Movies of last year

I didn’t write about the films I saw last year, and since it is still January, and therefore a socially acceptable time for it, just about, I will proceed to do so.

I watched fewer films than I normally do and quite a lot of Westerns. I’ve discovered it as a new genre that lets my nervous system rest (in addition to detective stories and comedies), so I predict I will watch more of them this year (have made a start by having seen two Clint Eastwood ones already).

Westerns in the order of favouritism

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Treasure of the Sierra Madre

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

I liked all of them reasonably well. Marlon ended up last, but that’s no reflection on the quality of the film, but on the very tough competition.

Other likes

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Charlton is so beautiful and his woman too.

War and Peace (1956) – With the various War and Peace film and television versions out there, I feel that all of them do some character really well, and fail with some of the others. This particular version had the best Natasha in Audrey Hepburn. When she first appeared on screen, I was totally bewitched. But Pierre was off. The best Pierre, to me, is that played by Anthony Hopkins in the 1972 TV series. And Bolkonsky is always heroed up, that is to say I’ve been enamoured with them all.

Ossessione (1943)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Unga Astrid (2018)

Ich möchte kein Mann sein (1918)


No or poor memory 

Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926) – I remember it poorly

The Red House (1947) – this I don’t remember at all

A Passage to India (1984) – Very vague memories as well

I have this problem that if I don’t write about my impressions or they are not very personally meaningful, I can completely forget what I watched or read. I do remember generally liking them, so last year, I didn’t see any bad, dull or annoying movies at all.

And since I have a memory problem, for next year I better put down my recent likes too.

Ludwig – I won’t forget this one, so need for commentary at this point.

Design for Living – I liked this one on so many levels, it’s in my top three favourite comedies. The only small problem I have is that I wish the two artists had not got so rich so fast. Their bohemia was so charming. Mildly better off would have felt more organic. It was sad to see some of that charm go.


Films watched

This is going to be longer than my books list.


Ben-Hur (1959) – Did I really watch it for the first time in 2017? It seems like I’ve been familiar with it much longer.

Jeux d’enfants  (2003) – I rated this with a 7 on my Imdb account, but it has grown on me and stayed with me. It’s completely twisted, but very powerful and romantic. My favourite type of plot, the “us against the world” movie. Obviously no form of depravity is too great to spoil the romance of that for me.

Trouble in Paradise (1932) – Outstanding black-and-white comedy. Gorgeous opening scenes. Loved the romance and the humour and the realism.


A scene from Trouble in Paradise


Quite highly liked

Il Grido (1957) – Melancholy, beautiful, realistic

The Snake Pit (1948) – Probably the best portrayal of mental illness from early Hollywood that I’ve seen.

Die Puppe (1919) – Wonderful humour, unexpected for something made in 1919

La signora di tutti (1934)

He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not (2002) – Charming

La double vie de Veronique (1991)


Liked well enough

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

The Lost Moment (1947)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Les enfants du paradis (1945)

The Last Station (2009)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Stroszek (1977)

The Painted Veil (2006)


Not my cups of tea

Les Amants (1958) – The story was implausible the way it was portrayed and the characters seemed to hover around without actually being present in the moment. Visually, the scenes towards the end were beautiful, but it didn’t save it for me. It just struck no chord at all.

Raintree County (1957) – Tries to be a great epic, but does not quite deliver.



Movie impressions

Il Grido (1957)

This is supposed to be a depressing film. It depicts the story of a man suffering from the very Antonioni-like ennui and purposelessness, wandering around the countryside aimlessly, his daughter Rosina tagging along for some length. After his great love of 7 years, Irma, abandoned him for another man, Aldo is unable to find any purpose in living. I sympathised with Aldo and all of the women he encountered on his journeys. They were all such fragile, lost creatures. Aldo withdrew into himself and became emotionally dead after Irma. The three women that happened along his path, particularly the petrol station owner Virginia, and the prostitute Andreina, they struck me as trying hard to put a brave face on it, but really being absolutely desperate for love. That scene of Aldo and Andreina in the middle of a misty field was poetry. Two broken souls together and yet completely alone. Talking of their dreams and what went wrong, but not really connecting. Andreina wanting to, but Aldo being too dead. I thought the suicide-like death of Aldo was also very fitting. It was difficult to tell at the end whether he accidentally falls down the tower staircase or is overcome by vertigo and drops unintentionally.

My favourite scene

This sounds like the most depressing plot one can think of, but I was not depressed by it. I seem to be depressed by other things. I’ve thought of this subject before and found it a bit mysterious how I’m not depressed by films like Il Grido or the writings of Thomas Hardy, who is one of my most favourite authors. I am instead depressed by films like Sex and the City – okay, it’s a comedy, so not a fitting comparison, but if it were not a comedy, I’d be hugely depressed by it. From the compulsory readings in school, I remember being depressed by the writings of Zadie Smith and Margaret Atwood. Zadie Smith in particular. No one else seemed to see it. So I have tried to untie this knot a bit. I think it’s something to do with the manner of telling. Antonioni and Hardy create poetry out of misery. They elevate. Their characters one can sympathise with, they are suffering, they don’t deserve it, they can’t help it. They are lost and stand in the mist on an empty field in the most poetic atmosphere one can think of. Their tragedy and misery, Antonioni here even emphasising the pointlessness of it, still gains a certain larger than individual dimension. The manner of narration is elevating. And I think it is this sort of elevating that prevents it from striking me as truly depressing. Conversely, what I am depressed by  is baseness and banality. The tendency to debase rather than uplift.

Jeux d’enfants or Love Me If You Dare (2003)

This film is relatively modern considering my usual repertoire. It belongs to one of my favourite sub-genres – the over-the-top mad friendship/love films. Other examples of this would be Harold & Maude and Heavenly Creatures. The us against the narrow-minded world theme has always appealed to me. I have envied the strength of such bonds, even if I might have been repulsed by the outcomes or the personalities of the characters. And I have liked how such characters challenge the norms of society. The characters in this one are not at all likeable. They seem damaged to the point of being sociopaths. They start playing a game of dares as children. Some of the dares are already fairly cruel and humiliating at that age, but when they grow into adults, it goes quite out of hand. Who can hurt the other the most seems to become the aim of the dares and their dysfunctional relationship in general. But hate is also a very exciting emotion, to quote the classics. Those two never really care about anyone but each other. The guy, Julien, even marries and has a family, but all he thinks of is that in 10 years he will hear of the girl, Sophie again. Sophie is the only person that can bring “life” to his life. And vice versa.

In short, I didn’t really like the characters. I thought they were far too cruel and heartless. And I don’t even know what to call that thing they felt for each other. Love seems to be a bit misguided. Hate does not seem right either.  Dependence and limerance.

But what I liked in this film was the story-telling. The lightness, the charm, it was completely seductive as a story. I loved some of their happy scenes. And the ending was great. They had concrete poured over them at a construction site and died kissing each other until the concrete completely covered them.  I found it romantic, in all its absolute depravity.

Re-watching Lord of the Rings

The Return of the King was on telly, and I chanced to watch the second half of it.

I had been a fan of The Lord of the Rings in my teens. I think I had crushes on most of the characters one after another. My favourite was Aragorn, but I also recall having a crush on Frodo, Faramir, Boromir and Sam. I was really quite a fan of Tolkien’s world. I even taught myself Elvish and dreamt of owning a sword.

I hadn’t seen the films or read the books for at least seven years, so when I saw the film again, my first impulse was to make fun of the fighting scenes. Aragorn’s portrayal as the classic Hollywood macho hero was also a little comical. But it managed to draw me in after a while, so the annoyingly snobbish attitude vanished. I very much liked the hobbits. I liked Sam. If I were to have a crush on any of the characters now, it’d definitely be Sam. Because he’s so sincere and simple and good. I’m glad the teenage me was able to see something in him too.

I felt Frodo’s departure from Middle Earth to be relatable. I know it is my personal interpretation, but it acquired a wider symbolical meaning for me: after having experienced too much and been corrupted by the ring, he could no longer live like Sam and Rosie. He couldn’t have been happy. It made me think of how things like that can happen to anyone, something so terrible, so life-altering that you can no longer have the life you want. You may want that life still, I’m sure Frodo did, but cannot have it or be happy in it. Your melancholy and awareness do not allow you to enjoy mushroom pies and the peacefulness of the Shire like you once did. Or they are just not enough.


I have moods when I feel the same emotions. I want to live like the Sam’s of this world, but I feel I understand too much, think too much to ever live that happily, to be as carefree. I want to, but there is that sense of separation, of being unable to. Cut off. My heart always seems to be somewhere else. Frodo’s choice to leave and give up life in the Shire was therefore quite relatable to me. I wonder about that sometimes myself, my unfitness for life. There are days when it descends on me like a thick fog. I don’t have a magic other world to sail away to, however, so I don’t even know what to do about that feeling. It just is there. The only source of strength I still have is that I’m relatively young. Maybe I’d grow out of it under better circumstances.

Movie reminiscences

I have a horrible memory for the plots of novels and films. I forget all of it soon enough and only recall the emotions and thoughts a particular work inspired in me.  Or other completely irrelevant things, like how I wrote a high school paper on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. With some works, I eventually remember most of the plot if I get a lot of exposure to it, but the details and sub-plots can remain a haze. This allows me to re-read books or re-watch films and still have no idea what will happen. Sometimes I may only remember that the main character dies or gets married, but how it came about I will have forgotten. What do I remember then?

I remember that the first movie I went to see at a cinema was Lion King. The cinema was located a short, leafy, tree-lined walk from our house. The movie left so powerful an impression on me that when it ended, I asked my mother if I could run home ahead of them. I wanted to be alone with my emotions. In this, I have not changed at all, but the world has. In my teens, we still had a cinema where you could walk out of the theatre into the darkness of the night and enjoy a walk home through quiet side-streets. Now, cinemas have been moved to shopping centres. It is extremely jarring to walk out of the cinema and into the shopping centre, especially when you are miles away from the mood of the mall. I don’t go to cinemas any more, unless it is to watch something casual more or less socially. Good films I watch alone. Then I can become as immersed as I naturally would want to be and not return to the real world until I’m ready.


My other most memorable film experience is Le Notti di Cabiria. It is directed by Fellini, features the same actress who plays in the more famous La Strada and was released in 1957. I love the joy of living, the life force that I sense in all these Italian film characters. Il Cielo Cade (2000) was the first Italian movie I saw. It was on TV and I was browsing and bored. That same Italian spiritedness glued me to the screen, fascinated me so much I simply had to try more Italian films. I have by now completely forgotten what Il Cielo Cade was all about – it’s been 10 years – but I plan on re-watching it soon to see if the thing that fascinated me first is still there now that I’ve seen more of Italian cinema. While this movie might have sparked my interest in Italian films, Le Notti di Cabiria ended up being my most complete, perfect film experience.

It drew me in to the point all the world disappeared. At one point, I felt myself fusing with Cabiria, experiencing the same emotions she did. This culminated in us crying identically. I didn’t mean to copy her crying, but when she was fooled yet again, I kicked the bed and cried as bitterly. And when she was walking away, with that Mona Lisa smile on her tear-stained face, I got that smile and felt what she felt. That sort of communion is the ideal art experience for me, I seek it in books too, but it is rare to find. I don’t seek a sop story, of course, but to merge, be totally drawn in. In whichever form. Tearless is as good.

Several movies besides have managed to draw me in, but with Cabiria, it was so-far the most intense experience.

On a different level – more mental and less emotional perhaps – I would also single out Heavenly Creatures, a 1994 film by Peter Jackson. It was where I first saw my own dreams of perfect friendship reflected. I had dreamt of something like this ever since I was old enough, but there were no girls, let alone guys, with whom to have a friendship like that. You had to be alike and equally intense. No one was ever as mad as myself, so my friendships were respectable. Of course, the madness went overboard in the film, they grew too attached and it led to murder, but it need not. And I, I was lucky after all and got to experience that perfect friendship, though many years later.

Hmm, why do I feel like there is the same thread running through these two paragraphs – my dream or need to totally blend with people or with whatever it is I do and experience. My inability – almost – to avoid it.