John Grant built a steady reputation as a modern poet as the incredibly talented songwriter of the Czars before he went on a long hiatus to gather his thoughts. Struggling with addiction and trying to confront his homosexuality, Grant battled with intense mental health issues and was even diagnosed as HIV-positive. Thankfully, he has bounced back and has gone on to achieve even greater success as a solo musician.
In a recent interview, Grant opened up about his childhood, explaining: “I had a really hard time coming to terms with my sexuality, because I was taught to hate myself. I took the hatred wielded towards me and turned it inwards. So I’ve been in fight-or-flight mode most of my life, hyper-vigilant of everything that’s going on around me in case I have to fight or run… I learned to dance around like a clown and be funny. It was a decade-long case of Stockholm syndrome to keep from being attacked.”
He also commented on the current sociopolitical climate in America, adding: “People don’t want to talk about how the country was formed on slavery. [Recognising] this doesn’t mean we all have to go and commit suicide because we’re bad people. But it’s something we always have to be cognisant of. I mean, it’s a no-brainer that it’s not acceptable to have statues of slave owners outside your buildings. People want to say, ‘That wasn’t us.’ But if you’re proud of those people, what’s the difference?”
As a part of Criterion’s periodic feature, Grant was invited to select some of the cinematic masterpieces that had influenced him over the course of his live. It is evident from his selection that Grant was drawn to the seductive fantasy of cinema from an early age and developed his artistic sensibilities while processing the works of master filmmakers.
While talking about some of the films that shaped him, Grant said: “Scanners is another film I remember from childhood. The ad for it in the newspaper horrified me, but I couldn’t stop looking at it. I was too young to go see it back then, but I saw it as soon as I could. It’s an amazing combination of score and story. Of course the scene is one of the most memorable and fantastic in horror movie history.”
He also singled out Dustin Hoffman’s brilliant performance in Tootsie, adding: “There are so many great performances in this movie, it’s hard to pick just one, but the choice for me is obvious. I fell so hard for the character of Tootsie, I guess I never got over it. Definitely my favourite thing Dustin Hoffman has done besides Marathon Man. The scene where Tootsie and Les both have something to tell each other is one of the funniest scenes ever.”
Check out the entire list of John Grant’s favourite films of all time, ranging from cult classics by Wim Wenders and Hal Ashby to horror masterpieces by Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg.
John Grant names his 10 favourite films of all time:
- Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
- Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
- Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981)
- Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
- This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
- Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
- Cronos (Guillermo del Toro, 1993)
- Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
- Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)
- Europa (Lars von Trier, 1991)
The musician selected Wings of Desire as his top pick, claiming that it moved him like no other film. Wenders’ masterpiece is a beautiful allegory involving two angels who study Berlin’s human population from the gilded rooftops of the city’s famous Cathedrals, immortal beings trying to understand what it means to be a human.
Grant revealed: “I thought for years that Wings of Desire was my favourite film. It might still be; I’m not sure. It’s filled with so many beautiful images, and the score by Jürgen Knieper is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever heard. I went to the movie theatre alone and was high for days after seeing this. Peter Falk is incredible in this as well.”