Luckily for Elder and his readers, there’s plenty more.
A companion of sorts to Elder’s 2011 book The Film That Changed My Life, the Chicago Review Press paperback operates on several levels, from learning tool to reference guide to Netflix queue-filler. As with the earlier work, the author leans on 35 directors to build its contents: Each filmmaker has picked a movie that either was ignored or has become forgotten, that either no longer gets its deserved praise or never did. Through a Q-and-A style between author and subject, the two discuss how the film could be described in simple terms to newcomers, what struck them about it, what they learned from it, and how it may or may not have affected his or her work.
Refreshingly, all are candid about their choices, quick to acknowledge flaws both gaping and minute. However, something bigger — a theme, a camera angle, a performance or a combination — lifts even imperfect work above the fray so it may be placed on the book’s proverbial pedestal for analysis, consideration and ultimate recommendation.
As a critic who consumes close to 1,000 movies a year, I find that many books utilizing the “you’ve never seen” concept are grossly mistaken. This one is not. Of the 35 films championed here, I’ve seen only six in full: Breaking Away, Fearless, Joe Versus the Volcano, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Super Cops and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. In other words, Elder’s work held many surprises even for an abnormal enthusiast. Not only does it present films I’ve never seen, but it presents films I’ve never heard of: Arcane Sorcerer, L’ange, Boom!, 10 Rillington Place and WR: Mysteries of the Organism, to name a few.
There’s at least one I’ve outright avoided: The Village People disco musical, Can’t Stop the Music.
The contributors are as varied as their choices, representing budgets big, small and nonexistent. The “names” include Peter Bogdanovich, Danny Boyle, Guillermo del Toro, Neil LaBute, Bill Condon, Frank Oz, John Waters, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, Edgar Wright and the aforementioned Woo.
For a movie lover who enjoys discoveries and challenges, its 260-ish pages combine into something resembling sheer joy. Is it too early to ask for a sequel? —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• The Super Cops DVD review