Desert Island Films: Special Guest Ben Nicholson

by Martyn Conterio on 03/12/2013

desert island films

This week on Desert Island Films, we’re joined by Ben Nicholson (Twitter handle: @BRNicholson). He’ll play the New Empress cinephile version of Robinson Crusoe thus making his five selections a quintet of Man Fridays. Read on, dear reader…

the big lebowski

The Big Lebowski (dir: The Coen brothers)

I’m often mocked by friends and family for the seriousness of my DVD collection, which could glibly be reduced to “sombre and subtitled.” Despite a predilection to opt for heavy over humourous, life on a lonely island would definitely warrant a few laughs. The first chuckles would come via the Coens’ cult classic, The Big Lebowski (1998). Whether it’s reminiscing about gun-toting times on the lanes or sipping an imaginary Sasparilla; The Dude and Co. would provide the closest cinematic equivalent to hanging out with old buddies.


Dr. Strangelove (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

I can’t really imagine a future in which I never see another Kubrick film, but wonder at the effect that weekly viewings of 2001: A Space Odyssey would have on my mental faculties in such isolation. I’ll plum instead for Stan’s apocalyptic comedy starring Peter Seller, Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers. No matter how many times I see Dr. Strangelove, I’m unable to fend off laughter, while the pedigree of its director ensures there’s always room for deeper exploration should the mood take me.


The General (dir: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton)

A love of silent films means I’d find it hard not to take one with me. Whilst the likes of Murnau and Lang may be the directors I admire the most, Keaton’s exquisite Civil War slapstick adventure has to be the choice. There are many potential kings of physical comedy, but it’s Keaton that really floats my boat whether leaping around a train or poking his head into a cannon. The Buster, the backdrop,and a barrel o’ laughs give it the edge over other faves like Girl Shy and Modern Times.


Star Wars (dir: George Lucas)

My childhood fascinations with film may have ranged from Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood to Michael Jackson’s ghoulish Thriller video, but my great cinematic love affair will always be with Star Wars. Liking it as a youngster, it was the 1990s re-releases that truly captured my heart as an excited 12-year-old. Combining a classic heroic arc with laser-swords meant it was likely to appeal to me but my love of Lucas’ universe has proved enduring and far-reaching. Plus I’ll be able to identify with Luke, in my sandy spot far from the bright centre to the universe.

last year in marienbad

Last Year in Marienbad (dir: Alain Resnais)

With all the fun being offered by my other selections it seemed only appropriate to bring some weight to proceedings. For that I’ve settled on Alain Resnais’ beguiling and enigmatic stroll around a bourgeoisie mansion of the mind, Last Year in Marienbad (1964).

This labyrinthine locale provides the perfect setting in a film that allows for (nay, demands!) endless re-watches and continual re-appraisal. The automaton cast would also provide curiously appropriate bedfellows to my bedraggled islander both trapped, as we’d be, out of time and context with only our fragmentary memories for solace.

Main article words by Ben Nicholson

Desert Island Films logo by Dan Evans at

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