A while before Christmas I was asked to contribute a list of my fave raves of 2003 for publication. In circumstances like this, I’m afraid I just freeze up, coming to the conclusion that I mustn’t have been to the cinema, saw a painting, watched a television programme or listened to any music during the whole year. I sit and strain as the deadline hurtles toward me and still I can’t think of a single thing.
Several e-correspondents send me their nominations, playlists, etc. In most cases (particularly when it comes to music) I realise just how little “new” music I actually bother to listen to. Certainly, I never seem to see movies which are as worthy and as fascinating as the ones lauded by several chums. So, the deadline passes, I’m off the hook and the year moves seamlessly into the next and the whole process of forgetting can begin again.
Debra and I love going to the cinema. We don’t go to pubs much (if at all in my case). We don’t go to fancy restaurants or partake of ball-room dancing or any other of the life-enhancing activities which middle-aged couples madly in love tend to do. What we do is go to the cinema.
Sometimes if we can, we try and fit in two movies in the same evening which can make for some unexpected couplings; About Schmidt and The Pianist or more recently Kill Bill and Intolerable Cruelty.
In social gatherings we are sometimes asked which movies we’ve seen and what impressed us. Given that it’s our premier night-out entertainment, we nearly always reply that we can’t remember. This isn’t because we have a low opinion of what we’ve seen rather it’s a form of cultural amnesia that besets us. We’ll stare blankly, shake our heads ala Harpo Marx and come across like a couple of half-wits.
So I think about the movies I saw in 2003 and delve through the molasses of my memory to pull Mystic River and Adaptation out of the goo. Both these films count as my fave raves of last year being movies which made me cry and made me laugh. I also saw Donnie Darko and Ghost World for the first time in 2003 although being made a couple of years prior, I’m not sure if they count. But if they do then they would stand next to the Gangs of New York . Biggest disappointment had to be QT’s Kill Bill and the biggest “so what!” has to be the one-take yawnathon that is Russian Ark.
But here’s the thing. One Saturday afternoon last year we nipped into the Tyneside Cinema on an impulse and caught a tale about a woodwork tutor in a rehabilitation centre for young offenders. The man is greatly affected by a new arrival. We then find out that this offender had been put away for the murder of his son. The film chronicles how he copes with his anger and outage which of course leads to an edge-of-the-seat climax. Shot in almost documentary style, it is stark and economic. The delivery is blunt and without any cinematic frills, relying entirely on the compelling performances of the grieving father and the luckless lad.
The name of this movie? Haven’t a clue. Directed by? Don’t know. Starring? Wouldn’t know them from Adam. All I can tell you is that it was Belgian. Or maybe French. Well it had subtitles and was in colour at least I’m sure about that and I think it was my favourite film of 2003.