I've discovered over the years that whenever one says something and somebody disagrees, one, invariably, all of a sudden, becomes opinionated conceited, stubborn and downright unreasonable. This is particularly true when one expresses a view on, say, litterature, movies or paintings (let's call it "art" for the moment but the same principle applies in connection with landscapes, food or cities). - Am I opinionated conceited and stubborn ? Of course I am but, when I do say something, I am not asking you to agree with me but I do have the right to ask you to listen.
A thought that occurred to me last week following the number of letters I got concerning my "ten best books" list of two weeks ago. Sorry if I forgot "Les misérables", books by Dostoievsky or "War and Peace". Sorry if I didn't mention Benoîte Groult or novels written after 1980 but I never mentioned that my list was to be God's gift to literature.
This week, it's gonna be even worst because everybody and their dogs seem to have particular views about movies.
I nearly divided my list in two : silent movies (which is an entirely different form of art) and speakies but before I go on, let me tell you something about myself :
Regularly, I keep thinking that I must be the most antisocial animal that ever existed, unlike my father and his father and the father of my grandfather : I question everything. - I'm a keen observer, by the way, of what's happening to quantum physics which has thrown, sort to say, a stone in the quiet waters of regular physics, even that which was a bit stirred by Einstein.
I hate tenacious opinions which is why I have a tendency to read stuff I basically disagree with : makes me look at things differently so... when someone tells me that such or such a film is the greatest of all times, I ask why he (or she) thinks the way he (she) does and, from that point on, he (she) thinks I'm somebody who disagrees with what he (or she) told me. - I don't : I want to have precisions.
Nasty habit, but how do you get rid of IT ?
Anyway, today, I'm gonna talk about films. MY list of [ten best] films. - With which I will disagree tomorrow. - I will say something though : I will disagree with anything a 25 year old (and under) believes to be great films (see Simon Popp's Bêtes noires column of two weeks ago). There is no way one can pass a judgment on any film unless one has seen at least 2 000 films and I don't care if 904,875 visitors of the Internet Movie Data Base site say that Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is the greatest film of all times, it will, in my mind, remain an overrated film.
Years ago, by the way, I made a list of 100 films that one should see but that list was preceded by a warning that said it wasn't a list of 100 best films but a list of 100 films that one should look at if one wanted to know what a cinéphile had looked at by the end of the twentieth century. It included bad, good, exceptional and a few odd films. I wish I could find it again. To see how many (20 ?) would no longer appear in it... Probably not the following :
Ten films (alphabetical order) :
- A Night at the Opera
My "Ten Best", of course, had to start with this zany comedy which, I'm lead to believe is the second best film the Marx Brothers ever made, the first one being "Duck Soup".
- Blade Runner
Do I like sci-fi films ? Yes. Some of them. As opposed to this Blade Runner, I would recommend anybody to see the first two films of the Terminator trilogy (the second is the best) but certainly not 2001 : A Space Odyssey which, to me, was a self-indulgent hogwash by that master of nothing, Staley Kubrick (well he did make Paths of Glory and The Shining which are two films one should see).
This one has everything : a bleak future, unusual robots and a curious ending.
- Dead, The
John Huston made better films (and he was a great actor, i.e. : Chinatown), films like : The African Queen, Moby Dick, the unfortunately practically forgotten, today, Reflections in a Golden Eye, etc. but in this last film of his, written by his son, Tony, (based on James Joyce's short story) and in which his daughter was an unforgettable Gretta (she won an Oscar for her role in Prizzi's Honor, another great film by Huston).
- Grande Illusion, La
Well, for one thing, there's Eric von Stroheim in it. And Jean Gabin. And Pierre Fresnay. And the unforgettable Julien Carette who went on to play in apparently Jean Renoir's masterpiece, La règle du jeu. - One has to see Eric von Stroheim. In any film he made or acted in.
- North By Northwest
How does one can even think of ordering Hitchcock's films in any order ? - This is my favorite but I believe The Birds was a better film.
- La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Dreyer - 1928)
One word : Falconetti. - Paul [Dubé] would say : "Meril Streep, va te rhabiller..."
- Quai des Orfèvres
I'm an unconditional fan of Louis Jouvet and this is one of his best. Would you believe that he appears half an hour after the movie begins and thereon... steals the show.
- Singing in the Rain
In the immortal words of an ex-American President : «Read my lips : I hate musical comedies». Can't bear a play interrupted by someone, out of nowhere, stepping forward and singing something that, most of the time, had nothing to do with what's going on. But this is a gem.
- Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder - 1959)
Thirty nine years went on between this film and The Big Lebowski (Joel Cohen -
1998) which made me laugh as much. Gives you an idea of what happened to comedy after the Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy and Buster keaton...
- The third Man
I should have quoted Citizen Kane, here, or even - what I believe to be his greatest work, Touch of Evil but being a fervent admirer of whatever he touched, Orson Welles remain one of the giants of Le grand écran in which, in this film he has, well, a minor role (although he does play the role of The Third Man) but there is no doubt that he had an immense influence on this film made by Carol Reed in 1949. Rumor has it that he was the one that discovered Anton Karas whose zither playing was perhaps, in film scores, the one that, finally, people payed attention to. Images ? Typically Orson Welles' although definitely a Carol Reed's film.
You want more ? - Try "Great Expectations" by David Lean, any film by Jean-Pierre Melville, "Big Business" by Leo McCarey, "Sunset Boulevard" by Billy Wilder, "Volpone" by Maurice Tourneur, "La kermesse héroïque" by Georges Feyder, "Mon oncle" by Jacques Tati, "Les tontons flingueurs" by Georges Lautner, "Faut pas prendre les enfants du bon Dieu pour des canards sauvages" by Michel Audiard...
I could go on for weeks.
But don't forget to always mention your favorite films but be prepared to defend them !
P.-S. : And there's something I never could understand : why the Godfather I, II and III so touched the imagination of film viewers ? - Didn't these viewers realize that they more or less admired gangsters, killers and downright despicable people ?