Monday 20 December 2010

My most memorable movie viewing experiences #5...

Uni Years:

The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941):
When – Autumn 2002
Where – Campus Screening Room
Why – My three years doing my degree in Film & Television Studies was a time when my eyes were opened to a whole host of films that I would have never watched beforehand, and one of the big new things for me was in the first semester of the first year on the Key Issues In Film Studies course when we had a print screening of the Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon. My mid-semester essay was to do with the style of the film, and I became a Bogart fan – consuming Casablanca (one of my all time favourite films, along with The Maltese Falcon), Key Largo, and The Big Sleep in quick succession in the following weeks – and as a result of this tale of Sam Spade, the 1940s has become one of my favourite periods of cinematic history.

Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998):
When – Mid-2000s
Where – Off-Campus Bedroom
Why – While I’d already seen the movie a handful of times since not long after its original release, it was during the Lucas & Spielberg course that I came to do an essay on the opening Omaha Beach sequence – a shot-by-shot breakdown in fact, and when you consider how many shots there are in that first 25 minute sequence, it was an arduous task. Every few seconds I’d be pausing the DVD – sat there in my cramped 6ft by 8ft bedroom – and writing down exactly what was happening on screen and how it would fit into my analysis. I’ve rarely studied a sequence in that much detail, and as a result producing that essay has stuck in my mind ever since.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982):
When – Mid-2000s
Where – Campus Screening Room
Why – Again during the Lucas & Spielberg course, one of the weeks focussed on E.T. – a film that I’d enjoyed as a kid, but for some reason had come to really quite dislike during my teenage years … I’m not entirely sure why, but I was so switched-off to the movie for some reason. Quite to my surprise then, was when we watched the movie together as a class, and I got totally invested in it. What’s more, it actually choked me up, and as a result my opinion of the movie (which had become bitter for no discernable reason) performed a total 180.

La Jetee (Chris Marker, 1962):
When – Mid-2000s
Where – Campus Screening Room
Why – During the Photography & The Arts course, on which I did an in-depth analysis of the visual language of Antonioni’s Blow-Up, a film which really struck me was La Jetee – the film which went on to inspire Twelve Monkeys. The music, the static visuals in their high contrast black and white brilliance, the dark and weird sci-fi plot – it all left a lasting impression.

Saw (James Wan, 2004):
When – 2004
Where – Off-Campus Bedroom
Why – It’s easy to forget now, as a result of annual sequels of diminishing quality, clarity and box office draw, that the original Saw was a grotesquely dark and brilliant indie horror flick that came like a bolt out of the blue. It was truly chilling in its approach to truly chilling subject matter; its violence was stunningly graphic (and not at all expected or old hat as what the sequels produced), and the big reveal at the end literally left my jaw slung low with shock – in fact that entire reveal, brilliant industrial score included (which still sends shivers down my spine to this day), haunted my mind for quite some time afterwards.

Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971):
When – Mid-2000s
Where – Campus Seminar Room
Why – Less of a viewing of the movie, and more a group presentation of a theory regarding one particular sequence. Once again on the Lucas & Spielberg course, my group and I had drawn the latter’s stunningly gripping debut chase movie, and we proceeded to – jokingly – argue that the entire movie was an allegory for male rape. We argued (with the rest of the class in on the joke, but not the lecturer, whose Modus Operandi for reading movies consistently skewed towards more Freudian territory) that the great big brute of a truck was raping the effeminate little red car and that it was all to do with sexual dominance in the male species.

Now, there is an argument that can be made for such a reading, or part of such a reading – and we were half-serious about it – but it was this deliberate, joking escalation of the theory into perverse territory that has become one of my fondest memories of film school. In fact the lecturer rather liked our theory!

Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004):
When – Spring 2005
Where – Off-Campus Living Room
Why – During the spring semester of our final year at university, tensions and divisions were beginning to present themselves within our group of four in our off-campus house. Personally I found the final six months of university to be quite a stressful time for various reasons, and after a few blow-outs amongst the group, we needed something to regain the sense of fun and unity that had summed up the first two years of our time at uni.

That movie was Napoleon Dynamite and it was introduced to us all by one housemate who was quite taken with it. We sat down to watch it – a background tension in the air – and within twenty minutes we were all laughing uproariously at the quirky indie-com. The movie became the last big thing that we as a house were all about, and we watched it many times – practically quoting the script verbatim as it would play, and not even when we were watching it, just during a normal day. It was such a thing of the moment, for me at least, that I’ve not yet re-watched the movie since – only the odd moment here or there when it’s been on television – however, when I do, I’m sure it’ll take me vividly right back to those final weeks of university when everything got back on track in the house and we all got that sense of fun back.

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