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GOOD AVCICE ... on finding movies that enrich your life
How to become a savvy explorer of the cinematic world
When I was 18, I went to the movies one rainy Saturday afternoon to watch “Once upon a time in America,” the epic gangster film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Wood. The film is four hours long and doesn't pull any punches in its depiction of violence. Totally not my cup of tea. I only went because some friends from school asked me to come and I wanted to spend time with them. To my surprise, I found myself glued to the screen from beginning to end. The exploration of the mobster world, of friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, power, and greed captured my imagination not only on this Saturday afternoon but for many days to come. To this day, I regard this film as one of the most engrossing films I have ever watched.
Watching movies is much more than just entertainment. Some psychologists argue that immersing oneself in great films on a regular basis can contribute to a psychologically rich life. But how do you find captivating movies? If you are prepared to dive into the unknown, it is actually not so difficult, says the film critic Geoff Andrew. Becoming an adventurous and informed explorer of the world of film is in everyone’s grasp, he writes in the online-magazine Psyche. And he explains some steps that can help you make great finds.
Have an open mind: Do you dislike movies with subtitles, black and white films, silent motion pictures, or movies that are decades old or very long? Think again. Otherwise, you might miss the best stories. “Before you embark on your journey, it’s important to set aside your preconceptions about the kinds of films with which you might be unfamiliar,” Andrew writes. For example, subtitles often signal that the movie has been deemed interesting enough to be exported to other countries; many silent films have extraordinary visual eloquence; monochrome can produce a formal beauty different from color, Andrew points out. Bottom line: Great movies come in all shapes and sizes.
Get social: Ask friends, colleagues, or others who consider themselves film buffs for suggestions. “People don’t just like movies,” Andrew writes. “They tend to like talking about them, especially their favourites, too. So try to watch movies with friends and share your thoughts.” If you can visit a film festival, even better. That’s a great way to not only see movies but to meet like-minded people, Andrew writes.
Play to your interests: Andrew advises letting your passions and knowledge guide you. Are you a bookworm? Check out movie adaptions of books that grasped you. Do you feel drawn to a specific country? Look into films and filmmakers from this region. Are you a fan of contemporary art? Why not sample some avant-garde and experimental films? Do you know a lot about politics or current affairs? Documentaries might be the thing for you.
Take the nerd route: If you find a movie that you love, go all-out, Andrew suggests: “Use the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website to identify another film starring the same actor, scripted by the same writer, shot by the same cinematographer, or, above all, made by the same director.” Also, do some research on the national cinema, style of filmmaking, or historical movement the film you like is part of.
Reflect on how films are made: To enrich your experience, dwell on different aspects of movie making, Andrew suggests, like narrative structure, composition, lighting, color, camera movement, costume, music and sound design, use of space and architecture, to name just a few. “Film is such an immensely rich, complex medium, which at its best works on several levels at once,” Andrew writes. “The more you watch, the more you will come to appreciate the collaborative artistry that goes into it.”
The weather forecast for tomorrow here in San Francisco is … rain. Hooray! I’ll curl up on the home movie couch and get the popcorn out. Maybe I’ll watch another mobster film…
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