Saturday, January 3, 2009

A few of my favorite things

The Secret Knitter has registered his perspective on 2008 with a high-quality 52-item Archies list. If you haven't posted your own, why not take a moment to compile one? (And if you've done so but I haven't acknowledged it, be sure to leave word in the comments.)

Last night we watched A Matter Of Life And Death, a 1946 film by my favorite filmmakers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Whenever I see a movie by the Archers (after whom we named our son), I am almost overcome with the exuberant, fearless belief in the power of art that is on display.

Why do I love these movies so much? I Know Where I'm Going!, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Tales of Hoffmann, The Red Shoes. What is it about their construction, their vision, their rootedness in British convention and their wild, unrestrained phototropic reach toward aesthetic romance?

It's not anything in my natural constitution, other than an Anglophilia born of teenage worship of Agatha Christie and the Beatles. The strange thing about my passion for Powell is that the films themselves produced it -- that and the memoir I casually bought at a used bookstore decades ago. They're not necessarily the kind of movies I naturally gravitate towards ... although they are now, now that they've worked their magic on me. Or is it just that there is almost nothing like them, anywhere, and so there's no way for you to know whether you have a taste for them until they appear in your life, sui generis?

Under their influence, I became a person who responds above all to a sense of aspiration in works of art -- in film, music, literature. Whenever I am in the audience for something striving toward the ineffable, struggling to transcend its time and place (best of all, if it doesn't reject that time or attempt to slip the surly bonds of earth, but instead embraces it with fondness while seeking to plumb its unseen depths), I am lost to it.

Powell's movies are among the best and most complete examples of that effect on me, but they aren't just examples, I think. Without them, I don't think I'd be that person. The Archers' movies created my artistic sensibility, and I feel so fortunate to have encountered them when I did, and to be able to immerse myself in their images and cinematic music my whole life through.

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