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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 3:55 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
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Starting from the beginning is only good advice if you're planning to follow through to the end. It's terrible advice if someone's just looking to get a taste before deciding to commit. 90% of people do the latter.

Plus, watching earlier films in the context of later films is usually more rewarding than vice versa.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 4:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am
I think chronological is taking the Auteur theory a little too seriously. With the internet, you can easily get suggestions as to a representative work, and investigate further as desired. With the exception of the French New Wave I can't think of too many debuts that remain definitive works.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 4:25 pm 
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I recently watched all thirteen of Jean-Pierre Melville's films in chronological order, and I agree - knowing in advance that he'd eventually make Le Samouraï and Army of Shadows made a huge difference to my appreciation of the earlier work. Especially the films like When You Read This Letter and Two Men in Manhattan that don't quite come off - you get much more out of them if you have at least some advance inkling of what the mature masterpieces will look like,


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 4:39 pm 
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Where did you find When You Read This Letter? That's the only of his films I haven't seen.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 7:08 pm 
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There's the Gaumont à la demande DVD and fansubs online.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 7:13 pm 
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Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 8:08 pm 
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Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK
I think I actually started with Sam Peckinpah with his final film The Osterman Weekend, which is a very deeply flawed film, but which shows enough flashes of style, interesting cutting and attention to performances that it inspired me to go back and look at some of his other films. Actually while writing that, I remembered that I had half seen The Wild Bunch a couple of years before The Osterman Weekend but it didn't really 'click' with me on that viewing (and I knew full well about its 'masterpiece' and 'five star' credentials at the time), so while Wild Bunch might have probably been the 'better' or 'more officially approved' starting point, it still took seeing Peckinpah's final compromised film to capture my interest.

I think that also gets into a debate about properly 'appreciating' a film, if that doesn't sound too pompous and elitist (And I'd never use this form of phrasing about anyone beyond myself, I hasten to add! Despite what happened in that Contempt thread a while back!). I could say that I've seen all sorts of films by a particular director but did I really engage with the film on that viewing, or miss the point entirely? What mysterious combination of viewing circumstances, attention being held by the film and understanding of the narrative of the film and the wider placing of the film in the context of where it fits in cinema or a director's/actor's/set designer's/etc career caused me to appreciate something when at a different time, in different circumstances I probably would not have really been that interested, or missed what a film might have to offer? I'm not sure, but I do think that points to the (enjoyable) importance of not giving up on something straight away, whether that is a new filmmaker, or film movement (like mumblecore!) if you don't appreciate it straight away. I love going back to films over the years and seeing how my reaction to them has changed over time, for better or worse. And if for worse, it might change back for the better on another re-visit!

So I wouldn't really know how to respond to telling someone where to start. I'd probably just say "this is the most highly acclaimed film by a director", "this is the strangest", and suggest a few titles that I think a particular person might like based on what I might know about their interests. But I would qualify any of those recommendations by saying to not give up if a particular film is not to their liking - maybe try a different one in the future, or come back to the same film later and see how you feel about it then. Nobody has to like everything, but it is important to be open to possibilities of being surprised by a different film by a filmmaker or by your reaction to the same film that you may not have liked that much at some point in the future.

This doesn't really help in suggesting starting points for new viewers (except to just encourage them to dive in and see what they get out of the experience, if anything). In a way if a filmmaker is good enough their style and personality comes through in any film that they make, even if it is compromised, flawed and 'not good' in a whole number of ways. Starting with the most acclaimed, commercial or polished works can also sometimes mislead an audience member about the filmmaker as well - what if a filmmaker made one highly commercial, Hollywood-style work and then went back to black and white avant-garde, non-narrative shorts? Would the more 'accessible' film then be the best indicator of their overall style to a newcomer to their work? What if what we 'appreciate' about the film is entirely different from what the filmmaker's concerns are? Does that make their film successful or not, and on whose terms?

I guess I would agree it might not be best to rigidly limit yourself to watching all the early Bergman films first, or refuse to watch anything out of chronological order of a director's or actor's career as a first exposure to their style, and so on, but then even those films can show flashes or elements that refine themselves over the course of a career and are never entirely worthless. Indeed if you find you like Jean-Pierre Melville's films then it would be extremely exciting to track down When You Receive This Letter or Two Men In Manhattan, knowing that they might not be as polished as more acclaimed films (Though even there you can be surprised when a filmmaker's best film has gone undistributed or unacclaimed. It is little like finding a lost jewel!), and be able to experience more of his works, even if they might not have reached the same level of accolade or achievement (by whose standards?)

I suppose what I am getting at is that there is no 'right place' to start that is universally applicable to every filmmaker, filmic trend or movement, or actor and so on. Even setting aside problems of availability which mean that even if I wanted to there would be no way that I could decide to sit down and watch Nicole Kidman's entire oeuvre from start to finish over a weekend, would that tell me any more about her development than jumping from her meeting Tom Cruise in Days Of Heaven across to Birth, back to her Australian breakthrough in Dead Calm, getting disappointed by The Stepford Wives remake, and enjoying BMX Bandits, before letting off cathartic steam with Dogville, might?

Anything goes really - it is great to be able to follow an actor or director's career from beginnings through to success. It is just as exciting to see a great film and then realise that there are a host of other films that have led to that which can be explored also and help deepen appreciation (zedz's example of Assayas is a great one here, as he is a director whose films often feel as if they beautifully resonate thematically with each other, despite extreme-seeming differences in their subject matter). While I think the auteur theory is extremely problematic if approached as the be all and end all of film appreciation, I can see how that idea grows out of trying to make a case for a wholistic view of a director's career and the themes that might run through it, rather than just looking at individual films. I might not be able to do that with a only few films to work from early in a director's career, but then isn't it just as good to see the way that our reactions as audiences towards a filmmaker and their works might change and develop over time in tandem with their releasing new works as it would be to wait until they were retired or passed on to finally be able to deal with their career as a whole? (Although I can see also the attraction of being able to see an entire director's career encapsulated - no more, no less - at which point I could then play with theories about their work without worrying that the living director might pop up to refute my claims about the significance of the colour blue in their films by either saying that it was a silly idea that they had never consciously intended in interviews, or by blithely going on to make an entire film without the colour blue in it, leading to my having to rapidly rework my thesis to incorporate a new chapter on the director moving into a 'red phase' of their career!)

Then there are the inevitable questions of availability. If Yi Yi is the only film available by Edward Yang, and it so happens that it is his final one (and perhaps paradoxically, or maybe not with the refinement of his style, his most accessible), do you need to worry that you haven't seen all of his previous works to properly 'appreciate' a first viewing? No, any film, unless a sequel (though even then...!) should hopefully be approachable by a completely neophyte audience (cynically so perhaps, so as to maximise potential viewership by not alienating a wide audience who likely haven't seen the previous films in the series and/or researched the film and its makers in depth beforehand!), but obviously a familiarity with the previous work can add extra little resonances - resonances that can often be there to be found from whatever point you start to journey into their films.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 8:56 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
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I never look for ideal starting points or representative films when getting into a director. I just pick the film that sounds the most interesting. I don't really care if it's the director's least representative accessible film, I go with what stands out to me immediately. Even something that I've been assured will be an interesting failure might be the one that draws me to it the most, maybe even because it's a failure. There is no careful planning; my starting point is entirely based on whim and impulse. A nice by-product of this is that I'm forced to reserve judgement on a director until I've seen a fairly large representative selection, given that my starting points are not necessarily going to be a good reflection of the whole.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2013 9:06 pm 
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I always thought this was one of the more interesting aborted listing threads


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 1:48 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 27, 2006 10:26 pm
Location: Over Yonder
Actually - I really *didn't* like early Almodovar (I'm really not a slapstick kind of person, and he's got those elements). So I was pleasantly surprised when I went to see Live Flesh with no huge expectations and loved it.

We've been best buddies ever since (well, mostly).

I have to say, I went through a Fellini specialty forum on another board. We chronologically covered most of his movies (those who had helped out those who didn't), and there was even one guy: obnoxious, but he had some direct link with Fellini and his wife. Really good conversations all around. *That*was one of the most enthralling forums I've ever been involved with.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 3:25 pm 
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I've actually been wanting to check out Almodovar (I've never seen any of his stuff). Does anyone have any other recommendations on where to start?


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 3:27 pm 
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Bad Education was my first and still favorite though that might be too extreme for some. Perhaps Talk to Her or All About My Mother would be 'safest'.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 3:53 pm 
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knives wrote:
Bad Education was my first and still favorite though that might be too extreme for some. Perhaps Talk to Her or All About My Mother would be 'safest'.


Thanks!

I thought I had checked before for an Almodovar box and came up empty, but now I see Amazon has a Viva Pedro box. Reviews seemed very positive, so I picked it up. It has all the films that have been mentioned so far.

Tying this back to the original topic, I'll probably end up watching these chronologically, since now that I've paid for the films I'm much more likely to force myself to sit through all of them even if I don't like the earliest ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Where Do I Start?
PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2013 3:58 pm 
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The films in the Viva Pedro box are a great introduction to Almodovar. It excludes the more recent, very chilly films and the earlier, anarchic films, but gives you enough grounding in his work to allow you to approach those films.


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