Where Do I Start?

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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CSM126
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Where Do I Start?

#1 Post by CSM126 » Tue May 21, 2013 2:33 pm

I always find these starting point discussions weird. It seems obvious to me that the best place to start with any director is with their first movie (if you can). You know, the way the rest of the world did at the time.

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TMDaines
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#2 Post by TMDaines » Tue May 21, 2013 3:56 pm

How is that particularly relevant unless you're planning to do an overview of an entire director's oeuvre? Besides, it's not as if the rest of the world watches films in a strict chronological order, making sure that they commence watching the work of a new director from his first effort onwards.

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zedz
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#3 Post by zedz » Tue May 21, 2013 3:59 pm

This is surely a topic for a spin-off thread, but although that's a nice idea from an auteurist perspective (and I love exploring a new-to-me filmmaker from the start, from scratch), it's often going to be a disaster in practice, especially if the idea is to get somebody else enthused about a great director. Take Bergman, for example: how many middling, muddling melodramas could you take before you throw in the towel and figure that nothing important's going to happen there?

And if you think "the rest of the world" is following every filmmaker from their first film, you're barking up the wrong tree. Ray is a rare instance of a filmmaker with no pedigree attracting international attention with his very first film. (Hey, how about that: TM and I are on the same page!)

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TMDaines
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#4 Post by TMDaines » Tue May 21, 2013 4:03 pm

I'm trying to do it with Pasolini but I now need to buy my first DVD-R. I tend to find it's more fruitful for the works of a director during a certain period than across their entire oeuvre, especially if they were rather productive.

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knives
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#5 Post by knives » Tue May 21, 2013 4:06 pm

Though in that case nearly all of his work is easy to get (especially on your side of the pond) so it's just a matter of money. Look at the poor slob trying to watch all of Mekas' films.

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CSM126
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#6 Post by CSM126 » Tue May 21, 2013 4:09 pm

I'm just saying, are any of you going to tell your friends not to bother checking out, say, Ramin Bahrain because you don't yet have the benefit of hindsight to decide which of his films is/was truly the best one? Should I just wait for a director to retire or die before I watch any of their films because the ones that are out might one day be eclipsed by one that hasn't been made yet, one that will prove a better starting point?

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knives
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#7 Post by knives » Tue May 21, 2013 4:12 pm

There's a difference between a living director and a dead one which already presents a fallacy in your argument. Secondly in your example I probably wouldn't recommend his first film first if just because it is so hard to find.

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CSM126
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#8 Post by CSM126 » Tue May 21, 2013 4:14 pm

It's just a logical extension of the argument.

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knives
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#9 Post by knives » Tue May 21, 2013 4:18 pm

The problem being that your argument is starting from an illogical place that is and has been easily disproved.

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zedz
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#10 Post by zedz » Tue May 21, 2013 4:35 pm

CSM126 wrote:I'm just saying, are any of you going to tell your friends not to bother checking out, say, Ramin Bahrain because you don't yet have the benefit of hindsight to decide which of his films is/was truly the best one? Should I just wait for a director to retire or die before I watch any of their films because the ones that are out might one day be eclipsed by one that hasn't been made yet, one that will prove a better starting point?
How has this got anything to do with your original point? If I want to recommend a film by a living director I'll, um, pick one which is really good, reasonably representative and - one hopes - generally well regarded. Assayas is all over the place in terms of approach and technique (in a good way), but suggesting that a newcomer samples Irma Vep and Summer Hours will give them a good sense of his skills, interests and range. If L'eau froide were readily available, that would be another option. On the other hand, I don't think he's at the top of his game with Clean; Demonlover is more in the 'advanced studies' zone, with a greater chance that it would put off people it didn't click with; and Carlos is a bigger time commitment for the undecided as well as being a little less distinctive in terms of filmmaking. All of these decisions can be made rationally without having to make a once-and-for-all determination of what will be considered his 'best film' in twenty years time. And in all this, I'm pretty sure that "you should really try and hunt down his earliest, sketchiest features - which aren't available with English subtitles" is the worst possible advice to offer a potential convert.

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Drucker
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#11 Post by Drucker » Tue May 21, 2013 4:44 pm

CSM, My problem with your point would be the statement "start at the top like the rest of the world did." Surely as time goes on directors frequently get more renowned, then better distribution, and then better resources. So in addition to what has already been said, the idea that "everyone" saw the films in order is crazy. Hell, by the time The Searchers came out, fans of some of Ford's earliest films were dead!

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CSM126
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#12 Post by CSM126 » Tue May 21, 2013 5:00 pm

Of course not everyone starts at the beginning, but a lot would have. All I'm really saying is that starting at the beginning makes the most sense to me if you're really gonna worry about such things. I do it when I can. I guess I like watching a filmmaker's development over time.

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Murdoch
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#13 Post by Murdoch » Tue May 21, 2013 5:13 pm

Well, if you're going to start watching a director's oeuvre when you already have an interest in delving into his/her work, I can understand starting at the beginning. However, I think when someone asks "what should I watch first?" the person recommending a title is balancing something that doesn't require great familiarity with the director's style with the desire to find a title that will likely encourage the viewer to watch more based on that experience. Starting from the beginning may turn a viewer off from that director's work. As zedz acknowledged, the question of approaching a director's oeuvre is not so much "where should I start?" as it is "what would I like?"

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Brian C
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#14 Post by Brian C » Tue May 21, 2013 5:53 pm

I can scarcely think of any directors that I did start at the beginning with, whether they're living or dead. I guess every now and then someone comes along and makes a name for themselves with their first feature (Rian Johnson and Jeff Nichols are two recent American examples, although even in the case of the latter Shotgun Stories barely got a US release, which I guess makes him a bad example), but even if you're paying attention it's easy to miss the first one. Hell, I didn't even see Bottle Rocket until after I had seen Rushmore.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#15 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue May 21, 2013 6:08 pm

I'm assuming everybody starts from the beginning with Kubrick, right?

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jindianajonz
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#16 Post by jindianajonz » Tue May 21, 2013 6:23 pm

I don't bother watching movies unless I've tracked down all the director's student films.

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knives
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#17 Post by knives » Tue May 21, 2013 6:32 pm

I'm still waiting to see any Murnau until they find Emerald of Death

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Brian C
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#18 Post by Brian C » Tue May 21, 2013 6:32 pm

Check that, I did start at the beginning of Charles Laughton's directorial career.

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jindianajonz
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#19 Post by jindianajonz » Tue May 21, 2013 6:38 pm

On a less sarcastic note, I do see where you are coming from CSM, but I agree with the rest that it's often difficult to "start from the beginning" on on a director when oftentimes the worthwhile stuff isn't until the end. I recently began watching Kurosawa from start to finish, and I can assure you that if his early work was what I had first been exposed to, I probably wouldn't have lasted beyond his first 5 films.

I think watching everything in order is a great thing to do once you've established that you're already a fan of the director, but if you are coming in totally fresh, the early stuff may turn you away.

Now, in this particular instance, I think Ray's early films have gotten enough acclaim that I would be comfortable starting them from the beginning. Then again, I say this as somebody who has only seen the Music Room, so what do I know?

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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#20 Post by sherlockjr » Tue May 21, 2013 6:44 pm

Brian C wrote:Check that, I did start at the beginning of Charles Laughton's directorial career.
good one

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Moe Dickstein
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#21 Post by Moe Dickstein » Tue May 21, 2013 6:46 pm

So I don't have to wait for them to find "The Mountain Eagle" to watch more Hitchcock? Wasn't so sure about him after "The Pleasure Garden" but people just have the most marvelous things to say about him...

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zedz
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#22 Post by zedz » Tue May 21, 2013 7:45 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:I'm assuming everybody starts from the beginning with Kubrick, right?
If only I'd done that I would have spared myself The Shining.

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Lowry_Sam
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#23 Post by Lowry_Sam » Wed May 22, 2013 1:44 am

...and you can't watch Warhol's Chelsea Girls or The Velvet Underground and Nico until you've sat through all 8 hours of Empire.

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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#24 Post by MichaelB » Wed May 22, 2013 2:10 am

How many quota quickies did Michael Powell make? Still, some of those are lost, and the rest only ran an hour or so, so you should be able to get through them in a day or two.

Oh, and don't even think about tackling Women in Love or The Devils until you've sat through all 32 of Ken Russell's early BBC films. (Which I'd actually strongly recommend, but I'm not blind to the logistical challenges!)

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who is bobby dylan
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Re: 668-669 The Big City and Charulata

#25 Post by who is bobby dylan » Wed May 22, 2013 1:24 pm

Just to join the pile on:
I always find these starting point discussions weird. It seems obvious to me that the best place to start with any director is with their first movie (if you can). You know, the way the rest of the world did at the time.
Several problems with this well intentioned statement. I think I'm right in assuming that most people don't start with a director's first film and then follow their career, if for no other reason than that most people are not concerned with directors in the first place, but with actors and genres.

That said, among cinephiles, I would imagine that most are like me, they may start with a director's first film, if that film is well known, Citizen Kane, Breathless, etc. but are likely to start with whatever is the best known and easily accessible of that director's work regardless of where it falls in a timeline. Apologies if I'm incorrect in assuming this and most others experiences vary wildly.

I agree that once you have an interest in a director it may make sense to watch the remaining films in chronological order. I also agree, that this stance more or less makes sense with contemporary directors, but is sort of foolish, when you think about it, to apply to films of the past.

If you actually wanted to watch films as the way the rest of the world did at the time (impossible and meaningless, since film going experience varies widely), that would entail a host of concessions I doubt the original poster follows. If you were to carry it to its logical conclusion, you would avoid watching most films, since not all films were originally available everywhere, you would avoid director's cuts, since most screenings would have featured edited if not bastardized versions of the film, you would watch all films in order, films from the 00's, teens, etc. year be year, meaning you would never likely get to films from the 60's, 70's etc because you would have waited the 70 years, like people originally did and would be dead.

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