This series is a challenge directed at all film nerds. On a regular basis, I’ll call out the film genre and five personal favourites, then you tell me what I missed. Let’s see see if we can come up with a definitive catalog. Ready?
Because it looked like Oscar would once again express its undying self-love when handing over six Academy Awards to La La Land recently, this might be as good a place as any to start our challenge now the dust is settling.
To qualify, the film must be about filmmaking and the joys and sorrows therein. It also includes films where movies have a major psychological impact on one or more characters in the film, either as a motivator or filmic equivalent to a lifeline soundtrack.
Here we go, and in no particular order or preference.
8 ½ (Frederico Fellini), 1963
Oh, the agonies of the film director! Fellini’s journey through the mind of a film director’s struggle with his 9th film (hence the title) is the quintessential movie about filmmaking as seen through the Fellini kaleidoscope. Pressures from all sides mount until we reach the joyful conclusion and realize what a diamond has been created.
Holy Motors (Leos Carax), 2012
While the film is open to a variety of interpretations, I think Carax does for actors what Fellini did for directors. The title character – appropriately named Oscar and bravely played by Denis Lavant – goes from appointment to appointment in a variety of incarnations into situations that can only be described as “nuts”. Ah, the fractured psyche of the actor hurtling from role to role.
The Player (Robert Altman), 1992
Who else in the film business would have more reason issue death threats than the abused writer? Altman’s version of Michael Tolkin’s stiletto-sharp indictment of Hollywood is a crazy quilt of conniving and cameos that reveals something new at every viewing.
La Nuit Americaine (Francois Truffaut), 1973
The title of Truffaut’s valentine to cinema – and “B” movies, at that – is a term that refers to filming a scene during the day so that it appears to be taking place at night by means of a filter – Day for Night. A glorious score by Georges Delerue underlines Truffaut’s intentions here, that despite the challenges, creating illusion through filmmaking is nothing less than a joy.
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore), 1988
Exposure to films and the cinema-going experience make for some major personal building blocks for any movie lover, whether we realize it or not. Tornatore reveals just how great that impact can be in the emotional final act when memories of a childhood spent in a movie theater come flooding back thanks to a gift from an old friend and some pieces of film snipped and censored by the parish priest. Not a dry eye in the house.
OK, I’ve shown you mine; now you show me yours!