Monday, September 11, 2006

Julie, Malcolm, Tom, Dirk, and Albert

If there's anything that has me feeling guilty about my all-time top 30, it's the lack of British entries. I'm as much of an Anglophile as an Anglophile can get. I'm British on both sides (my maternal grandmother was even born in Liverpool, home of a certain Fab Four named--Clinic!), I've visited the Island four times (including a post-graduate semester back in the Thatcher era), and I've been subscribing to the spectacular Sight & Sound for an eternity and a day (to quote Theo Angelopoulos...who is decidedly not British).

The point is: I live for British culture, specifically British film. Heck, even the food isn't as bad as they say--or it's gotten better over the years (thank the affordable organic cuisine of Prêt à Manger, which saved my stomach the last couple of times I visited). But I'm also crazy for American, French, and Japanese film and that had a profound effect on the list in question.

In order to make up for the British titles I was unable to include, I've compiled an all-UK list (below). Note that for the purposes of this exercise, which I bashed out as quickly as possible (since I can always make changes later), I'm counting films the American-born Stanley Kubrick made in Britain (like Joseph Losey, Richard Lester, and Terry Gilliam, he relocated to England--and never looked back). I'm also counting any Irish films made in England, English films made in Ireland, and all Scottish efforts. I'm also counting Petulia, even though it's set in the US, since Lester had been ensconced in the UK for some time before he made it.

That said, I'm not counting Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, Roman Polanski's Repulsion, or Joseph Losey's Eva. Should I? (I prefer Herbie Hancock's pop-jazz score to Antonioni's film anyway.) The former character is Italian, the second Polish, but their films are key snapshots of Swinging Sixties London, while Eva is set in Venice and stars France's Jeanne Moreau. Then again, I decided to include Nicholas Roeg's Venice-set Don't Look Now. Well, you've got to draw the line somewhere or everything's fair game, so the buck--er, pound--stops there. Then again, can you ever really get enough of Julie Christie? I mean, excising the marvelous McCabe and Mrs. Miller from my all-time top 30 still hurts...

Also, I decided to throw in a few made-for-TV productions, since Dennis Potter and Alan Clarke did their best work for TV (and that's where Mike Leigh and Ken Loach got their start).

UK Top 30

1. Brief Encounter (David Lean)
2. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick)
3. Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg)
4. Ratcatcher (Lynn Ramsay)
5. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan)
6. O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson)
7. The Servant (Joseph Losey)
8. Get Carter (Mike Hodges)
9. Elephant (Alan Clarke)
10. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)

11. Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh)
12. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean)
13. Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg)
14. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson)
15. The General (John Boorman)
16. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz)
17. Billy Liar (John Schlesinger)
18. If... (Lindsay Anderson)
19. The Go-Between (Joseph Losey)
20. Last Orders (Fred Schepisi) [Yeah, he's Australian...]

21. My Name is Joe (Ken Loach)
22. Room at the Top (Jack Clayton)
23. Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan)
24. Darling (John Schlesinger)
25. I, Claudius (Herbert Wise)
26. Brideshead Revisited (Charles Sturridge)
27. My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears)
28. The Singing Detective (Dennis Potter)
29. House of Mirth (Terence Davies)
30. Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger)

Runners-up: Bedazzled (uber-Brit comedy from un-Brit Stanley Donen), Expresso Bongo (Val Guest), Alfie (Lewis Gilbert), A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester), Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Bryan Forbes; see also Kiyoshi Kurasawa's Japanese take on the tale), The Fallen Idol and Odd Man Out (Carol Reed), This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson), Brazil (Terry Gilliam), Day of the Jackal (British/French co-production from America's Fred Zinneman), Dirty Pretty Things (Frears), Intimacy (terrific Hanif Kureishi adaptation from France's Patrice Chereau), Naked (Mike Leigh), and the collected works of Roger Michell, Michael Winterbottom, and Alec Guinness (specifically his Ealing Studios comedies).

Endnote: There are still a lot of British films I haven't seen, like Tony Richardson's A Taste of Honey, which sounds like something I'd enjoy (and inspired recent Latin-flavored indie Quinceañera), Stephen Frears' Prick Up Your Ears (hey, that rhymes), Joseph Losey's The Boy With the Green Hair (for the title alone), and Alan Clarke's full-length tele-films (although I just picked up The Firm), so I reserve the right to revise. Images from the IMDb, Julie Christie Picture Galleries, and Viddy Well's ACO Page.


ratzkywatzky said...

Wot, no Ealing comedies? No Michael Powell? No Terence Davies? No Derek Jarman? No Bill Forsyth? No Ken Bloody Russell? Fine list, nevertheless. I appreciate the guilt that comes with committing to a list in public--or even in private (I'd hate to hurt Ken Russell's feelings). That said, I've seen very few British films in recent years that have excited me. Culled from the top half of the last nine years of my personal Top Ten lists, British films reached these positions: #5, Vera Drake; #2, Morvern Callar; #12, 28 Days; #3, House of Mirth; #4, Ratcatcher; #2 Topsy Turvy; #12, Orphans. And that's it, although there are probably lots more bubbling under the top ten. I have Naked as #1 in my Top Ten of the '90s list, and The Long Day Closes is #4 on the same list. And, if memory serves, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid was in the top five of my '80s list. Bit of a sticky wicket, the British film industry.

kathy fennessy said...

Thanks! You've jogged my memory. There should be *at least* one Ealing comedy on this list. I just couldn't pick one, and Alec Guinness is one of my favorite actors. Love Terence Davies, too, so I may have to throw "House of Mirth" in there somewhere. My problem is that I like too much British stuff. I left these titles out only because others came to mind first. For what its worth, any list I post is a work in progress, and this thing's bound to go through some changes. As much as I enjoyed "Breakfast on Pluto," for instance, I'm not sure it really belongs there--a great spot for "House of Mirth."