A friend asked me to list the ‘15 Movies That Will Always Stay With You. The rules are: “Don’t take too long to think about it. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.”
I’ve realized that the movies that made the list are not necessarily the best ones but simply ones that marked my life in some way or that have moments that stay with me.
- The Law of Desire/ La ley del deseo (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain 1987). I was already in my mid-twenties when it came out and couldn’t believe that the film came from a Spain I still saw as medieval in culture and attitudes.
- Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, USA, 1977): Travolta was the first star my generation ‘discovered’ and had a proprietary attitude towards. High school dances were full of boys wearing white suits for several years thereafter.
- Chant d’amour (Jean Genet, France, 1950). At a time when gay imagery was rare and precious if not quite totally absent from the screen, this offered the most powerful and varied expression of gay desire and its influence is still everywhere evident: sailors, jailers, prisoners, cops, games of dominance, blowjobs on guns, blowing smoke through jail cells; a frank glance on an incantatory erotic dream.. Also my first happy encounter with experimental cinema.
- La verité (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1960). Bardot naked in bed insolently chacha-ing her derriere in the face of her sister’s boyfriend; or Sami Frey waiting for her in the rain whilst she jumped on a motor-cycle with another man; or Bardot being on trial for being a woman and citing Simone de Beauvoir in her defence. Lots of unforgettable moments.
- Miracle in Milan (Vittorio de Sica, Italy, 1951). My favourite De Sica film; moments of great beauty, most memorably perhaps the homeless jostling for a bit of sunlight (though the whole beginning in the cabbage patch is beautiful too).
- Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti, Italy, 1960). My favourite Visconti; the theme of immigration, of family, the gay sub-text and the incredible scene of Alain Delon and Annie Girardot on the roof of the Cathedral in Milan still resonate.
- A tout prendre (Claude Jutra, Quebec, 1963). Claude Jutra’s masterpiece, a new-wave film made in Quebec, experimental, youthful, inter-racial, open-minded, sad. Made a romance out of intellectual aspirations and bohemian lifestyles.
- Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, USA, 1944). A childhood favourite often seen with family that remains a perfect film.
- Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1975). Saw it as a teenager and had to leave the cinema in the middle of the film to vomit away all the fears and disgust that it incited.
- Foul Play (Colin Higgins, USA, 1978). Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase as a lovely romantic couple. Dudley Moore at his best. An hommage to Hitchcock played for comedy. The first time I ‘knew’ a film had some connection to gay culture without having any gay content. It was a big hit at the time but I’ve yet to meet anyone who shares my affection for it. Hard to get a copy now and I wish someone would re-release it.
- Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1953). The first film I saw when I truly felt that cinema was the equal to any other art.
- The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1940) . Still my dream of a perfect romance.
- Scarface (Brian De Palma, USA, 1983) ). I worked as an usher at a cinema when this was released and always rushed in to catch the audience’s reaction to the chainsaw scene. Saw it over thirty times so hard to forget.
- Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, USA, 1942). My first film at a packed repertory theatre; the audience responding to the film in the way that seemed to make it hum collectively; a glistening black and white print: it felt like magic.
- In The Mood for Love (Kar Wai Wong, Hong Kong, 2000). Exquisite longing tinged with swoony sadness; unforgettable.
There are many more. But these were the ones that came to mind first.