BBC2’s Moviedrome series played a huge part in sparking my love of cinema. When I began watching the show – essentially a recurring season of cult films from across the world – the critic Mark Cousins had taken over as presenter from maverick director, Alex Cox. Cousins’ pithy but poetic introductions drew my attention to film language and the sheer pleasures of mise-en-scene.
Over nine weeks in 1996 I was utterly gripped by Our Friends in the North, Peter Flannery’s epic drama spanning thirty years in the life of four friends from Newcastle. The series made heartbreakingly tangible the history of class in England. I learnt valuable, life-long lessons about both the politics of my region and the politics of television drama, and, as I age just as the characters do, the series speaks to me in new, unexpected ways.
As a nervy eighteen-year-old on a train from Bordeaux to Madrid, For Whom the Bell Tolls came alive. As we pulled up to Irun station, the very same Basque town popped up on the pages of my dog-eared copy of the novel, and set in motion a personal tradition of striving to read at least one book by Hemingway when in my favourite country.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il Conformista is an intoxicatingly weird, lavish and visually spectacular treatise on memory, sexuality and nationhood and I can still remember watching the film for the first time and feeling that in a quiet but fundamental my life had changed. I still don’t know how or why, but I do know that cinema’s capacity to make us look anew at the world is what makes me love it unconditionally.
A brilliant music teacher at school, Mr Evans, got me onto stunning, genre-defying albums like Screamadelica and Blue Lines that still sound new and exciting today. But just as formative were the sketchily recorded tape packs I’d buy from record shops in Leeds; bootlegged from raves I was far too young to go to. Mum would tolerate them on long car journeys because the MCs took her back to the Dub and Reggae tunes that she’d fallen in love with during her years as a teacher in Jamaica. I realise now that she was teaching me to always explore the roots of things that I loved and held dear.