The letter ‘L’ seems to be admired by many film makers. The choice of film titles beginning with that letter is huge. No surprise, when you consider that it allows the use of all possible derivations of the words ‘Love’, ‘Long’, and ‘Luck’. My first shortlist was still over thirty films, and I considered doing a double post for this one. As it turned out, my top choice remained unchanged, and I decided to focus on some of the least well-known options for my other suggestions, to leave you free to romp all over the many on offer.
My first choice is an historical drama starring Johnny Depp. (No, nothing to do with Pirates…) I like his style, though not that many of his films. This one is an exception, and should have won him a house full of awards. In many ways, he was born to portray the real-life character of The Earl of Rochester, the womanising, hard-living drunk who scandalised high society in late 17th century England. Poet, gambler, naval officer, Rochester was a man who lived life to the full, until his death from a sexually transmitted disease, aged just 33. Depp dominates ‘The Libertine’ (2004) with a memorable performance, and you also get to see the divine Samantha Morton, and John Malkovitch too.
Still my favourite Dustin Hoffman role, ‘Lenny’ (1974) sees him in a biography of the outrageous American comedian, Lenny Bruce, with the gorgeous Valerie Perrine as his wife, Honey. This film deals with many difficult subjects, not least Bruce’s foul-mouthed comedic performances, as well as his sexual perversions. The film also gave the censors a few problems, just as Bruce himself had done, throughout his turbulent career. Not an easy watch, but Hoffman charts the downward spiral of this man’s life with true talent. I haven’t seen it since it was released, but writing this has just inspired me to buy a used copy of the DVD from Amazon.
Two war films next, and very different ones too. The sprawling epic, ‘The Longest Day’ (1962) is a three-hour look at one of the most famous days in history, June the 6th, 1944. It follows the D-Day landings, the paratroops who jumped behind the lines, and stars just about every macho male lead you could think of at the time. I was just ten years old when I watched it at the cinema, and I thought it was just great.
The claustrophobia of war inside a machine has never been handled better than in the Israeli film, ‘Lebanon’ (2009). With much of the action seen through the confines of a tank periscope, this look at the confusion of a muddled war will surprise you with its invention.
You will rarely see me mention Doris Day in a positive light on my blog. But there is a notable exception. In 1955, she starred as the real singer from the 1920s, Ruth Etting, in the moving musical drama, ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’. An ageing James Cagney is on great form as the mobster who takes her under his wing, and into his bed. Good period feel, some great contemporary songs and music, and convincing turns from the whole cast. It worked for me.
Still on musicals, ‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960) is arguably one of Marilyn Monroe’s lesser films. The British crooner Frankie Vaughan fails to convince, and Yves Montand is mostly just embarrassing to watch. But Monroe has never looked better, or as sexy, at least not to me. I would like to own an edited version, just the bits where she is on screen.
I often use the phrase ‘Less is more’. Sorry if that’s irritating, but I am far too old to change now. So, I won’t be using it to describe this hauntingly good horror film, from 2008. ‘Let The Right One In’ is a Swedish take on the vampire genre that is just stunning to watch. The young actors are so good, it is hard to believe just how young they are. The bleak settings and sombre mood simply ooze atmosphere, and rarely has a modern horror film been better than this.
One more, before my top pick. As I said, I am leaving you most of the ‘best ones’ to comment on.
Crime thrillers come and go, and the genre swings in popularity. Sometimes, one appears that holds up every time you see it, and delivers performances that remain locked in your mind. One such film is ‘The Limey’ (1999), with British actor Terence Stamp giving the performance of his life in this American revenge thriller. Solid support from Peter Fonda and Lesley-Ann Warren help turn what could have been run-of-the-mill into a film of great power.
In 1962, still ten years old. I was taken to one of the best cinemas in London to see the widescreen showing of a new epic film. On arrival, I bought a glossy programme, and was excited by the huge cinema, and the unusually comfortable seats. Then the film came on, and I sat entranced by its wonder for the next 220 minutes. David Lean was a master film-maker who didn’t have to rely on CGI to make a wonderful spectacle. He had vision, great cameramen, and real talent. Not only that, he assembled a perfect cast for his tale of the life of the real British soldier, T. E. Lawrence. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ remains an enduring masterpiece of cinematic excellence, and was always going to be my choice for ‘L’. Stunning.