Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cahiers du Coco: My Journey Through the Janus Films Box Set

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Coco and her new best friend
  • Coco and her new best friend
[Editor's note: You may remember Coco Hames, leader of The Ettes, from such videos as "Excuse" and "Teeth." (You may also have heard her last night on WFMU duetting with Gary the Squirrel.) The Ettes will be opening for The Zombies Sunday at War Memorial, and when she isn't finishing a new album for Merge with her other band, Parting Gifts, she's readying her new music and DVD boutique Fond Object in Riverside Village for opening next month. Since she has so much free time on her hands, we thought she'd like to start a weekly column delving into one of her obsessions. An introduction:]

There is a special place in my heart for movies. Like a lot of people, it’s not the easiest thing in the world for me to express my feelings for and about this life, and movies have the ability to say what I can’t say — and more importantly, to show me that I’m not alone. My mind works in funny ways, which is why I delight in David Lynch and Pedro Almodovar and P.T. Anderson. I’m so glad they’re here.

But before they were here, there were others. Other directors, actors, artists, making films which strived to compose stories, characters, images, sounds to express themselves. And expression is art. So to me, the classics of “art” cinema, are like the classics of any creative genre. And to me, the movies in the box set Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films are as much as part of an education as the books we had to (or probably should have been forced to) read in school. They are our world history written in flickers, told through the lens of artists from various countries and cultures, stories from ancient Japan to Weimar-era Germany to the Golden Age of Hollywood to swingin’ ‘60s London ... and beyond.

Mind you, this celebrated Janus box set is EXPENSIVE, and the only reason it is in my possession is because a lot of my nice friends got together for my 30th birthday last year and got it for me. (That's because when it came out in 2006 I flipped and haven’t stopped talking about it since.) I am crazy fortunate to own this amazing collection, but the great thing is, most of the films it features are available on Netflix and elsewhere online, and at pretty much every college-town artsy movie rental place (they still exist!). Which is why I’ve decided to share my passion about these movies in weekly installments here on this blog.

I did study film in school, but this was at the University of Florida, and they didn’t HAVE a film program, and I started their first filmmaker’s club, which immediately petered out after two meetings. Oh, and also I never graduated. So my formal film studies education is … limited. I am also not a critic (name’s Coco, not Kael). And it is awesome to have an editor, for while I am passionate and curious and responsive and resourceful, I am not an academic. I have a distant memory of The Elements of Style, and admittedly have a tendency to ramble and wander off topic. My goal with this blog is to share what excites me about these movies, and what makes me feel that they’re important to share. Take from it what you will. For me it’s a win-win because I get to watch a collection of some of my all-time favorite movies, and I get to chatter about them too.

This is by no means a comprehensive retrospective covering every film ever made, nor even every good or important film ever made. It’s about this Janus box set, which celebrates a company that honors quality (in all its forms) above all else. As Martin Scorsese says in the forward he wrote for the collection, “Today, when I put in a DVD with the Janus coin at the head, it gives me the same feeling I had when I first encountered it as a teenager. I know I’m going to see something exciting. It remains the mark of quality.”

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