vendredi 18 janvier 2013

The best of autumn

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 As I'm typing this, I keep looking across to see the wispy snowflakes blowing in all directions with even talk of a blizzard. I should really show you photos of that but Rachel sent out a heartfelt plea to finally (ahem!) see my photos of Kew Gardens which I visited back in November. Somehow I'm also more in the mood for sunshine and autumn colours than ice and snow. So that will have to wait a little longer, as will Vienna but I'm working on it. In the meantime, stay warm and have a lovely weekend.

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Stopping for refreshments

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Sunset by the Thames

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vendredi 21 décembre 2012

Films for the holidays

I hope you don't mind another list. Partly it's because I still haven't gotten around to sorting out my photos from Vienna or Kew Gardens (autumn colours for winter coming up) and partly because I feel a little sad thinking about my first Christmas without my Dad. The time between Christmas and New Year is so wonderful for watching films you wouldn't normally have time to see. The ones on my list (in no particular order) are sometimes based around Christmas but more often they just feature it in a few scenes. Others are not at all Christmassy but just feel right for this time of year. In any case, I hope you'll find a few ideas and also share your favourites with me.

It's a Wonderful Life

I think you know this one. It's special for me as it was the first film I ever saw at the Broadway cinema in Nottingham as a 17 year old. I can remember those luxurious armchair seats, the old fashioned clock next to the screen, the ruffled curtains which came up when the trailers started. We watch it every year on Christmas Eve.

Ma Nuit Chez Maud

I love it this film for the beautiful photography, the story which flows like a piece of music and the snow falling on Clermont Ferrand. So intelligent and fresh, plus it makes you want to read Pascal.

When Harry Met Sally

Christmas only features in a little scene but it's still a wonderful film for the holidays. I'm not normally a romcom person but this one manages to be funny and sweet without becoming sentimental.

Everyone Says I Love You

I know not all readers of this blog like Woody Allen but he's one of the few people who can make me laugh. This is a musical for people who don't normally like musicals if that makes sense. It was recommended to me by Abbie and I've seen it a few times. The locations are gorgeous (Paris, New York, Venice) and I can't resist the final scene on Christmas Eve down by the Seine.

Meet Me in St. Louis

I love a good musical at Christmas, especially this one for Judy Garland's perfect version of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' and because few people did set pieces as well as Vincent Minelli. Other choices could be 'Kiss Me Kate', 'Guys and Dolls', 'Singin' in the Rain' or 'Bugsy Malone'.


I'm probably one of the few people who saw this before 'In the Mood for Love'. In fact it was the first Wong Kar Wai film I ever saw, in a tiny arts cinema in the centre of Annecy. I found it so strange and beautiful that I came out exhilarated into the night air. It's less perfect than the first first with Tony Leung and Maggie Chung but I like it for that. Basically it's the story of a man and his relationships with women over various Christmas Eves, mainly in Hong Kong. Even if the sci-fi bit is kind of annoying, the photography is stunning and sensual and I'm in love with the music.

The Apartment

A bittersweet antidote for those who find festive films too saccharine. It's the story of Jack Lemmon's character who lends his apartment to work colleagues for rendezvous and how things get complicated when his boss asks to use it as well. It's touching, funny but also sad and you'll never think of straining spaghetti in the same way.

Fanny and Alexander

It's nice to watch longer films in different parts over the holidays. Bergman's film makes me imagine what it's like to be part of a large family which I often longed for. There's darkness and light but also magic in the story. The image I love the most is that of Alexander on a sleigh going to church with flaming torches in the snow filled streets.

The Best of Youth

This is another long one to be enjoyed in different stages. It's an epic following a group of young Italians from the 60s to the present day, taking in political and cultural changes but all done with the kind of warmth Italian cinema does best. Not always easy to get hold of with English subtitles. I have to tell you though that there's a heartbreaking part at the end of the first segment so be prepared.

The Bishop's Wife

I mentioned my crush on Cary Grant in the last post so of course there has be a film with him over the holidays. He plays an angel who comes a help a clergyman and his wife. I saw it just the other week and found it so charming and funny, especially the ice skating scene.


I think I have watched this every Christmas since I was a child. My grandmother used to visit us on Christmas Day for lunch and then watched this, complaining that it used to be a much better film when she was younger. I'm sure you know its many famous lines but you'd need a heart of stone to say it doesn't make you feel romantic at all. I love the sadness in the faces of Bogey and Bergman, although Claude Rains is my favourite.

The Man Who Would be King

I don't think I've ever told you but John Huston is one of my all time favourite directors. We all watched this on Christmas Day a couple of years ago and it seemed like the perfect Christmas film, even though it doesn't feature Christmas at all. It's simply a grand adventure, beautifully told.

Lawrence of Arabia

Christmas surely deserves an epic watched on a large screen. My Dad loved this film and watched it every year. I must admit that T.E Lawrence is a hero of mine; while David Lean's version is certainly romanticised  I can't resist the music and those sweeping desert scenes.

La Grande Vadrouille

In Alsace I shared a flat with some French people who couldn't believe I had never heard of this film or André Bourvil. It was unavailable in Britain until a couple of years ago when we watched it at Christmas. Very few things makes me laugh but it's one of the funniest films ever. It's the story of some (very) British airmen who have to land in occupied Paris and the chaos that causes. All the nationalities are completely ridiculous but it keeps on getting funnier and crazier. I love the Turkish bath scene and the German chair game the best, I think

Peau d'âne (Donkey Skin)

When I was a member of the Broadway cinema in Nottingham a few years ago, I was invited just before Christmas for a free seasonal film, plus a mince pie and mulled wine. This film, based on a Perrault fairytale was one of them and it completely charmed me. Catherine Deneuve is the daughter of a widowed king whose wealth is generated by a donkey. When he decides to marry her, a fairy godmother (the wonderful Delphine Seyrig) appears to save her and she has to disguise herself with the skin of the donkey. The most memorable scene for me is the part where Catherine Deneuve makes a gâteau d'amour to win the heart of the handsome prince while singing a lovely song. I'd love the recipe.