A Life in Film, Jon Foster

Jon joined the CFS committee last May so it is definitely about time we got to know more about him and in particular about his life as seen through the prism of a cinema projector

I grew up in Chorleywood, where my nearest cinema was the Embassy in Chesham. After 15 years in Southampton (I still remember my first term in the university film society - 20 films for 60p!), I took a job in London in 1987 and moved to Chesham.  It was a shock to find no Embassy and the nearest cinema no closer than Wycombe, so it was a huge boost when the Elgiva started showing films.  I retired 3 years ago, but am only just getting used to being free to attend matinees.

1)      What was the best film of your childhood?

The first film I saw was Swiss Family Robinson at a long-since demolished cinema in Beaconsfield, and I remember going to a lot of Disney reissues.  But perhaps the most memorable cinema trip was when my mother took all four children, including my baby sister, to see A Hard Day’s Night at the height of Beatlemania.

2)      Best date movie?

Probably Casablanca - though on reflection that ends with a bromance, so maybe not.

3)      Have you ever walked out of a film and if so what and why?

At university a friend and I decided that life was too short to sit through Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend.  I’ve sometimes thought that I really should give it another go, but have never managed to summon up the will.

4)      Everyone should see?

I feel nervous about recommending a film that everyone should see, given that my ratings of CFS films frequently differ radically from the consensus. However, I recently saw Ran, Kurosawa’s reworking of King Lear, which is thrillingly operatic and which I tentatively suggest that anyone who loves cinema should see, preferably on a big screen.

5)      No one should see? I have seen it so you don’t have to

I’m a fan of Woody Allen, but Hollywood Ending is so bad it didn’t even get a UK release.   Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky is allegedly a masterpiece on the basis of one great battle scene and a Prokofiev score, but it’s actually really dull and has comic characters that make the Three Stooges look like geniuses.  Oh, and I can’t stand Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, but don’t get me started…

6)      Marooned on your desert island you can only save one film to watch over and over again.  What film would you choose. (We will give you a DVD of the Greatest Story Ever Told and Shakespeare in Love)

First I’d trade in those two for Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew and maybe, for contrast, Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing.  Then perhaps Eric Rohmer’s Conte d'Automne: the lovely French countryside and loads of reflective conversation should prove an effective antidote to the solitude of a desert island.

7)      What film is your guilty pleasure? The film that someone with your good taste in cinema wouldn’t want anyone else to know about.

I always cry at the end of Field of Dreams, though I don’t really feel guilty about that. However, it occurred to me recently that whenever Notting Hill is on TV I always end up watching at least half-an-hour, and that bothers me….

8)      What  would be the last film that you would like to see before you meet the great film maker in the sky

The aforementioned Field of Dreams would give me hope of a second chance.  “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa”.

9)      Inheritance films. Which film did you inherit and from whom and which film would you like to pass on and why?

My parents had the LP of West Side Story which I loved, and my mother took me to see the film on reissue.  I was bowled over by the energy and vibrancy of the dancing, and fell in love with Natalie Wood (and Marni Nixon’s voice).

Fortunately my kids all share my love of film.  For my eldest daughter’s 21st birthday we booked a special screening of The Philadelphia Story at the National Film Theatre, which was a lovely occasion. It’s possibly my favourite film, made even more special because all my family love it too.

10)   Who would play you in the film of your life? Two actors please, one for the younger you and one for the older version.

Perhaps Paul Dano for the younger me, and having cast him we may as well repeat his double act with John Cusack in portraying Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. Cusack might not be an obvious choice to play me, but then he wasn’t the most convincing Brian Wilson either.