“I cannot wait for the day where I don’t have to watch any more movies.” I uttered these words a few times in the last year. Lockdown was long and difficult, and films were my only escape. But the stress of picking a new film every day had started to wear on me. I am so used to turning up to my local multiplex and buying a ticket to the latest release that I had found time to fill in the gaps in my film knowledge.
I’d embarked on a myriad of film challenges, asked Twitter for recommendations, and scoured my dusty DVD collection. But I had lost my spark. There are so many films I ‘had to see’ before I die. But I was finding, more and more, I just didn’t like those films. Perhaps there was a reason I had managed to avoid them for over thirty years.
Listening to Helen O’Hara speaking at Cinema Rediscovered’s Rewriting Film History (with Women In It), I was struck by her simple but important comment, “Men create the pantheon.” As the panel further elaborated that, “We are consistently told to watch the same ‘important’ films,” it dawned on me, I wasn’t bored of films, and I hadn’t lost my spark. I was just tired of the pantheon.
The world of film criticism can be daunting. There’s an air of elitism; obscure directors, genres, and styles, peppered through conversations I’m not part of.
Festivals like Cinema Rediscovered open these doors, inviting conversation. Whether the references Pamela Hutchinson made in her Phillip French Memorial Lecture were known or, if, like me, they were the making of a future watchlist, there was nothing exclusionary about it. From the start of her lecture to the very last film screened at the festival, Cinema Rediscovered was a celebration of cinema and the voices that create and curate it.
Gone were my fears that I had not seen enough ‘classic’ cinema to be entitled to my seat. Instead, a lost excitement was once again brewing as I sat for Klute (1971), and lost myself in the swoon-worthy romance of The More The Merrier (1943).
I was struck most by how I had not only not seen, but never heard of Melvin Van Peebles’ The Story Of A Three- Day Pass (1968). For its experimental editing and sound design alone, it should have been revered in my Film Studies classes, the influence on modern cinema clear to see in the films of Edgar Wright, for example, with its quick cuts timed to repeated musical motifs. Key sequences in his first feature Shaun Of The Dead (2004) where Shaun and Ed prepare themselves to get to the Winchester pub mirror the snappy tone and tempo of Turner and his iconic sunglasses as he prepares to take on Paris. Peeble’s exclusion from the pantheon speaks to the issues of its past, but hopefully not of its future.
At its end, the festival allowed and encouraged re-evaluation and a restructure of that pantheon – and for me, to finally feel empowered to create my own.
The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1967) is touring UK cinemas until the end of October following the UK Premiere of its 4K restoration at Cinema Rediscovered 2021 in July. Tour details available here.
Clare Brunton is a freelance film critic. A graduate of York St John University where she studied Film and Television Production and an ex-Film and Media secondary school teacher, she now spends her time watching and writing about film and tv, without the noisy teenagers telling her it’s boring! She has written for Film Stories, CineChat, CRPWrites as well as others. A frequent podcast guest, she also co-hosts her own show W-Rated, which reevaluates the ‘worst’ films as voted by IMDB. A big fan of independent and female led cinema, she also loves a big screen Marvel adventure.
Follow Clare on Twitter and Instagram @clareellenhope