Film

Fake It ‘Til You Make It: A Layman’s Guide to Cinema Appreciation

28 February 2015

The film ends, the credits roll, and the lights come up: discussion begins. What did you think? How cool was that scene? Wasn’t she fantastic? Soon your friend makes a comment about the director (who?) and one of their other films (what?), someone else goes off about their oeuvre (huh?), and you quickly find yourself knee deep in a conversation about films you’ve never seen, people you’ve never heard of, and jargon like ‘auteur’, ‘mise en scene’ and ‘cinema verite’.

You, my friend, have unintentionally entered the world of cinephilia: love of film. While you may not know anything about film, in five easy steps you will at least be able to save face. With a sprinkle of confidence and some fancy words, you can argue about some film you’ve never seen over a single origin cold-drip as well as the next hipster.

Given that knowledge is power, step one is to arm yourself with the facts and consensus on whatever film it is you’re seeing or discussing – whether prepared before an outing, or sneakily googled under the table while you’re “texting your housemate”.

Your first stop is IMDb, a.k.a. the Internet Movie Database. While home to user created lists that give the inanity at BuzzFeed a run for its money, it is also a touchstone for any cinephile wanting a quick fact check on anyone and anything related to the movie business. It does particularly well at keeping all the information in a format that is much shorter and easier to scan than Wikipedia’s. For example, a cursory glance at IMDb will tell you that the director of Ant-Man also did Bring It On, which is clearly important knowledge to add into any conversation.

The second most important website for our purposes is RottenTomatoes, a critic aggregator site, which gives a handy one-sentence summary of critical opinion on any film and essentially lets you know whether or not something is awful. For example, Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck currently has an 86% approval rating – which is why you are going to recommend it to a mate as if you actually bothered to see it. You can even reference LeBron James’ hilarious cameo role… that you found out about from the previous IMDb search.

Step two in pretending to be a cinephile is to start acting like you have seen all these movies that you read a one line review of in the bathroom, and start making blithe value judgements about them. Disclaimer: This takes years of listening to other people’s equally unfounded opinions, a lot of googling, and a lot of confident fibs, but give yourself time – I believe in you!

Step three is to begin dropping in these jargon words I mentioned earlier. The most important one is ‘auteur’, meaning author in French, which comes from the theory that a director is the sole “author” of the film, and thus the film is attributed to them above any other person. Just refer to anything in the film as directly belonging to the director/s and you’ll fit right in – “Her camera moves so fluidly”, “I can’t believe his ending – genius!”

This language indicates to other cinephiles that you, too, are one of them – an intellectual, cultured and experienced with film criticism – unlike the little people who talk about Channing Tatum and Jennifer Lawrence (mere players on the stage!). Some examples of auteurs that (some) cinephiles love include, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Royal Tenenbaums) and Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd) – name drop away, my friends.

Step five is mastery of important genres or movements, which are films grouped together by common theme or style. Film Noir, German Expressionism, the French New Wave and Mumblecore are just a few examples of the many styles you could reference. When discussing Mad Max: Fury Road, reference Ozploitation and bask in the golden rays of intellectual snobbery.

After we have mastered all this – the white lies, the sly googling, using the right words and dropping the right names – comes the final step to peak film snobbery: talking about films you have actually seen.

The day you proclaim how much you love Christopher Nolan’s films (such as Inception and the Batman trilogy) and at the same time reference metafiction, Film Noir, and his ‘visual language’, then you will have finally ascended to the ranks of true film poseur. Your arguments are now 100% more pretentious, and users report increased ability to make impressive small talk at networking events – congratulations, and you’re welcome.


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