Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The 10 best films to watch when couch-ridden with a cold.

Screenwriter bravely finds the energy to recommend films that can be enjoyed when laid low by seasonal complaints. Nice old films featuring nice old people prove to be just the ticket.

Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 23:08


Cough! Cough! Feeling feeble. All going very dark. Is that you, Granny? I’m coming into the light. I’m coming into the light. When you have a cold and your concentration is not what it was, you don’t really want to settle down to a double-bill of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and C T Dreyer’s Day of Wrath. What you want is soothing comfort food — the cinematic equivalent of vegetable soup with noodles. Violence is not out of the question. But it has to be the class of cozy violence that sees Nazis clutch their bloodless chests before falling to the ground with an “Achtung”. Old films are better. You don’t want too many reminders that a throbbing world still exists outside your condensation-soaked windowpane. Comedies are good. So are weepies. Here’s the definitive list. Best enjoyed with a carton of orange juice and a bottle of pills.


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Well, obviously. It’s a war film. But it’s not one of those war films where we’re asked to ponder the existential misery of the human condition. This is war as a public-school game. Mind you, it does have a terribly sad ending. “I never heard anything so absurd in my life. I can see perfectly.”


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I feel better already. This is the one that finds Rock Hudson playing a straight man playing a man who seems to be gay, but is only pretending. Oh they must have laughed about that in private. Anyway, Hudson and Doris Day are funny. But the immortal Tony Randall is funnier still.


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No moving picture ever stirred me as deeply as this one. Not my words, but the words of Alexander Woolcott in this hilarious trailer. He’s not too far wide of the mark, actually. Robert Donat is great as the teacher who devotes himself to several generations of apple-cheeked boys. He’d be lucky to avoid arrest these days.


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On those days when Ealing Comedies just seem too angular and challenging, the completely mindless St Trinian’s movies will do very nicely indeed. Like a great many great British comedies of the era, they just shovel a truck load of character actors into a box and let them do their stuff. Great theme tune. Dum, dee, dum, dee, dum, dum. Dum dee dum dee dum. etc.


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Slightly tricky one this. Billy Wilder’s comedy is quite a gloomy film in its way. Poor old Shirley MacLaine actually tries to commit suicide at Christmas, after all. But it’s very funny and it actually finds Jack Lemmon suffering from an extremely bad cold.


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Being at home with a cold is a bank-holiday sort of situation. And bank holidays mean biblical epics. One got a bit bored of Ben Hur as a child. It’s so meretricious in its “quality” you want to scream your head off. But it’s got one of those stories that drags you along despite its silliness. Oh, watch that Pasolini thing if you want real class.


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Yeah, obviously those Gene Kelly things were sharper and more innovative. But, with our awful man-flu, we just want to sink into a luscious empty treat that — unlike its Shavian source material — reassures us that all is right with the world. Hats off to Marnie Nixon for yet more great work in with the vocal dubbing.


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What’s the “o” stand for? Nothing, of course. Inevitable really. Sandwiched in between Hitchcock’s two most disturbing films — Vertigo and Psycho — we find one of his lightest, most charmingly breathless entertainments. To Catch a Thief may be even better suited to the coughing man.


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Unless I am remembering this wrong, in Crimes and Misdemeanours, after going through a cancer scare, Woody Allen reconnects with life while watching the Marx Brothers’ most anarchic comedy. It is still an unending hoot today.


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All right I give in. You can have something that was released in the last 30 years. The last 10, in fact! Is it crazy to suggest that this masterpiece might just be the most purely enjoyable of all Pixar’s films? The really sad bit is at the beginning. So, you won’t be left too damp-faced at the end.