Desert Island Films

It is the run-up to Christmas and when you live a life as relatively isolated and alone as many of us do one way of keeping connected to the thread and pulse of life is through film. We live vicariously through the drama of others’ lives, their emotions and expectations. Each year around this time I watch ‘Blade Runner’ (the final director’s cut), ‘L A Confidential’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’: real ‘comfort viewing’ for me. There are few films that I could watch time and again but these three pass that test.

In the UK there is a l-o-n-g-running radio programme called ‘Desert Island Discs’ in which a notable or celeb of some rank chooses the eight ‘gramophone’ records – you can tell from that term how long the show has been running – that they would take with them were they to be shipwrecked on a desert island. In between playing the records the host, currently the estimable Kirstie Young (she of one of the sexiest voices and THE sexiest laugh ever, with the possible exception of Charlotte Green) winkles out the guest’s biography.

If there was a TV equivalent to DID, let us call it ‘Desert Island Films’ (suggestions for better titles welcome) and were I ever to be invited to share my favourite eight films ‘Blade Runner’, ‘L A Confidential’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’ would have to be included. From ‘Blade Runner’ I would choose Roy’s soliloquy in which he lists some of what he has witnessed immediately before dying including the immortal lines ‘I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate …’ Classic.

Normally, I just watch a film and then pretty much forget it, glad to have spent an hour or so in the imaginary world of espionage, crime, sci-fi, government conspiracy or romance. Personally I have never enjoyed horror films of any kind or films of the occult – I’m completely turned off by portrayals of Satan or the devil owing to a complete absence of belief in such an entity. Ditto God.

I’ve stopped going to the movies as I tend to fall asleep during the screening and anyway for the £10 entrance fee I can acquire a couple of DVDs from Asda or Sainsbury’s and watch them at my leisure. These days this means the early hours of the morning when the world is quiet and there is a wakeful opening between evening naps and morning slumber.

Men watch films often to see a favourite actress and last night I watched two hugely enjoyable films, the first was Joe Wright’s ‘Hanna’ and the second ‘Julie and Julia’ a film by Nora Ephron. It was this film that prompted me to blog a post about film. ‘Hanna’ stars Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett, and ‘J&J’ Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. I was captivated by both Saoirse and Amy and each of these films give the lie to the oft heard and entirely erroneous complaint by women actors that there are all too few good roles for women in film.

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Saoirse Ronan

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Amy Adams

Amy was quite superb in ‘Julie and Julia’ bringing a delicious realism to the mannerisms, intentions and emotions of the blogger. What I really liked about the film was that each of the two female leads was portrayed having loving mature marriages with men who loved them and fully supported their passions, just as real men do. Men who fail to support their women are not real men; they’re wimps or self-obsessed narcissists. Real men adore their women; that doesn’t mean they don’t have to put up with a lot from these prima donnas, because they do, but the fact is men find needy women a turn-off whereas strong independently minded women are endlessly attractive and desirable. This is the reason why men of sound psychological ontology are de facto feminists; they realise that if they are to achieve any degree of personal self-actualisation then their women need to be free to fully develop their own light, for by that enlightenment men can be shown the next step in their own mental and emotional self-realisation.

Great films accurately reflect the drama that a beautiful woman creates by her mere existence. Women are probably more complex creatures than men and they seem to be forever hatching one plan or another, a characteristic often portrayed as being brought to stillness only by the love and adoration of the right man.

Now I wish to make it abundantly clear at this point that I am not in any way being critical of LGBT love – we all desire love and the company of the beloved – but for hetrosexual ‘cis’ men the love of a good woman is the apogee of human relationships. As a ‘cis’ male I am not qualified to speak for those of other mature and adult sexual inclinations; truly, I believe we should all live and let live and I wish each and everybody success in finding that special person who will give their life meaning and direction. But I digress.

Given that the programme ‘Desert Island Films’ doesn’t exist (yet) and even if it were I wouldn’t be selected to appear I present my possible and all oft-viewed eight films here:

‘Blade Runner’ – see above for chosen scene http://youtu.be/NoAzpa1x7jU

‘L A Confidential’ – ‘Bud’ falls for Kim Basinger http://youtu.be/PLc6cRNwdps

‘The usual Suspects’ – ‘the greatest trick the devil ever did’ http://youtu.be/KnGo6Qm0Wt8

‘The Bourne Identity’ – evacuation plan http://youtu.be/JmxK_pBaG4E

‘The Fifth Element’ – the soprano singing Lucia Di Lammermoor http://youtu.be/IoW_ZOfsrzA

‘2001’- The Blue Danube docking sequence http://youtu.be/UqOOZux5sPE

‘Pulp Fiction’ – Uma and Travolta’s dance sequence http://youtu.be/p6XZwHAqjxA

‘Casablanca’ – the bar frail joining in the singing of ‘La Marseillaise’ http://youtu.be/KTsg9i6lvqU

Since writing the above I have watched ‘Cloud Atlas’ from the Wachowski stable, producers and directors of the Matrix trilogy. Apart from the film’s conviction of karma, which is a concept that I seriously doubt but do not completely dismiss, the film was quite brilliant. Andy and Lana Wachowski each shot half the film simultaneously, which produced scheduling headaches, but it was edited beautifully. The film breaches any categorization having a toe in romance, who-dunnit, comedy, swash-buckling and sci-fi and does so with a small company of stars each playing a plethora of karmic roles.

Once again women were given almost equal importance in the film and, although fewer in number their importance in the film was seminal; for me the inclusion of Bae Doona and Zhou Xun was a double revelation. Reviewers have had difficulty in pinning the film down but it seemed to me to be an entertaining essay on two ideas: the first is a line from Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ on marriage, “You were born together …” here it is in context:

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

The seeds of karma are contained in the first line. Karma is a Vedic concept now deeply embedded into Hinduism which involves ‘samsara’ or the mechanical wheel of rebirth. The belief says it is only possible to escape the karma of rebirth by full self-realization of the unity of the self thereby joining in the eternal reality of the one universal Self. So the film portrays the same non-realized ‘person’ – even to having the same birthmark in different incarnations – having many embodiments over a three-hundred year timeframe, but tied in to other people experiencing similar karmic journeys together.

There is one other idea that suggested itself contained in the famous poem ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley which speaks of human hubris:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Anyway, I enjoyed the film greatly and will have to view it a few more times, just as I did the original ‘Matrix’ which of course explores the idea that what we take as reality is in fact just an illusion – maybe even a gigantic computer programme. Another idea borrowed from Vedic thought.

That’s it for now, and if you have been thanks for reading. And thank goodness for the art of film. Especially in the depths of winter.

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