The inaccessibility of a film obviously changes greatly for the individual, or do you mean as in, (looking at the TSPDT top 100) most people these days would be able to watch and enjoy The Godfather, but it would be harder for them to find films like Au hasard Balthazar and Playtime very accessible?
…or do you mean as in, (looking at the TSPDT top 100) most people these days would be able to watch and enjoy The Godfather, but it would be harder for them to find films like Au hasard Balthazar and Playtime very accessible?
Are inaccessible films all that common? Certainly we can name a bunch – Un chien andalou, L’avventura, The Color of Pomegranates, The Brown Bunny. This list could go on and many of the titles would be on many great film lists. Where would you even start, though, making a list of accessible great films? Hundreds come immediately to mind. Accessibility is the norm and inaccessibility is the exception, which I doubt would change even when limiting to great films.
“Given these parameters, what’s the ratio of accessible to inaccessible films among the all-time great movies?”
I think it depends on who you ask. If you’re asking Mubi folk, take a look at Polaris’ poll from last year. If you’re talking about normal people, of course most (if not all) would be accessible films. As Brad said, by definition accessible means more people will like them so it stands to reason that the more people who are polled, the more likely you’re going to have accessible films populating your list over inaccessible films.
^Yup. Depends on the poll. The ratio of accessible to inaccessible will vary greatly from, say, the Empire Magazine Top 500 to the Sight and Sound Poll. But even with something as favorable towards “arthouse” films as the latter list is probably still at no more than a 2:1 ratio (2 being accessibles, 1 being inaccessibles).
Here’s what I meant. If we took the canon films and maybe got a bunch of other top 100 films of all time lists and we divided the films into two groups, accessible and inaccessible. What would the ratio be?
(OK, I just browsed the TSPDT list and the Cahiers du Cinema list. Brad’s right. It’s not even close. Is there an edgier list, but not completely off-the-wall (e.g., a list that would exclude many canon films)?)
I would guess the percentage would be about 80% accessible to 20% inaccessible. But I’m counting people like Malick and Lynch as inaccessible (well at least later Lynch like Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire). It wouldn’t surprise me if it was an even larger percentage though – maybe even 90%.
I think you guys are right.
When I think of the term “accessible” being applied to films, I primarily think of films that non-cinephiles/non-film buffs/the average person would watch and be able to follow along with the basic plot. Not that they would necessarily like the film, or be viewing it critically, but they would not be confused by the plot of it, or be distracted from the plot by experimentation/avante-gardiness (that’s a word, right? :)
For the most part I don’t think about it in terms of likeability though. For example, many people now don’t like black and white films. But if they were forced to sit down and watch one, Citizen Kane for example, I think that they could easily follow the basic plot of the film, so I consider that film to be very accessible. I also don’t think about subtitles, as many people are even more opposed to this than B&W films, but once again, if forced to watch, would not have much difficulty in following the plot. But silent films are a different story. People are so used to hearing dialogue, even if in another language, that I think for many, I think that a lack of dialogue, and sound in general, would be a major obstacle. As for me personally, I remember having difficulty the first time I saw Birth of a Nation or The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Santino noted Malick and Lynch. I think that Malick probably sits right on the dividing line between accessible and inacessible, and that Lynch films would probably average out to about the same, with The Elephant Man and The Straight Story at one extreme, Eraserhead and Inland Empire at the other, and things like Blue Velvet and Dune dancing around the dividing line.
Looking at the TSPDT 1,000 , and how they fit into my interpretation of accessibility, the only non-silent films in the first 40 I would consider inaccessible would be 2001, 8 1/2, L’Avventurra, Persona, and Contempt, though there are a handful I haven’t seen (for example, I think that I might consider Andrei Rublev based on other Tarkovskys I’ve seen)
Now if we are talking about a MUBI all-time greatest list, I have no idea. Depends on which list you refer to. Polaris’ poll from earlier this year started out with fairly predictable films at the top, but ended up with mostly unknown films (at least to most of us, including myself).
There’s also this MUBI all time greatest poll, which looks a bit more like a Sight and Sound/TSPDT list than Polaris’ poll: http://mubi.com/lists/the-auteurs-poll-2009
I would say about 1:1
I’m not sure Polaris’ poll is a good representation of Mubi tastes, because there was a lot of cooperative strategy there to eliminate the ‘Usual suspects’.
The poll RUS ran a year or two ago is probably a better total representation of the Mubi boards, and it included very accessible ones like Citizen Kane and very inaccessible ones like The Mirror.
I’d say 89.6% accessible, to 11.4% inaccessible.
How do you get 1:1?
Because I feel accessibility has little to do with the quality of a film in one direction or the other. I also feel the odds of myself being exposed to a film are hedged in favor of the accessible ones, so there are probably a lot more great, inaccessible films I haven’t seen than great, accessible films I haven’t seen.
I also feel the odds of myself being exposed to a film are hedged in favor of the accessible ones, so there are probably a lot more great, inaccessible films I haven’t seen than great, accessible films I haven’t seen.
But of the existing lists, would you agree that the accessible films far outnumber the inaccessible ones? (I wonder if this would be true for all artforms.)
If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the lists are skewed because we’re more likely to know about accessible films, rather than inaccessible ones. But you don’t think that critics have done a decent job of searching for films? They may have missed great films, but that may be due to distribution problems, just as much as inaccessibility of the film. If you’re thinking is correct, then if we could see every film ever made, we would conclude that of the great films, roughly half would be accessible, while the other half would not be.
I think inaccessibility or lack thereof should only factor into determining a film’s quality up to a point, but after that I think it’s irrelevant. For example, the overt accessibility of a film like Forrest Gump certainly works against it. However, I don’t think the issue of accessibility/inaccessibility has any place in a comparison of say The 400 Blows and The Intruder (Claire Denis). In rare cases, overt inaccessibility could even compromise a film, but I can’t think of specific examples that come to mind. I enjoy intellectually engaging films as much as the next person, but if we start to propose that a film’s artistic value is directly proportional to its inaccessibility quotient things could get dangerous.
Accessible films are bound to be more present on lists as accessible means more people will like them and canons are popularity contests basically.
The question that’s more in line with what the thread is asking is whether the films that get on these lists are really the best – and why or why not. I think that the vast majority of the “greatest films of all time,” if I’m using my own criteria and judgment rather than appealing to already existing lists, are relatively inaccessible.
Jazz, if you look at major critics’ individual lists, you’ll usually find a pretty good mix of the accessible and inaccessible. Then when you add all the lists together, you get a preponderance of the accessible ones. That what it means to be accessible, to have high quantity of appeal. But quantity of appeal and quality of appeal are not inherently related.
And quantity of appeal leads to greater quantity of exposure, which exaggerates the difference in quantity of appeal on aggregate lists.
I certainly don’t agree with all of the films on these lists, and I often have problems with the rank order, but generally speaking, I do agree with many of the usual suspects. So far, I haven’t really seen many films that don’t appear on the list that I feel should make the list.
The question that’s more in line with what the thread is asking is whether the films that get on these lists are really the best – and why or why not.
I think that’s a bit beyond the scope of the thread. What people could do is examine their list of all-time great films and then answer in that way (as you have).
Right. I don’t think appealing to lists from magazines and web sites is really relevant to your question.
Accesible films will automatically filter through to more people by dint of the fact that they’re more easily available. Of these films the less ‘difficult’ ones will populate the upper echelons of the various ‘greatest films’ lists because they’re more easily able to be enjoyed by a wider range of people. This is one of these things that, if I’m understanding the OP correctly kind of goes without saying, as that’s what accessible means.
My personal belief is that the films that are always at or near the top of these lists are not only there because they’re accomplished in many ways that those who study film as art can appreciate, but because they also can be appreciated by those will little or no formal or technical knowledge of film. That’s why I consider Bergman to be a genius among filmmakers – there’s as much depth in a Bergman film as you bring to the table, but you can still appreciate his films even if you bring very little.
Jazz, if you look at major critics’ individual lists, you’ll usually find a pretty good mix of the accessible and inaccessible.
You mean, lists of individual critics are 50/50 in terms of accessibility/inaccessibility? (Let me check that out.)
I don’t think appealing to lists from magazines and web sites is really relevant to your question.
Unless your list is very similar to those lists.
Doesn’t a consensus list, by its very nature, imply a certain level of shared perception of accessibility?
But suppose the people making the list were open to inaccessible films—and even preferred inaccessible films.
Inaccessible to whom? People with closed minds?
Bergman’s also out of fashion with cinephiles,
House of Leaves – I’m guessing he means to the average movie fan.
Wouldn’t another way to put this be: do you agree with IMDb tastes? :) And the general answer from here would be no but there is some overlap. Maybe we could call inaccessible all the movies that are appreciated here but wouldn’t be on IMDb.
I would be a little kinder to people who don’t like inaccessible films than House, but it’s a fair distinction to make that some cinephiles are open to difficult, slow, unexciting films that are intellectually stimulating and others are only open to films that can be passively and effortlessly absorbed.
There’s nothing wrong with not liking difficult films, you just have different priorities. But that doesn’t mean because that group is larger that difficult films should be considered inferior to accessible ones.
Also a lot of critics, when making best lists, filter their own tastes through what they expect the audience to have heard of.
“But suppose the people making the list were open to inaccessible films—and even preferred inaccessible films.”
Ah, but now it sounds as if you’re assuming there’s some sort of objective or quasi-objective quality “inaccessible” that films have. I don’t think it makes any sense to consider “inaccessibility” as an absolute—it’s always going to be relative the particular person or persons watching the film. So the question becomes more interesting as a snapshot of how the person answering the question sees “us” taste vs. “them” taste.
Obviously, for someone who has no interest in film, it’s likely that not many films on the list are going to be accessible, because there’s no interest to drive it. If you think of it as a continuum, as one’s interest and experience gets greater, the perceived “accessibility” of a film should be greater as well.