Scott Walker’s favourite films

In 2000, the late great Scott Walker curated a season of his favourite films for the BFI as part of the Meltdown Festival. Here’s what he chose.

26 March 2019

By Sam Wigley

Scott Walker

In 2000, Scott Walker, the enigmatic singer and composer who has died aged 76, curated the eighth Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre, programming live performances by the likes of Radiohead, Blur, Jarvis Cocker, Evan Parker, Jim O’Rourke and early music group Ensemble Organum.

As part of the festival, he made a selection of his favourite films to be screened at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank). “Film is really an obsession with me,” he wrote. “These films are mostly European because that’s what I’m interested in”.

This is his selection.

The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

This highly stylised Hollywood melodrama from director Josef von Sternberg is set around a seedy Shanghai casino run by ‘Mother’ Gin Sling (Ona Munson).

A Man Escaped (1956)

A Man Escaped (1956)

In conversation with Jarvis Cocker for Q magazine, Walker said of director Robert Bresson: ‘When I see his films, it’s a visual version of what I want to get. He never uses real actors. If a person is laying down their hand, he just wants you to know a human being is laying down their hand. It’s the phenomenon of being human.’

The Leopard (1963)

The Leopard (1963)

Luchino Visconti’s lavish period epic stars Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon in the story of an ageing aristocrat being eclipsed by the times.

Gertrud (1964)

Gertrud (1964)

The final film by Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer was booed at its premiere but has grown in reputation as one of the great last films.

The Round-up (1965)

The Round-up (1966)

Walker saw Miklós Jancsó’s hypnotic Hungarian historical drama while an avid cinemagoer on the arthouse circuit in 1960s London. He told The Guardian: ‘I went six nights running. I absolutely loved it! … It’s so obscure that it seemed the only way I could get to see it [again] was to programme it for Meltdown!’

The Rise to Power of Louis XIV (1966)

The Rise to Power of Louis XIV (1966)

Best known for his early neorealist films, Roberto Rossellini turned to the historical past in the 1960s for a string of made-for-TV films, including this royal drama, which makes pioneering use of the zoom lens.

Hunger (1966)

Hunger (1966)

Although it was in the running for the Palme d’Or in 1966, this Oslo-set drama from Danish director Henning Carlsen has not been widely seen in the UK, yet it’s one of 10 films included on the Danish Ministry of Culture’s ‘culture canon’.

Persona (1966)

Persona (1966)

Walker is well known for his love of Ingmar Bergman, even naming a song on Scott 4 after the director’s film The Seventh Seal. Persona is the director’s great film about two women whose identities begin to merge while on an island retreat.

Chinese Roulette (1976)

Chinese Roulette (1976)

Anna Karina stars in this marital psychodrama from the prolific German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Passion (1982)

Passion (1982)

Made during Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980s return to narrative filmmaking, Passion is a film about filmmaking set during the production of a European arthouse movie.

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (1994)

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (1994)

Walker’s first of two choices from the bleak, droll, brilliant Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki.

Casino (1995)

Casino (1995)

Martin Scorsese’s crime epic — interestingly the second of Walker’s choices set in a gambling joint.

Drifting Clouds (1996)

Drifting Clouds (1996)

More from Kaurismaki: Drifting Clouds begins with a tram driver and his waitress wife both separately losing their jobs, setting off a chain of unfortunate circumstances.

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