Odd how ethnocentrism (and other isms) can sneak into your thought processes and whap you upside the head.
Case in point: I was thinking about my favorite movies recently, and realized they had something in common.
Let me digress for a moment. My favorite movies fluctuate. My all-time favorite changes frequently, though it’s usually one of three, and I’d have a hard time coming up with a top ten list, because I don’t see enough movies to have collected that many that stay with me.
But, back to the point. Those top three actually have a fair amount in common. They’re all filled with digressions, and to a great extent they depend on an ensemble cast for their success. What struck me the other day is another similarity I hadn’t considered before. In a way, they’re all road movies.
Cold Fever is a weird Icelandic/Japanese road movie–in fact, it was billed as the “best Icelandic-Japanese road movie of 1995.” Yeah, that was done as a bit of a joke, but that’s beside the point. Everything happens on the way somewhere; the destination is almost irrelevant.
Tampopo is a weird Japanese road movie. Or, from one perspective at least, a movie about the road. Two of the main characters are truckers. Many of the diversions are related to the road, trains, or travel.
And Return of the Secaucus Seven is a weird little film full of comings and goings, travelings to and from, and even a nod to going around and around at the race track.
Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to call the latter two road movies, but there’s a theme there. Maybe not enough for a dissertation, but a dedicated critic in desperate need of an article could make something of it.
But, to get back to the original point of this post, did you catch the ism? Yup. “Icelandic/Japanese movie,” “Japanese movie,” “film”. Despite what Hollywood would prefer you to think, film is hardly a uniquely American creation, nor is American cinema the root stock from which all other countries have sprouted as twigs.
The mode of thought that says “the way we do it here is the only correct way,” is the cause of far too many problems. It’s disheartening to trip over it in one’s own thoughts.