Monday, December 10, 2012

Chaplin's Limelight, and How I Completed My Quest

December 3rd.  Charlie needed a date, so I gave him one.  December 3, 2012.  This was to be the day we completed our quest.  This was to be the day we could say that we have seen the 1000 Greatest films.  Charlie needed some sort of end date.  A blip somewhere in the future, that he can watch as he checks the films off the list.  A beacon in the fog.  A North Star to guide his way if you will. That is just the way Charlie is built.  I, on the other hand, need just to watch the films and enjoy or not enjoy, whichever may be the case.  But Charlie wanted a date, so a date we set.  December 3rd, 2012.  And a final film we set as well.  Appropriately enough, I chose Chaplin's Limelight to be our final film.  Charlie, being Charlie, pile-drove his way through the list.  When Charlie joined my quest (about two years after I had begun the beast) he started out about two hundred films behind me, so I suppose he had to quicken his pace in order to reach me by that aforementioned date.  This pacing (did he even have time to enjoy the films he watched I wonder), which was at a breakneck speed, got Charlie to #999 about a month before me.  At that point, since I was not about to go at any sort of cheetah-like speed (I wanted to enjoy what I was watching - savour it if you will), all poor Charlie could do was wait for me to reach #999, and mark December 3rd off on his calendar.  Well, December 3rd came and December 3rd went, and after watching Chaplin's Limelight (on the big screen, after hours at the cinema of course), both Charlie and I could now say, in a moment of triumph, that we have seen the 1000 Greatest Films of All-Time.

Now, of course, such a list can only be worth the paper it is written on, or in this case, worth the memory it is pixelated upon - or some sort of more computer savvy kind of saying.  Such a list, this one incidentally found over at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, whereupon a master list is compiled using hundreds of critic's, director's, film historian's and organization's individual lists, is subjective at best, and pedantic at worst.  I mean, the list is filled with mediocre fare such as Ordinary People and The Bridges of Madison County, as well as ugly things like Forrest Gump (and do not even get me started on Stan Brakhage!), while it omits films like Rififi and Sirk's Magnificent Obsession, and all but one of the films of Frank Borzage.  Crazy really.  Crazy.  What I am trying to say is that these are not necessarily the 1000 Greatest Films of All-Time (Brakhage!?  Really!??) but I still believe there is more good than bad on the list - even if neither Footlight Parade nor Stella Dallas are included. But then again, the list did include many films that I had not seen until taking on the quest, that have joined my all-time favourite list.  Films like Leave Her to Heaven, Gun Crazy, Gilda, Seventh Heaven, A Canterbury Tale, Smiles of a Summer Night and DeMille's Samson and Delilah, just to name a few off the top of my head.  And then there is Chaplin's Limelight, a film that can perfectly summed up by just one word - sublime.  A perfect ending to an all but perfect quest.  But I digress, for the great moments certainly outweighed the bad (even Brakhage!!?), and I am that much cinematically richer for the experience.  My knowledge of cinema is greater for the experience.  I am a better human being. My life is grea...but my hyperbole is getting a bit off track.  Not that cinema is not art and life and all that jazz - because it most certainly is.  But now is not the time for such poeticism.  There is now life beyond Thunderdome.  Life beyond the list. 

The question now is this - what the hell do I do now!?  I mean, in the way of cinema and movie watching that is, which is everything (isn't it?).  Well, other than not watching anymore Brakhage, I have lots of things to do.  I will of course, still be writing and posting regularly at this same bat channel (as well as periodic stops at other cyber locales), but that is nothing new.  As far as the new goes, there is a plenty to come.  First off, I suppose this is as good a time as any to become an Ingmar Bergman completest.  When I first began getting into cinema as an art form of which to follow, Bergman was one of the first director's (along w/ Fellini and Kurosawa) that I began to watch in earnest.  Eventually the filmmaker kind of fell by the wayside, as I discovered others, so as of today (one week after finally completing said quest), I have seen just nineteen of the Swedish auteur's forty some films.  That needs to be remedied, and remedied dark tootin' quick.  In conjunction with this venture, I will begin a new series here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.  It is called The Bergman Files, and it will consist of me taking a fresh look at every Bergman film ever made.  From his arthouse hits to his more obscure early films to his later television work (including the soap commercials he did back in the fifties), I will take a look at each one of his films.  Writing up one every two to two and a half weeks or so (my projected rate of inclusion) this series will last about two years or so.  This should be quite fun.  Yeah, I said watching Bergman will be fun.  Some would not think so, with his rather austere and often tragic outlook, but it shall be fun indeed.  My kind of fun.  Perhaps those people should question their own ideas of fun.  But again, I digress.

There will also be other cinematic goings-on around these parts.  Catching up on my precode watching, and adding to my woefully lacking knowledge of silent cinema.  Filling in the gaps in my knowledge of directors like Sirk, Renoir and Borzage; Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse; John Ford and Howard Hawks.  Completing watching the oeuvres of actors such as Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck; Blondell, Kay Francis and Janet Gaynor; Cagney, Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.  Checking out more South American cinema and the obscurities of African cinema.  I have three piles, each about two feet high, of DVD's just waiting to be watched.  Works by Agnes Varda and Mike Leigh; early Lubitsch and Hollywood Renoir; lots of precode stuff and lots of Japanese cinema; random classic Hollywood; Spanish and Italian films from the sixties; Mario Bava and Jess Franco; and have I mentioned Bergman.  Plus, re-watching many of my favourites, up on the big screen, is a must do item for this new year.  I have already been trying to watch all of Scorsese, De Palma, Sirk, Kubrick and Powell/Pressburger on the big screen, and that will continue.   And then there are those packed bookshelves that line my room.  Star bios and film theory; Hollywood history and director's monographs; critical essays and behind-the-scenes stuff.  There are a hell of a lot of film books on those shelves, whose spines have yet be broken - and a breakin' 'em I am a gonna do.  Oh yeah, and speaking of books, there is the one I am going to write.  A book that will be half memoir of a quest and half film history/criticism.  Whether anyone will publish such a book, only time will tell, but I am still going to write it.  But that is it for now.  My quest complete, the final film a work of art, the doings of a book in the future.  'nuff said...for now.


Brian said...

stumbled upon your blog a month or so back and am really inspired by your journey through the 1000.. - thanks for sharing it here

Aubyn said...

You finished! That's wonderful. I am so glad you're moving on to Bergman since I was feeling a little sad that I wouldn't have your 1000-film recaps to look forward to. I want you to know that your series was an inspiration to me and I am grateful you shared it with us. Good luck on the next project!

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx for the kudos. Glad to hear people are out there reading these random cinematic thoughts of mine.

MP said...

Again, congrats Kevyn! The Bergman Files is a great idea! Lots of Bergman's films are lesser known. I counted almost the half of his oeuvre! Have you bought the Taschen Ingmar Bergman Archives book? I am planning on buying it and I wanted to know your impression about it since I have the Kubrick one and it is a must.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx Michel. No, I have not gotten that one, but I do have the Kubrick one you speak of. I have been looking at some Bergman books to go along with my becoming a Bergman Completest. I suppose that will be one of them.

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