They are all those films you’ve spent years bluffing your way through in conversations, typically using time as the ultimate get-out, e.g. “Sure, I’ve seen Metropolis, but years ago, so all I really remember are the bits in that Queen video”.
Cinematic greens are the reason IMdb and Wikipedia exist. With their extensive plot synopses and trivia pages they provide more than enough ammunition to repel a barrage of questions on how you could possibly think that.
And, as the name suggests, they are the films you know you must consume rather than the films you’d like to. You know they are good for you. You know they will nourish and expand your palate in ways pudding only dream of.
But, when browsing the DVD shelf it’s just easier to rewatch The Fugitive than to take that first look at all four hours of Gone with the Wind. Sure, Sight & Sound declared the undeniably brilliant Vertigo the best film of all time in 2012, but still your hand drifts past it and goes for X-Men: First Class.
This is to say cinematic greens can be defined most readily as old movies. Even to the most cine-savvy film fan totally aware these are classics of the form, there are times when the histrionic acting, stately pacing and primitive attempts at action make that first step into a masterpiece seem a leap too far.
And it’s not the monochrome photography – plenty of films in gorgeous Technicolor still have that emerald sheen.
Yet, what must be remembered is that greens can be nutritious and delicious. The same is true for their silver screen counterparts. From Meet Me In St Louis, to Metropolis, to Seven Samurai, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and thousands more, the joy in watching these movies comes not only from placing them in cinema’s evolutionary timeline, but in marveling at a timeless work of art that arguably shines brighter today than it did back then.
And finally, while there will be huge crossover of opinion, one man’s plate of sprouts is another’s vanilla cheesecake and versa vice. Personally, Dario Argento’s early work ranks amongst the best films ever made, but friends have fidgeted through Inferno, guffawed at Tenebrae and demanded to know what all the fuss is about.
Conversely, please don’t take offence if this section brands your all-time favourite, warm glow, comfort blanket movie as Cinematic Greens.
I’m diving in by using viewing gaps in the AFI and BFI’s Top 100s as starting points, while also looking sheepishly at my DVD shelf as Tokyo Story, The Seven Year Itch and Kagemusha look back.
Let’s take that first step…