Day 244: ‘8 Months Gone with 4 Months to Go’ + ‘Week 3 of 1964-1965 with David Stratton’

‘8 Months Gone with 4 Months to Go’

I suppose when someone tries to define important milestones in a project or within a year, it would be one-quarter and three-quarters, and one-third and two-thirds, and halfway. If you have a goal, then at times like these it’s necessary to see how you’re travelling and whether you’re on target to achieve your deliverables or annual objectives and if you have incentives, earn your bonus.

If the 2012 BFI (S&S) List is the target I’m hoping to achieve then I’ve got 57 more films to see and I’ve only seen 43 out of the 100 films in 34 weeks. But when I get to Tarkovsky, Godard, Welles and Fellini, I know I will knock off sixteen films in four weeks (28 days) if I’m very strict about my progress. That leaves 41 films to watch in 13 weeks which is an average of three per week. As I look back on 37 weeks of viewing I see that I have heavily concentrated on foreign-language films (or if you not from an English speaking country: non-English-language films). Billy Wilder, Orson Welles and the one-off directors are still to come, but so is the daunting task of the famous Russian, the famous Italian and the famous French directors + Welles. Given my knowledge of what happened to me when I started digging into Bergman, Bresson, Antonioni, Ozu, Kurosawa and Mizoguchi, I can see that it isn’t going to be something I can do by assigning Tarkovsky, Godard, Welles and Fellini just one-week each as my plan is to watch four Tarkovsky films, eight Godard films, five Fellini films and seven Welles films. I’m also planning to watch five John Cassavetes films because he features heavily in the 2012 BFI (S&S) Directors List. Plus at least five Bunuel films.

Then there are the films that I’ve seen before in the Top 100 Films Ever Made or Top 150 Films Ever Made or Top 200 Films Ever Made. I need to give equal time and brain energy to films that I know well by watching them in the context of all the new films. That means I need to watch North by Northwest, Rear Window, Sunset Blvd, Some Like it Hot, Lawrence of Arabia, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Singin’ in the Rain, Sherlock Jr., Barry Lyndon, The Shining, The Third Man, The Wild Bunch, Rio Bravo, Nashville, A Matter of Life and Death, Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Imitation of Life. Plus Casablanca which I will leave until almost last. That still leaves big films like Ordet and Gertrud; Shoah; Metropolis and M; Close-Up, The Battle of Algiers, The Leopard, Maman et la putain, Les enfants du paradis, Spirit of the Beehive, The Colour of Pomegranates, A Brighter Summer Day, Touki Bouki, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. And Beau Travail – I don’t even know what country that film represents. Plus finding Greed and Intolerance wherever I can. Surely, it can’t be that difficult.

Now that I’ve mapped it out like this I see that it is going to be very difficult to achieve the goal. It’s not within me to just watch two Bunuel films and three Welles films and four Godard films and four Fellini films. The obsessive-compulsive in me needs to watch the great films by these filmmakers in the context of their other films. But, never say die!

There’s a pragmatist within the obsessive-compulsive nature within me, which has enabled me to deliver -with strict deadlines – composed scores, recording sessions produced, edited and mastered, CDs for distribution, films I’ve directed, to organizations like SSO, Foxtel Arts, BIS, Exton, Octavia, film producers and consulting committees for grants. My entire life has been about schedules – for better or worse – and as a contractor delivering a product by a certain date to enable the requisite goodwill to get my next project and my next contract.

The thing of it is, that I wonder if I can do it when there is no money involved? I don’t get a fee for finishing this project. I’m my own boss here. Maybe I should have made it about the fee. After all, it’s not about just watching the films. Anyone – smart, dumb, intellectual, stupid or challenged by a variety of mental and/or emotional issues (all of which I can appreciate first-hand), can watch movies. But to watch them and think about them and process what they’re saying takes about ten times the running-time, generally speaking. Sometimes even twenty-times like Au Hasard Balthazar (1966). Sometimes just five times the running-time like Sans Soleil (1983).

Wish me luck. I’ve got seventeen weeks to go and a lot of viewing in front of me.

‘Week 3 of 1964-1965 with David Stratton’

I turned up for Week 3 and sat in the second row of the Edgeworth David building. So far, afraid of walking in late, I’ve always arrived early. I was only the third person in the auditorium aside from his technician. He chatted with person #1 & #2 and then walked down to his station to check a couple of things. As we had, a few times now, when we had eye contact we smiled at each other. He approached me and asked if I was new to the class? I said I was. He asked how I came to know about the course. I told him that it was through Tony Buckley who showed me the documentary film about David Stratton.

Mr Stratton was personable, kind, generous, and left to talk to others, long-term students, who were arriving.

If you’d given me nine hundred titles, all films made in 1964, I would never have guessed any of the choices by David Stratton so far. This week’s film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964) was as out of left-field as the other two, The Best Man (1964) and Teni Zabytych Predhov (1964). But what a joy. A brilliant film. Inventive to a degree that reinvents the word.

Stratton doesn’t explain why a film is great or even worthy. It tends to be more about facts than opinions. [This is kind of ironic given that he has spent a lifetime giving his opinion about films, one of the world’s most thoughtful and adventurous critics or reviewers.] It’s always just a film that was made in 1964 (which he likes, I think, although he doesn’t explicitly say so). I’m so lucky to have watched this film with this crowd of people who appreciated the music and the filmmaking of Richard Lester and the creativity of The Beatles as actors.