Q. What defines a great moment in film?
A. When you can’t look away – when your eyes are fixed on the screen and everything else in your life is temporarily forgotten. The moment absorbs you, you are lost in it. That is a great moment my friend. Here are my top five:
Deliverance – John Boorman, 1972
The male rape scene in ‘Deliverance’ (John Boorman, 1972). It just had to be didn’t it? Nearly (ha! ha!) every man’s fear – to be overpowered, made to strip and then brutally arse fucked – the ultimate insult to your feeble machismo and dignity. But this is in a remote Appalachian forest, and the rapists are foul, inbred and utterly amoral mountain men. Imagine the filth (some of it probably from animals arseholes and vagina’s) and thick smegma that the toothless yokel would leave behind in your bleeding anus. The other main contender from this deeply disturbing film is the duelling banjos sequence at the start. I first saw this flick when I was about twelve, and it has stayed with me for the rest of my life. Making Ned Beatty squeal like a pig is the icing on the cake really. What a fucking hideous cake it is. Growing up where I did often invites me to draw comparisons between the lawless and retarded rural backwater that this brilliant film portrays. I own the soundtrack too – it’s ace.
Jaws – Steven Spielberg, 1975
Robert Shaw slowly scraping his fingernails down a blackboard in ‘Jaws’ (Steven Spielberg, 1975). This film is one of my all time favourites. Spielberg was great once. Robert Shaw has the best salty sea dog face ever. As you know, he scrapes his nails on a board to get the attention of everyone at the shark problem council meeting. Then he talks, whilst taking his time, chewing on a sandwhich, and he is electric. They fear him almost as much as they do the shark. “Bad fish…but I’ll catch him, and kill him”.
Don’t Look Now – Nicolas Roeg, 1973
The red coated dwarf killer at the end of ‘Don’t Look Now’ (Nicolas Roeg, 1973). What a fucking shocker. I first watched this on my own in the small hours, wiling away another evening on the dole. The face of the shrivelled witch dwarf is insanely frightening, and her rapid movements are just as bad. She cuts Donald Sutherland’s throat wide open with a cleaver. She is your worst fears…clad in a red duffel coat.
Dead Man’s Shoes – Shane Meadows, 2004
The small town drug pushers trying to intimidate Paddy Considine’s psychopathic ex-paratrooper (Richard) in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ (Shane Meadows, 2004). Paddy isn’t remotely bothered by Gary Stretch and his laughable mob of piss pot dealers. The great thing about this moment is Stretch’s mounting realisation that Considine is utterly mad, that he is a far greater force than anything he has ever encountered before and that he will ultimately kill him and every one of his gang. ‘You get to me first’ advises Considine to Stretch, after describing how he entered his house and could have so easily cut his throat whilst he was sleeping. Discuss: With ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, Shane Meadows has made one of the greatest non-supernatural horror films of modern times.
Goodfellas – Martin Scorsese, 1990
I know it’s an obvious choice but Joe Pesci scaring the shit out of Ray Liotta and anybody else watching and listening, including the poor viewer, in ‘Goodfellas’ (Martin Scorsese, 1990), is just too horribly riveting to not include in my top five. Watch this whole sequence, in all its full four minutes, from Tommy (Pesci) holding court with his fellow mobsters, telling his ‘funny’ story; to the viewer’s relief when its all over and Tommy and Henry (Liotta) are indulging in adolescent horseplay, and then try telling yourself that this isn’t one of the greatest moments in film history. This is pure cinematic mastery – we all know that Tommy is an absolute psycho, and we all know his sheer and brutal unpredictability. That is the beauty of this moment – the tension is virtually unpalatable, so when Henry realises he isn’t going to suddenly die at Tommy’s hands, our relief is exactly as overwhelming as his. Scorsese creates sphincter tightening tension, profound empathy, and a catastrophic release all in the space of about two minutes. Dynamite.
Scribed by: Adam Stone