A brief hello

Have I the right to call myself a true cinephile?  Probably not.  I’ve had a taste of academic film studies as part of an Open University course, and while I enjoyed much of the subject and it opened my eyes to an enhanced experience of watching films, I found the theoretical aspects rather dry and indigestible.  One stumbling block which became notorious amongst those on the course was the 1975 essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by the feminist theorist Laura Mulvey.  At the time it seemed like intellectual masturbation of the most self-indulgent kind.  Since then, helped partly by the engaging woman with whom I found myself chatting about films in the back room of a pub in Ladbroke Grove who everntually revealed herself to be Ms Mulvey herself, I’ve learned to accept that people can enjoy anything in their own way.

Nor am I a shallow consumer of the latest Hollywood gossip.  Today’s standard public cinemas and most of the films they show have little appeal for me and to be fair they aren’t aimed at me anyway; they are places for the kind of young people I haven’t been for many years.  If indeed I ever was, because I have loved watching films of all kinds since I was very young and silent shorts were the staple fodder of the Sunday School Christmas treat.   Later I was lucky enough to be taught by Mr Fred Aicken, who had mixed results engaging me with chemistry but in his capacity as guiding light of the Welwyn Garden City Film Society he scored a bullseye.  First he found me a way to see The Graduate when was under-age for the cinema  Then through the society he introduced me to such exotic delights as Luis Buñuel‘s surrealist masterpiece L’âge d’or, Ingmar Bergman‘s Hour of the Wolf (which I remember squeezed between power cuts in the school hall during the 1972 miners’ strike) and, unforgettably, an obscure German silent called Variety.  Years later I married an American who introduced me to the wonders of Woody Allen.

None of those will find their way into this blog.  I’ve journalled my general film experiences before, in a desultory way, but this project is intended to be a record of an exploration of British filmmaking.  It’s characteristically British to disparage this country’s cinematic history, and like any country we’ve churned out some turkeys in our time, but off the top of my head I could name a dozen that could stand proudly with the greatest films of all.  Maybe one day I’ll try ranking my favourites just for fun but for now my guide is the list of  100 Greatest British Films published by the British Film Institute in 1999.  I won’t be following it slavishly; even at a glance I can think of titles that I’d have in there which aren’t.  And I won’t be following the list in any particular order, so nothing should be inferred from that beyond the fact that the title was available to me then.

I look forward to sharing my adventure with any of you who care to drop in and comment.  Assuming, that is, that you’re going to be a congenial travelling companion.

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