Naked and spectacular

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Tired of watching films? A 1990 Bill Gosden speech

I was recently reading an interview with the new director of the Sydney Film Festival where he was asked the question anyone in a similar position can expect to be asked about 1000 times a year.

Don't you get tired of watching films?

Not at all, he replied. What could be more fun? I watch four or five films in a day and I find it exhilarating. Wow, I thought, you can spot the new ones.

Confronted by an interviewer asking the same question I might attempt a similarly ingenious response, but I know that here I can go into much more detail. And because so many people have expressed an interest over the years in this enthralling subject, I've decided to fill my allotted space tonight by telling you how I see movies – and whether or not I get tired of them.

The first thing to point out is that I became used to being paid rather than paying to watch movies at an impressionable age. As a first-year university student I received $20 a fortnight to preview the movies coming to Dunedin and to write the occasional precocious, brilliant review. There can be little doubt I considered myself an arbiter of taste. Of course one of the tragedies of youth is that so much of what strikes you as fresh, bold, original, daring, even precocious and brilliant is actually being recycled by cynical hacks for the thirty-sixth time.

What I saw in movies twenty years ago was probably a good deal more than you'd know from reading what I wrote back then. Movies were mere pretexts for trying poses. “Attitude” wasn't such a recognised phenomenon back then, but a movie column in the student newspaper was the perfect vehicle for lots of it. The cool and lofty heights from which I admired Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (1971) and deplored Mel Brooks's farty Blazing Saddles (1974) collapsed beneath me when I came to consider the films that really moved me, like Cabaret (1972) or the great movies made in the early '70s by Sam Peckinpah. Writing about these I could only rave like a besotted fool or rail against those who couldn't recognise self-evident genius.