Betty Blue [directors cut] D: Jean Jacques Beineix – Absolutely gorgeous, tragic, lavish, filling contemporary cinema. A sumptuous look at love between two outcasts and a woman’s ‘madness’, as dark as depression and as light as lemonade. No one does it like the French. This was one of Beineix’s later films and really the only one worth seeing. His earlier work is just as experimental with colour and aesthetics, but lacked the sophisticated edge of Betty. Interestingly, the film was attacked by film critics such as Susan Hopkins [big in the feminist psycho-analytic film critic world] who thought Betty was a male fantasy of the ‘supreme fuck’. Considering the film opens with a slow zoom in on the two having sex, it’s not hard to see why, but I stand by this film as a flawed but never-the-less interesting exploration of sanity, desire and love. Wonderful cinematography too – just when I thought I’d seen it all this film continued to surprise and enchant me. Try and see it on the big screen.
See it with; Tequila rapidos- though don’t try and keep up.
Manhattan D: Woody Allen – The opening monologue says it all – this film is about a black and white city that pulsates to Gershwin, and people living inside it. I am completely in love with the idea of Manhattan and New York, largely due to the films of Mr Woody Allen. An intelligent romantic comedy/drama, as witty as we are [or would hope to be], as meaningful as those important conversations you have at 2am in the morning and as funny as, well, Woody Allen. Super performance from Diane, who I love, and who was the nervous, sweet Annie in the wonderful Annie Hall only two years before her role as the uptight Mary in Manhattan. If you like your cinema 100% sharp, insightful and full of both romantized and playfully critiqued middle class New Yorkers, struggling to understand love, marriage, commitment and art, then this is the film for you.
See it with; Good red wine and some Billy Holiday to follow.
Amelie; D: Jean Pierre Jeunet] – OK OK I admit it – I’m a complete romantic at heart. I actually cried through most of this film because I liked it so much, and i was pretty drunk. Warm and quirky, original and ruminating on the beauty of imagination and human kindness. I love all of Jeunet and Caro’s films – they were the guys behind Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children and Jeunet directed Aliens 4. The first two [and even Aliens to a degree] are wholly executed modern fairytales who draw on European tradition and physical comedy like vaudeville and cabaret to create utterly unique magical tales of dark, rich, exciting characters that would make Jim Henson drool and Baz Luhrmann trade in the cheese. Amelie moved away from the dark realms of Jeunet’s imagination into 100% romance and bubbly hope. This film didn’t go down well with the sarcastic, the bitter or the ironics, so if you can leave that sort of pride at the door, you’ll fall in love with this quirky fun film. Step into the world of Amelie and leave walking 3 feet above the ground.
See it with; Your best friend, or failing that, someone you wanna get in the sack
The Blues Brothers [D: Steven Spielberg] – One of the coolest musicals you’re ever gonna watch starring the now deceased John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd when he was still cool. Full of great cameos [Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown and Stevey Spielberg himself], the boys smash and sing there way across America in order to get cash to a particularly vicious nun. The critics hated this film but the punters loved it. Try to ignore the misogyny – Carrie Fisher plays a funny role that sadly ends with no score for the feminists… Five stars for the shopping mall sequence alone. And a great soundtrack to boot – I have it on vinyl!
See it with; Four fried chickens and a Coke.
Irma Vep [D: Olivier Assayas]; I watched this film as part of an Asian cinema class, even though its directed by a French guy Olivier Assayas. I liked it as a film, but also from a more cerebral point of view, as I think it is a genuine attempt at post colonial cinema. The film charts a directors attempt to remake Irma Vep, which is an old black and white French serial about a vampire-esque thief. However instead of casting a French star, he casts Hong Kong action film veteran Maggie Cheung, who plays herself in the film. The film brings up questions of authenticity, ethnicity and French cinema [a subject Assayas has always been vocal about]. I’ve only seen one other film of his, the less ambitious but still very enjoyable Late August, Early September, which is a more conventional multi-character drama.
See it with; A reader in Asian cinema nearby.
Dark City [D: Alex Proyas]. Post modern post film noir sci-fi adventure. So classy, so tight, so exciting. If you liked The Matrix…
Moulin Rouge [D: Baz Luhrmann] The ultimate musical – huge productions, camp humour, a film that moves as fast as you can.
Adaptation and Being John Malkovich [D: Spike Jonze] From the wonderfully sharp mind of everyone’s favourite depressive Charlie Kaufman, these films made me love the pure art of storytelling all over again. I dream of writing stories anywhere close to as good as these.
Casablanca: One of the greats, this film has no used-by date. Funny, tragic, romantic – a film you finish watching and think ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to.’ Ingrid Bergman is sublime, Humprey Bogart – hey, it’s Bogart man.
Comedies: My four fav’s are Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Buster Keaton and anything by anyone from Monty Python. I also love 80s comedies like St Elmo’s Fire, which fall more into the ‘unintentional comedy’ basket…