A Left-Handed Form of Human Endeavour

A collection of musings about the second golden age of movies.

Back to Basics…

I haven’t written in this blog for the best part of six months and I thought it was about time to come back and try and define what I want the blog to be. There are many blogs on Film Journal which cover various niches and it’s not easy to try and make one of my own. If I have a ’specialist subject’ as it were, it’s American cinema between the mid-1950s and late 1970s but that’s a ludicrously wide range to try and include in one place. So what I’ve decided to do is, firstly, narrow the range to the period between the final breakdown of the production code in the mid-1960s to the end of the era of the directors at the beginning of the 1980s. Secondly, I want to write about American movies in a manner which would not necessarily be appropriate on DVD Times - the pieces may be ludicrously short, self-indulgently long or come from what might be called, if I were a martyr to cliche, left-field. I’m going to maintain the blog title, even though it comes from a 1950 film, because it seems to me as good a description of the essentially fraudulent art of making movies as I can find - as Brian De Palma said, “the camera lies, it lies 24 times a second”. Great directors are like great con-artists; they make us believe completely in their illusion and then, two hours later, reveal that it was nothing but a few still pictures and persistence of vision. When we break our belief, even for a second, the illusion stands revealed as a shoddy charade.

I am by nature an auteurist, perhaps through laziness. That’s why I will be routinely assigning films to directors without necessarily acknowledging the wealth of other talents behind them. Sometimes, this is self-evident nonsense - can we really doubt that Airport belongs to anyone except Ross Hunter or that Chinatown isn’t the product of a once-in-a-lifetime collisiion of the sensibilities of Robert Towne, Robert Evans and Roman Polanski? But it’s convenient and, I would suggest, more often true that it isn’t, particularly in the period under discussion when directors were being given an increasing amount of rope - and eventually managed to hang themselves with it.

I am afraid, as Bernard Levin was apt to write, that I have a very great deal to say. But I don’t want this to be a sermon. Make it a discussion and place your comments, I promise to reply. If you have any ideas for films I could cover - the more obscure the better - suggest them and I’ll try to track them down. Some pieces on the site have been seen on the internet before but all have been revised and updated. The posts below all fit in with the new focus of the blog and I will be indexing them as and when I get round to it.

3 Responses to Back to Basics… »»


  1. Comment by John Hodson | 2008/02/29 at 21:36:07

    Mike, for starters, nothing obscure I’m afraid, I want to read your views on ‘The Searchers’ please (I couldn’t give a toss about the colour of any DVD, BTW…)

  2. Comment by clydefro | 2008/03/01 at 05:08:44

    I hope you do make it back to regular posts here, as I’d like to see some focus from the Film Journal brethren on less recent films. I too try to adhere to auteurist leanings, but I think Chinatown is a perfect example of the many troublesome bumps in that road. I’m not sure I can subscribe to that theory regarding modern auteurs unless the director’s also involved in the writing process, save for a select few.

  3. Comment by Mike Sutton | 2008/03/01 at 08:36:47

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    John - I will be putting something together about The Searchers, I promise…

    Clydefro - Interesting point about modern directors. I suppose No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood are good examples of auteurist cinema, although it’s perhaps no coincidence that both movies, for better or worse, could have come straight from the seventies.

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