Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Final Stage of the Cinephile: Acceptance

I'm not getting paid for Cinema Styles and I never will. My job isn't to see every movie out there and report back to the world on how I think it went. My real job, in fact, is to do a lot of stuff that would bore most people to tears (including myself) and, as a result, I'll never write about it.

Movies I see and write about because I love them.

When I see one I don't like, generally speaking, I don't write it up. Sometimes I do but not often. I'd rather promote the movies I think are worthwhile than pick apart a movie I don't like (although I have done it, don't get me wrong). Mainly, what I'm trying to say is, I no longer feel embarrassed about not having seen so many films that I want to see or that I should see. There are thousands of them and, frankly, if I started watching all the movies I haven't seen right now, and kept going around the clock for the next thirty years, I'd still miss some.

I'll see what I see, when I see them and if I don't, I don't.

Just a few years ago, when I started writing online, I remember thinking things like, "I can't admit I've never seen The Earrings of Madame de..." I felt I'd done something wrong by not seeing it and every other classic film out there. But then, The Earrings of Madame de... showed up at the AFI, I saw it on the big screen and I loved it. So it all worked out. It took me until my forties to see it but so what, right?

None of this sounds like a big deal to most people but to a bonafide film lover it's a hard thing to accept. That is, to accept that you're never going to see them all and that's okay. With each passing year I see fewer new movies in release and more classic films and it's still not enough. In fact, there are more directors whose entire oeuvre I haven't seen than directors in which I have. Chaplin, Keaton, Kurosawa, Fellini? Nope. I've seen plenty of their works but not all. Hell, there are big time directors of which only one or two of their films I've seen. Claude Chabrol I never saw until Ray Young of Flickhead had his blogathon a couple of years back. How pathetic is that?

Of course, let's be honest, it's not easy seeing the entire life work of any one director but even harder for one pre-1970s. Back then they directed hundreds of movies in a career. John Ford? He directed 146 movies. I'll never see them all. Michael Curtiz? 173. Forget about it. D.W. Griffith? 535! That's five hundred and thirty five! I just... I mean... it's... 535! Okay, so a lot of them are shorts but they're still the works of Griffith and, brother, I'm never seeing all of them.

And I wouldn't want to. I've got limited time, both daily and over the long haul. Why go for quantity over quality? However, there are some directors for which I have seen all their works (and I'm not counting one and outs like Charles Laughton) but it's usually because their output wasn't tremendous in quantity. One that immediately come to mind is Stanley Kubrick but, really, even casual film fans have probably seen at least half of his movies.

So as my time wanes and the decades spent obsessing about movies mount up, it's time to stop worrying about what classic films I still haven't seen and take it easy. The truth, for all of us, is that none of us will ever see more movies than movies we won't see. The overwhelming numbers means that even the most obsessed and dedicated movie fan will never see more than a fraction of a percent of all movies ever made. Think of that. Most movies ever made will go unseen by all of us! It's a difficult thought to consider but one the movie lover must acknowledge. And once you do, once you break free of the delusion that you have to see everything, somehow, inexplicably, the movies seem even better. And that's something I accept, unconditionally.