Extracts From A Life Of Fiction, Volume One is my autobiography. But it is more than what has happened to me over the years. Such a journal would be short and dull. So the book includes a large section on the thinking behind the creation of my works (some of it adapted from this website); and a couple of chapters on my likes and dislikes. I don’t think that who a person is can be defined just by what happens to them over a period of years. I could spend a hundred thousand words talking about going to a Steiner school, but it would still not completely illumine who I am.
The autobiography, like al of my work, was ultimately for myself, allowing me to get some things off my chest. And, yes, it is volume one. But I have no intention to write volume two any time soon. Such a volume will detail my rise to become a successful author (har-de-har-har). And it will feature the ideas behind the genesis of novels which I have not even considered, as yet, as I intend to continue writing for as long as I am able to perform a one-fingered stab on a keyboard.
The following excerpt is the chapter What I Have Seen.
Extract from Extracts From A Life Of Fiction
A memoir only tells you what a person has done; and this tale is an autobiography by a person who hates autobiographies. A historical account is not enough to tell you about the nature of a person. To know a person, you also need to know what makes them tick, their likes and dislikes. And I like film.
Here I list some of my favourite films, and I try to explain, in my humble prose, why I like them. This is purely a subjective look at films which have some importance to me. It is not an examination of cinema per se; or an attempt to give a critique on each of the films. It is a mere glimpse into my likes.
I prefer to see films at the cinema, but that has not become easy in recent years, with the fact that I have become a near recluse. it is a major and extremely stressful expedition for me to reach the doors of any cinema. I think that, because of that, I have been to the cinema once in the past five years.
Cinemas also have the films too loud (by Darwin, but I sound like an old duffer!). Since acquiring tinnitus, my constant companion, my ears have been sensitive to loud noises. There were times that I was in physical pain because the music was so ear-bleeding loud. Not fun.
I would make the attempt to go to the cinema more often, though, if they showed films which I wanted to see, rather than which Hollywoodland wanted me to see:
Here follows a dozen films which are important to me, in no particular order:
The Seven Samurai: I can’t recall whether I saw this at the cinema or not. Probably not, considering its age. But I have seen several by Kurosawa. Other ones I’ve seen, either at the cinema, on television, or on DVD, include Kagemusha, Ran, Hidden Fortress and Throne of Blood.
It is a film which I hope that I will never tire of, but which I can enjoy over and over again.
I feel that this film has it all. There is comedy, romance 9to a certain extent) and a lot of action. It is a film which has influenced many other films, most notably its remake as a Hollywood western: The Magnificent Seven. Without the Seven Samurai there would not have been that film.
Blade Runner: Ah, but which version is best, the one with the talk over, or the one without? Without, of course. All you have to do is to pay attention and things will become clear.
I am a big fan of the work of Philip K Dick, and this film is not really all that close to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But that does not really matter to me, as this film is a good enough artefact in its own right.
Do you dream of unicorns? That is the question, really, isn’t it, for anybody who has seen that film: unicorns and origami. How did the other policeman know that Deckard had dreamt of a unicorn?
I keep hearing rumours of a sequel or a prequel to this film. I really don’t think that either would work. You can’t improve on perfection. They would, at best, only detract from the original film.
It is amazing to watch the film, as we sweep in for a bird’s eye view between the buildings, and realise that the film was done in the era before CGI.
M: Peter Lorre as a child murderer in Germany, this must be one of the darkest films of its period. The German criminal underworld, feeling stressed because of the fact that the police are all over the place, failing to find the child murderer, decide that something must be done. So they decide to track down the killer themselves.
This film, for some reason, is not often shown on British television. All of those extra channels, and they still can’t be bothered to show good films. Perhaps the powers that be don’t like showing old black and white films, apart from the sort to film a slot in the afternoon schedule – and this film is far too dark, in subject matter, to follow something like Murder She Wrote.
The Wicker Man: Best Horror Film Ever. I mean, of course, the original, not the insanely bad Hollywood remake. Why, when Hollywood does remakes, does it get things wrong so often, and lose the things which made the originals magical in the first place? Just think of remakes like The Ring and The Ladykillers, if you don’t believe me.
In this film, a Christian, devout policeman, played by the late Edward Woodward, goes to an obscure Scottish island to look for a girl who has gone missing. I won’t give away the end of the film for those who haven’t seen it, only to say that what the copper encounters is paganism at its most elemental and brutal.
I think that what I like about this is not only how well it has been constructed, and its attention to detail, but also the fact that it was so different to other horror films at the time; and horror films which have come since. There are no zombies, or werewolves, or vampires; there are no chain-saw wielding maniacs. The real horror in this film is what people are prepared to do if they truly believe.
Oh, yeah, there are also some half decent folk songs and Britt Ekland’s bum double doing a naked dance. Those bits aren’t bad, either. And we mustn’t forget the great Christopher Lee, one of the most underrated actors which Britain has ever produced. He has brought a touch of gravitas to nearly everything which he has been in, no matter how bad. And he has only got better with age. I remember that the BBC remade a series of Ivanhoe. The series was pretty bad. The only good thing in it was Christopher Lee.
Dr Strangelove: Some people say that the films of Stanley Kubrick are cold. But maybe that is because he was such a perfectionist. I find this his funniest and most human film, and I rate it beyond The Shining, Spartacus and even the great Paths of Glory (and definitely above Eyes Wide Shut).
It is something which you could almost imagine happening, some American journal going mad and starting World War Three. For the sake of not appearing racist I should say that any general could theoretically go insane, he does not have to be American. But to lead to a massive exchange of thermo-nuclear devices he would really have to be either American or Russian.
I think that this must be Peter Sellers best film, showing how talented he was, in playing three different parts. It is far removed from Clouseau.
Like many of the films which I like it has a great ending: the end of civilisation on the face of the planet.
Some Like It Hot: I find bits of this cringe-makingly funny. I can’t help but be cheered up when this is on.
For those of you who don’t know this film, it is about two hapless jazz musicians who are unlucky enough to witness the St Valentine’s Day massacre. As witnesses to that bloody deed, the Mob cannot afford to leave the characters alive. So, to try and escape being filled full of lead, the two musicians go on the run, taking a job in an all-girl jazz band, meaning that they have to spend all of the time in drag.
Why is this film so important to me? Well, it is very funny; and very silly, as well. It is wonderfully scripted, and Marilyn Monroe gives one of her better performances. Tony Curtis gives a great performance, especially when he does his Cary Grant impersonation, pretending to be a wealthy man with a yacht in an attempt to woo Sugar (Marilyn Monroe). And the film has a great last line.
Donnie Darko: Weird film. Good film. I’ve always liked time travel films for some reason, as long as they are not too stupid. This one cannot be accused of that.
I’m not sure what, precisely, it is about this film which I like so much. The film has a dreamy feel to it, at least as far as I am concerned. It reminds me of the novels of Haruki Murakami. Perhaps because it is also a time travel film, one which tells its tale not in a linear way. I am a massive fan of time travel films, as long as they are told intelligently; which this one is.
The sequel is rumoured to be rubbish.
Citizen Kane: This isn’t the greatest film of all time. I hope that the greatest film of all time has not yet been created, otherwise we cineastes don’t have all that much to look forward to.
‘Rosebud’. There, I’ve said it, the secret revealed at the end of the film, the film being an attempt to understand why Kane said that word on his deathbed. The film is flawed, but the brilliance of Orson Welles overwhelms the little flaws in the film. It is probably not the greatest film ever made. But there are scenes in it which are so important to cinema that you should really check it out.
Grosse Pointe Blank: I only came across this film by accident, one evening when there was not much on the TV. The film did not sound all that good, but there was not that much else on. I’m glad that I watched it. I have now seen it so many times that I almost know what the actors are going to say before they say it.
John Cusack as a contract killer does not really sound that funny. But parts of this film are really funny, albeit in a dark way. There is also a fair bit of violence. I watched this with my mother, once, and she really jumped when the mêlée between the assassins, at the school reunion, took place.
The soundtrack of this film is pretty good, as well. Any soundtrack which has the Pogues on it is okay, as far as I’m concerned. I understand that the soundtrack was put together by the late and great Joe Strummer. It had to be somebody English. I don’t think that if an American had been curating the soundtrack that you would have got stuff like
Life of Brian: In my humble opinion, this is the best of the Monty Python films. It’s one which is more than just a selection of sketches. It has a proper plot and everything.
What I find equally funny is the reaction of established religion to the film, with priests condemning the film even without having seen it. To condemn something, without knowledge of it, is the utmost idiocy, as far as I am concerned. It’s like never eating chocolate because it’s brown and you think it might taste pooey. It led to one of the funnier Not The Nine O’clock News sketches.
I think that those who took offence wanted to be offended. That is the only logical assumption looking back on the whole affair. of course, though, religion has never been logical.
There is so much of the film to appreciate, from ‘what have the Romans ever done for us’ to the scene showing religious schisms (the Judea Popular Front, or whatever it is called, versus the Popular Front of Judea – which is just one man).
Remember, kids, always look on the bright side of life.
Betty Blue: I like French cinema. It tastes different to American cinema. It can’t help but be stylish. I first saw it late one night on television. Well, you don’t really show French films on British television at any time other than late at night, do you?
Another French film which I could just as easily have picked for my list is Diva. That is another of my favourite films, and features one of the few bits of operatic singing which I don’t actively detest.
Kind Hearts and Coronets: This is my favourite Ealing comedy, and they produced several which I really like. Apart from this I could have picked The Ladykillers or Passport to Pimlico, or several other films which I still find funny. But I think that I prefer this because this is slightly darker, as it deals with the mass murder of a group of people so that the main protagonist – you can’t really call him a hero – can inherit a title and the money which goes with it.
Ah! I think of all of the films I have had to leave out from the above list, all of the pieces of cinema which I have so enjoyed over the years. No room in the list above for the creepy Pi; or for Cabaret; or Southern Comfort; or Videodrome; or Touch of Evil; or for any of the Lord of the Rings moves. Like the road, the list goes ever on.
Of the films which I have picked six of them are in black and white. One is German, one is French, and one is Japanese. Go figure.
Extracts From A Life Of Fiction will ‘soon’ be available on kindle.