Thursday, October 30, 2008

1900

"How do you make a choice?" questioned 1900. The musician had made his way into the belly of the ship, and confronted 1900 about his decision not to leave the ship, the ship on which he had spent almost his entire life on. "I looked out, and there were rows upon rows of houses. There were hundreds and hundreds of people. How do you pick one one house to live, one place to call your own, one person to spend the rest of your life with?"

It is a question that resonates with me every once in a while. Though at times it touches upon the subject of relationships, in this particular case, it applies to...films.

There are so many films out there in the world that it is impossible to watch them all. Not that all are desirable in their own relative artistic or commercial merits. Nevertheless, even for the canonised films, who deserves the right to be called a visionary director? Who has the right to claim that one film is a 'classic'?

What is a classic, anyway? In simple terms, it is a film that you should know about. One that you should preferably have seen, but at least know about.

This question has been at the forefront of my thoughts recently, due to what can be politely termed as an awakening of sorts. In watching some of the older films in my classes, I have been introduced to some of the most interesting films I have seen in my life. One that particularly caught my eye was 'Throw Out Your Books, Go Into The Streets', a 1960s Japanese film (if I am not mistaken) that took the rulebooks of conventional cinema, tear it to pieces, have those pieces laced with dog food and then fed to various stray dogs of the neighbourhood.

Of course, that may strike you as a little over-dramatic. In the mood of a burst of creativity at the present time (working on two or three projects somehow revitalises the creative side of things, somewhat), those are the words that comes out. I have been filled with feelings of inadequacy whenever someone mentions the name of a film that sounds familiar, but more importantly, sounds like I should have seen it.

"It's not quite fair," I discussed this with a friend some time ago. "Europeans are fed on the things that are supposed to be seen as classic. I mean, I bet a lot of them grow up with these things available on late-night TV or something." Though flawed, it does have its merits, the argument; a person growing up in Paris might have seen all of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard's works. A KLite, on the other hand, might have been fed spoonfuls of 'Mekanik' instead. An exagerrated example, but one that highlights the big gulf that remains between nations even in the simple things like film appreciation. The availability of such films directly affects this; even with the rise of piracy in Malaysia, the kind of films that tends to be pirated are still American-centric. You're still more likely to find 'Kings of California' (look it up) than 'Madame Freedom' (look this up, too).

Lest this be seen as a willingness to embrace foreign culture and have bagels for breakfast, it is not that I want to watch these films just because they're foreign. Of course, they're French (or Japanese, or Swedish, or whatever), but they are important films that marks film history. Films that a filmmaker should know about. Preferably, should have seen.

Which is why I have been spending a lot of time watching movies, recently. My university library has an immense collection of the most interesting movies. I find myself reading of these movies on the third floor, and then watching them on the second floor. It is amazing.

Once again, however, the question asked at the beginning of this post remains as pertinent as ever.

In a world where canonised films are being released almost monthly, how does one watch it all? How does one even remotely cover the past century of cinematic magic?

Maybe it's not quite possible. But that's OK.

I realise that unlike 1900, I'm going to start somewhere. Somehow. I'm going to try.

God help me.

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