Many art forms dip into the self-referential. From songs about songs to paintings depicting the artist painting that particular work, art is always willing to look at itself. Films are no different. From the very earliest cinematic experiments, movies drew inspiration from or indeed focused entirely on the filmmaking process. Even at the turn of the last century, filmmakers were experimenting with the ideas of putting film on film. The Big Swallow is a 1901 surrealist short in which a man steps closer and closer to the camera before swallowing it whole. Since then films have looked at the cameraman’s craft (Man With a Movie Camera – 1929), the screenwriting process (Adaptation – 2002), Sound Design (Berbarian Sound Studio - 2012) and in some movies, characters even come to recognise their own fictional existence (Stranger than Fiction – 2006). So without further ado, here is my list of Six of the Best… Films about Film.
1. Cinema Paradiso – 1988
Giuseppe Tornatore’s Italian masterpiece features a middle aged film director returning to his small Sicilian village for the first time in decades in order to attend the funeral of his friend and mentor. The movie then takes us forward from the director’s earliest years until adulthood through his love of the motion picture. I’ve never seen adoration of cinema so beautifully and overtly displayed before and the movie features clips of many famous and less so well known movies from the silent era forwards. The local cinema becomes the beating heart of the town and brings joy to many in the post war depression that hit the country hard. The process of projection is lovingly demonstrated and the movie’s final scene is perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and contains some of the most breathtaking images in all cinema history.