In the first of a new series, Flickering Myth’s writing team discuss their all-time favourite piece of cinema alongside their most re-watchable film; first up is Helen Murdoch with The Devil’s Backbone and Velvet Goldmine…
I was trying to think of my favourite film the other day and it came down to two choices – The Devil’s Backbone and Velvet Goldmine. One is universally considered a tremendous film, while the other is hated by almost everyone except me. This got me thinking about what your favourite film is compared to your most re-watchable film.
My Favourite Film – The Devil’s Backbone
The first time I saw a snippet of The Devil’s Backbone was in my A-Level Media class when we were discussing the importance of music to build tension. My lecturer showed the terrifying scene of the ghost Santi walking down a dark corridor, creeping ever so slowly towards orphan Carlos. After watching this I went digging for the full film and I was amazed by it from beginning to end. Everything from the melodious script, direction and acting was pitch perfect and I’m yet to find a flaw with it.
What marks a favourite film in my mind is the ability to have your breath taken away every time you watch it. The Devil’s Backbone isn’t a film I watch every week but when I do I’m reminded of the beauty and simplicity of its story. The film follows 12 year old Carlos who finds himself abandoned at a remote orphanage, if the historical background of the Civil War isn’t traumatic enough; the orphanage is haunted by the ghost of a young boy called Santi. The film raises a wealth of important issues such as betrayal, fear, childhood, and innocence. Guillermo del Toro explores these areas with a delicate touch and creates a visually stunning film that pulls at the heart strings emotionally, whilst still terrifying every inch of you.
The performances from the child/teenage cast are exceptional and del Toro doesn’t shy away from the grimness of their lives. There are moments of childish humour throughout, combined with the horrors of the Civil War, as well as Santi who the children call “the one who sighs”. Del Toro has always put faith in child leads and it works exceptionally well within The Devil’s Backbone.
Del Toro regular Federico Luppi is also on hand as the defiant Dr Casares, who’s haunting narration opens and closes this seminal film. If you’re looking for a multi-layered film but want to be genuinely frightened, then I would highly recommend embracing The Devil’s Backbone.
My Most Re-watchable Film – Velvet Goldmine
With more glitter, flared trousers, platform shoes and Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed comparisons then you can shake a stick at, my most re-watchable film is Todd Haynes’ Velvet Goldmine. I can already hear the taken aback gasps that someone enjoys this film, but I’ve inexplicably loved it from the moment I first saw it.
The film charts the rise of Bowie-esque figure Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his subsequent down fall during the Glamrock era of the 70s. It’s overly stylised and has more plot holes then you can imagine, but it captures my imagination and it never fails to cheer me up. There’s an all-star cast including Ewan McGregor (as an incarnation of Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain and Lou Reed), Eddie Izzard, Toni Collette, and Christian Bale. The film is packed full of kitsch songs and flamboyant set pieces which make it one of the easiest films to sit back and enjoy. True it has its pretentious darker side but that just makes me love it even more.
Velvet Goldmine does take itself too seriously at times but that adds to my enjoyment of it. When I was trying to narrow down my favourite film list I couldn’t help but come back to this bit of fun which I first discovered whilst suffering from a blinding hangover. It instantly lifted my spirits and although its ending is a bit of a downer, there’s enough songs and glitter to keep me entertained again and again.
Is there a difference between your favourite film and your most re-watched film?