‘W’ is a real treasure trove of great titles. My original list was up to more than forty, when I decided to once again to stick with mostly little-known titles, and to leave it wide open for your comments. My top pick is quite famous, but I had already decided to go with it.
I will start with two well known epics that have always worked for me. Sergei Bondarchuk is involved with both, and the Russian director knew his stuff. ‘War and Peace’ (1966) is a detailed adaptation of the Tolstoy novel, lovingly recreated in over seven hours of film. It is so long, it was originally shown in instalments. You can still get the multi-disc original on DVD. It is magnificent.
In 1970, the same director brought his skill to the film ‘Waterloo’. With Rod Steiger as Napoleon, and Christopher Plummer as the perfect Wellington, this wonderfully accurate recreation of the battle of Waterloo in 1815 is one of the best epics ever filmed, and a must for history fans too.
Dark and disturbing British drama, with the taboo theme of incest and family betrayal. That doesn’t sound like an easy watch, and it isn’t. But if you want to see a British cast including Tilda Swinton and Ray Winstone at the top of their game, then look no further than ‘The War Zone’ (1999).
A sexy and erotic thriller, with delicious twists and turns, and a screen populated by eye candy that can also act? Not that many films can live up to that idea, but ‘Wild Things’ (1998) is a hugely enjoyable modern film noir, with a great cast too. Denise Richards and Neve Campbell pile on the steam, as Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon offer strong support. Perhaps a ‘guilty pleasure’, but one of the best of those.
One of my favourite Almodovar films, and a perfect examination of the daily life of a put-upon woman in modern Spain. ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ (1984) has some truly marvellous performances, not least from Carmen Maura in the lead. Poignant, often very funny, and acutely well-observed, we also get a brilliant turn from Chus Lampreave into the bargain. Nobody does ‘old lady’ better than her.
So many left out, but one more before the top pick.
I caught this film on TV some years ago, and was very impressed at the time. Since then, I have never seen it mentioned, so thought I would promote it here. Most people regard Susan Sarandon to be a very good actress, and rightly so. I also have a lot of time for James Spader, though he failed to really exploit his brat-pack stardom. The two come together in the thougthful romantic drama, ‘White Palace’ (1990). The plot is simple enough, and has familiar origins. Rich upper-class widower aged 27 meets a waitress from the other side of the tracks, and falls for her. She is a lot older, at 43, so it is a far from easy basis on which to form a relationship. What could have been a very ordinary film is elevated by a good script, and sensitive performances from the leads. One to watch.
Today’s choice was always going to be the one for ‘W’. I watched Nic Roeg’s film ‘Walkabaout’ (1971) when I was just 19 years old. I had never seen anything like it, and thought it was fantastic. I still do. This story of a teenage school girl and her brother (Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg) lost in the Australian outback, is something to behold. Great scenery and perfect cinematography picture their wanderings in a surreal landscape, alien to city-dwellers. They are saved when they encounter a young Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who is on his tribal ritual of ‘Walkabout’. This is a fascinating interaction between the young urban children, and the boy who exists in the natural world. Stunning.