1001 Movies: Introduction


An amateur film lover's response to cinema*

I've been entranced by movies since I'm not sure when. Probably in 1963 when my big sister took me to see The Wizard of Oz. Traumatised by the Wicked Witch and her monkeys, I've been fascinated ever since by the idea that staring at moving images for 90 minutes can be such an immersive and emotional experience that it can make you who you are as much as the school you went to or the parents who bore you.

A few Christmases ago, I was given the 5th Edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Edited by Stephen Jay Schneider and with an introduction by Jason Solomons, despite the quantitative hyperbole, and the gloomy reminder of our mortality, it was a fun read. It contained many movies I had seen and loved. But, like many reference tomes, it was briefly flicked through to make sure the obvious choices were there, and then set aside for later reading, only to gather dust.

I rediscovered the book recently and it struck me that instead of merely murmuring assent at my good taste, or guffawing at the glaring omissions, I should do as the title exhorted: watch the 1001 movies – or at least, try to watch those I’m sure I haven’t seen.

My wife suggested that since I struggled to read any of the books she consumed at a much faster rate than I could consume movies, I should start a blog to share my thoughts with a virtual reader, instead of persistently interrupting her literary pleasure.

So, having made the effort to set up a blog about my writings, I thought I'd better persist in posting here.

Introductions over, I’ll write about how I started on the list of movies to see before I die, and about the first from the list I watched…which wasn’t actually the first!

NB: My blog charts my reaction to each movie, along with a recommendation. I've not explained the plot, assuming that if you're here reading this, you can just as easily nip over to [readily available online encyclopaedia] if you're not already reading from the same book that I am.

I also try to approach each movie with as open a mind as possible. This is particularly true of those films that tread the path less travelled. That is, they often have a deliberately obscure narrative; or elliptical dialogue (or very little dialogue at all); or a reliance on a novel visual style; or are 'difficult' (usually the subject matter, but sometimes the tone, sometimes the setting). I do want to try and grasp what the director is aiming at, rather than demanding every director lay things out on a plate for me.

Having said that, as I've aged, I've grown less tolerant of violence, more squeamish about the explicit, so there will be movies I won't watch. But with 1001 to get through, if I give, say, Apocalypto a miss, there's still plenty left to talk about...and other blogs are available!


*I should stress that this subtitle is meant as a disclaimer. I've read one or two books about cinema (Walker on Kubrick, Pirie on Hammer, for example, and some coffee table tomes about special effects and horror) but my interest is in my response to what I see on the screen, regardless of what cinéastes and auteurs might think about the medium as a whole. So don't expect deep semiotic analysis, or a comprehensive knowledge of everything from Lumière to Loach via Laughton.

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