Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Desert Island Discs

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Desert Island Discs

 
All movie buffs have asked themselves that question sooner or later, a variation of the same question audiophiles, bookworms, and other assorted enthusiasts have posed: were I stranded on a desert island, accompanied only by a solar-powered TV and DVD player, what proud few movies would accompany me into the wilderness? In the age of streaming video, this may seem a quaint, unnecessarily limited exercise - after all, even desert islands have wifi, right?

Well, I find myself in a unique predicament - soon to move, packing lightly, and with no computer, TV, or DVD player for the foreseeable future. When I am eventually watching movies again, it will probably be because I'm buying new equipment "out there," not because I sent for what I left behind. Which means that the bulk of my collection will still be on the other side of the country.

With that in mind, I wondered: assuming I find myself once again with a DVD player, but without (most) of my current DVDs, what small selection would I want to bring with me, just to keep me company in that dark age between purchase of player and shipping of discs? Like a monk in a monastery, what cinematic texts will I hover over to keep the flame alive?

A misleading question, because as any desert-island-game-player knows, the question is not which works are most essential for the human race, the history of the medium, or the record of the form's heights, but rather which ones do I want the most for my own personal enjoyment? There's nothing more subjective than these games, especially what they are for real and not just pretend.

To my surprise, I avoided cinematic comfort food and gravitated instead to movies that excite me and make me passionate. The movies I most want by my side are not the ones that remind me of home, or pick me up when I'm down (only a handful of these are "feel-good" films). I would rather have them motivate me, make me feel inspired or moved or thrilled, make me want to make something myself, something worthy of their influence in some small way.

So then, here's what filled my small blue CD packet, with only 24 spaces. Much that I hoped for got crowded out, and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself in a few months, wondering why on earth I left out The Third Man, the Astaire-Rogers musicals, worst of all, Mulholland Drive (I'll be Lynchless!) (oh, I made room). Why? Because at the time of the selection I felt I would prefer to watch, and get more out of, these titles.

The Mirror (1974), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Pandora's Box (1929), directed by G.W. Pabst (stars Louise Brooks)
The Collected Films of the Brothers Quay (1980s & 90s)
Civilisation: Episodes 9 - 12 (1969), hosted by Kenneth Clark 
(these episodes cover the Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement)
Mulholland Drive (2001), directed by David Lynch
Scarface (1983), directed by Brian De Palma
The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II (1974), directed by Francis Ford Coppola (two discs)
42nd Street (1933), directed by Lloyd Bacon (choreographed by Busby Berkeley)
The Experimental Films of Maya Deren (1940s & 50s)
Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Band of Outsiders (1964), directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Lawrence of Arabia (1962), directed by David Lean (two discs)
Fists in the Pocket (1965), directed by Marco Bellochio
Masculin Feminin (1966), directed by Jean-Luc Godard
The Work of Michel Gondry (1990s & 00s)
Gimme Shelter (1970), directed by the Maysles Brothers (stars Rolling Stones)
My Night at Maud's (1969), directed by Eric Rohmer
The Big Lebowski (1998), directed by the Coen Brothers
Easy Rider (1969), directed by Dennis Hopper
It's a Wonderful Life (1946), directed by Frank Capra
Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles

And I have an assortment of others in a separate small case, needed for planned blogging exercises that will probably arise before I've relocated my collection. But those are different - necessities, whereas these are essentials.

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