Saturday, August 20, 2005

Comfort Movies

"Anyone else got a pile?" asks Darren.

Right now, my night-stand contains a pile of books: Emily Dickinson; alt-comics artist Jaime Hernandez's Locas In Love; Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory; and Donald Barthelme's Not-Knowing: The Essays And Interviews. In addition, there are two piles of DVD's. Here's why:

It's late. I'm awake but I know I'll be sleeping peacefully within the hour. I put down the book I'm reading and reach for a DVD to ease into oblivion with. Two choices here.

• DVD pile #1: Canon Movies — great, amazing films, all of which I've seen before and love but could see a dozen times more. At this moment:

  • Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris
  • Max Ophuls' Lola Montes
  • Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt
  • Alain Resnais' La Guerre Est Finie
  • Chris Marker's La Jetée
  • Alexander Sokurov's Mother And Son
  • the John Cassavetes box set.
• DVD pile #2: Comfort Movies — wonderful films that are proudly unguilty pleasures. I've seen these too often to disclose — it would be almost embarrassing. Right now, they are:

  • Steve Kloves' The Fabulous Baker Boys
  • Hal Hartley's Surviving Desire
  • Whit Stillman's The Last Days Of Disco
  • Wes Anderson's Rushmore
  • Ernst Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle
  • Jean-Luc Godard's A Woman Is A Woman
  • Jacques Tati's M. Hulot's Holiday
  • Howard Hawks' Hatari and The Big Sleep
  • To be added this week: the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers box set

Comfort movies serve an important purpose in my life. For a recovering insomniac, they lay down a plush ambience for me to drift off in. And when I'm gone, they keep me clear of nightmares or anxiety dreams. It's quite funny — I mean, is there no end to the service that we call upon art to perform for us in our lives?

So, your comfort movies?


Anonymous Steven Shaviro said...

Great lists! You are the first person I have met who shares my fondness for Hatari.

August 20, 2005 9:32 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Steven.
You know, I wanted to write about why I love Missy's new one, but after I read your take, everything I wanted to say sounded redundant!

August 20, 2005 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Looker said...

The first comfort film that comes to mind for me is North by Northwest. But having seen Sokurov's Mother and Son once, I don't know that I'd ever want to see it again... maybe if mother and son were chased by a cropduster?

August 21, 2005 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

When I'm sick I turn on the cable to the Western Channel. Of my DVDs I would like John Huston's Maltese Falcon, Roger Corman's Tomb of Ligeia and Pit and the Pendulum, Richard Quine's Bell, Book and Candle, and Frank Capra's It Happened One Night. If I hook up the VCR again, there's Don Weis' Affairs of Dobie Gillis, Jack Arnold's High School Confidential, and the Wachowski's Bound. I hope Last Days of Disco gets re-issued.

By the way, Girish, I once had a Love and Rockets calendar.

Anyone else catching Maureen O'Hara on TCM?

August 21, 2005 12:27 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Hatari...hmmm...Elsa Martinelli hosing down elephants and Hardy Kruger strutting around in short shorts. I'm sure that there's erotic symbolism in there somewhere.

I rarely use movies to lull me to sleep, but some of the ones that I go back to regularly once or twice a year include Chinatown, The Fountainhead, Goldfinger, Performance, La Cérémonie, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Cronenberg's Crash, and Sex and Lucia. And if I have a free afternoon, The Birth of a Nation is always on standby.

August 21, 2005 4:39 AM  
Anonymous dvd said...

I've never developed the habit of going to sleep in front of movies (because my anal rententive side can't stand the idea of leaving the disc in the player, or the televison on - although I do cherish the habit of falling asleep with an open book for a pillow).

But when I'm feeling down, something like Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Raising Arizona will always bring me back up. Moulin Rouge or Amelie work now and then. And Wes Anderson's middle two movies serve a similar function, although they offer a more contemplative reprieve from life's troubles.

August 21, 2005 5:15 AM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Mmm, comfort movies. Almost always a comedy or a musical for me. Fred and Ginger definitely (except "The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle" -- too sad), anything Vincente Minelli or Lubitsch, "His Girl Friday," "My Man Godfrey." Also (oddly) "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," I guess because I have loved it since it I was a teenager. And like Peter, "Bell Book and Candle" too. Just a funny, delicious little movie. I suggested the name Piewacket to a woman onlne who had adopted a cat and was crushed when no one got the reference.

My stack doesn't have any DVDs because we have no bedroom TV. The books right now are: "Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care"; "No Name," by Wilkie Collins; and the September issue of Lucky magazine (not that great, in case someone was considering picking it up).

August 21, 2005 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Speaking of Bell Book & Candle, does anyone else think there is a sort of in joke in the title sequence? Primitive masks are shown with each of the stars names. The mask for Elsa Lanchester has a beard.

August 21, 2005 3:30 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

HA! I never noticed, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit. It isn't as though she & Charles were a secret in Hollywood.

August 21, 2005 3:39 PM  
Blogger girish said...

[sound of Bell, Book & Candle plopping into netflix queue]

August 21, 2005 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Ju-osh, the paleface ghostface said...

My going to sleep movies (used primarily when ill and/or awoken beyond the point of a drifting return by my cokehead neighbor) are:
Heat (Mann)
The hours-long 'making of' documentary on the extended dvd version of LOTR: The Fellowship of the RIng (Jackson, etc)
The Man From Snowy River (Miller)
The Piano (Campion)
Lost in Time - although Cecelia Cheung's occassional screams of grief do wake me up! (Yee)

My comfort movies (movies I use in lieu of roommates) are:
Jackie Brown (Tarantino)
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Anno)
DVD commentaries by Robert Altman
Detour - who wouldn't want a nutso and demanding Ann Savage screaming at them while they draw? (Ulmer)
King of Comedy - more Cecilia Cheung! (Chow)

August 21, 2005 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, I share your passion for Godard's A Woman Is a Woman -- it's one of those films that never gets old for me and is an immensely pleasurable experience every single time I view it.

August 22, 2005 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

I wrote about this topic a few months ago, so I'll contribute that entry to the discussion rather than writing a full comment. Now I really shoul dbe finishing my paper.

August 23, 2005 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I want to buy Lola Montes. I see that you mention her on your list. what can you ell me about it. could you post your comments about it?


August 23, 2005 3:22 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey Chuck, I had no idea about your excellent post! To think I was trying to plough the exact same ground without knowing it.

August 24, 2005 7:33 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymous: A little warning--Lola Montes is probably Ophuls' most complex, baroque and chilly film. If you've never seen any Ophuls before, I'd recommend starting with something else, for example The Earrings Of Madame De... or Letter From An Unknown Woman. Otherwise, you may be permanenntly turned off Ophuls, and we wouldn't want that. :-)

August 24, 2005 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks. i'll try to find "From An Unknown Woman

August 24, 2005 11:04 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Silence of the Lambs, oddly enough. Stop Making Sense. Tootsie is great for it too, and The Big Lebowski. I think that's probably just because the films are fluid and sort of hypnotic, and I'm very familiar with them.

August 25, 2005 1:28 AM  

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