Le Chat Noir are girl drummer Eileen and guitarist Teddy and together they play a riotous mix of dirty bluesy garage-punk-rock. They’ve just released their second album, Deadwood, and are currently gigging in the UK. They’ll be heading off to Europe in September to play shows in Germany, Italy and France and will also be playing in Belgium and Holland in November. More details here!
1- Hana Bi (1997)
Too many films these days employ violence for the sake of spectacle, with half-hearted plots seemingly tagged on as an afterthought. Whilst Kitano’s films are undoubtedly violent, he’s a master of using it to subtle effect. Nishi, the ex-cop played by Kitano in the film, is a man facing a kind of ultimate mid-life crisis; he leaves the police force after his partner ends up in a wheelchair following a botched stake out, and has borrowed money from the Yakuza to help care for his dying wife. Nishi leads a double life; he is a cold-hearted, unpredictable killer and a loving, gentle husband. You cannot help but share his pain as the two worlds come crashing together. It’s wonderfully acted and is directed and edited with sensitivity and imagination. The film has everything – isolation, loneliness, joy, tragedy, bittersweet comedy… if ever a film captured the duality of our nature, the sadness and beauty of life and death, this is it.
2- Amelie (2001)
The ultimate feel-good movie, but not in that cloying Disney way. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider can identify with the eponymous heroine – she is a reclusive dreamer whose flights of fancy are beautifully realised, but are also evidently a defence mechanism against the experiences of her dysfunctional childhood. You can’t help but smile as her childlike romance with fellow oddball Nico unfolds, the barriers she has created to isolate herself from the world melting away to reveal a character full of love and warmth. Ultimately, the film is a celebration of the fleeting joys of life and making the most of the time that we have – if you don’t feel like going out and doing something good for someone else after seeing this, you’ve got a heart of stone!
3- The Big Lebowski (1998)
Like Raymond Chandler on acid, this is a neo-noir crime thriller blended with absurdist comedy, a laugh-out-loud funny film populated by rich, colourful characters, bizarre dream sequences and stellar dialogue that you will be quoting incessantly after a few repeat viewings. The twisting, shambolic storyline is often as loveably oddball and wayward as the ‘hero’ of the piece, The Dude, a frazzled, ageing hippy who meanders his way through life until a case of mistaken identity turns his existence upside down. Everyone should see this film, then buy the DVD and watch it again and again.
4- Adaptation (2002)
This movie delights in playing with perceptions of authorship and reality in a way that is common in literature but seldom attempted on the big screen. Essentially it’s a film about writing – a ‘metafilm’, if you will, and far superior to the only other film of this kind that springs to mind, the disappointing A Cock And Bull Story. The basic premise is that Charlie Kaufman (the real-life screenwriter who worked with Spike Jonze on this film) has been commissioned to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, but struggles with writer’s block and ultimately descends into neuroticism and hypochondria as he unsuccessfully juggles his failing script with his unsatisfactory life. Simultaneously, it tells the story of Susan’s own struggles in writing the book. The parallel plot lines deal with the desperation of trying to fathom the unfathomable – both writers are ultimately not trying to dissect their subject matter, but explain and justify their own existences to themselves through their work. It’s a film about artistic integrity, passion and standing your ground when pressures from outside tempt you to succumb to the easy path.
5- Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
An offbeat, quirky film about honour and decline. Ghost Dog is a hitman who lives in a shack on a rooftop and follows the teachings of Hagakure’s The Way Of The Samurai. He and his mafia bosses live existences that seem anachronistic in the modern setting of the film – these are not the confident, ruthless mobsters of Coppola or Scorsese, but rather tired, ageing incompetents clinging to faded glories. The real power of this film lies in Forrest Whittaker’s poignant performance as Ghost Dog – he is single-minded and ruthless in performing his duty, yet there is an underlying sadness in him that is never voiced but permeates the film from beginning to end. He is alienated from society, a lonely figure with little connection to reality, cut off by his devotion to a code which has no place in the modern Western world. His relationship with his only ‘friend’, a Haitian ice cream man, is intriguing – they speak English and French respectively and cannot understand each other on a linguistic level, yet they share an understanding that runs far deeper than words. In their relationship, we see a microcosm of all human interaction – in the modern world we are all essentially isolated from each other, yet sometimes we find unity and solace in the most unlikely of places and people.
6- Amadeus (1984)
Adapted to the big screen from the theatre, it’s a thoroughly entertaining story of the mediocre court composer Salieri and his jealousy for Mozart. Although the film at times isn’t too accurate about Mozart’s life, you get a sense of why Salieri was so jealous and why he detested the young genius. Mozart had everything Salieri wanted: to be loved for the music he wrote and become a success. However, the viewer sees that Mozart had drinking and womanising on his mind as much as composing. In many ways, it almost portrays Mozart as pretty much a ‘rock star’: with his fame, he managed to make a lot of enemies by saying a lot of the wrong things, having a few affairs on the side, drinking far too heavily, then tragically dying a pauper’s death… all at a very young age. I see Mozart as any kind of rock star who lived the life of excess, was famous, adored and hated, and paid the price for it. Saying that, I think every musician must see this film.
7- Ghost World (2001)
A film based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes tells the story of Enid and her best friend Rebecca after their high school graduation. They’re both outsiders who dislike all the normalities of life. Enid has to go to a remedial art class whilst Rebecca gets a job. They play a joke on Seymour, a lost and lonely soul, but Enid ends up becoming friends with him and finds out that she has a lot more in common with him that she realises. Eventually, Enid begins to discover the complexities of becoming an adult in the modern world and views the world in a different light. I think anyone who sees the outside world as a place of conformity, as Enid does, can sympathise with her, which is exactly how I felt when I first saw this film. I can’t think of any other film that has made that kind of impact on me.
8- The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
The title character just seems to have everything go wrong for him: his partner gets eaten by a mythic shark, his estranged wife has eyes for her ex, his sea-life films are going bust, a man claiming to be his son and a pregnant reporter whom he has a thing for join his crew… the list goes on! But the main chunk of the film focuses on the search for the shark that ate Zissou’s partner and the events that happen along the way. I love Wes Anderson’s other works, but this one is probably my favourite. I’ve seen it about 3 times and I can never get bored with it. The humour is subtle and witty, and there is always something new you learn about the characters and the story. Another plus about the film is that the soundtrack has Seu Jorge singing Bowie covers in Portuguese, how awesome is that?!
9- Ran (1985)
A beautifully shot epic by one of the most important directors of our time. Set in medieval Japan and based on Shakespeare’s play King Lear, it’s the story of the ageing warlord Hidetora and his three sons, Taro, Jiro and the youngest of the three, Saburo. The basic plot is the same as King Lear, but Kurosawa makes it his own by fusing west (King Lear) and east (setting), which he is renowned for in his later films. It’s an exciting and wonderfully done film, with its epic, colourful battle scenes and the haunting image of the lord’s descent into madness. At a staggering 160 minutes, it grips you from beginning to end and doesn’t let go. Kurosawa’s work has provided the basis for a lot of famous films, such as The Magnificent Seven and the first Star Wars film, but I feel the original films have so much more to them. Such talent and vision should not be overlooked.
10- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
‘If adventure has a name… it must be Indiana Jones’. You better bet your socks it is! I love the Indiana Jones films, I have the box set and everything! But this one (the second one) is my all-time favourite. It’s another one of those films that I’ve seen a million times and will never get bored of. The premise is Jones and his 12-year-old friend called Short Round and a singer by the name of Willie Scott go to a small village in India, where the people believe evil spirits have taken their children away after a sacred stone was stolen and it’s up to Jones to save them. At times, it can be a bit cheesy and ridiculous, but that’s part of the charm of the Indiana Jones films. The cool thing about Dr. Jones is that he isn’t really a hero at all; he’s a run-of-the-mill archaeologist who happens to find himself going on a few adventures here and there. This film is also a bit special to me because this is pretty much the first film I’ve seen as a child! It was an awesome film when I was 6, and it’s still awesome now!