Alice Lowe

The actor, writer and comedian known for her roles in Black Mirror, Darkplace and co-writing and starring in Sightseers picks Don’t Look Now, The Elephant Man, Billy Liar, Brighton Rock, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Far From the Madding Crowd.

Don’t Look Now, an absolutely classic timeless horror. So many films have been inspired by its use of colour, imagery and editing. A unique atmosphere which stays with you, oozing through you like the water in a damp canal! The Venice setting continues to make it one of the more original horror films, and has changed how I see Venice forever! It felt very fitting to premiere my directorial debut there, Prevenge, in which we used the colour red and architectural features like underpasses and tunnels. Definitely a descendant of this film! Roeg’s editing choices always make his films have a shifting reality, a sense that nothing is solid beneath your feet, reality a mirror illusion, giving everything a dream quality. He changed the way many filmmakers approached horror. And this is a masterpiece of the genre.

The Elephant Man is probably Lynch’s most sentimental film, and in some ways stands apart from his other work. The use of a more conventional reliable narrative distinguishes this as one of his more classic pieces. The storytelling is simple and achingly beautiful, with one of the most haunting soundtracks ever written. But yet there’s still touches of Lynchian surrealism. The theatricality of the choice of Black and White, and of the framing of certain scenes, at the circus for example. The whole film is seen with a darkened halo of an old photograph, as if seeing the world glimpsed through a spy hole in the titular character’s mask. The Elephant Man has our empathy throughout. Incredible performance from both John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins, I watch it knowing I’m going to be in tears. ‘I am not an animal!’ It’s everything about the pain of humanity told through this simple dignified tale.

Billy Liar is a seminal film in the genre of ‘characters with a fantasy life’, such as The Fisher King, Walter Mitty, etc. Unusual for the ‘kitchen sink’ era of films, Billy’s normal humdrum life is interspersed with fantasy sequences, giving it a cinematic scope beyond its contemporary counterparts. Funny, odd, magical, and tragic, it’s an amazing vehicle for both Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie, who are 60s dream team fantasy casting as far as I’m concerned. It’s also a film about the cultural clash of the 60s, a turning point where working class people could make the choice to reject their parents’ destiny, and carve a new one for themselves. Abandoning suburbia and the mundane, for an exciting new future in London. The choice between ‘life’ and ‘art’: ‘living the dream’ or just dreaming it? Will Billy take it?

Brighton Rock blew me away when I first saw it, the characters still as fresh and vibrant as when it was first made. Richard Attenborough must be the  prototype for THE cinematic psychopath. One that has many descendants in modern psychological thrillers. The intensity, the unnerving reptilian coldness, the abusive psychological control he has over Rose, the incandescent rage behind the baby features! Not intimidating for his size or muscles, he’s intimidating because of his inhumanly psychopathic tendencies: a new type of narrative threat for the time. Absolutely incredible. Every frame in this film probably spawned a thousand imitations, the seaside world of another era’s Brighton such a fascinating stage for this particularly British drama. Hermione Baddeley as Ida Arnold is a delight as an unlikely plucky female detective figure, and one of the many elements that make this film so unusual for its time.

Entertaining Mr Sloane is hilarious and modern-feeling in its risque humour and subject matter. The divine Beryl Reid is as compelling as ever, and the strangeness of this film is the best of British humour and eccentricity.

Far From the Madding Crowd is one of my favourite classic adaptations, perhaps partly due to cinematographer Nicolas Roeg’s involvement. To me depictions of Bathsheba’s three suitors have never been bettered. Terence Stamp as the peacock-like Troy, Peter Finch as the uptight Boldwood, and Alan Bates as the prototype hippy Gabriel Oak! And it’s believable too, because who wouldn’t fight over Julie Christie?!

Recommended Titles

Douglas Hickox1970
Nicolas Roeg1973
John Boulting1947
John Schlesinger1963
David Lynch1980
John Schlesinger1967