William Brown

As is perhaps to be expected, I won't play ball with this.

However, to continue to push the notion of an 'outside' canon does raise some interesting questions.

Firstly, having tried to suggest an alternative canon in your first poll, and then having deconstructed canons in the second poll, maybe now I should propose something different.

It strikes me that with this new poll there is a chance to create a list of films that are not available - in the UK at least - but which the list creators feel should be.

Something like a list presented by we the undersigned can or could function as a tool for lobbying film distributors to make available on DVD, in print, or online for download/streaming a selection of films of potentially unlimited size, but which people really should be able to see - for the sake of their film education if not for the sake of their education full stop.

By signalling a small but potentially decent market, in which these films could and hopefully would come to sit in public and private collections (university libraries, mediatheques, private collections, rental stores - both fleshworld and online), this might help in freeing these films from the various states of forget, neglect, copyright stasis, censorship, ransom, ruin, overpriced digitisation, regional imprisonment, language barriers, etc, that currently keep them from public eyes.

To make clear what I mean by the above possible impediments (and I've probably not understood even the half of the most complex reasons for a film not to be available), I'll go through my list.

  1. Forget and neglect - a film that is lying around somewhere, but which people have overlooked.
  2. Copyright stasis - or other rights negotiations/debates over payment, ownership, etc, etc, etc - and which have not been/cannot be resolved, thereby meaning that the film is unavailable and that no one at all is making money from the film (if money is all that is at stake here), meaning that - in a rather destructive way - no one is the winner.
  3. Censorship - of all sorts - which mean that films remain unavailable, be this for reasons of forbidding morality or, more particularly?, forbidding politics.
  4. Ransom - akin to copyright stasis, but the current distributors destroy their potential market by charging excessive prices for their film(s), even though the cost of mechanically or digitally reproducing such works should not be too expensive.
  5. Ruin - a tough one to get over this, because some films might be dead and disappeared, and others fast on the way out. Restoration is expensive and in true Darwinian fashion, if a film ain't got no obvious market appeal, it may not get restored before it is too late.
  6. Overpriced digitisation - which is not quite ransom, but perhaps closer to ruin, and by which I mean films that have not yet been rendered in a readily reproducible format (digital, video), and whose condition in its current format (celluloid) may be precarious enough that the digitisation is difficult and or, quite simply, expensive.
  7. Regional imprisonment - by which I do not just mean a DVD is available in Region 1 only (because, to get around this, we can with relative ease order films from North American retailers and buy multi-region players and/or laptops on which to watch them, even if the big corporations don't like it). Rather, I mean that if a film, say, is held in a collection/archive in London, then cinephile Keith Kinema in Truro is going only rarely to have an opportunity to see said film. Regional and local mediatheques - or sections of what in old money is your local library - should systematically begin now both to appear and to house significant collections of films for the general public to access because is it not about time that film was recognised not just as mindless entertainment but as a 'new' medium that has also given us significant art, propaganda, historical documents, and more, and which can hugely edify those who watch them?
  8. Language - by which basically I mean films that do not have subtitles and which are not in a language that this person understands. A subtitler working with a native speaker of practically any language on Earth (and in our globalised era there are speakers of all languages practically everywhere) should be able none too obstructedly to solve this problem.

It's all well and good reading lists and descriptions from other people about classic films that, when I look on Amazon and other sites, I cannot find them. Writing about obscure films that no one else has seen or can see does, after all (and writing facetiously), keep some academics in bread. But is it not also about time that we should be able to watch these films as well as read about them? Do/should we not be able to watch both local and global classics in this contemporary day and age?

Compiling a list of films that are not (readily) available might simply reproduce the problematic situation whereby we know about 'great' films that we will never see. That is why a 'canon' of 'unavailable' films should be accompanied by activity/activism towards making available these films – through lobbying and publicity.

In addition, to do so may also make clear a small but potentially rewarding business opportunity, in that one could also decide or desire to make available these films oneself, in small runs (at least at first), and perhaps bring to the wider public attention obscure, forgotten and unloved film classics.

Although to compile a list of unseen films is also problematic in that it canonises these unseen and hopefully-soon-to-be-seen films at the inevitable exclusion of many other films that are perhaps also 'worthy' or entitled to be included, it is also not a bad starting point, and, bound currently as we are by our frail bodies that can only travel forwards and continuously through time, you have to start somewhere, since we cannot skip straight to the end.

To this end, I include a list of films that I have not seen, which I cannot readily or easily find (even if copies of them exist in the UK, and even if those copies are not as jealously guarded as some films are by some people), but which I definitely would like to see.

But just before the list, a note on format: if these are cinematic works intended to be seen on the cinema, and if above I argue that a DVD version would equate to the 'real thing,' then I am of course open to criticism. But a DVD is better than nothing; reading print runs of Shakespeare's plays is not as good as reading his own handwritten manuscript, but it is better than nothing at all, even if it similarly does not transport me back to c1601 and the opening night of Hamlet. And at the end of the day, Film Studies in the academic sense of the word is DVD Studies nowadays anyway - just few people dare to admit it.

A sort of off-the-top-of-my-head and in no particular order/using other lists list of films - to which THOUSANDS more could be added - that I have not seen (barring one or two exceptions, generally seen on pirate copies), that I want to see, but copies of which I cannot find (and let me know if I am being dumb and cannot find them - because some should seemingly be easy to get hold of):

  • Raja Harishchandra (DG Phalke, 1913)
  • Tih Minh (Louis Feuillade, 1918)
  • Karin Ingmarsdotter (Victor Sjostrom, 1919)
  • Gunnar Hedes saga (Mauritz Stiller, 1923)
  • Inhumaine (Marcel L'Herbier, 1924)
  • Visages d'enfant (Jacques Feyder, 1925)
  • The Unholy Tree (Tod Browning, 1925)
  • Dura lex (Lev Kuleshov, 1926)
  • Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1926 - full version)
  • An Italian Straw Hat (René Clair, 1927)
  • Heimkehr (Joe May, 1928)
  • Die Wunderbare Lüge Der Nina Petrowna (Hans Schwarz, 1929)
  • Alam Ara (Ardeshir Irani, 1931)
  • Marie, Hungarian Legend (Paul Fejös, 1932)
  • Spring Silkworms (Cheng Bugao, 1933)
  • The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934)
  • La Signora di Tutti (Max Ophuls, 1934)
  • Wife, Be Like a Rose (Mikio Naruse, 1935)
  • La Belle Équipe (Julien Duvivier, 1935)
  • The Show Boat (James Whale, 1936)
  • Un carnet de bal (Julien Duvivier, 1937)
  • Stolen Death (Nyrki Tapiovaara, 1938)
  • Aniki Bóbó (Manoel de Oliveira, 1942)
  • Douce (Claude Autant-Lara, 1943)
  • Une si jolie petite plage (Yves Allégret, 1948)
  • Crows and Sparrows (Zheng Junli, 1949)
  • La Beauté du Diable (René Clair, 1949)
  • City Without Night (Tang Ziaodan, 1957)
  • The House of the Angel (Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, 1957)
  • Méditerranée (Jean-Daniel Pollet, 1963)
  • Two Stage Sisters (Xie Jin, 1964)
  • Brick and Mirror (Ebrahim Golestan, 1965)
  • Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)
  • Hour of the Furnaces (Octavio Getino/Fernando Solanos, 1968)
  • Four Moods (Li Han-Hsiang, Li Hsing, Cai Ching-Jui, Hu Jinqian, 1970)
  • Le vent d'est (Dziga Vertov Group, 1970)
  • Zorn's Lemma (Hollis Frampton, 1970)
  • Der Leone Have Sept Cabeças (Glauber Rocha, 1971)
  • The Long Farewell (Kira Muratova, 1971)
  • La région centrale (Michael Snow, 1971)
  • Chronicle of the Years of Fire (Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, 1975)
  • Manila: In the Claws of Neon (Lino Brocka, 1975)
  • The Travelling Players (Theo Angelopoulos, 1975)
  • The Deers (Massoud Kimiai, 1976)
  • The Perfumed Nightmare (Kidlat Tahimik, 1976)
  • Knife in the Head (Reinhard Hauff, 1978)
  • The Scar (Cherd Songsri, 1978)
  • Robinson Crusoe in Georgia (Nana Dzhordzhadze, 1987)
  • Bashu, The Little Stranger (Bahram Bey'zai, 1989)
  • City of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1989)
  • A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
  • Djomeh (Hassan Yektapanah, 2000)
  • West of the Tracks (Wang Bing, 2003)
  • Soi Cowboy (Thomas Clay, 2008)

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