Exploring Paul Schrader’s Film Canon

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It is no longer possible for a young filmgoer to watch the history of film and make up his or her own mind: there are just too many movies. It’s barely possible to keep up with the yearly output of audiovisual entertainment on TV and in theaters, here and abroad. Like book readers, filmgoers must rely on the accumulated wisdom of film studies—which films have endured and why—a “wisdom” increasingly polluted by populist or academic criteria. What is needed, disingenuously enough, is a film canon.
We also need the library. Though students and movie lovers can now quickly and easily view movies online through services like Netflix and Hulu, there are actually fewer options available and the thrill of discovery just isn’t the same. Streaming services and Redbox may offer convenience, but they often exclude obscure and classic titles or provide them for only a limited period of time. Thankfully, the Media Library continues to provide access to a wide array of films and television programs. In this posting, we provide just one helpful resource for approaching movies–the abandoned film cannon written by acclaimed critic, writer, and director Paul Schrader. In a 2006 article for Film Comment magazine, “Canon Fodder,” (quoted above) Schrader describes how he came to start and and ultimately abandon the task of creating a film canon. Presented here are his top 20 (Gold films). All but one are available to check out and/or stream through the Media Library. Only two are currently available on Netflix streaming.
  1. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
  2. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
  3. City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
  4. Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)
  5. Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang)*
  6. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
  7. Orphée (1950, Jean Cocteau)
  8. Masculin-Feminin (1966, Jean-Luc Godard)
  9. Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
  10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
  11. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
  12. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
  13. The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges)
  14. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)*
  15. 8 ½ (1963, Federico Fellini)
  16. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
  17. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)
  18. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
  19. Performance (1970, Donald Cammell/Nicholas Roeg)**
  20. La Notte (1961, Michelangelo Antonioni)
*These titles are available on Netflix streaming. **This one title is not currently available through the UNT Media Library.    

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