Just The A’s
As part of my life laundry, I’m attempting to be more selective in my viewing/ reading and therefore getting rid of anything that has dated badly. Or in the case of Spike Milligan’s ‘Q’ shows (a very long-running anarchic comedy sketch series), very badly indeed, with its comedy blackface and sexism not really making up for its rampant peculiarity.
In many cases I’m opening boxes filled with DVDs for the first time in years, and a quick glance confirms my personal preferences. I’m shocked that, apart from MCUs, there are hardly any American films here, probably because I wasn’t really raised on them. There’s an awful lot of SF/fantasy/horror. The only romcoms are, tellingly, French and Spanish, the action films are Nordic, Latino and Korean, the SF films Russian.
Many of the films I’ve kept are because I had direct experience of their making. For example, when Jude Law was rehearsing for Steven Spielberg’s ‘AI: Artificial Intelligence’ he told me he had spent a month learning to tap-dance before Spielberg cut the sequence – you can see where it’s missing.
A film buddy agrees with my often dubious taste in movies and admits that he doesn’t have many Hollywood films either. ‘It’s all the guns,’ he says. ‘Nearly every American film has guns in.’ Of course that doesn’t make them bad, but there’s a reason why I never use guns in novels; it’s an easy, lazy way of kickstarting plots. Having said that, the use of guns in films has lately spread from America to Europe and SE Asia.
The US films I’ve kept include Winter’s Bone, Harold & Maude, Harry & Tonto, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Producers. Does this terrifying huge collection of DVDs give me a glimmer of an insight into my subconscience? I’m not so sure. Under the A’s we have;
Aniara (Nordic SF)
Ali Baba – (French musical)
After The Dark – (Thailand SF)
Anatomie 1 & 2 (German thrillers)
Adam & Paul (Irish comic-drama)
Along With The Gods 1 & 2 (Korean fantasy)
Agora (Spanish – historical)
Angel-A (French fantasy)
Adam’s Apple (Nordic drama)
Avalon (Polish SF)
To put this in perspective there are at least another two hundred and fifty films in the A category, including just four Hollywood titles. The origins of the films never came to my attention when I was choosing them; they made the collection because I liked their stories. Not all of them are any good, of course. Perhaps I was swayed by the marketing.
I saw ‘Four Flies on Grey Velvet’ dubbed in my local cinema as a teen, and one Hollywood critic described it (filed under ‘A’ because of the director) as ‘the creative visionary’s lost masterpiece’, but that was definitely pushing it a bit. It’s a passable B-movie based on a very silly premise, but I still have it, along with all of Argento’s other films, even the real stinkers, ie. everything after ‘Phenomena’.
The reason why Hollywood and international films had a level playing ground is that I had equal access to both, and watching a film from the US or Argentina made no difference to me because they were both alien cultures. My collection of British films showed familiar locations, but more importantly familiar characters and attitudes. There were an inordinate number of scenes featuring people in offices, and I quite liked that.
Of course the real difference began at the dawn of cinema. In the US stories were based on sensation and experience and forward action. They hardly needed dialogue at all. Hollywood has always been good at cherry-picking European talent, so for example, the Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock films feel more like European movies.
Many international films have had a profound effect on me because they’re actually about something I can understand. After watching the French-Mexican thriller ‘New Order’ (2020) I still feel distinctly wary whenever I see a can of green paint. ‘Avalon’ was a very different take on virtual reality, and the ‘Anatomie’ films (starring Franka Potente from ‘Run, Lola, Run’) no longer seems fantastical with present-day medical breakthroughs.
Tomorrow I start culling the Bs.