Best of Scotland

It’s St Andrew’s Day on 30 November, providing the perfect opportunity to celebrate Scottish culture. Here List section editors make a start on a national ‘best of’ list


Scotland shares Saint Andrew with areas of Russia, Romania, Greece and Malta, though this list is closed to the corruption of arthouse favourites like Theo Angelopoulos and Sergei Bondarchuk with their long names and even longer films. We’re assuming St Andrew would want to rest his dusty sandalled feet in front of some real Scottish cinema beginning with Silent Scream (1990). Actor, writer and occassional director David Hayman’s masterful biopic of convicted murderer, poet and artist Larry Winters boasts Robert Carlyle’s film acting debut and Iain Glen in the role of his career. Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison’s special unit has been the setting for two fantastic Scottish films, this one and A Sense of Freedom, the Jimmy Boyle story. If part of Scotland’s identity and heritage belongs to drug addicted gangsters, artists and troubled souls then Hayman’s film is seminal. Scotland and the sectarian dynamic may be a recurring theme but rare is the film that tackles the thistly issue head on. John Mackenzie and Peter McDougall’s fantastic black comedy Just Another Saturday (1975) is the exception. Set in and around the progression of an Orange lodge march in Glasgow, and starring a young

Billy Connolly, the film hurdled its TV origins to become celebrated on the international film festival circuit and beyond. And let’s not forget Highlander (1986). There can be only one. Let’s get off the streets and into the hills. Sean Connery as an Egyptian metallurgist, Christopher Lambert as an immortal Scottish clansman. Soundtrack by Queen. What more do you need? All films available on DVD. (Paul Dale)


First up, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll a n d M r H y d e (1886). The ultimate doppelgänger novel, Robert Louis Stevenson’s fiction about the goodly doctor and his hairy malevolent side may be officially set in London but to all intents and purposes this is a tale about the dual nature of Edinburgh. RLS’ birthplace was then a city split between the poverty-stricken, crime-ravaged medieval section and the respectable Georgian area. Lanark (1981) is a phantasmagorical mixture of realism and fantasy. Alasdair Gray began the novel as a student in the mid-50s with the epic four-parter finally published by Canongate in 1981. The tales of Duncan Thaw and Lanark, amid the dual settings of Glasgow and

Sweeney Todd Hairdressing Salon, St Vincent Place by Alasdair Gray

Unthank, are inexorably entwined and reflect upon each other in this modern vision of hell featuring lengthy footnotes, a prologue halfway through, an epilogue before the end and a po-mo pop-in from the author himself. We conclude with Morvern Callar (1995). On first glimpse, it may not be the best festive present to come home to. But the self- mutilated corpse of her boyfriend under the twinkling Christmas tree lights provides Alan Warner’s heroine with a golden chance to pursue her own dreams of escaping the reality of dull smalltown life. And so she publishes his book under her own name and flees on the proceeds for a Mediterranean sabbatical to, sort-of, find her calling. An intense and layered debut from the Oban penman, it was turned into the inevitable soundtrack-heavy movie with Samantha Morton bringing Morvern to vivid life under the directorship of Lynne Ramsay. (Brian Donaldson)

Morvern Callar Mogwai

30 THE LIST 17 Nov–15 Dec 2011