“I’ve always been interested in films that address the contemporary situation. Historical films interest me more as history than art. I have, perhaps, 10 years of films left in me, and I’m perfectly content to ride the broken-down horse called movies into the cinematic sunset. But if I were starting out (at the beginning of my narrative, so to speak), I doubt I’d turn to films as defined by the 20th century for personal expression.”
So says Paul Schrader, in a preface to a very long article now available in the September-October issue of Film Comment. It’s called “Canon Fodder”, with a subhead that reads, “As the sun finally sets on the century of cinema, by what criteria do we determine its masterworks?”
The only thing things that seems profound and penetrating to me about films coming out today are those with elements that stem directly from “films as defined by the 20th Century.” Most filmmakers and film lovers I know and respect care deeply about re-stating and carrying the banner for the aesthetic standards of 20th Century cinema into the new millenium. I don’t know what form of creative endeavor Schrader would pursue today if he were 21 and just starting out. Video games? Creative terrorism? Running his own website with some form of online performance-confessional a la Jamie Stuart?