Director and Writer
|One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
|Paul Thomas Anderson
|Vittorio De Sica
|Some Like It Hot
|Lawrence of Arabia
|The Night of the Hunter
|2001: A Space Odyssey
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
This is my favourite film; it is a masterpiece that transcends time. I saw it in the Studio 123 in Liverpool and I came out a different person after seeing it – things weren't the same after seeing McMurphy battle the system. It's a fresh movie that never diminishes. Its performances feel honest and sublime.
While being an epic movie, The Seventh Samurai never loses its handle on reality. You feel the characters’ pain in a primal way. It's written all over their faces like in Munch's The Scream. The futility of the narrative makes you think ‘What is life all about?’
When Ratso Rizzo says “I’m walking here. I’m walking here.”, does this not capture the frustration we all feel as we try to be noticed in this crazy world? The heartbreaking ending packs a power punch that I know I’ve never gotten over. Using comedy and pathos, Schlesinger does not shy away from the dark side of life while showing the comedy of the situation. Brilliant musical montages power the story along. Midnight Cowboy is nothing short of a marvel.
I wanted to put a more modern film in my top ten (it is easy to stick with the films of your youth), but this clash of personal dilemmas makes us think about our own problems and mortality. The stand out moment in this movie is when the cast sing ‘Wise Up’, each trapped in their own private hell. I've watched this many times, like all of my top ten films, and I can't help but be moved.
I love De Sica's films, but only saw Umberto D very recently. Carlo Battisti's performance as Umberto D is heartbreaking, an old man who is caught in the trap of renting and poverty. I feel that Napoleone as Fike the dog gives the best ever on-screen performance by an animal. The scene where Umberto tries to beg for the first time makes me cry. It's so powerful in its execution and performance. Seventy years on since this movie, has the world changed? This is filmmaking at its best. Out of all of my top ten films, this is the one I hope you will hunt out.
Some Like It Hot
What's a top ten without Billy Wilder? The question is, which film to pick? Ten years ago I picked The Apartment. Perhaps in ten years time it will be Sunset Blvd.? But for now I'm running wild with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. Some people say this is the greatest comedy ever made. I would not even remotely argue with that. It was the most forward thinking film ending ever: "Well, nobody's perfect."
Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean's masterpiece never grows old. The way it appeared on Netflix’s homepage the other week says it all. It's such a supreme piece of production design and filmmaking that it can never age. Peter O'Toole was born to play Lawrence. Omar's watery eyes are iconic. The story defines politically the state of the world. It has my favourite edit in cinema history. The blowing out of the match cutting to the desert landscape gives me a shiver down my spine every time.
The Night of the Hunter
Charles Laughton only directed one film in his whole career. It was tragic that he didn't direct more, but what he created in Hunter mixes beauty with horror to make an unforgettable cinematic experience. The image of Robert Mitchum as the preacher on the hill, singing his menacing song as the kids flee in terror. Mitchum is the stuff of nightmares as the preacher. There's a great interview with Mitchum where he says he wanted the film to be more tough, but Laughton toned it down and made it more beautiful, which somehow for me makes the film even more disturbing. It conjures up the feeling of a fairy tale, or indeed a nightmare or dream. More like David Lynch. I wonder if Lynch would put it in his top ten?
I wanted to put something modern on this list. This film is powerful and looks at so many dilemmas posed in our modern world. How we look, how we want to be, how we interface with the world looking at technology. Aronofsky's films are all incredible but The Whale cracks open the failed marriage and looks at the guilt of perceived failure and how we might make things right again. It is a powerful world he creates. The ending gave me a shiver down my spine and blew me away, just like in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Midnight Cowboy. A modern classic.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick’s classic defined cinema and my mind! I first saw it in 1976 in the Futurist cinema on Lime Street in Liverpool and it blew my mind. It really is a 70mm odyssey. The marriage of music and image is perfection. The Stargate is the greatest sequence of abstract animation ever. Once through it, Bowman sensing the footprint of his previous self makes me think my own mortality. Perhaps we will all become the Starchild in the end? Most of Kubrick's films should be in the top ten.
It's pretty much impossible to list your top Ten films, but I’ve tried.
Here's a few others that could or should have been in there: The Straight Story, Tokyo Story, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Napoleon (1927), Kind Hearts and Coronets, Bicycle Thieves, Children Of Men, Psycho, E.T., Paper Moon, Wages Of Fear, The Seventh Seal, The Gold Rush, Napoleon Dynamite, Licorice Pizza, The Producers, The Elephant Man, Billy Liar, Boogie Nights, Brokeback Mountain, plus many more.
I love cinema. One of mates, when I say ‘This is one of my favourite films,’ replies ‘Every film is your favourite.’ That's how I feel about cinema.