We're almost a week into the new year and it's time to weed out those New Year's Resolutions that were mere posturing at Christmas parties ("this year I'm definitely going to finish my novel!") and those that you're willing to see out to the bitter end. In addition to the usual health related self-improvement and language-learning resolutions (advanced Spanish, here I come!) I've resolved to achieve four simple but important things that will make me a better, healthier cinephile by the end of 2016. Appreciating cinema is like practicing a sport: it takes a concerted effort to get past certain milestones and overcome certain obstacles. So come on, 2016, let's dance...
RESOLUTION #1 - COVER MY MOST EGREGIOUS BLIND SPOTS
Below are fifty-two posters for fifty-two essential films from cinema history that I've somehow managed to miss or ignore. They are my most egregious blind spots in cinema history. My list (also on Letterboxd) contains one film for each week of the year, so by the time Big Ben strikes midnight on 1st January 2017, I should have this list down to zero and be a considerably more educated cinephile. Though I have seen some of these films in-part, such as The Graduate (1967) and Schindler's List (1993), I consider this list to be a litany of shame (SHAAAAME!) I try to make a point of never chastising anyone for not having seen a particular film, so to the sanctimonious dweebs of cinephilia I say, "Let he who hath seen every one of these films cast the first stone!"
RESOLUTION #2 - DISCOVER AFRICAN CINEMA
Watching Abderrahmane Sissako's excellent Timbuktu (one of my favourite films of 2015) recently reminded me of an even greater, more reprehensible blind spot in my film knowledge: African cinema. Films from Africa are much easier to come by than one might expect and the extensive work of the World Cinema Project to restore gems from the archives is making the history of African cinema more accessible. Still, finding an entry point to the cinematic history on an entire continent is a daunting task. One logical place to start might be the work of celebrated veterans like Senegal's Osumane Sembène and Egypt's Youssef Chahine (both profiled in this excellent list on African cinema). Then there are recent successes to seduce genre fans, such as the boisterous Congolese thriller Viva Riva! (2010) and schlocky Cameroonian sci-fi Les Saignants (The Bloodiest) (2005). Anyone looking to compose a playlist of African films and find information on the continent's key filmmakers should start with the extensive lists composed by the dedicated cinephiles in MUBI's online community.
RESOLUTION #3 - MAN-UP AND WATCH MARTYRS
I have had a masochistic interest in France's extreme horror sub-genre ever since seeing Alexandre Aja's stylish but infuriating debut, Haute Tension (a.k.a. Switchblade Romance) in 2003, not to mention the Belgian survival ordeal Calvaire (2005) and the incredibly nasty home invasion horror À L'intérieur (Inside) in 2007. But until now I simply haven't had the guts to tackle this much maligned sub-genre's most notorious entry, Pascale Laugier's Martyrs (2008). 2016 is the year that I will take a deep breath, find a place with no sharp objects with which to gouge out my eyes, and settle down for what has been described to me as the most gruelling film since Pasolini's Salò (1975). Those already familiar with Martyrs should read extreme horror advocate Scott Tobias' article on the film in his New Cult Canon.
RESOLUTION #4 - SAY "YES!" TO THE CINEMA
It's probably good policy to resolve to do more things that get you out of the house each year. Whether you're going to your local cinema, your local theatre or your local hole in a wall where beer and live music can be found in abundance, you and the artists you love are sure to benefit. Going out to enjoy something special and exhilarating is one of the most fundamental reasons for cinema to exist but with the demands of work, the knackering grind of the daily commute, and the relative convenience of a stack of DVDs or a Netflix account it is all to easy to skip a night out at movies. Just remember that going to the cinema is a pleasure akin to prayer in a congregation or the thrill of seeing live music in a stadium arena and, as such, should be sought out at every opportunity. I intend to visit the cinema as often as possible in 2016, particularly with a view to supporting to my local picture house, Deptford Cinema. Deptford Cinema is a volunteer-run venture aiming to use a diverse and interactive programme to give cinema back to the Borough of Lewisham, which currently has no commercial cinemas to serve over 275,000 residents.