Monday, June 27, 2005


So, at my home videotheque, I am pondering hosting directorial retrospectives for myself. Seeing a lot of a single filmmaker's work in a short period of time has always been something that has intimidated me a little, as if I feel uncomfortable seeing these works out of all context but that of their maker's progression, which can concentrate and intensify some internal values, diluting and eliding some external ones. But I feel I should go ahead and "get it over with" when it comes to certain filmmakers, and see as much as I can (on video) of their work. I've avoided doing this already with some filmmakers whom I love because I've told myself to wait for 35mm ... but Tati and Mizoguchi (for example) make films that work wonders, still, on VHS and 19" television screens. Waiting out for the big experience is a bit masochistic, especially given that some of these filmmakers are for the most part unavailable, even, on DVD.

There remains an increasingly small handful of directors who by any fair "objective" assessment are major names whose work I've never seen (or never seen an entire film by). No need to embarrass myself and shock you readers by revealing these luminaries, and anyway in the next several weeks I'll likely have remedied this so I can say that I've seen at least one film by every director widely and highly regarded by American or Western cinephiles.

But that's the dilemma of renting movies, isn't it? It would all be easier if I had lived in a modest town with, say, a single rep house that managed to show one or two or five decent 16mm prints of older films from across the country and globe each week, in the evenings. (A fantasy, I know.) One of the reasons I've still not seen any number of classics (or "classics") is because I've tried to keep my finger on alternative pulses. I could have dutifully watched the major Oscar winners and such by the age of 16 or so, spent my last two years in high school seeing certain foreign and American independent commercial films, maybe a few avant-garde works, and left my college years to discovering the oddities, the B-films, the underground milestones, the unheralded masterpieces, etc., and seeing things like A Woman Under the Influence and My Darling Clementine in college as revisitations rather than late revelations. It's largely because I spent those "early" years taking chances (some paid off well) on films most cinephiles don't come to until later, if at all--things like Sogo Ishii's Angel Dust, Roy Del Ruth's The Little Giant, Frank Borzage's The Spanish Main, Nancy Savoca's True Love--and even then, usually only in passing.

Oh, well.

In preparing myself mentally for a hoped-for career in academia (read: daydreaming...) I've started to think regularly about what I want my 'beats' to be, and I simply can't feel totally comfortable with any formulation by director/country/era/theory. I suppose this amorphous flexibility is a good thing--it means I've a hungry appetite not to be quickly sated--but I'm also a bit panicked. When I go through my MA/PhD (assuming that I do ever go through with the process: it's not a guaranteed thing) I want to know my shit better than anyone's expectations of me would demand. And I don't want to lose valuable time for viewing, reading, discussing, and thinking on simply playing "catch-up" with the classics.

At any rate, tonight I will watch (it's a toss-up) either Takashi Miike's The Happiness of the Katakuris or Bertrand Tavernier's Let Joy Reign Supreme. This weekend will be a cinephiliac feast (albeit on all video formats: I'm impoverished as usual!), as well.

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