by Allan Fish
We will be going ahead with the seventies poll in a couple of weeks, but we need to take stock beforehand. There are numerous reasons. Firstly, to give everyone a chance to see the films they may want to see before submitting choices for the sixties poll. Secondly, to allow Sam to do his duty and actually watch some of the stuff from the 1970s he’s had in his possession a few aeons so he can make a proper opening submission of his top 25 of the next decade. Thirdly, there will be a couple of clarifications to make before submissions for the seventies poll…
In the interim, I will be beginning a series of entries on films which, though they wouldn’t make my best lists of given decades, fall into one of two categories. Either personal favourites that I perhaps rate higher than I should (GUILTY PLEASURES) and the odd rarity long-neglected by western specialists (GUILTY CRITICS).
As per the title of this post, now we’re in the seventies it’s here that we move into a slightly blurry field of what counts as cinema and what as TV. Film connoisseurs are happy to talk about Fassbinder’s TV output Jailbait, World on Wires, Berlin Alexanderplatz, etc, as cinematic works, as they are Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face and Fanny and Alexander, Petersen’s Das Boot, Reitz’s Heimat trilogy, Kieslowski’s full Dekalog, Rossellini’s The Age of Cosimo de Medici, Von Trier’s The Kingdom, Ophuls’ The Sorrow and the Pity, Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth and others. Yet all the above were originally made and shown on TV before showings in often edited versions in cinemas in various parts of the world. Even some later British television series, from The Singing Detective to more recently Red Riding, have received film showings outside of the UK in arthouse cinemas. Even recently, David Thomson in his ‘Have You Seen?’ included such recent TV works as Twenty-Thousand Streets Under the Sky and Longford in its listings.
As many of these would really be permissable in a given poll of their respective decades. So to be fair, I have decided to allow any TV work into the list so long as it falls under the category of one of the following
A one off DRAMATISED serial based around an original script or novel/play (in others words, the likes of Brideshead Revisited, The Singing Detective and Boys from the Blackstuff are valid, but The Sopranos, Star Trek, Buffy, Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, The West Wing, Deadwood, Talking Heads, Cracker, The Wire are not. No serials likewise will be allowed if cheap sequel series with slightly changed titles came afterwards (so no Lonesome Dove, no Rich Man Poor Man, no House of Cards, etc.), or if one off specials followed (e.g. Blackpool). Likewise, with Cranford having a second run at Christmas this year it, too, cannot be counted.
A one off TV film that must have been shown cinematically elsewhere (examples include The Last Seduction (shown on cable before going to cinemas, hence Linda Fiorentino being denied an Oscar nom), and the likes of Made in Britain, Longford and Boy A from the UK).
So no series that ran for a number of series, no sitcoms, no documentaries unless shown cinematically in certain quarters (like the Marcel Ophuls works or MacQueen’s Gulag). No place for say the works of David Attenborough, Simon Schama or Michael Wood, Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, Ken Burns’ The Civil War or The West, Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man or, more recently, Lawrence Rees’ Auschwitz. I also will not allow Michael Apted’s Up Series as this has stretched over decades and would be impossible to quantify.
Appropriately, the Movie Timelines are now amended to cater for this change and the TV works will now be listed in italics in those listings. I didn’t make a point of this change in the 1960s as, though it was the decade of some strong TV dramas in the UK (An Age of Kings, The Forsyte Saga, The Caesars, The First Churchills, etc), it was really in the 1970s that the great series started to take hold.
I hope this hasn’t confused the issue any, but we had to be clear before progressing with the modern polls. We can’t allow certain TV works in because film directors made them, and not allow others just because they weren’t made by film directors.