Among the major events of my 2012 was my Father’s retirement. He was an electrical engineer at a nuclear power plant for 30+ years, a job he got thanks to his service in the Air Force, the G.I. Bill, and being able to go to college. With his newfound free time, and advances in digital technology, my Dad has recently begun to express an interest in making movies.
It seems fitting then that my 2012, and as the year progresses, my 2013, would be devoted to two directors who found their way to the movies accidentally, one after serving in the Air Force and the other after training to be an electrical engineer. William A. Wellman and Allan Dwan both stumbled into what would become prolific careers as filmmakers and they did so precisely because being a pilot and an engineer put them in the right place at the right time. It’s hard to imagine there actually was a time when having to work, actually holding down a job because of necessity, could somehow lead not only to discovering one’s creative talent but also a way to sustainably use it.
These days, many of my neighbors in the cinema community, whether makers or critics, don’t need to have jobs, and if they do, they have ones that allow for extensive travel and time off. Money is never about eating or paying rent or repaying student loans, it’s about whether or not you can attend the next film festival or spend a few weeks or months abroad working solely on personal projects or order 4 cocktails instead of 3. Likewise time isn’t about when or if but what. Cinema has become a purely extra-curricular activity, the only question being how much extra-curricular time one has, what resources they have to use in that time, and who (again not if) they have to support them.
As someone who has spent the past year attempting to make cinema and also examine it, which these days, and for my work in particular, mostly means sitting alone in front of a computer, while simultaneously holding down a 45+ hour a week job that’s spent at a desk in front of a computer, it’s hard not to think about the above. Thoughts related to quality of life begin to creep up more and more—do I want to become a 50 year old hunched over woman who spent her youth alone in front of a computer in tiny rooms in Brooklyn making work for a very small and specialized audience? Is it worth it? My back would certainly argue that it isn’t.
As for the rest of me, I’m just thankful Wellman and Dwan aren’t trying to make films (or not not trying) today, and I give you eleven films seen in 2012 that lead me to believe it just might be worth it, despite all the rest. Ten of them are older works (though one was technically a premiere) all seen on 35mm, perhaps the most time capsule-esque statement on 2012. One is a new work, shot and presented digitally, but one that somehow managed to tangibly express everything that we risk to lose from the digital technology that was used to make it. They’re films I love unabashedly. Films that opened my eyes and continue to help me to actually wake up with the motivation to get out of my twin-sized bed, sit at a desk for 9+ hours, and at the end of the day, alone and in a city that these days takes more than it gives, to finally get to work.
Eniaios Cycles 6,7,8 (Markopoulos)
Pasteur (Epstein, 1922)
Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943)
Gallant Journey (Wellman, 1946)
Brigadoon (Minnelli, 1954)
La Pyramide humaine (Rouch, 1961)
Jaime (Reis & Cordeiro, 1974)
Twenty Days without War (Guerman, 1977)
Starman (Carpenter, 1984)
Déjà vu (Scott, 2006)
The Extravagant Shadows (Gatten, 2012)
Gina Telaroli (U.S.A.) is a filmmaker. She has recently made Traveling Light, Physical Instincts, Digital Destinities and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, among others. She works with image montages, having published in MUBI Notebook, La Furia Umana, Joan's Digest and Moving Image Source. Along with David Phelps, she has edited a dossier on William A. Wellman (published in La Furia Umana) and another one on Allan Dwan that will be published very soon in Lumière.