This is my first post in my new blog and it is a very exciting one. A few weeks ago I saw a competition advertised from the British Film Institute and the London Film Festival called Listmania! and it also tied in with the publication of a book of alternative film lists called "Ten Bad Dates with De Niro" (www.tenbaddates.com) edited by Richard T. Kelly. They asked for submissions of people's own alternative film list and I decided to do the Ten Characters Who Knit in Films.
It took a while and several conversations but was great fun to compile. So I sent it off and forgot all about it. Then last week an email arrived to say I had been shortlisted and ten of us were to attend an event at the BFI on Sunday 21st to read out our lists which would be voted on by the audience. The prize for the winner was £150 worth of Faber and Faber film books.
I was terribly nervous but decided to give it a go - I banned all friends and family from attending though on the grounds that it would make me even more nervous and they could remind me of what a fool I had made of myself forever more! I turned up at 6.30pm where I met the Richard T. Kelly plus the panel of film critics and authors as well as the other nine list makers. I felt a little less nervous after a couple of beers (!) and actually managed to get through it all and even got laughs from the audience at the appropriate times. After we had all read out our lists the audience went to vote and then the announcement was made that as there was only one vote between 1st and 2nd place they had decided to give an extra prize of £50 worth of books to the 2nd place - which was me! I was so pleased. Lots of people came up and said how much they enjoyed the list and felt that as a knitter I obviously viewed films in a different way to them.
So here is my list:
TOP TEN CHARACTERS WHO KNIT IN MOVIES:
1. Carole Laure as Solange in "Preparez les Mouchoirs" : she is the wife of Gerard Depardieu who is obviously unhappy so he sets up meetings for her with a variety of men, all totally unsuitable. Throughout the film Solange knits – often in bed which perhaps should have been a clue to Gerard – and as the film progresses each male character she meets wears one of her identical knitted sweaters.
2. Emily Fitzroy as Cornelia Van Gorder in "The Bat" – made in 1926 this atmospheric house of horror film features the Bat, a serial killer he flashes a bat onto the wall before he strikes. That sounds familiar somehow. The owner of the spooky mansion where much of the action is set, Cornelia is constantly seen knitting throughout the film.
3. Often in films characters who knit obviously have never picked up two needles and are obviously doing it wrong – to a knitter this is as bad as any continuity error – however one film where they get top marks for accuracy is "Ladies in Lavender" where Judi Dench as Ursula not only knits but knits socks on four double pointed needles, when not being a sister of mercy.
4. Greer Garson as Mrs Miniver – is a truly stoic knitter in a close knit family living in a close knit community in England during the Second World War showing how sticking to normality can carry you through even the most difficult times. She shows how important her knitting is to her when then is an air raid one night and Mr Miniver asks if she has everything she needs with her as he’s not going to risk his life for her knitting needles again.
5. Lumi Cavazos as Tita in "Like Water for Chocolate" – well known for it’s use of food to symbolise love, pain and passion, the knitter perhaps will be more aware of the symbolic use of yarn and needles as Tita begins knitting a wedding blanket which grows and grows and gets longer and longer throughout the film symbolising her endless grief. The soundtrack is also called "Theme of Tita Knitting" – one of the few if not the only knitting theme songs in existence.
6. In "Dancing at Lughnasa", Rose and Agnes, two of the five unmarried Mundy sisters earn a bit of money by knitting gloves to sell in the local village and even that is taken away from them when the glove knitting business is industrialised and a factory opens. Many people see this as a wistful bitter sweet film of a summer that changed the lives of an ordinary family forever – I see it as yet another warning of how you just can’t expect to make any money by knitting.
7. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" in which when asked what she is knitting says "Jose brought up the blueprints for a new ranch house. I have this strange feeling that the blueprints and the knitting instructions got switched. I may be knitting a ranch house!"
8. Joan Crawford as Lucy Harbin in "Straight Jacket" – a 60s horror film in which Crawford is required to age from 25 to 45 despite being 56 when the film was made, she takes drugs, downs bourbon, attempts to seduce her daughter’s boyfriend and knits like a woman possessed. She also knows how to wield an axe rather well too.
9. Back to the wistful. Debra Winger as Joy Gresham in "Shadowlands" – she is sitting at home knitting a jumper when she acknowledges her bone cancer has returned. So not only was Joy going to die but she was also not going to be able to finish that jumper. I don't know if that’s what the director intended but that scene symbolised to me the tragedy of her loss and left me a red, tear stained quivering wreck.
10. And finally, the one everybody comes up with when you say you have made a list of ten characters who knit – Madame Defarges in "A Tale of Two Cities" – in my view best played by Blanche Yurka in the 1935 version who could portray bitterness and revenge better than almost anyone. Be afraid of women who knit. Be very afraid. Heads will roll.