
I don’t wish to count how many times I’ve seen this. It is my number one comfort movie, a tale of one invalid avenging another, with the gorgeous Grace Kelly and James Stewart proving that what you really need when convalescing is an absorbing hobby.
Bullets Over Broadway
I’m a big Woody Allen fan, and I also love Manhatten Murder Mystery and Alice. The fact that some of Allen’s best films are about creativity really pleases me. I even love Deconstructing Harry for all the interpolated fictional stories.
I could probably have filled the list up with Hitchcock and Woody Allen but I won’t. I have to include Vertigo,though, as I
think it’s still one of the cleverest movies I’ve ever seen. Kim Novak sets my teeth on edge, but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all.
Much Ado About Nothing
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson combine to make this one of the happiest most delightful films you are ever likely to see. It’s just so much fun, and so sunny and captivating. Shakespeare wears his smiley face.
Don Juan DeMarco
A lesser-known Jonny Depp film, in which Depp stars as a modern day Don Juan who may simply be a confused kid in need of psychiatric care. Marlon Brando is his concerned shrink, who begins by not believing a word he says and then gradually gets seduced by the stories of his romantic exploits. This is by no means a classic romance, but it’s the most romantic film I’ve ever seen. Big favourite with Mister Litlove, too.
James and the Giant Peach
I watched this over and over with my son when he was little. I’m not really a fan of Roald Dahl, but the fantastic animation worked so perfectly here with the quirky story. Plus Miriam Margolyes and Joanna Lumley as evil aunts are a treat.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Okay, so the end always makes me cry, but I forgive it. Audrey Hepburn is utterly gorgeous and George Peppard is charming (who’d have guessed they loathed one another when they were filming?). I’d watch it just for those opening scenes of Audrey in her impossibly chic dress with the pearl collar and her hair in a perfect chignon.
While we’re with the old movies, I thought I’d put in this one starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman as sparring lovers. I really love the way that Grant is always urbane on the surface and yet glintingly crackers underneath. I could have added Notorious to the list, which I also love, and That Touch of Mink with Doris Day. Yeah, yeah, old-fashioned and not very feminist so bite me. I don’t care.
Tomorrow Never Dies
I remember when I was a child watching my first Bond movie and thinking that I had never, ever seen anything so thrilling. Bond always makes me feel Christmassy too, in a good way, because there was often one on in the afternoons on those lovely restful days leading up to New Year. My son loved them, too, and we had good times watching them together. I am a Pierce Brosnan sort of woman, to Mister Litlove’s chagrin. Every time Brosnan comes on screen, Mister Litlove coughs ‘catalogue model’ not-so-discreetly.
Jean de Florette, Au Revoir les Enfants and L’Appartement
I wanted to have a French film on the list, but just couldn’t decide between these three. Jean de Florette has the wonderful Depardieu and is a tale of rural folk and thwarted love in the deep south. Au Revoir les Enfants is a touching tale of a little Jewish boy kept under cover in his boarding school while WW2 rages on. L’Appartement is a sort of fluffy-slick thriller about mistaken identities, starring Vincent Cassel whose bags under his eyes please me in a way I cannot explain.
Et voilà! I daresay I will be watching some of these yet again over the festive period.