DESERT ISLAND FLICKS – Episode 8: Matthew E Carter

Matthew E Carter is a documentary filmmaker, video blogger and film history researcher. He began professionally making documentaries in 2010 when the then UK Film Council (now Creative England) financed his first short ‘Luv’in the Black Country’.

As of 2017, he’s been working with The Cinema and Television History Research Institute (CATHI) which is based in De Montfort University, where he’s undergoing a research project regarding British colonialism’s influence on Hong Kong cinema. In addition to this, Matthew creates video blogs for the East Asian Cinema Club; which produces content on the political history of East Asian cinema.

Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other

It’s a tricky one to call. I’ve probably seen “Mary Poppins” and “Late Spring” roughly the same number of times, and both deliver the same effect every time. However, I’d probably say “Late Spring” (1949) by Yasujirō Ozu gets the edge; especially as I’ve gotten older and my innocent tolerance for Dick Van Dyke’s infamous cockney accent has dwindled.

Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen

Quite a few, but the big one is probably” Gone with the Wind”. I’ve just never got around to it – and I have a worrying feeling that I never will.

Gone with the Wind – 1939
Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift

Probably a Mainland Chinese film called “Seventeen Years” (1999). In many ways it’s similar to a Dickensian redemption story (Christmas Carol, comes to mind) and “It’s a wonderful life”, where a character discovers their self-worth and faces their responsibilities. The film is about a woman called Xiaolan, who is serving a prison sentence after murdering her step-sister when they were teenagers. Seventeen years after she is giving permission to visit her family for Chinese New Year; afraid to return home and face her family, a prison guard, who takes pity on her, escorts Xiaolan to her family home. Despite the dark subject matter, it almost works like a road movie with a great ending.
For me, happy endings only really mean anything when the film has taken us to hell; shown us the worst of the world and its people – but still manages to convince us that it’s all worth it in the end. “Seventeen years” pulls this off and thus, will keep my spirits high during the desert isolation.

Seventeen – 1999
Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit

Probably “Inception”. It felt like the film spent far too much effort dictating to us why we should think it is intelligent, rather than actually showing us. Even if the film was as sophisticated as so many feel it is, I think it was clever for the sake of being clever; bordering on intellectual narcissism. But hey, maybe the blistering heat and dehydration on a desert island will shift my perspective?

Inception – 2010
Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made

I’d say “Camel(s)”, a 2002 South Korean film by Ki-Yong Park. The film is almost exaggeratedly simple; a businessman and pharmacist clerk go to a resort together to have an affair. There is hardly any dialogue and is comprised of very long takes; where it appears, at least on the surface, that almost nothing is happening – yet, fragments of plot, exposition and emotion are conveyed perfectly. I watched the film two or three times immediately after just to figure out how it depicted so much, without seeming to show anything at all. An amazing achievement.

Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you

It would be “Late Spring” again. The film completely changed the way I appreciate film in general. Not only did the film open me up to Ozu and the golden-age of post-war Japanese cinema, but it altered my sensibilities towards film as a whole; I don’t think I was truly in love with cinema before. As corny as it sounds, it was kind of like transitioning from a crush to a committed relationship. Everything I appreciate, or even criticise about a film, whether it’s visceral or calculated, is based on, to varying degrees, what “Late Spring” showed me film was capable of.

Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards

Yim Ho’s “Homecoming” (1984), a Hong Kong film about a Mainland Chinese woman who had lived in Hong Kong for ten years, and takes a trip back to her home village to visit her old friends. It gently examines how different Hong Kong and China became after the Mainland’s communist take-over in 1949; where freedom of movement between them was restricted and British colonialism began to help shape Hong Kong into a Westernised capitalist hub. The nuances and complexities regarding the contrasts between Hong Kong and China in the 1980s; which was both antagonistic and nostalgic, is perfectly projected through a deceptively simple reunion amongst friends.

Homecoming – 1984

As I’m isolated on an island there may be a time when I find a way to leave and explore other territories. Hopefully the film acts as a reminder – “ it doesn’t matter how tempting it is, DO NOT colonise other people’s land Mr. White man!!!”
The second would be Yoshishige Yoshida’s “Confessions Among Actresses” (1971), for its unconventional beauty and hypnotic charm. If the isolation and realities of being stranded gets too much, this film would be the perfect transcendental escape.

The rogue disc – The film you wished you’d never seen

“A Siberian film”, even if there were some transgressive merit to it – I still want it removed from my memory.

Luv’in the Black Country (Short Documentary) from Curious Atom Films on Vimeo.

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