My Holy Grail: The 12 Movies I Need to See Meme

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By Marilyn Ferdinand

Yes, it’s another meme, this one courtesy of MovieMan at The Dancing Image. The idea is to choose 12 hard-to-get films that we want to see, name them, and tell why we have chosen them as part of our holy grail. Pat at Doodad Kind of Town tagged me. I didn’t think I could do it, but I was wrong. Some of these films are very hard to impossible to get, others not so much. Here they are, in no particular order.

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All I Desire (1953)
Director: Douglas Sirk
I had a chance to see this Barbara Stanwyck vehicle on the big screen and just totally blew it. The story of a mother who abandoned her family coming back into the picture sounded delicious, and it’s by Sirk, one of my favorite directors.

India: Matri Bhumi (1959)
Director: Roberto Rossellini
A very bad print of this film was brought to Chicago early this year for an extremely rare showing. It sold out, and another showing was added. I was out of town and missed my chance to see it. Reputed to be Rossellini’s masterpiece. Someone has to restore it someday…

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Stromboli (1950)
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Another Rossellini I have been wanting to see since Martin Scorsese pointed it out in his documentary on Italian filmmaking. I can get a copy on VHS, but so far, I haven’t.

The Apu Trilogy (1959)
Director: Satyajit Ray
I tried to see this monumental trilogy once, but it was on VHS and the print was terrible. I gave up. It’s available on DVD now, but I haven’t laid my hands on it.

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Flaming Youth (1923)
Director: John Francis Dillon
The film that supposedly defined Colleen Moore as a flapper is, like all her other flapper movies, said to be lost. I’ve only seen her comedic roles, and I’m dying to see her in another light. They said Her Wild Oat was lost, but it was found. I’ve got my fingers crossed on this one.

Saturday Morning (1971)
Director: Kent MacKenzie
This documentary (no picture available) is the only other completed film by Kent MacKenzie, whose The Exiles was such a moving experience. A week of group-therapy sessions featuring 20 teenagers from the California of the late 1960s may not sound like everyone’s slice of heaven. I’m sure that in MacKenzie’s capable hands, it’s a knockout.

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Retribution (Sakebi, 2006)
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
This was the film that played at the 2006 Chicago International Film Festival I most wanted to see and didn’t. I’ll see it one day.

Invitation to the Dance (1956)
Director: Gene Kelly
One of Kelly’s few failures, Invitation to the Dance sounds like a bold idea. I suspect that I would love spending an entire movie looking at nothing but dancing. It’s probably available, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

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Napoléon (1927)
Director: Abel Gance
I missed my chance to see this at the Chicago Theatre palace with a live orchestra when the restored film was touring around the world. I want to see it live. Maybe I’ll get a second chance.

17th Parallel: Vietnam and War (Le 17e parallèle: La guerre du peuple, 1968)
Directors: Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan Ivens
I’m not too familiar with Joris Ivens, but he seems to have a very singular vision and the courage to go where others don’t. I’ve never seen the Vietnam War from the perspective of the peasants of the North, but I’d really like to. Not sure how available this is.

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The Story of a Clumsy Clerk (Der Stolz der Firma, 1914)
Director: Carl Wilhelm
No other reason I want to see this than it stars Ernst Lubitsch in a dual role (that’s him above). It’s not lost, but not readily available.

The Wrong Box (1966)
Director: Bryan Forbes
Technically, I have seen this film before, but it was so long ago that I might as well not have. I loved this book and remember loving the film. I’d like to revisit my childhood with this English comedy with an all-star cast (Michael Caine, John Mills, Peter Cook, Ralph Richardson, Dudley Moore).

Sorry, no more tags.

  • Peter Nellhaus spoke:
    22nd/09/2008 to 10:48 pm

    Even without live music, hopefully you can see Napoleon on a big theater screen. In the meantime, Retribution is easily available.
    I had a film teacher encourage my class to see Saturday Morning. I remember the film vaguely. What I remember better is someone seeing the list of films I had seen that year and trying to helpfully point out the title of the film was The Sterile Cuckoo, thinking I was referring to the song from the Liza Minnelli film.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    23rd/09/2008 to 8:28 am

    Thanks for the encouragement. I think I’ll put Retribution on the list for this weekend. The hubby and I are big fans of K. Kurosawa.
    That’s a funny story about Saturday Morning, and you’ve actually seen it (though dim in memory). It’s such a shame MacKenzie left us so very, very soon.

  • Daniel spoke:
    23rd/09/2008 to 11:19 am

    Wow, these sound like some really interesting picks, especially The Apu Trilogy and Saturday Morning. I wouldn’t even know where to start with these, but Pat tagged me, too!

  • Marilyn spoke:
    23rd/09/2008 to 11:34 am

    Daniel, I wasn’t going to do it initially for that very reason. Yesterday, though, the idea that I could start with India: Matri Bhumi, which was a given for me made me take heart that I’d find a way. I don’t really think about films in terms of holy grails, but some do make it onto the mental checklist.

  • Pat spoke:
    23rd/09/2008 to 11:45 am

    Marilyn –
    I knew you’d have a great list! I like Sirk, too, but didn’t know about that Stanwyck film – it sounds interesting. I love “The Wrong Box” which I’ve seen several times – it pops on TV now and then. “Napoleon” is one I’d also like to see.
    An interesting side note – this meme was mentioned by Andrew O’Hehir in his “Beyond the Multiplex” blog on Salon today. He’d read entries by Glen Kenny and Filmbrain, but declined to provide his own “Holy Grail” list.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    24th/09/2008 to 6:47 am

    This list contains so many that I want to see but haven’t. I too have wanted to see Stromboli since watching Scorsese’s Personal Journey movie on Italian films.
    And The Apu Trilogy I’ve wanted to see for as long as I’ve read about movies but never have.
    I had sex with a bodybuilder last week.
    Napoleon I saw years ago and loved it but it’s been so long I need to see it again (and I saw it on television after it’s restoration, so I’d love to see it again on the big screen).
    Technically, I have seen this film before, but it was so long ago that I might as well not have. That applies to 90 percent of all movies when I first began my cinephilia as a pre-teen. Lordy, there are hundreds of movies I’ve watched in my teens, some of the biggest in film history, that I can say I saw but have almost no memory of them.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    24th/09/2008 to 8:02 am

    Preteen and childhood, same for me. I’m surprisingly lucid about my high school years’ viewing, maybe because I didn’t see that many movies. I spent every moment I wasn’t in school at the theatre or outside.
    I’ve got to get into my leather chaps now and whip a client.

  • MovieMan0283 spoke:
    29th/09/2008 to 3:50 pm

    Marilyn, you (and all the other participants) have been included in a new master list on my blog:
    http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/08/holy-grail.html
    Contains all the movies plus the bloggers who suggested them. There were way more than I expected (luckily, since I probably wouldn’t have bothered to compile the whole thing if I knew how long it would take…)
    Where did you hear about the Vietnam movie – I would definitely be interested in seeing that…

  • Marilyn spoke:
    29th/09/2008 to 6:25 pm

    There was a Joris Ivens retro in town a while back and I have a couple of his films on DVD. I didn’t see this film, but it sounded really interesting.

  • Dennis Doros spoke:
    27th/02/2010 to 12:43 am

    There is a bonus feature on THE EXILES dvd release called IVAN AND HIS FATHER which is a sort of outtake from SATURDAY MORNING. Kent Mackenzie and the producer of the film Gary Goldsmith took twelve or so segments that were not used for the feature and turned them into short films for the educational market. This particular short was used for the dvd since the father was “portrayed” by Kent Mackenzie himself.

    SATURDAY MORNING is still owned by Sony/Columbia and it’s way down on their list to bring out.

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