The first time I cried at the movies was during
Haathi Mere Saathi
. Rajesh Khanna's elephant had died. I could not believe an elephant could die, either in real life, or in the movies. I felt it was unfair that someone had written in the elephant's death so easily. Baw.
In my defence I was ten. I am now four times that age and I am still crying at the movies.
Sometimes, I know I am going to cry. When Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) is launching into his dying speech in
, I know I will be wet-eyed yet again. I know that the writing is not very good, at least in the speech. It is completely out of character for Jai who suddenly abandons his cool, but it is still the end of friendship and it is the beginning of the coming of age of Veeru (Dharmendra).
But there are some inexplicable films where I begin crying and cry straight through. Giuseppe Tornatore's
was one of them. As soon as that little jug-eared boy, Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) begins his romance with the movies, under the paternal and paternalistic influence of Alfredo the projectionist (Philippe Noiret), you're whipped back into what it was like to be a child and to allow oneself the joy of the suspension of disbelief.
Another film that moved me deeply was Zhang Yimou's
The Road Home
. Until then, I thought Zhang Yimou just made huge gorgeous pictures in which lovely people did unlovely things to each other in ancient China.
And then this beautiful masterwork in which a young man goes home to his grieving mother. His father has just died and his mother insists that his body be brought back by the villagers, chanting his name, so that his spirit will not forget the road home.
It is winter, the son protests. Who would want to come? But his father has been a dedicated village school teacher and as the story of his parents' romance unfolds in an extended flashback, you understand.
Those soft stories
There was Alejandro Amenábar's
The Sea Within,
which benefits vastly from Javier Bardem in the lead role of Ramon Sanpedro, the man who spent 28 years of his life fighting for the right to die.
Last night, I wept through
the kind of film that you would not expect Hollywood to make. Indeed, perhaps it might not have been made had Michael Cunninghamwritten his beautifully-crafted novel twenty years ago, before the interest in world cinema, before the Iranians taught us that there was another way to experience cinema, before we began to watch Hsiao-hsien Hou.
At the heart of the story is Mrs Dalloway, the novel Virginia Woolf wrote. It's about a woman who goes shopping, has a nap and throws a party but as a novel it encapsulates her life, everything you need to know about her and her 'station in life'.
I'm sitting looking at the DVD of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I don't know if I can.