Apr 7, 2015

What themes may come (Or, Alfred Hitchcock Doesn’t Present)

A group of friends of mine have a movie-watching group that has been running for nearly a decade. We only meet up a handful of times a year now, but when we were younger hardly a fortnight would go by without a late-night movie binge. The choices of movie were as chaotic as they were diplomatic. Everyone would bring three movies, and as it became someone’s turn to show a film we would vote, not so much for the film we most wanted to watch in general, but for the film we most wanted to watch at that moment. So while Bresson was not out of the question, no one is going to choose Au Hasard Balthazar over Hell Comes to Frogtown when it’s the third film of the night and it’s 2 in the morning.

Sometimes we would pick themes for the three films we were pitching. “Remakes”, perhaps, or “American football films”. One time my friend John declared his selection was “An everyman fights back against the system... in 1999”, offering a choice between the trinity of The Matrix, Fight Club, and Office Space.

Most delightful of all was when the theme was unexpected, and emerged from the randomness of the films selected. One night, for example, the fates would have us watch Aliens, Shoot ’Em Up (in which Clive Owen saves a baby while killing everyone he sees), and Knocked Up, with the surprising but obvious theme of “unplanned parenthood” emerging.

Despite the joy these nights brought us, however, it is important to note that this is moving image curation at its silliest, laziest, and most gimmick-laden. Moving image curation at its strongest must look either to the most central aspects of the films selected (shared filmmakers, countries of origin, genre) or to more subtle complementary issues, such as filmmaking styles, influences, or deeper themes. One can run a series about robots in movies, perhaps adding a rarely seen Eastern European film about robots to the mix of Forbidden Planet, Short Circuit and the inescapable Blade Runner, and gain a devoted sci-fi audience, but the true film curator would place the focus on the nature of robotics, or A.I., or whatever aspect of the broader idea of “robots” takes their interest. The key thing is to defend their selections. Sure, I can think of four films in which the villain is dispatched with a speargun (Thunderball, The Dead Pool, Face/Off, and Hard Ticket to Hawaii), but to run this as a series would be only to show off how funny a connection that is; “look at me, I’m a funny guy who’s seen lots of movies!”. There is no deeper meaning to this quarter of films, together they’re just a gag, a gimmick. We have the internet for that kind of nonsense already.

With this in mind, I’d like to share with you the worst idea for a film series I’ve ever had. It’s called ‘Alfred Hitchcock Doesn’t Present’. It’s a week-long programme of films that share their name with, but have no other relation to, the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

1. Notorious (2009)

Not Hitchcock’s passionate film about the life of rapper The Notorious B.I.G., nor a film about Nazis in South America.

2. Shadow of a Doubt (1995)

Not Hitchcocks thriller about a beloved uncle who is also a black widower. This is Brian Dennehys would-be sexy made-for-TV courtroom drama. Who needs Joseph Cotten when you have Bonnie Bedelia?

3. The Ring (2002)

Wait, Hitchcock had a film called The Ring? Yep, its a silent boxing drama. So I guess the horror one is the more famous film then? Well at least show the American remake so people dont take this series too seriously...

4. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Hitchcocks attempt at screwball comedy, may be one of his most misguided efforts, but its nowhere near as disheartening as this madcap adventure with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie trying to kill one another with their sexiness and knives.

5. The Wrong Man (1993)

Definitely not the philosophical drama-cum-mystery that united Hitch and Henry Fonda. This one has an Arquette and John Lithgow. Actually in fairness Lithgow wouldve been great in a Hitchcock film.

6. Sabotage (2014)

Scratch that. Hitchcock and Arnie. Now theres a match made in never.

7. Spellbound (2002)

Hitchcock never made documentaries, but if he had they wouldve featured adorable children, tortured by overbearing parents, and their Dali-esque dreams wouldve been the greatest of nightmares.

So you see, this is what happens when a film programmer has a bad idea and then runs with it. Sure, you might get a few visitors ironically checking out your festival, but thats all it could offer.

Curating moving images is a complex undertaking that cant just glance at the surface of a work and decide what it means and what it connects to. It is as important to look at the failures as the successes to truly appreciate the work that talented curators put into their series. Otherwise its all just puns and gimmicks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.