June 14, 2005

Movie Meme

Nappy40 has received and responded to a movie meme and put out a general challenge to her blogfriends to respond to it. It’s a hard one for me because it asks what movies mean the most to you, and to tell you the truth, movies don’t mean that much to me anymore. I still see as many movies as ever, but I watch them purely for entertainment and mostly I forget about them afterward, even the foreign ones that are supposedly artistically meritorious. Few movies in recent years have made a lasting impression on me, much less affected the way I see the world or the way I want to see myself. The movie in recent years that made the most lasting impression on me was the Danish import THE CELEBRATION, not because it has any personal meaning for me but because I simply thought it was a great and harrowing piece of work. Also I’ll see anything written by Charlie Kaufman: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, ADAPTATION, and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. There are directors whose names will draw me into the theater, because I trust their talent to create something enjoyable: Ridley Scott, for one. But it’s not that those films live in me the way, for instance, Chekhov lives in me.

In order to say what movies mean the most to me, I’ll have to send myself back in time and say which ones would have meant most to me twenty years ago. Back then I would have said ANNIE HALL and SEVEN SAMURAI and THE SEARCHERS. I would have picked a Truffaut for the list, probably THE 400 BLOWS, and Herzog’s AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD. A couple of screwball comedies, most likely BRINGING UP BABY and HIS GIRL FRIDAY – and a hilarious one, DESIGN FOR LIVING, with Miriam Hopkins, Gary Cooper, and Frederic March, which I've never found on video. A couple of quirky personal choices: JEREMIAH JOHNSON, because it’s both a beautifully done piece of work and it has a hero I can admire unreservedly; ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, because it’s both an epic of Jewish gangsters and a truly strange film. And the first TERMINATOR, because Arnold is better as the villain than as the hero and because it shelters a moving love story inside a futuristic shoot-‘emup. More sf: the first two ALIEN/ALIENS movies, and the 1970s remake of THE FLY with Jeff Goldblum, and both remakes of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. All of them are scary and near-perfect, and several of them are funny. (Not the first INVASION, because I don’t like camp.)

Going further back in time, I can find at least one movie that meant a lot to me as boy: THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG–DISTANCE RUNNER, with Tom Courtenay. No big mystery why -- the title tells you. And there are many British black-and-white movies from the old days that have charmed and delighted me.

I still like all those movies, but I don’t have much desire to see any of them again, except for DESIGN FOR LIVING because it’s been so long since I have. I’ve seen all of them at least three times apiece (except ONCE UPON A TIME -- it’s too long to see often), but what do they mean to me, how are they part of me? I just don’t know. None of the ones I’ve become acquainted with in adulthood has gone as deep into me as the books that have shaped me. I think making a movie takes at least as much talent as writing a book, but the talent is dispersed among many people; I don’t believe that a movie director is as much an author as cineastes claim. In many excellent films, the art director and the editor are as much responsible for the look of the film as the director is. I think I need to fasten onto an author, identify with an author, in order to be deeply affected by a work of art. I’m too old to fasten onto a movie character that way.

As for what movies I own, they’re all kids’ movies. The ones I like best are the Miyazaki animations, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. Delightful, beautifully done fantasies.

What was the last movie I saw? Some expensive piece of crap -- it doesn’t even matter.