What movie speaks to your soul and why?
I would like to pick some cool film, but the truth is—it's Funny Girl (1968). I saw it when I was twelve and my life was laid out before me. I bought the sheet music and cast album and taught myself every song (for a non-singer I seemed to do that a lot). It's every aspiring actor's dream: with just enough moxie and chutzpah you can be the greatest star. And wear gorgeous 1920s/60s gowns, be seduced by a beautiful dangerous man, be a star on your own terms, marry that said man and then…realize you eclipse him and love him just too damn much! But you'll ALWAYS be a star. It's got it all!! And not just Barbra, but my longtime favorite, Anne Francis. I watched it again this year to celebrate my 65th birthday and bawled like a pre-teen. It's wonderful.
Which movie do you watch when you need to escape?
I started a tradition 30 years ago of watching History is Made at Night (1937) every Valentine's Day. It's a perfect confection of a movie. A love story set on an ocean liner, it pre-dates all of the different versions of Love Affair and, in my opinion, is superior. Beautiful shimmering work by Frank Borzage and Rudolph Maté. Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer are both charming and romantic and I can't think of Leo Carrillo without saying, "Salade Chiffonade!" I'm very glad that Criterion released a new Blu-ray so I can finally toss my worn-out VHS copy.
What movie would you describe as "perfect" in every way?
I don't really believe in "perfection." I prefer the Buddhist idea of "flawed beauty." I think a lasting film is one that grows with you. When I first saw In a Lonely Place (1950) as a teenager, all I could see was the tragedy of the romance. It was the Psyche and Eros myth: "They love each other, they should be together, stop listening to idle gossip!" But now that I have lived a life, I see how abusive Dix Steele is. He's not a tortured soul, he's cruel. Nicholas Ray shot the original scripted ending, where the Bogart character kills Gloria Grahame. But he knew it was more disturbing to have Dix walk away; realizing the violence inside him and what it cost him. Every time I see the film, I appreciate it more. Okay, it's perfect.