First up, in 2D traditional animation category, there really is no better film than The Jungle Book. It can't be beaten in my opinion. It is a truly complete film, with loveable characters, wonderfully funny moments at times, pathos and sadness at others (kids can handle tragedy) and some of the best songs ever committed to a film soundtrack. What's not to love?
Moving on, I have to acknowledge what Pixar has done with the 3D format in the last fifteen years with some of their amazing films. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and The Incredibles were truly astonishing but special mention has to go to UP. It's a heartbreaking film that deals with loss and death sensitively without being sentimental. The first twenty minutes are some of the best ever committed to film and the story is just magical. It allows you to dream and go with the main characters. One of Pixar's best I have to say...
Live action wise, I don't think there'll ever be a better film than E.T. for harnessing the difference between kids dreams and adult fears. The story is wonderful and magical and in some respects every kids fantasy. The relationships between every character is so well drawn especially the interaction between all the kids and the imposing threat and control from the adults. Spielberg also gets the balance between sentimentality and sensitivity just right, allowing the story to unfold rather than pluck at our heartstrings and manipulate our feelings with crass, overwrought lines and back story. To be honest, I've often wondered what it must have felt like for Spielberg to read the script for the first time. He must have jumped for joy. Having seen E.T. so many times, it never fails to make me blub. Nothing to be ashamed of I say. Good kids films should tweak all the emotions.
What's your favourite film from your own childhood?
It has to be The Lady and the Tramp simply because it was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. I was 6 years old and I was visiting relatives in Dublin with my mother and younger brother. My Auntie Ellen as a treat decided to take us to watch the film at The Gaiety cinema just off O'Connell Street. I can remember everything quite vividly about the trip. We rode on the top deck of the the double decker bus from Drumcondra into town, the queueing up for the tickets, the smell of the cinema, the deep seats, and then of course the film itself. Seeing it up large and huge in front of me was mesmerising. I was gobsmacked. It's one of Disney's lost classics in my opinion and doesn't get half the attention it deserves.
Do you have a favourite film about childhood?
This is an easy one to answer as one of my favourite films of all time is Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, which is also probably one of the best films about childhood ever! I saw it for the first time many years ago and though I have watched it many times since, it still moves me and affects me in the same way as when I first saw it . The lead performance from child actor Jean-Pierre Leaud is truly astonishing. A perfect snapshot of a gobby, street wise Parisian kid yet riddled with vulnerability and angst. It's an affecting, beautiful bit of acting. Truffaut's unsentimental take on what he goes through makes it even more heartbreaking and the final scene on the beach is seared in to my memory for ever. I'd urge everyone to go see it and let it break your heart. A moving, cinematic experience in the purest sense.
Thank you Kieran! Mark Cousins's A Story of Children and Film is showing at Chapter Arts Centre on Friday 21 March.