Well, the festive season is upon us once more, and again the entertainment schedules seem to be packed full of violence and darkness.
I won’t be watching.
Last year I suggested five unusual films for Christmas, and this year I’m going to suggest another five unusual films for Yuletide. These might not have links to any of the festive events that occupy this time of year, but for me they provide an antidote to the mainstream.
1. The Colour Of Pomegranates*. Less a biography, more a montage of scenes portraying the life of the Armenian poet Sayat Nova, sumptuous and beautiful and glowing with faded Sixties glamour. One of my favourite scenes is the books of the monastery after a rainstorm being laid on the roof to dry out in the sun, their illustrated pages flapping in the breeze like prayer scarves. If you’re looking for a plot, you’ve missed the point.
2. Le Bossu. Nobody does swashbuckling like the French. Le Bossu has all the hallmarks of a Dumas story, yet was written by his contemporary, Paul Féval. The characters burst out of the screen: righteous heroes and tragic villains and evil henchmen, swordfights and acrobats and some of the most gorgeous cinematography you’ll find anywhere.
3. Mr Pye. A made-for-Channel 4 miniseries of Mervyn Peake’s other great work, Mr Pye features Derek Jacobi as a retired city banker on the tiny island of Sark, on a mission to spread good. Of course, nothing quite goes to plan…
4. Romantics Anonymous. Another French film, an exceedingly gentle romantic comedy. The hero owns a struggling chocolate factory. The heroine creates magnificent chocolates. Both are eccentrics with crippling social anxiety – just wait for the surprise ending. If you enjoyed Chocolat, or hated it, you might like this.
5. The Assassination Bureau, Ltd**. One of my all-time favourite films. Oliver Reed as Ivan Dragomiloff, the head of The Assassination Bureau, and Diana Rigg as the lady journalist who hires him to assassinate… himself. A classic late-Sixties Technicolour romp across Europe, stuffed with petticoats and airships and a cast you can play Spot-The-Star with.
* Only when I looked up the link did I realise that another of my favourite quiet films, Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, is also a Parajanov classic. Pseuds Corner here I come.
** I have to confess, this was one of the inspirations for my Petticoat Katie series of novels, but I can’t compete with Jack London and Wolf Mankowitz… yet.