I announced that I would publish a list of the ten most influential films of all time. My favorite aunt would have told me that I was biting off more than I could chew. I know now that I was promising more than I can produce at this time.
Influential films. Influential how? — and influential when? Out of a lifetime of watching, I have ferreted out at least nineteen titles, and I am possessed of a strong feeling that I am only scratching the surface of viewing and knowledge. My preliminary list includes The Lonely Villa (1908); Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) and Easy Rider (1969) but does not contain Citizen Kane on the ground that it has yet to have specific influence on filmmaking. (Do I hear someone screaming, “Deep focus!”?) Or is it sufficient influence to have inspired generations of filmmakers and raised the consciousness and elevated the appreciation of countless viewers, critics and historians? These same questions are appropriately asked of The Battleship Potemkin.
How much does influencing Hollywood filmmakers have to do with influencing cinema? This is a different question from asking to what extent has Hollywood influenced all international cinema? Not necessarily good Hollywood movies have had vast impact on culture and popular culture across the globe. But how many Andrew Sarrises among us would agree about what I might consider a not necessarily good Hollywood movie? And how often has European or Asian filmmaking really influenced any of Hollywood’s films? Hasn’t that influence more often than not been characterized by a superficial cafeteria-style randomness?
Within the next several weeks I hope to find the courage to submit a personal list of world cinema’s most influential motion pictures, at which time I hope my readers will have at me, especially by submitting lists of their own.
MOVIES ARE EVERYWHERE
In Nevil Shutes’s novel An Old Captivity, Alix and Donald, rapidly falling in love, are comparing notes on their previous experiences. Alix tells him: “I’ve never been in love. Not since I was a schoolgirl, and in love with Leslie Howard.” (An Old Captivity, c1940 by William Morrow.)
Next FRIDAY post August 1
See you at the movies