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Your Screen Education

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Does the way you appreciate films depend on your film appreciation? Stay with me here, it makes sense.

If you'd never seen American Graffiti or the original three Star Wars films (and this week, believe it or not, I met someone who not only never had but didn't have a clue what they were about) but only The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, you might think George Lucas was one of the worst directors ever given a blockbuster budget.

If you'd never watched a silent movie and had no idea they existed, might you watch The Artist and sit there wondering what the hell you'd stumbled across? If you have no idea what the conventions were in a screwball comedy, can you still like Raising Arizona or The Hudsucker Proxy for what they were?

I quite liked It's Complicated when it came out but wasn't blown away. Then I read a review where the critic said it was pitched perfectly at the older generation who grew up when screwball rom coms of the 1930s were popular. If I'd known more about that film movement would I have liked it more?

Listen to Quentin Tarantino talk about cinema from any period in any country. He can rattle off terms from 'German Expressionism' to 'New Wave Cinema Verite' with aplomb. If he hadn't become a director he could have been a professor of film studies.

But most of us, even keen film fans, aren't widely read enough (or have been alive long enough) to educate ourselves about the movements and styles that have shaped cinema. Just how much foreknowledge about the medium in general do you have to bring to the cinema with you to take a film the way it was intended?

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