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Poets' Favorite Movies

B. H. Fairchild

1. The Shop on Main Street. Czech film from the Sixties. Total genius. The opening long poem in Local Knowledge, "In Czechoslovakia," is about it. One of the main characters is an eighty-year-old woman played by an eighty-year-old Czech actress, whose name I do not at this moment remember, but who is beyond brilliant. The closing scene will haunt you for the rest of your life.

2. Chinatown. Yes, surpasses even Citizen Kane for me. Greatest study of evil in American film. My theory is that L.A. is the noir capital of the world because its very urban soul is noir, due to its "original sin" of stealing the water from the Owens Valley. What's astonishing about Chinatown is not its difference from the narrative of this sad chapter of history but rather its fidelity to it.

3. Citizen Kane. Don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said. It's the King Lear of film; that is, practically everything you need to know about cinema technique, you can learn from it.

4. 8 1/2. My favorite Fellini. Will redeem almost any terrible day at work.

5. Zorba the Greek. Wonderful, even better than the novel, at least in translation.

6. A Month in the Country. A terribly under-recognized movie that is pure gold, and made from a beautiful novel that too few people have read, with the same title, by J.L. Carr.

7. The Pawnbroker. From the great Lewis Wallant novel. Rod Steiger's best acting ever.

8. On the Waterfront. On another day I would rate this higher. Arguably the best film score ever. I'm still in love with Eva Marie Saint.

9. Some Like It Hot. Billy Wilder's greatest.

10. One-Eyed Jacks. Greatest western ever made, and one of those films where I think Brando was making up his lines as he went along.

My God, I've left off The Godfather, Double Indemnity, and at least fifty other prime candidates, but that's the trouble with top-ten lists. By the way, the Paul Scofield King Lear and at least five other Shakespeare films would be on here if I hadn't decided that Shakespeare was off limits for this kind of thing.


B. H. Fairchild is Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature at TCU.  His poems have appeared in the Hudson Review, New Yorker, Paris Review, Sewanee Review, and many other journals and small magazines.  His fourth book, Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest, received the National Book Critics Circle Award, Gold Medal from the California Book Awards, and Bobbitt Award from the Library of Congress.  Trilogy, with illustrations by Barry Moser, will appear later this year, and Usher, his sixth book of poems, is due out from Norton in 2008.

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Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach