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All About My Mother: Cinematic Memories of Pauline

July 21, 2015

Here are the five films that best remind me of my mother – a mixture of films she loved, films that best represent her spirit, and films that we enjoyed together….

Elephant Walk (1954) dir: William Dieterle

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When my mother was a young girl, she lived for a period of time in Libya in the mid-50s – due to my grandfather being stationed out there with the British army. Libya wasn’t the turbulent country of today, but was actually a fairly benign colonial outpost (ironically enough, my mother even lived in Benghazi – now, sadly one of today’s most dangerous cities in the world). One of my mother’s most evocative memories of growing up there was watching Elizabeth Taylor in Elephant Walk at one of the huge open air cinemas. I love this memory – not just because it combines two of my favourite ‘things’, cinema and travel, but because there was always something about Elizabeth Taylor that reminded me of my mum: romantic, beautiful, a sometime tempestuous temperament (though maybe not the seven marriages!) – and I love the correlative of Taylor’s character’s travails as a young English woman starting an exotic life in colonial Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), with my mother watching that story during her own ‘adventure’ in Libya!

Indiscreet (1958) dir: Stanley Donen

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Anyone who knew my mother will attest to the fact she had a great eye for interior design and décor, and it was that sensibility that attracted her to this little-known, but really rather classy, old-school Fifties’ two-hander Indiscreet, starring Cary Grant and the great Ingrid Bergman. I think it fitted into a rather swanky ideal she had of an urbane Central London lifestyle, and I love the fact the film was directed by Stanley Donen – the great who directed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – another childhood classic that my mum introduced me to….

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) dir: James Foley

Glengarry Glen Ross

The great thing about my mum’s professional career was that even though she achieved a lot and could be deemed quite ‘successful’, she never lost her sense of humour and perspective, nor allowed her ‘soul’ to be subsumed in the (sometime) horrors of office/business culture. Some of her anecdotes about the wretched characters and situations she came across during her many years in employment were brilliant, and I think that’s why she felt an immediate kinship with the mercilessly satirical ethos of Glengarry Glen Ross.

The New World (2005) dir: Terrence Malick

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The film that speaks most to me about my feelings for my mother is this: a ballad to pure love, the transcendence of things of beauty, the strength of one woman, and the sheer preciousness that this fleeting gift of life is amid the permanence of nature. As Mark Cousins brilliantly understood the film: “it was about rapture and the end of rapture”.

The Guard (2011) dir: John Michael McDonagh

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My mum liked to laugh and had a wicked, earthy sense of humour – a definite by-product of her Irish DNA. It’s apt therefore that the last film I remember seeing with her was this highly scabrous and silly Irish comedy, The Guard, which was basically a huge gallows send-up of the earnest police procedural stuff from ‘across the pond’. The pièce de resistance of irreverence, which had my mum and I in stiches, was when Brendan Gleeson’s cop has his head in his hands, seemingly in despair after a nasty run-in with the gangster – only to transpire that all he was struggling with was his milkshake headache! Simple, but ever so funny, and a lovely experience to share with my mum. (July 2015)

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 22, 2015 8:27 am

    Love your memories, Patrick. Somewhere your Mum has a big smile on here face.

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