London is always calling to me, and has done ever since my English father introduced its wonders to me when I was little. As I prepare to explore London again later this month, I noticed that London will be calling on Toronto! The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has chosen London for their City to City programme. The programmeshowcases recent work from filmmakers living and working in London,
including director Rufus Norris' film adaptation of the hit musical, London Road.
Recommended to me by my father, Genevieve is one of my favourite films with London as a film location. "Genevieve" is actually a 1904 Darracq, a veteran car owned by a young couple in London, who take it on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The car run is for pre-1905 cars, and it is the world's longest running motoring celebration.
My earliest memory of London is of going with my father to see Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Thus began my lifelong fascination with the British monarchy. The Queen, about the aftermath of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997, stars Helen Mirren, who will be coming to TIFF this September. Also starring in the film is Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair, who advised the Queen on the steps she should take at this pivotal point in the British monarchy.
Eccentricity seems to me to be an intrinsic part of the English character. The extraordinarily versatile English actor Richard E. Grant plays an eccentric, unemployed actor in 1969 London in Withnail and I. Withnail is an outrageous character, quite unlike Simon Bricker, the art authority who Richard E. Grant
played recently on season five of Downton Abbey.
London is a romantic city: the iconic landmarks old and new; the spirit of its people; the sunrises and sunsets over the ever-flowing River Thames; and the constant movement and sense of excitement
everywhere make it a wonderful place to be.
Love Actually, which follows the lives of eight very different London couples in the month before Christmas, captures so well the joy and heartbreak of love. 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, is based on a poignant true story about a transatlantic business correspondence between an American writer and a London antiquarian bookseller. Notting Hill, with great scenesof London, is another story about a bookshop, whose owner is played by
Hugh Grant. He meets and falls in love with a movie star, played convincingly by Julia Roberts!
Some of my favourite actors have starred in films about London: Michael Caine stars as a Cockney ladies' man in Alfie; Carey Mulligan stars as a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London who falls for an older
man in An Education; and Sidney Poitier stars in To Sir, with Love as an idealistic teacher at a white high school in the slums of London's East End.
The criminal side of London is explored in The Long Good Friday, which stars Bob Hoskins as an East End London criminal kingpin in the late 1970s, and Helen Mirren as his girlfriend. Michael Caine is
mesmerizing in Harry Brown, where he plays an ex-serviceman living on a London housing estate, out to avenge his best friend's murder. London provides a damp and bleak backdrop in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman as espionage veteran George Smiley, who uncovers a Soviet agent within MI6.
London style and intrigue are combined effortlessly in Blow-Up, one of the most atmospheric films I have ever seen. In this film by famed Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, a mod London photographer believes he has captured a murder after he takes photographs of a mysterious beauty in a London park. Another film brimming with London style and bursting with energy is Kingsman: The Secret Service, about a spy organization based in a London tailor's shop. Unusually, the organization
recruits Lee, a street kid played by Jonno Davies, to its training program.
However, for sheer London style and elegance, My Fair Lady is at the top of my list. It stars Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle, a Cockney flower seller, and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics who makes a bet that he can make Eliza presentable in high society. Famed English photographer Cecil Beaton won Academy Awards for both art direction and costume design for My Fair Lady. Unmissable in the film, from the Ascot horse racing scene, is Audrey's Hepburn beautiful white and black dress, with matching hat of course.
London icons have featured in many films, and one of my recent favourites is Paddington, based on the children's books by Michael Bond about a polite Peruvian bear who travels to London in search of a home.
London makes a very handsome film location in Skyfall, with the iconic British Secret Service agent James Bond played by Daniel Craig. I am looking forward to going to see Spectre, the next James Bond film, due to come out this fall.
The Beatles, the best-selling band in history and truly known worldwide as an English icon, travel to London from Liverpool to perform in a television broadcast in A Hard Day's Night.
London will always call to me, and I think I shall never tire of it, for as English writer Samuel Johnson (1709 to 1784) said:
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life"