Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Classes and Canons

I know the rules of the blogosphere, post or die. I've stopped reading too many blogs that stopped updating, or changed their format from meaningful commentary to links to others. I never really planned on blogging, but now that I'm here I'm here to stay. But, fearless readers, don't expect me to write any essays from now until mid-December, when I'm get off on winter break. Until then I'll be working on papers, studying for finals, and generally running around in a state of total panic.

That being said, I do have something here besides excuses. As I mentioned in passing my last post, when I first got into movies my guide for what to watch was a lackluster book of the 501 movies that I just had to see. I've always been driven by lists like that, the aforementioned 501 Must See Movies, The A List, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and so on. I think this is because I didn't fall into cinephilia the way so many others did, which seem to be through omnipresent drive ("I watched every movie to come on the late show, watched 1000 movies before my 7th birthday, first sexual thoughts were about Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant etc. etc.) or the "revelation" types, (I was never really into movies until I watched *insert classic here* and then became enamoured with the love of cinema etc. etc.) While I have loved some movies from a very early age and I have had revelations, the thing that drove me into really watching movies was guilt. Crushing guilt. I was 15 and I hadn't seen Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, Psycho and most of the really big movies without Dracula or The Marx Brothers.

Now, I wouldn't be writing this now if guilt has been the only driving force in this. I've gone through similar phases with other mediums (I haven't listened to Sgt. Pepper's! I haven't read Oliver Twist!) but they have passed, while I became fairly obsessed with with movies early into my frantic grab to get more media into my brain. My first movies I watched off my 501 list, Dr. Strangelove, Citizen Kane, Breathless really helped me appreciate film on a different level that I had appreciated other mediums. It was both a more visceral, emotional experience and I could learn the basic mechanics behind it far faster than I could, say, music. But guilt has always remained a healthy part of my drive to watch more movies, and my recent attention has turned to the Theyshootpictures.com list to give me some direction on what to watch next.

Until a few days ago the highest ranked film on the site that I hadn't seen was Ordet. That's a hard thing for any film to live up to, but Ordet is a great film, with fluid, unblinking camerawork, quietly great acting, and a willingness to discuss religion in a candid and thought-provoking manner. And usually that's around all I would think and move along. But since the Turner Classic Movies well is running dry and I don't have any net-flix service, I've been able to think about the film more then usual. I've noticed (both in retrospect and by actually going back and reviewing footage) the classical compositions, the way that Dreyer lovingly portrays the human face, especially the doomed and dead. I've had similar relationships to films before, but only the absolute greatest. I'm sure that I've underplayed the genius of a film or downright forgotten one because I was too busy thinking about my next conquest. It's slowly changing, I still think about canons, but they are becoming less and less a thing in and of themselves, and more a way to show me great movies. Which I think is certainly a positive development.

That said, I still can't believe that I haven't seen any Bresson. How can I even deserve a blog on film if I haven't seen Bresson?!


Jonathan Lapper said...

You haven't listened to Sgt Pepper? Truth be told, a proper introduction to the Beatles should start with Revolver or Rubber Soul.

And don't sweat the Bresson thing. You wouldn't believe how many of us cinephiles have very noted directors films that we haven't seen. There are tens of thousands to see. It takes a long time.

Krauthammer said...

You haven't listened to Sgt Pepper?

I meant meant to say that I've gone through similar guilt trips from time to time, which resulted in me listening to every Beatles album from Rubber Soul on. And yeah, Rubber Soul probobly would have been a better introduction, but Sgt. Pepper topped all the lists...

The Bresson thing was a bit of a joke, but I do get intimidated when I go to something like David Bordwell's blog and he mentions "a huge gap in his film knowlage" and then mentions some flemish director from the 1910's who I've never heard of. But I realize that comparing myself to someone like Bordwell is like me comparing myself to someone like Steven Hawking, I may not know as much as them but heck, who does?

Anonymous said...

Until last week, I'd never seen anything by Ophuls ...

Marilyn said...

Bordwell won't admit it, but he's never seen any Bresson either!

Krauthammer said...

Rick - I saw my first Ophuls a month ago and it was beaut. I'll probably get around to the ones released by Criterion eventually, but I'm frustrated by the fact that the one I really want to see, Letter from an Unknown Woman doesn't seem to be out in region 1.

Marilyn - I'm sure that's it, everyone who seems to know more about movies than me is lying! I'll keep that in mind from now on.

bill r. said...

I've never seen Ophuls, or quite a few others who I'm not going to name right now. I have now seen four Bresson films, though, having just watched my fourth, L'Argent, yesterday. I may or may not post about it, because goddamn, is it a bizarre film, and Bresson a bizarre filmmaker...so bizarre that I have a very difficult time figuring out what his style is in aid of.

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