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
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
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.