Margaret Pomeranz: Top 5 films for the marooned

Film critics Margaret Pomeranz and  David Stratton celebrate 25 year’s of onscreen bickering. Picture: Renee Nowytarger 

It’s been a quarter of a century since Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton squabbled their way onto our TV screens. To celebrate, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is presenting Margaret & David: 25 Years Talking Movies, featuring everything from Pomeranz’s fabulous, larger-than-life earrings to Stratton’s ASIO file. But what would the screen queen watch if marooned on a desert island? The credits are rolling…

Nashville (1975)
Director: Robert Altman
My favourite film of all time. I saw it in the mid-’70s when I’d come back from Europe and married a filmmaker [Hans Pomeranz] and I started going to films in a different way. I didn’t go because of the stars. I started being dragged along to see directors’ work. So I developed this passion – not only for Australian cinema, which was going through a new wave, but for cinema as a whole. I’d heard about Nashville on the radio and dashed off to see it. I was blown away by what Altman had done: this big sprawling epic mourning the loss of American innocence – because it was post-Watergate. It was a very cynical, satirical look. But also, he is a man who loves his country and actually hates what’s been happening to it. It’s full of music. The stars wrote their own songs. Keith Carradine won the Oscar for I’m Easy, so it’s funny and poignant, and it has all that overlapping sound that Altman was famous for. People are talking all over the place and it’s chaotic and wonderful.

The Flower Of My Secret (1995)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
It’s one of Almodóvar’s least-seen films and it is absolutely delightful. It’s about a woman who’s a writer of romance novels, and she’s sick of writing them. She wants to write something serious, but her publisher doesn’t want that. Then she gets a chance to write an article (under a pseudonym) that’s a critique of the romance novelist. She wants to tear her apart, but the editor of the paper loves the romance novelist and so he starts writing the novels for her. You know, it’s melodrama! Almodóvar is the ultimate melodrama maker.
I don’t know that this is his best film, but it’s one I absolutely adore and it’s got the most fantastic dance sequence in it. It’s in red, his favourite colour.

The Women (1939)
Director: George Cukor
It’s all women – the actors, the dogs and the horses. And it’s star-studded: Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard. It’s upper-class New York society. It’s about a woman who discovers, through her network at the beauty salon, that her husband is having an affair with the girl who sells perfume at one of the department stores, and she is devastated. The seductress is played by Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer plays the betrayed woman. Rosalind Russell is the catty friend who just wants to stir up trouble. It is delicious – and beautifully done. I love the costumes and it’s got this conceit  – a 10-minute sequence in the film – at a fashion show that’s in colour. The rest of it is in black and white, but this fashion show is in colour and it’s lovely. But this film also has feminist undertones (her real women friends stand up for her and exact revenge) and I think that’s why I like it.

Magnolia (1999)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
This is the film that turned me on to Aimee Mann’s music. But also, I think Paul Thomas Anderson is a real talent and it is so raw, this film. It drags you through this moment in people’s lives in a way that’s so painful and moving. Once again, it’s a really impressive cast, and it’s Tom Cruise, I think, at his very best. He is extraordinary as the guy who’s trying to teach men how to treat women badly. I love daring filmmakers and this is a very daring film.

In The Cut (2003)
Director: Jane Campion
It’s based on Susanna Moore’s book. When I read it I thought it was unfilmable and it got terrible reviews – no-one else liked it the way I did. Meg Ryan was dumped on from a great height, but I’ve been in love with Mark Ruffalo ever since. It’s about a serial killer in New York. This woman [Meg Ryan] saw the murdered woman in a dimly lit room with a man the night she was killed, but she sees only the tattoo on his wrist; and the cop who comes to question her has the same tattoo. It has got a lot of grit. When I came out [of the screening] I was dizzy. The film affected me physically. It was an extraordinary experience.


This article first appeared in Qantas The Australian WayNovember 2011