October 8, 2015 at 8:36AM


To what extent is it necessary to study the past 'greats' of film-making?

I consider myself a massive film buff, however, most of my favorite directors are contemporary or from the 70s or 80s. And are typical, popular mainstream choices of film buffs (Tarantino, Scorsese, Kubrick etc.). But I've never watched any of Ingmar Bergman's films, nor those of Billy Wilder, Francois Truffaut or Saytajit Ray's for that matter and so forth. This is mainly because I expect to find them quite tedious or boring. For example: I would dread sitting through 3 hours of 'Fanny and Alexander!' So...to what extent would you say it is necessary to view and study the works of the original masters of the craft? (Lang, Ozu, Ford, Wyler to name a few...)


Many of the great films of cinema are NOT action movies, so slow pacing might be the best way to tell a complex story. I have no problem with long slow paced films, but I draw the line at experimental films which often seem more like visual masturbation to me.

October 8, 2015 at 8:43AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Depends. If you care about cinema as an artform, you should watch Bergman, Lang, etc. If you don't, then don't. It's not "necessary" to do anything. (And for what it's worth, the fact that you asked the question in the first place is really all the answer you need.)

Also, Billy Wilder doesn't belong on that list. Being unwilling to appreciate foreign art films is one thing... but Some Like It Hot? Sunset Boulevard? Come on.

October 8, 2015 at 10:25AM, Edited October 8, 10:26AM

Alec Kubas-Meyer

I think you have answered your own question. If the great movies of the past are tedious and boring, then it becomes a self fulfilling prophacy. I think there is much to learn from silent films for us today, so am happy to be inspired by anyone. 7 Samurai still is stunning editing or Battleship Potemkin with the steps from Odessa Ukraine. I used to read biographies about Elvis, how he tried to imitate and mimic Frank Sinatra, but his singing didn't sound like Sinatra, but sounded like Elvis. If I have a voice as a filmmaker, even if I imitate, it will feel to me like I am copying Sinatra, but my filmmaker voice will sound like me. However if you do not respect or feel value or draw inspiration from the past, it is a waste of time for you. However when you copy what is current and fashionable today, by the time you would have had recognition, your work will look will look tired and uninspired. Hollywood tends to beat a fad to death. Anyone for a sequel?

October 8, 2015 at 10:00PM


In the end, what do you have to lose? Spend three hours of your life with Fanny & Alexander and then if you don't like it - don't watch more Bergman (and vice versa).

Then move on to the next big name Kurosawa or whatever.

I had kind of the same view a while back and started to watch some older movies like Citizen Kane and so forth, and it's quite fascinating how similiar everything is - and how good the stories are.

October 10, 2015 at 5:40AM, Edited October 10, 5:40AM

Viktor Ragnemar

I suggest you start with stuff like Arsenic and Old Lace or The Maltese Falcon. I dreaded watching older movies until I watched Arsenic. There's something to be had, even if it's just being entertained by great old timey acting.

October 10, 2015 at 10:36AM

Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography

Well, old films is one thing, arthouse films another. Don't confuse the age of the film with the intention behind it and methods used. It's just that a lot of the films that have stood the test of time (or have their memory kept alive by critics, at least) are more than skin deep, so experimental, slow and "difficult" films from the past are overrepresented.

Howard Hawks, Truffaut or Hitchcock - these are not going to be a chore to sit through for anyone (except people who shut down their senses at the sight of black & white, let alone subtitles). Hawks has more rapid-fire dialogue than Sorkin, Truffaut more deadpan whimsy than Wes Anderson and Hitchcock more suspense than ANYONE, dead or living. These guys were very concerned with being entertaining, and succeeded masterfully.

Where as it can be just as imposing to head into an old Bergman or Bresson film as, say, the latest Mallick or Kiarostami, or even a David Lynch or PTA film if the arthouse fancy strikes them. That's because they don't intend to hold your hand and feed you the film half-digested. Their aim is to engage you, not necessarily entertain you. And it's fine that you're not always up for such demanding viewing (I sure ain't) - but don't use the age of the film as an excuse when you're feeling lazy.

October 12, 2015 at 10:43PM


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