Monday, 18 June 2012

Four Decade, Four Films, Four Scenes


I enjoy the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs and sometimes wonder what songs I would select for my desert island. I'm still working on my eight discs so while I figure those out, I have come up with another game to play.

To play this game you choose four scenes from four films over four decades. Explain what it is about each scene that grips you and perhaps says something about you as well as the scenes that you have chosen. These aren't supposed to be the "best ever" scenes or anything like that. They are simply the scenes that you have chosen. That in some sense define you.

Here are mine. What are yours?

1980's - Bladerunner  (1982)

I love sci-fi films and this is the one I love the most. It's not all big, shiny space rockets and doors that go "swish". It's a dark, gritty future full of personalities, pleasure, pain and intertwining stories.

The final monologue by replicant Roy Batty moves me every time I watch it. The moment for me is right after he utters the memorable line "like tears in rain". It's easy to miss so watch carefully. At that moment his eyes flicker towards Deckard and a brief, sad smile plays across his face. I love this scene because sometimes I think my entire life is captured in that brief, sad smile and all those moments, all the things I have done, the sights I have seen are "like tears in rain".

1990's - True Romance (1993)

I am a romantic at heart. True Romance is a soppy love story. Well, sort of. It has a beautiful theme tune and a happy ending. What more could you want? Okay, a few tough things happen along the way but we get to be "happy ever after" in the end. I like "happy ever after".

The scene I love is the confrontation between two of my favourite actors, Christopher Walken (Don Vincenzo) and Dennis Hopper (Clifford Worley) with the glowering, brooding, silent presence of James Gandolfini in the background. In some ways similar to my first scene, there is something about the verbal jousting between these two giants that absorbs me.

Vincenzo scares me. I have met people like him. He scares Worley (Hopper) too, to begin with. Vincenzo is in complete control. He controls himself and he controls everyone around him. He will get what he wants from this situation. But there is a point in the dialogue when Worley accepts his fate. We see it. He nods (to himself I think), his voice changes and he asks for a cigarette. The music starts up, gently in the background as he flicks open his lighter. Then he takes away all control from Vincenzo. He has no power but you can see Vincenzo's grip and awesome control weakening. His fate is inevitable but he provokes Don Vincenzo into doing something that he has been careful not to do "since 1994". The two men, understanding what has happened, laugh together and Vincenzo kisses Worley. Look at Worley's face a second after that kiss. Worley wins.

2000's - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Another genre that I love is Chinese films and in particular the grand, sweeping films exemplified by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This film took things to a new level and I remember being awestruck when I first watched this film over a decade ago.

My scene from this film is the love scene between Master Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien. In the midst of all the madness, violence and fighting these two old warriors admit their feelings for each other for the first time. The whole scene is peaceful and as Li Mu Bai says, it gives a sense of infinite peace. Infinite peace. That's all I ask for. Nothing more. John 14:27

2010's - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

I love spy films. I enjoy the type of spy film where hardly anything happens and hardly anyone speaks for two hours. Perhaps after 83 minutes a mysterious person half raises an eyebrow. Then everyone goes home. Bliss.

The daddy of all spy films is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I have watched the original BBC version many times over and I approached the  modern remake with much trepidation.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that it is a masterpiece in its own right that can sit happy alongside its predecessor. Its not right to say that one version is better than the other. They are members of the same family. Different generations. Father and son. Rightly proud of each other.

My scene from the modern film is the ending. It is one, long scene set to a beautiful French song, La Mer. It is the Seventies. So Seventies. That's my decade and one day I will go back there. At a Christmas party (yes, even spies have parties) you glimpse all the main characters and you understand so much about each of them in a fraction of a second. Esterhase in his flowery shirt and waistcoat preening like a peacock with a couple of ladies. Connie looking after "her boys". Control in sad, or is is splendid, isolation. Roy Bland, always suspicious and the beautiful Bill Haydon gliding shark-like in search of prey.

All our emotions are played out in that one, long, perfect scene. Desire. Unrequited love. Rejection. Betrayal. Revenge. Justice. Deep, deep sadness. Regrets. Memories. Doubt. Tender forgiveness. Respect. Acknowledgement. Triumph. New beginnings.

Whenever I watch this scene, and I do so regularly, I play out scenes in my head from my life that correspond to each of these emotions. It's a roller-coaster. It leaves me exhilarated and slightly queasy but eager to jump back on for another ride. What a scene!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

2000s -Galaxy quest - scene where sigourney weaver character is saying how cute the aliens are and the 'extra' character says 'dont you ever watch your own show' in its the cute ones that you have to watch out for!
2010s - Mother and child - when grandmother realises her grandchild has been just down the road all the time.
1980s - obviously Luke I am your father....
1990s opening scene from Lion king, bit with the final few lines of the song 'circle of life' gets me everytime but maybe its to do with watching it too many times while sleep deprived....

Have no idea what the above says about me (theres obviously some deep psychoanalytic reason for the choice) and am obviously a bit more shallow in character than you!