After a quiet weekend, time to get on with it, and the letter ‘I’. Lots to choose from here, with all those ‘Is’ and ‘Its’. I have left out plenty of films for you to consider, so please add your personal choices in the comments.
I am starting with a sumptuous classic from Douglas Sirk. ‘Imitation of Life’ (1959) is a treat for the eyes, and tackles an issue, as Sirk usually does. This time it is Racism, and attitudes to colour and race in 1950s America. The lovely Lana Turner stars, alongside memorable performances from Juanita Moore, and Sandra Dee. Despite the soap-opera feel, this was an important film, and dealt with sensitive issues that are still relevant as I type this. As always, Sirk delivers with a colour palette, and performances from the leads that will stay in your memory. A similar theme, adding powerful performances from Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, ‘In The Heat of The Night'(1967) won five Oscars. Warren Oates and Lee Grant add to a wonderful cast in this murder mystery set in America’s deep south. Poitier is on top form, as the black detective investigating a case, obstructed at every turn by the attitudes of the local police, and Chief Gillespie. (Steiger)
When I first watched ‘The Innocents’ (1961) I had never heard of the Henry James novel, ‘The Turn of The Screw’. I was very young, and almost terrified by the forbidding atmosphere of this British supernatural thriller. Great writing from Truman Capote, and stellar performances from Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, and Michael Redgrave lent weight to the adult characters. Then the children, played by a young Pamela Franklin, and Martin Stephens, added the innocence necessary for this spooky tale to work so well. This is a simply wonderful ghost story, that does not deserve to be forgotten. Another scary tale, ‘It Follows’ (2014) continued the theme of psychological drama, and moved it up a gear. The unseen presence works so well, and delivers scares alongside some uncomfortable scenes that stay in the memory.
World Cinema delivers with ‘I’ too. The sublime Catherine Deneuve (has any woman ever looked better?) gives one of her regularly delightful performances in ‘Indochine’ (1992). I could watch her read the ‘phone book, but this wonderful 1930s set film looks at the days of French colonial Indochina, long before WW2, or the Vietnam War. It continues to follow events leading up to the partition of Vietnam, and explores many themes. Rarely mentioned, and almost unknown, it will reward your time spent watching it. Moving forward in time, ‘Incendies’ (2010) is a film from current rising star, Denis Villeneuve. It deals with Canadian twins who travel to their county of origin in the Middle East, to investigate the background of their family. Despite using fictional countries and place names, this confronts issues that are still current in places such as Lebanon and Palestine, and is a completely absorbing film.
Way back to the silent era for my next selection. ‘Intolerance’ (1916) is an epic work from American director, D.W. Griffith. In his attempt to examine the themes of Love and Intolerance throughout the ages, Griffith interweaves stories from a time period ranging from ancient Babylon, to a contemporary modern age at the time. Religious repression, Christianity, and a modern story of America in 1914, are all linked by the theme of eternal motherhood, with each segment getting a different colour treatment. Lilian Gish stars, and the amazing ‘fall of Babylon’ is worth seeing on its own. This is an incredible piece of film-making, so don’t be put off by its lack of the spoken word.
I am not usually a fan of Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt can also be hit and miss at times. However, when they came together for the perfect screen adaptation of the Ann Rice novel, ‘Interview With The Vampire’ (1994) they were part of a film from Neil Jordan that both fascinated and captivated in turn. This was a joy to behold, with wonderful historical authenticity, and a refreshingly different treatment of the vampire genre. With solid support from the likes of Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas, and an unforgettable performance from a young Kirsten Dunst, who stole the film for me, this almost secured my top spot for ‘I’. It is a wonder, and I urge you to see it.
So, what have I chosen? You might be surprised, and I hope that you are.
Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, and John Forsythe, that might give it away. But ‘based on a novel by Truman Capote’ will surely lead you to this amazing film, from 1967. I watched it at the age of 15, and was overwhelmed by the true story of the Clutter family murders, in Kansas. Filmed mainly in the actual locations, ‘In Cold Blood’ has stayed with me for fifty years. This black and white film has never been bettered in the genre. Produced, written, and directed by Richard Brooks, this was film-making at a new level. Flashbacks, many convincing elements, and true to life performances from the cast gave this the feel of a dramatised documentary. But this is Robert Blake’s finest hour, and he delivers a memorable performance as the young killer. This was at a time when people were beginning to be uncomfortable with the death penalty too, and it does not shy away from the details.