The Best Film You've Never Seen by Robert Elder

Looking for some interesting new out-of-the-box suggestions for movie viewing for the new year? You might want to give Robert K. Elder's The Best Film You've Never Seen a look. Elder's previous collection The Film That Changed My Life interviewed 30 directors about important films that influenced the way that they create movies. In this book, Elder interviews 35 directors - from veterans like Peter Bogdanovich and Arthur Hiller to cult filmmakers John Waters and Guy Maddin - about the films that they think people need to see, most of which were neglected by audiences or savaged by critics.

The interviews with the directors have a similar format. Elder asks the interviewee to describe the movie to someone who hasn't seen it, then discusses what they found interesting about it and how it might have affected their work. In a number of cases, such as with John Waters and the campy Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton vehicle Boom!, the director has become a champion of the film, which has led to public screenings. In other cases, such as with The Brothers Quay's choice of L'ange, it's pretty clear that the film's pleasures may not end up affecting most others in quite the same way.

Personally, I often enjoy a flawed film with some interesting elements over a boring "quality" film, and this often seems to apply to the films chosen here. In the case of Under the Volcano, Rian Johnson mainly champions Albert Finney's performance, while Frank Oz acknowledges that most people won't enjoy the bleak tone of Orson Welles's take on Kafka's The Trial. Some of the best surprises of the book are seeing films that you wouldn't expect to be chosen by that particular director. A Man For All Seasons is as far from Kevin Smith's oeuvre as one can imagine, but he has one of the most passionate defenses in the whole book.

We are lucky to live in an age where many films that might have been inaccessible for years are now being reissued in elaborate packages by Criterion or similar companies. Even more obscure films can now be found on YouTube in low quality ripped-from-VHS copies. Many of the films discussed in this book were seen by the directors on late night television or in theaters and largely existed in their memories. But anyone who reads this book should be able to at least be able to add a few selections to their Netflix queue. Who knows, perhaps the book will bring about the critical reevaluation of Killer Klowns from Outer Space?

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