Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The List Post

So, I participated in the initial round of Edward Copeland's Foreign Film list thing, and first, can I just say: Who the hell let the bum (me) in?! Seriously, the names of the participants are like a who's who of awesome film writers and then there's me. Yeah. "One of these things is not like the others" and all that. So a great big "thanks" to Mr. Copeland for his hard work on a very fun enterprise (I've been having a blast all week, watching films and analyzing them, and thinking about my tastes, and looking at my list and seeing how it reflects on my personality, etc.), and thanks also for being open to the opinions of bums like me!

One thing I've noticed in all this list-making craze (AFI, Online Top 100, Eddie's awesomeness) is how a lot of us are embarrassed about the films we haven't seen, or the guilty-pleasure films we've included on our personal lists, or the final product itself as having missed too many old movies or obscure masterpieces, or included too many mainstream popcorn flicks or predictable "classics". I feel like sometimes people (myself included) approach list making as an exercise in trying to look good. There's that thought process where we want to include something but we're afraid of "what people might think", so we leave it off and throw something with a little more cache on there to make ourselves seem cooler and smarter, more "with it", etc.

I know I almost succumbed to this desire. But with this new list we weren't being asked specifically for THE BEST, but a combination of criteria, sort of a "really good films that you totally love, but don't worry this isn't a canon" kinda thing. So when I feared what people might say if I put Cinema Paradiso on my list (hey, I cried okay? That movie really moved me, man!) I decided, frak it, I'm going with it and I'm proud of it. (And it made the uber-ballot, so, yay!)

Random Thought: Yeah, so snobs cling to certain things -- knowledge of wines, indie rock, for example -- and feel superior to other people because they know all about and like these specific “cool” things. The elitist doesn’t even have to like the thing in question, she must merely recognize that SOMEONE should like the thing, claim it as objectively good, and champion it as worth preserving. I’m a sometime-elitist. I’m not a snob (I hope). I think the films of great foreign directors are worth celebrating and preserving and that love of these films should be cultivated, as far as it’s possible, with a wider audience. Just don’t get down on me ’cause I’m not all that interested personally in Hsiao-hsien Hou or Pather Panchali.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I just don't see the value in trying to impress with something like a list. The Online Film Community's Top 100 is not a reflection of my tastes (and I didn't participate in it, so that makes sense), but it is a reflection of something, it says something about what the participants are into (even if on an individual basis people's votes looked different), and in that way it's interesting and has started some really fantastic discussions. Does it bum me out that a lot of older (pre-1960) movies haven't been seen or enjoyed by a portion (though, who can say how large?) of internet film bloggers? Yeah, fo' sho', since old movies are my thing. But the great thing about Cine-blog world is that we can just get another list going if we want, and in this case, we have.

So, let out your inner sentimentalist! Don't be afraid to be thought an inexperienced whelp! Philistines unite! Share your list, embarrassing movies and all, for the world to see! You know, whatever.

So, yeah, don't be embarrassed if you think some mainstream hit movie is better than the Three Colors trilogy. You might be wrong, of course, but the debate and discussion that follows is where it's at anyway. (And the "you" here is me kinda talking to myself, just so you know.)

Random Thought: Gosh, now I sound like those young punks who snivel and snark on pre-1970s (or, as my generation seems to say: “when movies were slow, boring, and black and white, but for some reason everybody talked unnaturally fast“) and foreign pictures (which are not only slow, boring, and black and white, but also subtitled -- more work!). That is not me. Please believe me.

Another Random Thought: I think the foreign films I love, so far, skew young because I am young (relatively. 26.) (and I had that particular thought as I watched for the first time and added to my favorites A bout de souffle). Tokyo Drifter, Port of Shadows, Black Peter. Not exactly Cries and Whispers or Tokyo Story, but it’s some of what I’ve seen and loved. I’ve only had about eight years of serious, deliberate cinema study under my belt, and much of it has been devoted to pre-1960s American cinema, so I’ve got a ways to go.

Anyway, here's my (totally embarrassment free) (well, maybe there's a little (teeny, tiny) bit of embarrassment for Farewell, My Concubine, but it's just a smidge, a tiny, tiny smidge):

Grand Illusion
Only Yesterday (Japanese title: Omohide poro poro)
Day of Wrath
Farewell, My Concubine
Nights of Cabiria
Gospel According to St. Matthew
The Conformist
Black Peter
Tokyo Drifter
Exterminating Angel
Cinema Paradiso
Eyes Without a Face
Loves of a Blonde
Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows)
Shoot the Piano Player
La Belle et la bete
Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Also (movies I should have included and I don't know why I didn't, I'm stupid):

Rules of the Game
Man Is Not a Bird
Battle of Algiers

Will I write more about these films? Possibly. Very, very possibly. I am a lazy bum though, so, you know...


cinebeats said...

I really like your list Derelict!

Grand Illusion, Day of Wrath, Farewell, My Concubine, Nights of Cabiria, Daisies, M, Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Conformist, Tokyo Drifter. Eyes Without a Face, Breathless, Shoot the Piano Player, La Belle et la bete, Umbrellas of Cherbourg are all films I like a lot and some came close to making my own list.

I really want to see Loves of a Blonde and I'm unfamiliar with Black Peter and Quai des Brumes. I expect I would like them since I like your other selections so much.

The Derelict said...

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad to see someone else liked Farewell, My Concubine (that one seems to be taking some flak elsewhere -- what can I say, I'm sort of obsessed with Chinese opera!)

I'm a Czech New Wave geek since I took a class on Central-Eastern European cinema in college and I'm just crazy about Forman's early documentary/realism style. Plus, he has a gift for cynical humour, and yet he still manages to let all of his characters stay human and sympathetic on some level.

Unfortunately, the Black Peter available on DVD has TERRIBLE subtitles, with whole snatches of conversation not translated, or it's not clear who is speaking which lines. It's really awful and I don't understand how Criterion can have Loves of a Blonde and Fireman's Ball and NOT Black Peter (they kind of form a trio, at least re: style and similar themes). But even with the bad subtitles, Black Peter is still a funny, honest, quirky little 60s film.

Quai des Brumes was on my list mostly because of its sorta Noir-ish feel (even though, yes, technically it's a pre-war French film, so.. not really Noir in the traditional sense, but whatever, it feels like a proto-Noir), its romanticism, and Jean Gabin who is my god. I don't know, I guess I just really took to it. I would pay serious cash to see it on the big screen, it just seems like one of those dark theater, big 50-foot tall screen type movies. Strangely, my living room just doesn't capture that magic feeling. ;)

Edward Copeland said...

I'm embarrassed by some of the titles I haven't seen, but what I'm more ashamed of are the titles I'd never even heard of before starting this survey that got a lot of votes. (Biggest example: Celine and Julie Go Boating by Jacques Rivette). Of course, there are only so many hours in a day and a lot of titles are unfortunately not available for me to see (including Rivette's film). Then again, I never planned for this to be an authoritative list, just a compendium of favorites from across the blogosphere that will provide many film fans of all measure of seriousness with titles to think about watching.

The Derelict said...

And I love that this isn't supposed to be some big, all-encompassing, authoritative list; I'm glad you did it this way. Seeing Celine and Julie Go Boating on there is just a reminder that I've been dying to see that movie since I first read a description of it, and reading some of the individual ballots has just got me revved up to seek out a lot of films I've never heard of, or it's made me happy to know that others like the same films I do (it's always nice to have your opinions validated!)

I avoided the list-mania with AFI and the Online Top 100 so maybe that's why I'm so stoked about this one. It's been a blast!

RC said...

this has been a fun project. and while your movie watching skews pre-1960...mine is post-1999.

so as you can imagine this list was tricky for me.

that's why i'm speed-catching up. believe me, i'm with you in "how did i get included on this list."

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

The Derelict said...

Well RC, with your post-99 style and my pre-60 style combined we might actually have every movie covered! We just need someone for that nebulous "middle period" also known as the 60s, 70s, and 80s and we'll be all set. Together we'd make the ultimate human movie encyclopedia. ;)

Campaspe said...

Late to this post, but it is very well done, as is your list. I came up with a total of something like 40 films on the uberballot that I hadn't seen and I have not yet posted them because some are truly embarrassing -- not one Bresson have I seen yet. *blushes* I forgot some good ones too, including Closely Watched Trains. And I also love Quai des Brumes, which I did see on a big screen, and worship at the altar of Jean Gabin. Perhaps only France could produce a man with a face like a melted pudding who is a walking sex god nonetheless.

I would like to put in a word for Pather Pachali, though. You don't state your reasons for lack of interest but judging by the films you did like, I think it might surprise you. It is a beautiful, delicate and unabashedly sentimental portrait of a family struggling with dire poverty. It made me cry so long and so hard that I have yet to see the other two in the trilogy (maybe that is why you're avoiding it?) but if you do see it I hope you post.

The Derelict said...

Thanks for stopping by, Campaspe! Yeah, I was kinda exaggerating my antipathy re: Pather Pachali. I was actually just using it as an example of the foreign film "that you just HAVE to see if you want to call yourself a cinephile." I have read some reviews and descriptions and it does sound like something I would really like, so I'll be seeing it eventually. I guess I was just trying to say, "lighten up," because several people around the web in comment boxes and stuff were getting very serious about this list, and as I understood it from Edward Copeland's explanation, this list was more a "favorites" kinda thing and not a "Best" kinda thing. So for me, it's more fun to see some unexpected films on the list than ones I would've banked on, like Pather Pachali. Btw, I'm dvr-ing I, Vitelloni tonight and I can't wait! I'm jealous that you've seen Port of Shadows in the theater. So many of these foreign films I've had to experience on a TV screen and it bums me out.

Also, yeah, why is Jean Gabin so freakin' sexy??? I don't know why, he just IS. He's just so cool...