Although I most definitely call Malta my home these days and indeed hope to for some while yet, I will always consider myself to be a Londoner. I am in the enviable position of being able to spend time between the two places I love, and now, I am more aware than ever just how lucky I have been in that respect. However, recently I have not been able to travel back to my home town, for all sorts of reasons, and it got me thinking. Why not pop on a few of my favourite London based films to quench my thirst. Marvellous.
Like any capital city, London is multi-faceted. Some parts sparkle like the Queen’s jewels, other parts can feel like you’ve stepped back in time and found yourself in an unwritten Dickens novel. And more often than not, those two extremes can take place on the same night, trust me. This is not a list of my favourite London based films, just films I think show a side of London rarely seen on screen. Not all of London resembles Notting Hill, take it from me.
About A Boy
Apart from the wonder of seeing Hugh Grant cast against type, and introducing the world to the incredible talents of Nicholas Hoult, About a Boy always feels very ‘real’ to me as a film. Ostensibly it’s about a friendship between an outcast young boy and a self-obsessed lazy multimillionaire. At times I am sure we have all felt like the loner at school, who just doesn’t fit in, so nothing outstanding there. But the genius of this film is in the way in which Hugh Grant’s character is fleshed out into something very real and believable. Unfortunately, I have met far too many of his type in London, they pop up everywhere. But About A Boy made me think twice the next time I met a jet-set London playboy, and it made me look at my home town in a different light. It helped me develop empathy for people whom I would have previously dismissed as trust-fund kids wasting their parents’ money, seeing the same city but through different eyes. Which has to be a good thing, no?
Truly, Madly, Deeply
A film about grief that is at times laugh out loud funny gets my vote any time. But what else would you expect if you put Anthony Minghella, Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman together? A work of genius in my opinion. Simple story, a woman loses her partner, goes mad with grief, so he comes back to haunt her in her ramshackle flat. Along with some of his new dead friends, you know, to watch old films on the television and to keep warm while she’s at work. Juliet Stevenson puts in the performance of a lifetime, and there is something very ‘London’ about her character that I can’t quite put my finger on. A dear friend of mine lost his partner to AIDS in the nineties, and he once told me that he never feels so alone as when he is surrounded by hoards of people. There is a gentle vulnerability to her that you can so often overlook in strangers in London, that it makes one want to weep. It can be a very tough place to inhabit, and so many lost souls pass by unnoticed. Beautiful and touching. But this film does indeed come with a warning, have a handkerchief nearby, it may come in handy.
No film in my mind brings together the disparate parts of London that I mentioned at the beginning of this article in a clearer way than the film Mona Lisa. Where there is decadence, there will undoubtedly be depravity. And rest assured, the grander the decadence, the lower the depravity. Straight out of prison Bob Hoskins is hired as a driver for a high-class escort. He becomes enmeshed in the search for a young sex worker that his new lady friend is desperate to find, who coincidentally, is also connected to his boss. This is not the easiest films to watch, (definitely not a Sunday afternoon tea-time affair), but its inclusion is because no film comes anywhere near this close to me for being so visceral at times that you can almost taste London. And when a film that makes one feel nostalgic for a place that you know from personal experience is responsible for so much pain, it lingers long in the mind.
This is the film I am going to say least about; just a brief synopsis. James Fox plays an East End gangster on the run who hides out in a guest house owned by an ex-rock star played by Mick Jagger. The rumours surrounding this film are as fantastic as the film itself. At a test screening people vomited and had to be handed their money back; certain sex scenes were so explicit it they had to be cut. The drug-taking on-screen was thought to be genuine, and the distributor Warner Brothers held on to the film in their vault for two years before deciding to release it. And at one point they even considered destroying the negative. Nicolas Roeg is one of my all-time favourite directors, ‘Don’t Look Now’ is a masterpiece of cinema. But just hearing the name Harry Flowers reminds me of his true genius.
God Save the Queen. Lord bless you all. Same time next week fellow film lovers.