These past few days I’ve been treating myself to a movie marathon of New York films from the 1970s, and it has helped to continue to raise my awareness of exactly how much impact your work has had upon the American filmmaking landscape.
I’ve grown up watching your films because my mom is a huge fan of yours. My parents have always regarded film as a form of high art, and they exposed me to many films at a younger age than other parents might have, because, for them, it was akin to exposing me to great works of art. As an example of this, they took me to see Gangs of New York in theaters. I was young at the time, so I was not able to appreciate that film on too many levels. What I do remember from my first viewing, however, is how emotionally powerful the film was. The next time I saw Gangs of New York was in high school. I was working on a history project about the Bowery with a friend and we decided that it would probably be worthwhile to watch the movie since it covered the same subject matter. Clearly, we were just trying to dodge our work, but watch it, we did. If I were forced to choose only a single word to describe that film it would be operatic. I don’t think that there is any more fitting of a description. To watch that film is to watch one of the highest achievements in the medium. Every element works perfectly in concert with the other. The acting is superb, the cinematography sublime, and the editing- oh the editing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more perfectly cut film.
I remember reading somewhere that you and Thelma Schoonmaker met during your NYU days, and if I recall rightly, it was a bit of an unexpected meeting. I’m so glad you two met; I’m not sure there has been a more successful pairing of director and editor in cinema. Your partnership is something that I would aspire to. I dream of meeting someone who is able to understand my vision in such a complete way. Whenever I think about filmmaking I think about you and Thelma. Collaboration is what initially drew me to want to become involved in movies, and your relationship, as I’ve imagined it to be, epitomizes this notion.
But truly, I’ve loved movies for much longer than I have appreciated the element of collaboration that goes into making a movie. There is just something so magical about moving images played across a wonderfully large movie screen in an ornately decorated movie theater. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, person to become enamored with films. I love new films. I love old films. I watch silent films for fun. Charlie Chaplin is my all-time favorite filmmaker. I purchased a book that cost $50 dollars on women in film between the years 1910 and 1929. Therefore, it should come as very little surprise that Hugo is one of my favorite films that you have made. It’s wonderful because it is so easy to appreciate solely on a story level, even without the contextual knowledge of the history of cinema. However, if you are like me and love to learn about the genealogy of filmmaking originating with the illusionists like Robert Houdin, and Georges Méliès, well then you go crazy over a movie like Hugo. Every frame of that movie was a treat for me. I loved every shot reconstruction from early cinema, impeccably reconstructed in 3-D. I loved watching the fully restored versions of Méliès films. I cried when the character Méliès recounted melting down film. Hugo is the ultimate homage to the medium. It encapsulates why I love films and why their preservation is of the utmost importance for our culture. If only I could watch it in theaters in 3-D again. That was truly one of the most incredible film-going experiences of my life.
I watch your movies for many different reasons, and as I’ve grown older, I find that I am able to appreciate them on many levels. First, I watch your films to experience great artwork. I know that I will not be disappointed by any of your efforts. As an aspiring filmmaker, I also watch your films to study. To deconstruct the different elements of each film is to gain a deeper understanding of directing, writing, editing, sound design, production design, cinematography- all of it. Finally, I watch your films to become lost in a good story. I’ve been watching films critically for so long now, that it is often difficult for me to take a step back and lose myself in a movie. When I watch one of your films, I am reassured that this is still possible for me. I am able to extract a few critical observations during my first viewing, but more often than not I find myself kicking myself as I try futilely to remember if the shot I just saw was edited or a continuous take. I love that. I’m so glad that there are still some movies out there that I can experience almost purely as an audience member.
Tonight-in about 2 minutes-the Academy Awards will begin. I wish you the best of luck for your work The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s been an absolute pleasure growing up with your movies, and I look forward to the films to come.