|Letter from an Unknown Woman
|Don't Look Now
|The Red Shoes
|Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
|Morton Da Costa
|The Long Day Closes
|Vittorio De Sica
|A Star Is Born
Letter from an Unknown Woman
Matchless, heart-breaking melodrama of unrequited love, a sumptuous, classic Hollywood studio production in black and white. Louis Jourdan is the handsome love-object and Joan Fontaine the selfless lover who can never forget him. This is an unconventional romantic journey but it packs a punch.
A creepy and unnerving story with a side-order of alien abduction and lots of adolescent angst, this is a subtle and engaging film with a great lead performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, based on the novel by Scott Heim.
Don't Look Now
A film to make you fall in love with Venice and its spooky side. Unnerving, unpredictable and beautifully shot. This is a film which repays repeated viewing with great lead performances by Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland and a brilliant ensemble cast.
The Red Shoes
A film about the dynamics of cultural production and its power to change lives. Moira Shearer is the talented ballet dancer caught in the hands of her Svengali, played by Anton Walbrook. Brilliant Technicolor cinematography, some stunningly imaginative ballet sequences and a terrific score are among this film's many pleasures.
Stunningly beautiful period drama noted for Kubrick's insistence on shooting night scenes with only candlelight. Ryan O'Neal plays the roguish chancer whose good luck leads him on to great heights, from wartime exploits as a soldier to a society gambler, but we follow Barry on the up and on to the inevitable down. Architecture and landscape feature strongly but the greatest achievements are the powerfully realised performances of a richly talented (mostly British) cast including Murray Melvin, Marisa Berenson, Leonard Rossiter and many more.
I first saw Auntie Mame on television as a child and immediately fell in love. Rosalind Russell is scintillatingly good as the Bohemian New Yorker saddled with a distant relative's orphan 10-year-old boy. Full of barely sub-textual queerness, it's a riot of costume and interior design and lots of quotable lines from writing duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Patrick Dennis. Funny, sharp, endearing and delightful; Coral Browne as the outrageous best friend is worth the price of admission alone.
The Long Day Closes
This is one of Terence Davies' greatest achievements, a mesmerising encounter with a young boy growing up in a large family in 1950s Liverpool. A poetic, cinematic mosaic which offers an insight into the social manners and morals of the time, and some dazzlingly memorable scenes along the way in this incomparable hymn to cinema.
A masterclass in narrative upset and a boldly upsetting tale of secrets in a small town. I love the shocks and Anthony Perkins' shyly nervy performance as Norman Bates and a great ending. I wonder if anyone has done a top ten of only Hitchcock films. I could have been tempted.
A timeless and deeply affecting story of a former government official fallen on hard times. This is a film of great and quiet power that has a devastating impact. Now more relevant than ever.
A Star Is Born
Widescreen Technicolor melodrama from George Cukor starring Judy Garland in some of her best screen performances and lots of fantastic songs. An emotional journey but a great one.
I feel like I'm cheating on so many of my favourite films but for this list I am going on the principle of films which had an emotional impact on me on first viewing and continue to do so. I've seen every one of these films in a cinema, mostly at BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre). I am very susceptible to widescreen films – the lavish picture quality and sound gives a more intense pleasure which I find in films like A Star Is Born, Barry Lyndon and Auntie Mame. I think I may be more interested in the pleasures of melodrama than I thought.