Part 1: the long journey to the night
In the first part of his journal of Covid-19 quarantine, written on 23 March, the Spanish director details how he is coping with self-isolation and the films he has found solace in, from Goldfinger to 1950s American B-movies.
Goldfinger. Sean Connery and Honor Blackman.
Part 2: Warren Beatty, Madonna and I
In the second part of his journal of Covid-19 quarantine, the Spanish director writes about escaping out of his apartment for the first time in 17 days – and into memories of Madonna, Warren Beatty and the Oscars.
Splendor in the Grass. Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.
Part 3: book and film recommendations
In the third entry of the Spanish director’s Covid-19 quarantine journal, Almodóvar divulges all the reading and watching keeping his melancholy and sadness at bay during self-isolation.
Some Like it Hot. Marylin Monroe and Tony Curtis.
11 films for quarantine cheer
And to wrap up in style and cheerfully, here are a few film recommendations that will obliterate any trace of melancholy, boredom or tedium this week, sure to be one of the most difficult. They are extraordinary US comedies in general, screwball comedies, crazy comedies, a genre the Americans are dab hands at.
Here they are:
- Monkey Business (Howard Hawks)
- The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor)
- Midnight (Mitchell Leisen)
Guillermo Cabrera Infante – cinephile and critic, as well as an exquisite writer – told me that this is his favourite comedy ever.
- To Be or Not To Be (Lubitsch)
- The Front Page (Billy Wilder)
There’s also an earlier version, His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell, equally hilarious.
- Some Like It Hot (Wilder)
- Rich and Famous (Cukor)
- I Was a Male War Bride (Hawks)
- A Star Is Born (Cukor’s version with Judy Garland)
It’s a drama, but so monumental that I would recommend it under any circumstances)
- Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, based on the delightful play by Noël Coward with a script by Ben Hecht)
- Casa Flora (Ramón Fernández with Lola Flores)I don’t know if it’s a good or bad film, but if I had to describe it I’d say it’s a ‘Dadaist comedy’, except it’s way more insane than that. And it is always a source of happiness to see and hear Lola Flores sporting a 70s look.
Part 4: Investigating Quarantine Sex and Masturbation
“Strangers When We Meet” (Richard Quine, with his muse Kim Novak; the type of story like those written by Richard Yates in his novels).
“The End of the Affair” (Neil Jordan, based on a wonderful Graham Greene novel, where the desperate lover played by Ralph Fiennes struggles with the memory of the woman who abandoned him years earlier, something he never understood. He always assumed that “someone” stood in the way of their relationship, and he wasn’t wrong; what he could not have imagined was that this “someone” was God.)
“Letter from an Unknown Woman” (Max Ophüls. A masterpiece of impressive finesse based on a novel by the great Stephen Zweig. The epitome of romantic cinema.)
Letter from an Unknown Woman. Max Ophüls.
“Lift to the Scaffold” (Louis Malle. It is worth seeing the film if only to watch Jeanne Moreau walking the streets of Paris. Not to mention the soundtrack improvised live during a screening by Miles Davis in his Parisian years. And Maurice Ronet, forever mysterious and warm. And sad. But in this list, sadness has value.)
“Bonjour Tristesse” (Otto Preminger, starring a barely adolescent Jean Seberg before her explosion with Godard’s “Breathless,” but already sporting a garçon hairstyle. I have a soft spot for this film, and for Françoise Sagan, Deborah Kerr and David Niven. I adore films that speak about the boredom of the haute bourgeoisie. Even if “Tristesse” is something more than that.)
“La Notte” (Antonioni; more existential tedium, this time in Milan’s high society, with a glorious trio, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti and Marcello Mastroianni. Jeanne Moreau’s final monologue is amongst the most beautiful and saddest endings I can recall.)
“I Vitelloni” (Fellini. I also adore films that look at rural life. In Spain we have two masterpieces on this subject: Miguel Picazo’s Aunt Tula and J.A. Bardem’s Main Street, both highly recommended and essential (well, we have many more besides). In Spain, when we speak about rural life, we tend to pay more attention to female loneliness; the two films I recommend look at the lives of two spinsters respectively. However, “I Vitelloni” explores the loneliness and tedium of bachelors, male characters aged 30 or more, big boys with no future, who distract from their solitude in the city’s cafés or going around causing trouble, as in Main Street. Another of Fellini’s main works, with an unforgettable Alberto Sordi.)
“The Soft Skin” (Truffaut, with Françoise Dorléac in all her splendour. One of my favourite Truffauts.)
“In a Lonely Place” (Nicholas Ray. An extraordinary noir about a truly violent character (Bogart). The film’s MacGuffin is the search for a killer (they all suspect Bogart) but what’s really important, and interesting, is Bogart-Gloria Grahame’s life as a couple, and his bad temper. The film tells the story of a violent but innocent man from a very original perspective. The tenderness of those who are violent. Everything in Nic Ray’s film is very original.)