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seriously, Rules of the Game?

even_dwarfs_started_small_s.jpgEdward Copeland has compiled his internet-surveyed list of the top-voted non-English-language films (you can see how I voted here). Kudos to him for doing it — it was no small feat, and a list like this is useful and interesting to a whole lot of people, including myself.

But the list itself left me unsatisfied. Ultimately, it really did turn out to be nothing more than a predictable ranking of The Foreign Classics Canon. Of the Top 25 films, the most recent is Ran from 1984 — and it was made by Akira Kurosawa, already acknowledged at the time as one of the pantheon. And if you know anything about foreign film as it is presented in film studies courses and Sight and Sound surveys, I’m sure you can name the other 24 — especially if I tell you that all but one or two were made by Great Auteurs. Cahiers du cinéma, you have a lot to answer for.

I guess what disappoints me is that what we really have here is the internet community reinforcing the academy. I mean, the number one film is Rules of the Game, which to my mind is the classic example of the masterpiece that is only judged such due to groupthink (and aided, of course, by the colourful history of the film itself). Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fine and interesting film. But are there actual film buffs out there — actual film fans, I mean, not Film Studies professors and historians — who would in their heart of hearts say it’s their favourite film? Or has the critical (pun intended) mass around the film grown such that it’s just easiest to go with the flow? And I have the same question about a lot of other films on the list. Are there people out there who can watch Contempt and say, “wow, that really speaks to me”? Or do they, like me, struggle to stay awake, admire what Godard accomplished, and quietly resolve not to ever watch it again?

Of course, the problem with these surveys is that the top films don’t actually have to be the favourites of anyone at all. They just has have to place on enough individual lists. Films that are easy to build consensus around will place highly. This will in turn reinforce the consensus on the next list (people love to vote for winners, especially if they think it will make them look smart), and pretty soon you have a canon of nice, safe, uncontroversial films that may well be excellent without particularly speaking to anybody.

I want to see a different kind of list. I want to see an anti-canon. Instead of a poll of 100 films, I want to see a list of a hundred people’s single favourite films that weren’t nominated. I want to see the top 100 films you would never be shown in film school. I want to see the list of peoples’ votes for “respectable” films that should be striken from the canon. I want a list of buried gems. I want to feel that I haven’t seem everything worth seeing, because I know I haven’t. I want a list that stimulates me to think differently and try new movies I wouldn’t ordinarily, movies that fill my withered veins with cinematic blood. Is that so much to ask you people for?