Friday 18 December 2015

Moving Images

Moving Images

Warning: Some major spoilers on numbers 10, 7, 6, 5

Get the hankies out!

You know, I rarely do 'list articles' but I thought, during the lead in to Christmas, I’d do at least one to break up the usual format a bit and this one has been on my mind to assemble for a couple of years now. Film is often seen by many as an engaging and encapsulating experience. Perhaps director Sam Fuller says it the best, or at least the most credibly, in his cameo appearance in Jean-Luc Godard’s French new wave movie Pierrot Le Fou, when questioned by a character on the nature of cinema...

“Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word . . . emotion.”

Yeah, that’s right, emotion.

Now, while I don’t agree that all film or television has to engage us in this capacity, I’m no different than the next audience member when it comes to being caught up in the emotions of various moving image presentations and so I thought I’d compile a list of some of the moments in both cinema and television that I have personally found the most moving, over the years. Of course, it’s a completely subjective list and I’m sure that there are many more I’ve got filed away in the back of my head which I’ve forgotten to include here... so maybe I’ll do a follow up sometime. I wasn’t originally going to include any television moments on here, actually, but the one I have included leaves me such a shivering, emotional wreck every time I see it that, well, there’s just no way I could leave it off this list. I’ve actually put that in on the number two spot because it’s so powerful... to me at least.

I realise, of course, that one person’s emotional trigger is another person’s lack of the same and that a few, or even all, of these choices may leave some of you puzzled and scratching your heads. That’s okay... that’s all part of the fun and the discovery of the fact that we really are all different and we all respond and react to things in a completely different manner to everyone else. So please, if you have some specific scenes/sequences of moments of film or TV which absolutely move you then... well... it would be great if you could tell me and my readers about them in the comments section below. It’s nice to know and share this stuff.

So that’s that. Nine of these ten moments have links to an accompanying clip I found on YouTube, so click away and watch the moment and, hopefully, you'll remember to come back to look at the next "moment" in this article. Here are my top ten (for now) moving movie/TV moments... in ascending order.

10. Tracey’s Return in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
What’s this? A Bond movie on a list of most moving moments? Yeah, okay, give me a break... it’s easily the best made and emotionally mature Bond movie in the history of the series. I’m not going to cite the end sequence where Bond and Teresa (aka Tracey) leave their wedding but, before they reach their honeymoon destination, the love of Bond’s life is gunned down in a hail of machine gun fire. Instead, it’s the moment where Bond has just escaped Blofeld’s fortress on Piz Gloria for the first time that I’d like to highlight here because it shows Bond at his most vulnerable and reliant on the so-called fairer sex to complete his world saving mission. George Lazenby’s 007 has escaped his imprisonment but he can’t escape Blofelds goons, who are tracking him and stopping him getting any assistance. Bond is desperate. He has absolutely no way of escaping his predicament and no way out... and then Diana Rigg’s Countess Tereza skates into the shot. She has been looking for Bond and she is here when he needs her most... with her car. She effectively rescues him and it’s not long after this emotional moment, where we see a down on his luck Bond, that he proposes to her. Sorry, this is the only one of these entries where I couldn’t find the accompanying clip on the internet... my apologies. Watch the movie... it's cool.

9. Rachel confronts Deckard from Blade Runner
This is the scene that starts with my favourite moment of the movie, where Deckard is surprised by Rachel in the lift up to his apartment and he is so shaken by her presence that he drops his key and can barely get to open his front door because of it. Once inside she confronts Deckard about what he learned about her in the Tyrell interrogation scene and we watch Deckard unsuccessfully try to hide from her the fact that she’s a replicant, before hitting her with the brutal truth. Rachel flees the apartment while Deckard goes to fix her a drink. Here’s a low quality clip from youtube...

8. Death Of A Soldier from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Towards the end of Leone’s epic feature, Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Good’ comes across a dying confederate soldier in the aftermath of a battle. Ennio Morricone’s touching score comes into its own here as Eastwood, realising the soldier doesn’t have long to live, lays his coat on him to keep him warm and takes the cigarette from his own mouth, holding it to the soldier’s mouth so he can have a final smoke. Eastwood looks round as he is distracted by the sound of a horse... when he looks back the soldier is already dead. He takes back his cigar, grabs a poncho by the soldier and is on his way. Eastwood does this beautifully... his almost unchanging face deliberately underplaying the emotion which is bolstered by the amazing score, making this one of the most haunting moments in a Leone western.

7. The Children Return from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 
Yeah. So the fights and chases are all played out and the slave children have been freed from the Thuggee temple. Our three heroes - Indy, Willie and Short Round - return to the village where they took on their unplanned mission. There’s a moment when they are standing at the threshold of the village and all the children come running into the village from behind them, John Williams score swelling as we see the reaction shots of the various villagers who now have their young ‘uns restored to them. I break down in tears every time I see this scene (even out of context when revisiting that clip for the purposes of this list... like many of these here, as it happens). The special moment starts about thirty seconds into this long section I found on You Tube and goes on for about a minute and a half...

6. The Return Home from It’s A Wonderful Life
Okay... possibly one of the greatest American movies ever made but, certainly, the greatest Christmas movie ever made. The final scene of It’s A Wonderful life is one of those great tension-release moments. After he’s about to kill himself, James Stewart’s George Bailey character is visited by his guardian angel Clarence, played delightfully by Henry Travers. After Clarence shows George what life would have been like if he’d never had lived, George once more embraces life and returns home to his family to face some serious jail time for some missing money which he doesn’t realise the bad guy of the piece has stolen from his company. However, practically the whole town is waiting for him and they have donated all the missing money and more, making him realise just how many friends he has to come to his aid in times of trouble. We hear a ringing on the foley and Bailey’s daughter reminds him, and the audience, that “every time a bell rings, another angel gets its wings.” As the saying goes... not a dry eye in the house. There’s the whole long sequence here on youtube... ... skip to the end.

5. Confronting the Jaguar Shark from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This beautiful movie by Wes Anderson tells of the fictional equivalent of Jacques Cousteau, documentary film-maker Steve Zissou, and his quest to find and kill the bizarre ‘Jaguar Shark’ that ended his friend’s life. On the way, another friend who may or may not have been his son (only two characters in this movie know the truth of the situation, and Bill Murray’s Steve isn’t one of them), is killed in an accident and after the funeral, at the wake on Steve’s boat, the trail of the Jaguar Shark gets warm again. Steve and an absolute load of his friends and crew, most played by quite famous actors and actresses, load into his mini submarine in search of the shark. However, once he’s finally caught up with his aquatic nemesis, he realises he really doesn’t want to kill such a beautiful creature anymore. Some kind soul has put the clip on youtube here...

4. Revolution scene from A Fistful Of Dynamite (aka Duck You Sucker aka Giù la Testa)
Well this film is Leone’s masterpiece as far as I’m concerned... even if the IRA theme is kind of an anachronism bearing in mind the time this movie is set in. James Coburn’s character John has escaped betrayal at the hands of his IRA chums... something that is constantly referred back to throughout the course of the movie through a series of beautifully scored, moving flashbacks which reveal just a little more of why he is who he is, as the movie progresses. In the West, he has sneakily enlisted the aid of Mexican bandit Juan, played by Rod Steiger, without him even realising at first, to try and instigate another ‘glorious revolution’. John is the educated one and Juan is the stupid peasant who doesn’t realise what’s going on... or does he? There’s a wonderfully moving scene where Juan explains to John just what a revolution really is. The grim poignancy of this is backed up later in the film when Juan’s whole family have been wiped out by the bad guys (who are a curious metaphor for Nazi Germany in a Western).

“I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can't read the books, the poor people, and say, "We have to have a change." So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They're dead! That's your revolution. Shhh... So, please, don't tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!”

Once again. Morricone’s score plays in the background to enhance the already high emotions of the scene. This clip is here...

3. Owen’s Coin Collection scene from Throw Momma From The Train
Billy Crystal plays Larry and Danny DeVito plays the simple-minded Owen in this scene which takes you totally by surprise about half way through it. Owen pesters the long suffering Larry to look at his coin collection and, when he does, he finds it comprises of a bunch of worthless nickels, quarters and pennies. However, when he digs a little deeper as to why Owen has kept these exact coins, he finds that they were all coins given to him in change from when his long dead father used to take him to shows or baseball games. The scene suddenly switches from comedy to a poignant moment of the loss of a loved one. Unbearably emotional. There’s a clip of it here...

2. Pretty much all of The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe - Doctor Who 2011 Christmas Special
I can’t tell you how much of an emotional wreck this leaves me. After the first watch, the end is pretty devastating but, once you watch it again and know what’s coming, the whole thing will keep you crying all the way through, most probably. This episode must have so many triggers for me... I can’t even listen to the soundtrack to it on my iPod on the bus every Christmas without breaking down into badly hidden tears. Don’t watch this episode if you are with people you don’t want seeing you cry.
Here’s one of many little touching moments throughout the whole episode, which is set during World War Two...

1. Bretodeau’s Memory Box from Amélie (aka Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)
Wow. Amélie is another of those 'greatest movies ever made' and it’s a film full of moving moments from start to finish. A work of joyous wonder and surreal, dreamlike moments. There are so many bits I could have chosen to represent this movie but I’ve chosen the scene where Amélie has tracked down the owner of a box of childhood possessions, hidden behind the walls of the apartment she now lives in, over 40 years prior to her accidental discovery of said box. She arranges a stealthy way to return this 'little boy's' box to him as he approaches his 50th birthday, without appearing to be involved in the reconciliation between the former owner and the memories that the contents of this hidden treasure invoke in him. I’ve chosen this moment because it’s always the first of many bits in the movie where my mouth starts quivering and my eyes start leaking profusely. Some kind soul has provided a fairly low quality youtube clip of this here...

And that’s it for my short collection of moving moments from the world of the moving images. I hope you enjoyed this little voyage among what I feel are some of the emotional highlights of this particular art form over the years. It even had a Christmas movie in there to give it a seasonal feel. Two if you take into account part of the time frame of the Bond film.

Please come back here on Sunday/Monday for my review, I hope, of the new Star Wars movie and again on Tuesday for this year’s edition of my fiendishly puntastic Cryptic Movie Quiz for Christmas. Hope to see you soon.

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