And the `canon` - Europa Cinemas



And the `canon` - Europa Cinemas
Who Cares About
Ian Christie
Bologna 2013
Two years ago, we showed an extract
from Mark Cousins’ 16 hour Story of Film
series. And the next day, we asked:
How many filmmakers can you remember
from Mark’s film?
Andrzej Wajda
Roman Polanski
Milos Forman
Vera Chytilová
Andrei Tarkovsky
Alexander Sokurov
Ritwik Ghatak
Mani Kaul
Glauber Rocha
Mikhail Kalatozov
Why are these filmmakers
important - memorable?
Def: A widely agreed list of
‘great filmmakers’, which
also shapes the programming of a festival like
Cinema Ritrovato (for and
against )
Filmmakers like Howard Hawks,
John Ford, Friedrich Murnau
(Nosferatu) are widely accepted as
‘great’ – anything by them will be of
some interest to people who ‘know
about’ film. They’re ‘canonic’ (but
what about Alan Dwan?
But Boris Barnet is not (yet) canonic –
perhaps never will be, although
Bologna including him in the
programme might have to build his
‘case’ for admission to the canon.
Like Preobrezhenskaya this year?
Canons have long been recognised in literature, but
they exist in every art – music, drama, painting – and
they have a powerful influence on what gets
preserved, sold, displayed, valued.
Below: Alfred Barr’s ‘modern art’ torpedo diagram – Museum of
Modern Art, 1930s
The idea of a canon
originally comes from
deciding what should be
included in the Christian
The first published film canon was
probably Paul Rotha’s list of 114
important films in The Film Till Now
In 1952, Sight and
Sound asked critics
around the world to
list their ‘Ten Best’ films
Ten years later, in 1962, Sight
and Sound repeated its poll.
The pre-war classics were
joined by new films like
L’avventura (1960)
And Citizen Kane began its
rise to ‘official’ best film –
which it has kept until the
2002 poll
…with Hitchcock also
moving up the scale
Other key ‘classics’ that
appear regularly in the lists
since 1962:
Murnau’s Sunrise
Stroheim’s Greed
Renoir’s La règle du jeu
Fellini’s 8 ½
The 2002 Sight & Sound Top Ten
1 Citizen Kane (Welles)
2 Vertigo (Hitchcock)
3 La règle du jeu (Renoir)
4 The Godfather I and II (Coppola)
5 Tokyo Story (Ozu)
6 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
7 Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)/Sunrise (Murnau)
9 8 ½ (Fellini)
10 Singin’ in the Rain (Donen)
Does any of this matter?
Boy’s stuff?
Showing off?
It matters because it shows
what’s valued, respected – what
gets preserved, published on
DVD, shown in cinematheques,
taught in schools and colleges
(Even in the avant-garde,
there’s a canon, headed by
Leger, Bunuel, Maya Deren)
But there are many polls, eg The Guardian
readers’ poll of ‘greatest foreign films’ in 2007:
1. Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore)
2. Amélie (Jeunet)
3. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
4. City of God (Meirelles)
5. The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo)
6. A bout de souffle (Godard)
7. Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources (Berri)
8. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
9. Pan’s Labyrinth (del Toro
10. In the Mood for Love (Kar Wai)
And we can make our own canons/Ten Best
lists – to show what we value, find out what
our audiences value…
… and extend what they know about
Top Tens as tools for discovery?
L: Lye’s Rainbow Dance;
Seventh Seal; documentarist Humphrey Jennings
Last year, in August, Sight and Sound published
the latest canon update... Would Citizen Kane still
be on top?
Or would this be Hitchcock’s breakthrough year?
With Vertigo?
Peter von Bagh
Ian Christie
So what would be in your
Our Bologna Top Ten for 2013
Tokyo Story [3]
Metropolis [2]
Passion of Joan of Arc [2]
Citizen Kane [2]
La Dolce Vita [2]
The Godfather [2]
Andrei Rublev [2]
The Shawshank Redemption [2]
GoodFellas [2]
Blue Velvet [2]
Pulp Fiction [2]
Dogville [2]
Separation [2]
And your 2013 young people’s Top Ten:
The Kid [4]
Les Quatre-cent coups/400 blows [4]
North by Northwest [[3]
Freaks [2]
Citizen Kane [2]
Rear Window [2]]
Wizard of Oz [2][2]
Bicycle Thieves
Singin’ n the Rain [2]
Rebel Without a Cause [2]
ET [2]
Cawboy [2]
And the ‘canon’ we chose at the 2007: Europa Cinemas Workshop
The Ten Most Important European Films for Young Audiences
1. Les 400 Coups (Truffaut, 1959) 8 votes
2. Todo sobre mi madre (Almodovar, 1999) 5 votes
3. Metropolis (Lang, 1926) 4 votes each
Ladri di Biciclette (De Sica, 1948)
Kes (Loach, 1969)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1926) 3 votes each, ranked by list place
M (Lang, 1931)
Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922)
8½ (Fellini, 1963)
Kirikou et la sorcière (Ocelot, 1998)
And the next two: La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995) also 3 votes each
L’Esquive [Games of Love and Chance] (Kechiche, 2003)
What should be in a European Top Ten
for young people?
Exciting new films?
Films from small countries as well
as big ones?
Films that show the diversity of
life in Europe?
Ideally, all of these?
Further reading on ‘canons:
Ian Christie,; ‘The Rules of the Game’, Sight and Sound, Sept 2002; ‘Canon
Fodder’, Sight and Sound, Dec 1992
Jonathan Rosenbaum – Movie Wars, Wallflower Press, 2002; also
various essays on his website
Ginette Vincendeau, ‘The Exception and the Rule’, Sight & Sound, Nov
Peter Wollen, ‘Why do some films survive and others disappear?’, Sight
and Sound, May 1993
Janet Staiger, ‘The Politics of Film Canons, Cinema Journal 24.3, Spring
Also books by Robert Alter, Harold Bloom, Leslie Fiedler, Robert Von
Hallberg, Lawrence Levine, Frank Kermode, Jan Gorak et al.