Michelle Facey

Film Programmer and Presenter - Kennington Bioscope

Voted for

All about Eve1950Joseph L. Mankiewicz
His Girl Friday1939Howard Hawks
The American Friend1978Wim Wenders
Pandora's Box1928G.W. Pabst
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me1992David Lynch
Raise the Red Lantern1991Zhang Yimou
Terminator 2 Judgment Day1991James Cameron
So This Is Paris1926Ernst Lubitsch
The Smallest Show on Earth1957Basil Dearden
Dawson City: Frozen Time2016Bill Morrison


An onerous honour! So much that I adore, and such greatness, left unrepresented. But in my ten, I do have miracles and marvels, many female protagonists and personal moments of movie magic.

1. Brilliant Bette, Thelma Ritter and a little Marilyn to boot, hurrah. Immortal line deliveries.

2. The talkiest of all the talkies. I couldn’t have a top ten without Cary Grant, a lifetime of watching our Archie, and he’s at his most robust here as Walter, the mischievous, cool, calculating and comic charmer. Matched to exquisite perfection with Hildy, played by Rosalind Russell, we witness two geniuses in total command of their own physicality, rattling through dialogue, which echoes the machine-gun clatter of their typewriters… but oh, the knowing looks and sly glances, the double-takes and trickery. Plus, Hildy’s stripes. Divine.

3. Robby Müller’s palette for Wim Wender’s transnational treatment of two Patricia Highsmith Ripley stories provides the perfect colour counterpoints to this murky and shifting neo-noir tale. Jürgen Knieper’s score and Wenders’ impeccable music choices add so much to the mood. Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz and a coterie of director cameos, provide plenty of piquancy for the cinéaste’s appetite. It’s not all clear-cut, but so what? Life isn’t like that and sometimes the joke is on us. Even Highsmith had to watch it twice to come around to it. Anyway, I could watch Hopper and Ganz acting and existing together, or alone, all day long. I’ll be your cabbage.

4., 5. & 6. Pandora’s Box was the first silent film I saw in a cinema. Lulu is a gateway drug. To paraphrase Lotte Eisner, or rather, extend her description of its star as “the miracle of Louise Brooks” to also include Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Gong Li in Raise The Red Lantern… because, for my money, each of their respective performances are indeed miraculous in their conviction and method of conveying the strengths and vulnerability of their sexualities, and ultimate powerlessness in the face of male desire and domination. Of course, it’s not the way I want it to be, it’s just there still remain mountains to surmount. Pabst, Lynch and Yimou reach into the hidden places of humanity. I’ve found myself, post-credits, tears still streaming down my face, after repeat screenings of both the first two films (sadly it seems to be an impossible dream to see RTRL on the big screen). I find my heart breaks even harder for these young women as the years go by.

7. T2 is sci-fi which still thrills. The transformation of Sarah Connor via Linda Hamilton’s contrasting appearances in The Terminator (1984) and its sequel, from soft, sweet suburbanite to hard-boiled psycho Cassandra, is one of the most remarkable transitions in film, hingeing on that physical manifestation in her performance to convey the realness of the nightmare she’s seen. Thirty years on, the film’s effects remain outstanding and terrifying to my eyes, as do the questions posed. As Stephen Hawking said in 2016, “…the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”

8. As a child, the first director’s name I linked to films I found I really liked a lot, was Ernst Lubitsch, with Ninotchka and The Shop Around The Corner. I still love them now, but over the past decade I’ve also become familiar with his silent comedies. I’ve picked one which is important to me personally, although it’s still little known. I programmed So This Is Paris for screening at the Cinema Museum in early 2019, after viewing the BFI’s 35mm copy (with Czech intertitles), alone, on the Steenbeck, with no music, discovering a sparkling sex comedy with a dazzling, kaleidoscopic ball scene. In the event, I was able to show Kevin Brownlow’s own 16mm print (with its art intertitles, and in English!), with top-class accompaniment, and hearing the sound of that crowd, not one of whom had ever seen the film, the laughter coming in waves, with a final huge pay-off of hilarity, was to experience the greatest joy I’ve ever been party to in a cinema. As Billy Wilder famously lamented at Lubitsch’s funeral, there’d be no more Lubitsch, with William Wyler responding that it was worse than that, there’d be no more Lubitsch films… but for those in the room that day, we all got to share in the glorious gift of a new Lubitsch.

9. I’ve been meaning to propose this as a BFI Member Pick for years. One of the greatest celebrations of the lows and highs of film exhibition. When Margaret Rutherford’s Mrs Fazackalee plays piano under the Bijou’s screen to accompany Cecil Hepworth’s 1923 film, Comin’ Thro’ The Rye, for the pleasure of just the three workers themselves and the cinema cat, tears prick my eyes, just as they do for projectionist, Percy Quill, played by Peter Sellers. Even though the Bijou never existed as a real location, it was a studio construction, its aesthetic is one dear to my heart.

10. Another film of great personal importance to me, not only for its content, which is emotionally involving, awe-inspiring, and far-reaching, but also for the collaborative event I curated alongside director Bill Morrison to screen his own personal 35mm print of this documentary, with onstage conversation between himself and Kevin Brownlow. “Film was born of an explosive.”