Films are great as an experience in their own right but they become even more precious when they form part of a cherished memory. Experts say that smell is the chief memory trigger and, they may well be right, but for me just the mention of a film can take me right back to a time and place. The film doesn't have to be particularly meaningful for it to have taken root and become part of the fabric of my life; it sometimes seems almost accidental. I have seen amazing films, which I have really enjoyed but they have remained somehow separate taking up no special place in my heart.
One of my first memories is being allowed to stay up late with my grandmother, who was babysitting. It was Christmas Eve and she was watching Bunny Lake Is Missing. It is my first remembrance of grown up television and I can't remember anything about the film, other than the impression that it was a tense affair, as my grandmother chain smoked her way through the entire thing. It's not a film that is shown much anymore but just seeing it listed in the TV schedule casts me straight back to being a small child sitting alongside my grandmother, not really interested in the film but desperately hoping that she wouldn't notice and send me off to bed.
The Yearling completely traumatised me as a girl, introducing me to mortality when the poor little invalid boy died. I think I was probably a ridiculously over sensitive child but I was inconsolable for days. It was my first brush with the concept of death and it shook my world to its very foundations. Even now I get a sick jolt of anxiety thinking about it and I can't believe it was considered a family film. It's probably robbed millions of children of their innocence the world over; surely I can't have been the only cry baby.
Fast forward to the early 1980s and I found myself arriving at university in a strange city, where I didn't know anybody. I began to doubt that I had what it took. The first week was an all time low, everbody seemed so intelligent and worldly; I just wanted to go home. Almost by divine intervention, I went to the cinema instead and saw Scarface. I think Tony Montana changed my life, if not for him I would have buckled and fled for familiar terrain. Obviously it's not the kind of thing that you go around telling people but, to this day when I find myself in a sticky situation, I channel my inner Tony and it works like a charm.
My all time favourite comfort film is Pillow Talk and, from the moment I first saw it, it has been able to magically lift my spirits like nothing else. It's the perfect film whether you are feeling down or under the weather and I defy anyone not to fall in love with Rock Hudson within the first five minutes. Just thinking about it now makes me want to don my pyjamas and make some hot chocolate; who needs Prozac when you have Rock and Doris?
I can't understand people who dismiss popular culture as being unimportant, somehow too slight and lacking in meaning to have any real value. What more meaning can there be than to become embedded in people's lives, living on as something far greater than the original experience. If for that reason alone I love films and all they represent.