“[The] French critic Gérard Legrand in 1963 suggested that there is a something rather delicate and difficult about revealing one’s list of favourite films – as if one were a sexual fetishist suddenly caught in the spotlight, hopelessly having to rationalise to a vast, uncomprehending and merciless audience, the inscrutable logical of one’s private, surreal obsession” – Adrian Martin, Canon
My interest in cinema has always been a hermetical affair, that cannot be reduced to the objective standards of evaluation adopted by many contemporary critics. In my experience, nothing can be gained from discussing films in the detached manner of extremes. e.g. ‘masterpieces’ and ‘failures’. These peaks serve only to overlook the individual’s unique response in favour of tired, sweeping condemnation or praise. When I talk about cinema with my contemporaries, my interest is their reaction and how they rationalise it. Without this reaction, watching films is a futile endeavour reduced to a vacuous absorption of images and sound.
The Cinematic Canon below has everything to do with my own idiosyncratic response to personal loves and obsessions, and nothing to do with the so-called critical objectivity outlined above.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR CANON:
I. The Cinephile as the Aesthete – While I agree “to love the cinema is to love all cinema”, my Canon does not adhere to this rule like Jonathan Rosenbaum’s ‘1000 Essential Films’ and is instead built around my proclivities towards certain directors, genres and themes. An unfortunate consequence of this rule is there are an abundance of films, that I am unable to include on this list– In the future I may formulate a supplementary list for these titles for now this seems right.
II. My Little Loves – I can’t accurately pinpoint when my cinematic infatuation began since it wasn’t one cathartic revelation but a series of little ones over time. From my first viewing of ‘Mary Poppins’ at age four to a Charles Chaplin marathon at age 17, I am indebted to these past cinema-selves for allowing me to shape my ever-growing aesthetics. As such, I have chosen to include a few formative titles that continue to stir deep emotions on this list.
III. Sharing is Caring – There are fewer greater acts of devotion than sharing your favourite films with those who you love. When I’ve watched films from my friends Canons, it is as though I am seeing secluded parts of them – their hopes, desires and fascinations play out on the screen. Likewise, it is my hope atleast one person will be encouraged by this list to seek out some of my favourites and seek to understand what moves me.
1. Jacques Demy – I first watched ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ (1964) in January 2016 and never before had a film viewing reached such intense emotional heights. During it’s brisk 90 minute runtime, I sat with my mouth agape unable to hold back tears – enamoured with Demy’s tender, romantic approach to cinema. For me this physical reactions say more than words can.
2. Peter Bogdanovich – Bogdanovich is the bridge between the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ and the ‘New Hollywood’; His films evoke the works of the pioneers that came before him [Hawks, Ford, Welles] while remaining unique within themselves. His 1981 film ‘They All Laughed’ is my cinematic ideal and was the first film to ever make me cry tears of unadulterated joy.
3. Joyous/Melancholy – ‘Maybe happiness makes me sad’; this is a feeling that lingers throughout many of my Canonical favourites, an intense joy that is followed by melancholy (or vice versa). The perfect example of this is in ‘They All Laughed’ (1981) when Charles [John Ritter] and Dolores [Dorothy Stratten] get their ‘happily ever after’ in the club, this scene of delight is instantly juxtaposed with the sorrowful finale goodbye of Johnny [Ben Gazzara] and Sofia [Audery Hepburn].
4. Musical – Ever since I watched ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964) I always thought life would me more beautiful if people sung their feelings. Eighteen years later and the musical is still my nearest and dearest genre. – From Demy to Minnelli, music and technicolor were a match made in heaven.