Hands up who has ever done the following: you are at a party or some form of social gathering (hands down, that wasn’t it). You stray for a moment from the snack table and find yourself embroiled in a spot of light conversation. The chat is bouncing merrily along the usual topics – traffic, weather, Cheryl Cole, amusing local tramps, food poisoning one-upmanship – when suddenly, out of nowhere, comes a film reference.
“Yar, well,” chortles Unspecific Partygoer A, “It was a complete Withnail and I situation.” Everyone laughs heartily. You laugh heartily too. Then Unspecific Partygoer B will bellow “We want the finest wines available to humanity”, and everyone will laugh heartily some more. You laugh heartily some more too. Then you think, hang on, do I know why this is funny? Have I ever actually seen Withnail and I? Or have I in fact watched 10 minutes of it one Boxing Day before falling asleep on the sofa, then believed ever after I had absorbed its essence by osmosis?
Of course, it doesn’t matter. Because 30 seconds later they’ve moved on to talking about the time someone was sick in a postbox, and you’ve escaped undetected. Until, that is, someone else makes a reference to The Breakfast Club and you have to start the whole rigmarole again.
So, we’re liars – ‘film bluffs’ I might say to be hilarious. But, like eating food off the floor or stealing bank pens, it’s ok because we all do it. I fully believe faking your cultural knowledge is the new faking your tan. Or nails/eyelashes/wood flooring. A laugh here, an “oh, totally…” there, is all you really need to pretend you’ve seen those ‘ones to watch before you die’ movies, and we know that this is because the other person hasn’t actually seen it either.
Indeed a quick straw poll round the pub table this afternoon revealed that my friends, whom I consider well-informed and richly cultured people, have actually seen hardly any films at all ever. So, as my gift to you all and because I’m just faking having something to write a column about, here’s my Bluffer’s Guide to Film Fakery:
- A Clockwork Orange: Violence, controversy, more violence and a nod to Twiggy in the eye make-up, this has to be one of the ultimate Never Seen movies. But that doesn’t stop it being the trendy idiot’s Halloween costume of choice.
- Brief Encounter: Set in the black and white days, people have endless cups of tea at railway stations, fall madly in love, but never do anything about it because their stiff upper lips make kissing too uncomfortable.
- The Matrix: In the future, we will all have to wear grossly unflattering black PVC catsuits. The Jetsons lied.
- The Life of Brian: “He’s not the Messiah… [complete]. This gem is the stalwart of the film bluff’s canon.
- 2001 A Space Odyssey: Boom… boom…BA BOOM. If you can talk about the seminal moment in cinema where an ape throws a bone that becomes a space ship in the air, you’ve reached advanced level fakery.
- Memento: Whole film backwards. Presumably if you’d watched it at the beginning you hadn’t anymore by the end, so a fruitless endeavour all round.
- Fatal Attraction: Rabbit stew, anybody?
- It’s a Wonderful Life: Does what it says on the can – but not until the end of a couple of hour’s worth of misery. At least you’ve got that leftover trifle.
- Psycho: Should have stayed in a Premier Inn.
- Citizen Kane: Details are irrelevant because nobody in the world has seen it, but you do need to know this – it’s probably the best film ever. This illusion would, of course, be ruined if anyone did watch it, so it’s best to just nod knowingly and mutter “masterpiece”. Same goes for The Third Man, which may or may not be the same film (we’re still checking).
- Withnail and I: Famed for its associated drinking game, in which you have a drink every time they do. So naturally nobody’s seen more than the first 15 minutes, having been passed out on a rug for the rest of the film.
Now go forth, film bluffs, and live fraudulently ever after. And there’s a prize on offer to anyone who can tell me which of the above I really have seen – by this point I’ve forgotten myself.