Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Great Cinema: Lesson 2 - Get Started Now

Your first assignment as a budding connoisseur of the world’s greatest movies or “cinephile” is to watch Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring”, Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and Frederico Fellini’s “La Strada.” You don’t have to watch them in that order or even in the original Swedish, Japanese and Italian, with subtitles. This assignment is not some indication that these are the three greatest films ever made. I provide these three films simply to allow these directors the opportunity to teach you how watching a movie can be a truly life-changing event. If you are unable to sit through through any one of these three movies, perhaps you might want to go back to television sit-coms or modern blockbuster movies.

I want to be very clear from the start. Really great movies are “moving” in every possible way. If  you let them, some movies will crawl under your skin and stay there, for the rest of your life. This is a good thing, for Bergman will teach you an entirely new way to experience what it means to be a human, Kurosawa will demonstrate how great actors act and Fellini will just make you cry like a young lover again and again.

Throughout the duration of this course, we are going to dig deep into even more complex movies than these three great films. You will gain a greater appreciation for many directors currently making movies. I will teach you very little or nothing, I am merely opening doors into classrooms where the most fantastic professors stand waiting to teach you at any time of any day.

If these movies happen to be playing at an Art Movie house in your city, by all means see them on the big screen. Otherwise rent the DVD or stream the movie from Netflix or another source. There are versions with the English language dubbed in, I don’t doubt those versions convey a similar message. I have not watched all of them in English, I rarely can stand to watch any foreign movie with the actor’s original voices dubbed over with some other voice. Watching a movie entirely with subtitles is a skill you must acquire to appreciate the best cinema productions.

There is no point in kidding anyone about this effort you are about to undertake. An appreciation of the best directors, movies, and actors will take time and effort. Many great movies are lengthy, few were originally made in English, most were made with black and white film. You will not like every movie you watch. There are chase scenes, love scenes, horror scenes and of course comedy, sometimes all in the same movie. There are scenes in each movie that will terribly confuse you at first. Each director stamps scenes with almost mysterious precision. You must watch two or three movies by the great directors to comprehend the depths of their perceptions.

There is a pot of gold brimming over at the end of this effort, I can assure you of that without a doubt. It is a reward steeped in human understanding, compassion and heartfelt emotion. You will walk down any street with a greater understanding of what it means to be alive, simply for having watched the movies I am about to introduce to you. Trust me, it is worth the great effort it will take. See you back here soon! 

Note: If you rent the DVD of Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” be sure to listen to Ingmar Bergman’s October 31, 1975 speech at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California. This speech was part of the the Harold Lloyd Master Seminars. It is a treasure of knowledge about film-making.

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