Illustrations by Keri McIntyre

I would never describe myself as a film expert, gravitating instead towards light and easily digestible flicks, particularly in this year of global doom. I never really knew where to start, put off by the breadth and technical mystique of classic film. Crucially though, I have avoided making classic film my personality as I’m worried it would make me unbearable. Many of you must share the experience of having a “film bro” stand over you at a party sneering: “What do you mean you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction / Fight Club / [insert niche French black-and-white-film]?“. Yet, in an effort to broaden my cultural horizons over the Easter holidays, I, on a whim, got a free trial of MUBI and screened some of its top-rated films. By the end of the week, I hoped not only would I enjoy these renowned films, but that I could shun any oncoming superiority complex.

The King of Comedy (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Illustration by Keri McIntyre

I wanted to begin with a nice rom-com to ease my way in, but unfortunately MUBI didn’t have any of the light-hearted pith I usually enjoy, so I was forced to dive into the deep end with the big Scorcese. Here were some thoughts I jotted down whilst watching: “Why are the opening credits to classic films so long?” , “And why so many opening scenes in taxis?“, “God I’m jealous of the female stalker’s fabulous mullet”. Unsubstantial ramblings perhaps, but, for me, The King of Comedy was an enjoyable take on the American infatuation with fame. I wish the female accomplice, Masha, had received more airtime, as her sexual obsession with talk show host Jerry Langford was, for me at least, more interesting than protagonist Rupert Pupkin’s comedy career ambitions. I knew I hadn’t quite been indoctrinated to the classic film cult when I skipped past the ending credits to see if there was a Marvel-esqe Easter egg. Alas there was not, and I could rest easy in the knowledge that I am no film buff yet.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma)

Illustration by Keri McIntyre

My first introduction to this film was through my TikTok For You Page, which described it primarily in terms of lesbian longing and frantic cello music, a half accurate summary, as the film was mostly void of any music, an artistic choice I thought might bore me. Yet, once I’d got over initial tenuous musings, such as the resemblance between Héloïse and Billie Eilish (this might be just me) and that maybe the French just are sexier (probably not just me), I was enthralled. Every shot was so well-considered, and the dialogue felt poetic but never grandiose. The line “do all lovers feel as though they’re inventing something?” particularly stayed with me, a reflection on the transgressive yet intimate relationships that well-done queer cinema can portray. It was refreshing to see a film solely explore relationships between women, providing relief from the overdone classic film nexus of male genius and insanity, a trope I hope loses its dominance. Look at me, I’m starting to sound like a film columnist already!

Fight Club (dir. David Fincher)

Illustration by Keri McIntyre

To balance this intimate portrayal of the female experience, we move to perhaps its opposite, a film hinging on the premise that sometimes men just really want to fight. It is quite embarrassing that I’d put off watching the hallmark that is Fight Club for so long but, in my defence, I have always been quite averse to on-screen violence. Indeed, Fight Club had a lot of violence, along with a whole host of acclaimed film techniques — the epic twist, unreliable narrator, breaking the fourth wall, etc. Whereas Sciamma was generous in her long gazes, Fincher provides an assault on the senses. Humour provided relief, as I’d internalised that all esteemed films had to have purely serious dialogue. However, I spent much of this film confused and baulking at the sight of blood and animal fat. Unfortunately, this has rather reinforced my preconception that classic film is not really meant to be comprehensible, relaxing, or relatable, but rather marvelled at from a distance.

8 ½ (dir. Federico Fellini)

Illustration by Keri McIntyre

I thought I’d challenge myself for the final film of the week with something that really ticks all the film buff boxes: a black-and-white, subtitled, Italian, 1960s film about filmmaking (very meta, I know). And believe me, I really tried to enjoy the next two-and-a-half-hour surrealist insight into the directorial process. Despite recognising the beauty and ambition of it all, I just could not keep up with its crazed apparitions, and the only commentary I could blunder to my Dad sitting next to me was an appreciation for the striking makeup. What made things worse was reading the countless MUBI user reviews describing the film as “flawless” and a “masterpiece”, reigniting insecurities about my imposter status amongst arty crowds. Fortunately, my Dad similarly described the film as “bonkers” (and not in a good way), leaving me with the comfort that perhaps my poor taste is inherited.

“I challenge any film newbies to take on the film snob at their own game.”


Mountain View

The Dangers of Constant Reboots and Revivals

My week of film exploration has been an enriching ride. I didn’t love every film, but simply having an opinion is a constructive outcome, regardless of whether this opinion is widely shared. Indeed, what is described as a “good” or “classic” film is frequently chosen by the same group of “experts”, resulting in a rather select list (read: starkly white and male). As such, the film cult could benefit with being broadened, and so I challenge any film newbies to purge reservations about being uncultured and take on the film snob at their own game.