One of the funniest people on the telly, comedian Simon Amstell is now lending his talents to cinema, having directed the understated, character drama Benjamin, which is loosely based on his own experiences. To celebrate the film’s release we had the pleasure of sitting down with the writer/director for a coffee, and when doing so, we felt it would’ve been terribly rude not to have asked him to partake in our ‘My Favourite Movies’ section. So we did – and it turns out he loved Call Me By Your Name almost as much as we did.
What’s the first film you ever fell in love with? Back to the Future, 1, 2 and 3. I just loved the Doc and Marty’s relationship. I loved the imagination of it. Is that a sentence? You were constantly experiencing a new thing. I just liked the whole thing. It was funny and brilliant, unlike nothing I had ever seen before, it felt like a whole world was opening up that I hadn’t seen. It felt like possibility and joy and excitement.
What’s the one film you never get tired of watching? I’m always drawn back to Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. I don’t think I’ll get tired of that one, as long as I leave enough gaps, at least six months between watching it, I think it will be something that I’ll always want to see again.
Your favourite movie soundtrack? I was talking about soundtracks just the other day with Edith Bowman. The score for Finding Neverland is really beautiful. The most recent one I actually bought, and I haven’t bought one for a long time, is Call Me By Your Name. That’s just because it takes me back to being there in that house. After seeing that film I just wanted to still be I that film, so ended up buying the soundtrack and pre-ordering the DVD. If there had action figures, I would’ve bought action figures.
Your guilty pleasure? I don’t really believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. I don’t believe in any guilt for pleasure. I guess it’s about a film that isn’t necessarily cool? And so I’d say Titanic, because I think it’s a really incredible film. It came out at a time when I really needed it. I was 15 years old when Titanic came out and my mum had just remarried and I really didn’t like this new step-father character, and I felt like she married him just because he had a house. I took my mum and my grandma to see Titanic, which was my fourth time seeing it, and I wanted to teach them that true love was more important than financial security. So at the end of the film I looked at them as if to say, you know, see? See? And my grandma looked at me and said, “how could she leave such a rich man?” It didn’t work. But I think it’s an incredible film.
What’s the one scene that always makes you cry? Well most recently it was the Call Me By Your Name scene when Elio’s peach sex has been exposed by Oliver. When I first saw it, I didn’t know why it was making me cry, but I think it was about shame being dissolved through vulnerability. That was really amazing. His head sort of goes into Oliver’s chest and it’s the most beautiful, vulnerable moment. And that moment when he calls his mum. Or the speech with the father. From the post-peach sex scene onwards I’m just in tears for however long the rest of that film is.
What’s your favourite ever film named after its protagonist? Oh gosh that’s a good question. Hang on, let’s think. Batman Returns.