Four winter warmers
four tfr writers on their favourite films for winter.
The Red Shoes (1948) - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger created films that are sensual, extravagant and magnificent. A prime example of this is The Red Shoes (1948). This depicts the rise of ingénue Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) to prima ballerina and her dark, twisted relationship with impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). He demands nothing short of her soul and they have a battle of wills in their mutual pursuit of artistic perfection. It is the jealous disappointment of the loss of that vision to romantic love that drives the narrative to its explosive end. The style of the film is simultaneously lavish and haunting with both heavily constructed, often surreal shots of the ballet production and dizzying shots of the beautiful Monte Carlo landscape that appear almost gothic in parts. Technicolour is manipulated to give a vibrant visual representation of the simmering tension that constantly threatens to overflow at any minute. This tension comes in part from Page’s burgeoning sexuality which she is able to articulate through dance, demonstrating a freedom through movement, music and imagery that is intoxicating. The Red Shoes is a visually sumptuous triumph of cinema that keeps viewers firmly in its seductive grip from beginning to end.
The Apartment (1960) - Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder’s 1960 masterpiece has yet to find itself up there with It’s a Wonderful Life, but as far as essential Christmas movies go, it should certainly be in the discussion. This darker comedy follows the lives of its characters in the run up to Christmas and New Years. Jack Lemmon is C.C. Baxter, an eager young office clerk full of witty commentary and madly in love with the girl who runs the elevator in his office building, played by the brilliant Shirley MacLaine. Lemmon is loveable as always, although his character’s morals are rendered a bit questionable to say the least when we find out that he lets his bosses use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. This of course leads to plenty of hilarious antics, not least of which includes poor Baxter being forced to sleep on a park bench, or the disgust of his neighbours who simply assume him to be a hedonistic playboy.
Like most of the best comedies The Apartment has a darker side, although, that makes the happy ending all the more rewarding. This is a film about friendship as much as if not more than romance. It’s fun and quirky and endlessly quotable. The partnership of Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder effortlessly transitions from the screwball comedy of Some Like it Hot to the drier humour of The Apartment. Wilder’s trademark cynicism is paired with sweetness that gives this film its tender, truly heart-warming quality. This film has a simple story about people and the choices they make, the performances and the snappy yet insightful dialogue combine to make The Apartment a film that has truly stood the test of time. It will make you laugh, cry and laugh again before ending on that perfectly life-affirming note that we all look for at this festive time of year.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) - Brian Henson
Who is more fitting to retell Charles Dickens story than the wonderful Muppets? And who better to play the great novelist than the Great Gonzo? Of course the novel’s characters are all played by various Muppets who are so suitable it is almost a little surprising that Dickens did not originally write his characters as such. The film includes some of the original dialogue and narration of the classic novel but also includes the humour of the Muppets. The side story of Gonzo and Rizzo navigating through the main plot unbeknownst to Scrooge (Michael Caine) is an example of such. The Muppets also introduce some original songs which weave perfectly into the original novella’s narrative.
But despite the whimsy of the film, the sensitive moments are still treated tenderly and Scrooge is happily transformed from penny pinching miser who denies his bookkeepers a warm fire on Christmas Eve to a generous old soul who accepts Beaker’s gift of a scarf on Christmas Day (in a truly tear jerking moment). Ultimately Dickens’s narrative is done justice by the Muppets, allowing Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim to declare the mantra of the novella “God Bless us, every one” with Scrooge at the film’s happy conclusion.
Die Hard (1988) - John McTiernan
Die Hard is a 80s action classic with a Christmas twist. Set in LA, sans snow, New York, Michael Culken and Santa Claus as befits most Christmas movies, Die Hard is the perfect winter movie. As the confusing mix of sleet and wind whirls outside and your mother asks for help in the kitchen, Die Hard showing up on the Sky planner is the perfect excuse to forgo any excursions to the pub with your friends or the kitchen with your family. Instead you can intensely watch as New York cop John McClane (played by the ‘almost bald but not quite yet’ version of Bruce Willis), runs around bare foot for two hours and takes out a strange mix of very handsome European terrorists who’ve decided to hijack his wife’s office Christmas party. As an Irish person you will feel a little pang of ‘wahay’ as they even mention the IRA at one point in a plot which sees Snape attempt to steal $640 million worth of bonds from the Nakatomi company. This is a fantastic movie as it contains humor, reconciliation and various explosions, taking your body and emotions through the necessary highs and lows it needs to digests the second turkey sandwich you’ve had that day. It will leave you happy and satisfied and asking for another, an idea you should quickly reject because the sequels are shite, so just flick over to Channel 4 + 1, and watch it again
Anna McNamara Taylor