Movies

A New Project and Other Notes

It was a glorious spring day today—not too hot, not too cold, full sun shining, a warm breeze—the perfect out-of-doors sort of day, even for those of us who aren’t very out-of-doorsy. And so I went on a bike ride with my parents (or, an ice cream trip justified by a bike ride, take your pick) on a nearby path, enjoying the weather and the birds and the flowers. Which means, I believe, five days in a row now that I haven’t read a word of any of the four books I’m currently reading, nor am I likely to read any tonight as my eyelids are already drooping. I do hope to do better this coming week, if for no other reason than impending library due dates, but I seem to be so scattered in my approach to everything lately, that I won’t hold my breath. However, I’m enjoying all my books, so I have no good excuses. Do feel free to hold me accountable…

I haven’t felt very bloggish of late either, despite a backlog of possible posts. (Nor have I been good at keeping up with my feed reader.) But I thought I should just behave a little and finally introduce a new project I’ve been thinking about since January. (Yes, January. I really do depend upon deadlines.)

This isn’t bookish, not exactly, although The Invention of Hugo Cabret provides much of my inspiration. If you are unfamiliar with the book, movies—especially early silent films—play an important role in the story, as one of the main characters is Georges Méliès, an early French film maker credited with a number of developments in the history of cinema. At the end of the book author Brian Selznick lists a number of early films, by Méliès and others, which were either mentioned in the novel or inspirational to its development. A light bulb went off, and I found myself ordering all the various films from the library. A short time later, Richard of Caravana de recuerdos introduced his Foreign Film Festival, and I knew a project was in sight.

Cinematic Treasures: A Viewing Project

Inspired by Hugo and reminded by Richard’s “festival” of my enjoyment of foreign film, I wish to attempt to watch more of two categories of films: 1) Movies that are deemed “classic” or “important” in the history of film and 2) foreign films. For me, “foreign” means anything not (originally) in English; I suppose I could classify British movies as foreign to me, but I watch so many British dramas on PBS that I can’t think of them as foreign even though from another country than I. As for “classic” or “important,” well, we all know what a can of worms that is involving books, so I suppose I mean those movies that can be pointed at as specifically influential or that are the ones everyone mentions over and over again. Or for that matter, just those movies that I particularly want to see. I’m not fussy about definitions. (Although, if it’s from the last say, 15 years or so, I probably won’t be talking about it.)

I mean this as an informal project. I don’t have a list of movies to see that I intend to post, and I may not blog about all the movies that I watch. There are no deadlines, no set goals, just a written reminder that I really want to see more of these films.

I do wish to request recommendations, especially for classic foreign films. What are the can’t miss movies from outside of the US? I’m particularly interested in Spanish- and Italian-language films, but I’ll take recommendations from anywhere, so long as I can find the movie without too much difficulty or expense. (I have a pretty nifty library system, so I can find a lot through it.) Don’t worry about what you think I might or might not like, as I’m not too picky if I think something’s worth it.

The biggest challenge for this project will be learning how to talk about movies, at least beyond “I liked it/I didn’t like it.” But as I said, it’s informal and meant to be entirely fun. Now, to find all those extra hours I’ll be needing…

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14 thoughts on “A New Project and Other Notes

  1. I love Méliès and have watched many of his films. As a result, the Scorsese movie was a strange experience. Regardless – yes, more film writing by bookish folk, but real film writing, yes! Writing that treats film as an art, that takes the “who cares?” question seriously.

    To go along with the Méliès, sample some Lumière brothers and Edison films, all on Youtube now, often less than a minute. “The Great Train Robbery”, Porter’s “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend”, Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie”. Griffith, but I don’t know Griffith myself, and Victor Sjöström, but I have never seen him either – I need to watch more movies! Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd – unmissable. It Lloyd’s “Safety Last” that we see in a bit of Hugo.

    It is such a great period for wandering around. Everything changes so quickly, before your eyes almost.

    1. Other than the famous bits of Le Voyage dans la lune, I hadn’t seen any Méliès prior to watching the Scorsese movie, but I imagine previous knowledge would alter one’s perceptions of Scorsese’s film. As for writing on films, as I said above, I have no idea what I’m doing–so it shall be an adventure to discover.

      Thank you for the many recommendations! For some reason I’ve never seen more than a few minutes of Chaplin, but I’ve seen a few of Lloyd’s (including Safety Last!) who is becoming a favorite. I don’t think of Edison and film, but I will definitely look for them as well as the others.

  2. My “must watch” foreign films include:

    French Films:

    Delicatessen
    City of Lost Children
    Amelie
    (all by Jean-Pierre Juenet)

    Paris, Je Taime

    German films:

    Mostly Martha (which was terribly remade in English recently and called “No Reservations”)
    Run Lola Run

    Spanish films:

    Pan’s Labyrinth

    1. Thank you, Carl! I don’t believe I’ve seen any of the more recent French films, although Amelie has been on my list for years. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorites, actually. I just love the combination of the fantastic with the gritty post-Civil War reality.

  3. Great project, Amanda! One shortcut to aid in compiling your list in addition to Tom’s wonderful suggestions above is to check out the catalogs of The Criterion Collection and Kino, which have reissued many of the “important” works and “classics” you talk about above on DVD (inc. ones in Italian and Spanish). From the silent era alone, though, I’d recommend Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915), Fritz Lang’s
    Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) and Metropolis (1927), Joe May’s Asphalt (1929), F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), G.W. Pabst’s Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora’s Box (both 1929), and Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) as essential works that are also super entertaining.

    1. Thank you for all the suggestions, Richard. I thought about The Criterion Collection (some of the movies I’ve watched already were Criterion editions), but I’m not familiar with Kino. I’ll check that out. I was almost ready to say I’d never seen any German films, but your note reminds me that I’ve seen Metropolis (twice, actually), and I can’t believe I’ve never watched Nosferatu. I will look for all of those.

  4. The Kino set “The Movies Begin” was once something of an obsession for me. Please note that although one of the 5 DVDs is nothing but Méliès, you still need the first DVD to get “A Voyage to the Moon” and a few other pieces.

    And in fact you do not need any of it in the sense that it is all on Youtube now.

    Great start, now that Richard has filled in German Expressionism and some of its contemporaries. Now you just need some commenters to cover Soviet film, Italian neo-realism, French New Wave, German New Cinema, L’age Depardieu, post-revolutionary Iranians film, etc. Japan etc. Sweden etc. post-war British and you’ll be done.

    Do you know about the Sight and Sound polls? Those certainly hit some high points.

    1. Oh that’s all? I guess I need a few more followers…! Thank you for the additional information about the Kino set, though, I will look for that. (Although, as you noted, much is online.) Also not familiar with the Sight and Sound polls, but those look like a good place to start to at least hit some big names. Thanks!

  5. What a fabulous idea! As someone who’s more of a contemporary film cinephile, I don’t really have anything to recommend to you. But I do hope you’ll pass along some recommendations when films strike a chord with you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this project. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Diana. I will be sure to pass along recommendations. In fact, I’m thinking I might revise my thoughts about “no posted list” and add a page with all the various recommended titles/authors for anyone to reference. I hope to post soon on some of the movies I’ve already watched.

  6. I’ll note for anyone interested, a number of the very early films are also available for free at the Internet Archive. One I’ve watched already, Le Voyage dans la lune [A Trip to the Moon] is available here, completely silent but high-quality and here, with English narration.

  7. Oh, what a great idea! I like the approach you’re taking with this project, as it seems both fun and low-key. I don’t know many movies- I like them and all, but I’m mainly a book person, with a few TV shows thrown in for good measure. I’ll look up the most influential Argentinian movies and email you with a list 🙂

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