As the calamitous lockdown trolley hurtles down yet another hill, this time in the direction of pubs, cinemas and god knows what else, you’ll find me doing what is now my joy and my penance: watching films – a mixture of hoity toity arthouse numbers, then the odd bit of bubble-gum thrown in to keep us honest.
With this nine added to the tally, I move into the 90s (great decade, even without the rose-tinted specs), and my goal of reaching 100 before lockdown is officially over gets arousingly tangible.
Each one comes with a handy Covid Rating – 1 being turdballs, 19 being watch immediately.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – the coals have already been stoked on this one – mostly white hot with rage that the main plotline basically de-threads all of the good work done by the first three films (did Vader honestly die for nothing??). But really it’s all much of a muchness, two great films in nine is a pretty flimsy return by any standards, so if this is nothing more than a best-ofs show reel, let’s just get it done with and out of the way. As for the main protagonists, one is channelling Hollyoaks, the other There Will Be Blood. It’s hard to know which one got it right.
Covid Rating: 4
Little Women (2019) – the upside of Little Women: it’s warm-hearted, modern and feministy, with big performances, stunning views, and an Anne of Green Gables, almost Disney-like, sheen to it. The downside: the big emotional punch didn’t leave much of a dent, which is very out of character for me – normally I cry at bank adverts. Something didn’t quite connect (perhaps I’m wired wrong).
Covid Rating: 12
Cries and Whispers (1972) – a far less cockle-warming film about sisters by the legendary Swede Ingmar Bergman, but one which left a much bigger imprint. It plays like a series of strange vignettes, punctuated by the indecipherable sounds of whispering voices and ticking clocks, as three sisters deal with the end of a harrowing cancer battle, turning to reflections on their own fears, repressed emotions, and mortality. What’s left is gripping, disturbing, unsettling, uncomfortable, and littered with moments of genuine horror – making it a far more realistic depiction of family life (arf!).
Covid Rating: 17
Walkabout (1971) – the tale of two suicides – SPOILER ALERT one shocking one at the start which finds two children semi-orphaned and alone in the Australian outback. The second, ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT, catching you by surprise with its abruptness and ambiguity, possibly the reaction to a mating ritual gone wrong. In between you’ll find bleak and beautiful landscapes, surreal moments where old and new worlds collide, and scenes of shocking animal brutality, which don’t feel gratuitous, more part of the point of it all.
Covid Rating: 16
Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019) – a gentle observational look at mismatching generations spending the summer hols at home together – her a shy librarian/single mum, him her awkward teenage son/goth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being that it’s directed by the geekiest Inbetweener, it feels a bit like an extended sitcom episode – that’s no bad thing, necessarily.
Covid Rating: 11
Radio On (1979) – part of a spectacularly niche genre – the British road movie, taking you all the way from London to Bristol, via some odd encounters with aggressive squaddies, an estranged mother, and as you’d expect, Sting. It’s beautifully shot, quite Germanic and with echoes of Bait (also in the Lockdown 100) 30 odd years later down the road. The soundtrack’s good too, if you like things like Kraftwerk and David Boo-wee (pronounced “Bowie”).
Covid Rating: 13
12 Angry Men (1957) – a jury including Jane Fonda’s dad, the guy who voiced Piglet in Winnie the Pooh, and a young Quincy M.E, debate a murder charge while sweating buckets. It’s all one set (mostly), one long argument, with each member of the jury completely real and defined – every performance knocking it out of the park. It’s also surprisingly progressive for a world that had yet to be countercultured.
My Night at Maud’s (1969) – widely hailed as Eric Rohmer’s masterpiece, I’d personally rate it as his third best (so far), and anyone who has read any of these updates will know I’m a Rohmer expert now, so I must be right. What he does so well is coax you into a story through a series of long conversations – here intellectualizing on maths, religion, love and philosophy – until you almost feel like you’re in the mind of the main character. In this case a man torn between romance and Catholicism. Not an easy place to be at the best of times.
Covid Rating: 16
Fox and His Friends (1975) – this might be my favourite Fassbinder yet (a point I’ll be shouting loudly at dinner parties). On paper it’s about an innocent lummox getting fleeced for his lottery fortune, but really it’s about social class, how you can’t buy your way into so-called “polite society”, and ultimately about how money corrupts from the top down. That the majority of the male characters are gay is almost incidental, which, without wanting to get too navel gazy, lends a certain power to it.
Covid Rating: 16