I’m in the last stages of my latest manuscript and spent much of the past weekend writing a scene in which the film “Roman Holiday” features significantly. My novels aren’t autobiographical, by any stretch of the imagination, but that said, there are always pieces of me in every book. The pieces get chopped up and rearranged and repurposed, but they’re in there, like breadcrumbs.
I got to watch the film again, “researching”; DH seemed a little sceptical that I was actually making any progress on my word count but piffle. I love this film – it’s one of the most poignant and heartbreaking and romantic looks at love and the cinematography is gorgeous. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’d watch Gregory Peck read the telephone book – he’s just one of the ‘good guys’ in my books. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching it, treat yourself. This was Hepburn’s first major role and she just shines from the get go.
The thing is, I’m a pretty serious film buff. I actually studied film in university but my love affair started when I was a teenager watching Elwy on “Saturday Night at the Movies” (anyone who lives in Ontario and gets TVO will know who I mean. Elwy Yost was an institution :)). It was a double feature of classic Hollywood films every Saturday night and it’s where I cut my teeth on early film. Great stories are great on film or on paper and I think there’s a ton to be learned from movies, even though it is a different medium. Pacing, dialogue, story tempo, character, backstory – all those things apply whatever form a writer is working in.
So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 favourite films. I love them for a whole host of reasons but they all deal with human emotion and journeys so well. Some are funny; some definitely aren’t. There are movies about war, a biopic, adaptations, original screenplays and lots and lots of historical costume drama. A pretty catholic bunch, I’d say but all films I think have changed me for watching them.
1. The Piano (Campion, 1993)
2. Come and See (Klimov, 1985)
3. Singin’ in the Rain (Donen and Kelly, 1950)
4. Some Like it Hot (Wilder, 1959)
5. A Single Man (Ford, 2009)
6. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang, 1991)
7. The Heiress (Wyler, 1949)
8. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Girard, 1993)
9. Zulu (Enfield, 1964)
10. Persuasion (Michell, 1995)
What do you think? Can writers learn something from other forms of storytelling or are the differences too much to make them valuable? If you could only watch one film, what would it be?