Here’s a tricky question for you: what’s your earliest film memory? Is it watching a Disney film on TV? Or maybe it’s going to the cinema with your parents as a child and being enchanted or even terrified by what was going on up there on the silver screen?
Perhaps it’s easier to name the film which had the biggest impact on you, making you view the world in a new way or think about things differently?
That’s the central premise of new book Screen Epiphanies (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan), in which author Geoffrey Macnab has interviewed 32 leading film-makers with the aim of finding out which film inspired them to pursue a career in the industry.
Who’d have thought that Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese would nominate 1948 ballet film The Red Shoes as the one which he’s “continually and obsessively” drawn to? He saw it first aged nine and it never left him.
Scottish director Kevin Macdonald, director of The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, plumped for 1943’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, partly because his grandfather, Emeric Pressburger, directed it and he could see so much of him in the film.
Oscar winner Danny Boyle, he of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting fame, claims that he’s still “haunted” by Apocalypse Now while Chariots of Fire director David Puttnam goes for the slightly-less-violent 1940 version of Pinocchio by Disney, saying that after seeing it in 1948 he left the cinema thinking “that’s what I want to do.”
The choices are many and varied, but what stands out is a deep love of the cinema-going experience, even those who saw the films first on TV trying hard to see them on the big screen later on.
My first cinema memory is queuing outside the old Odeon on South Clerk Street at the age of five to see The Empire Strikes Back with my cousin, but my most vivid recollection is watching Back to the Future for the first time in 1985.
Back to the Future fanned the flames of my love for science fiction and of high concept movies which are both intelligent and entertaining, something I’ve looked for in films ever since.
What’s your earliest film memory?