A Question of Hats: I hate this movie but I shall defend to the death your right to restore it

Being a blogger with an opinion may be many things but it is not boring. When I hit the “publish” button on a review a few years back, I had no idea it would lead to some of the most baffling correspondence I have ever received.

I reviewed Movie X with tongue firmly in cheek. It wasn’t my thing and it was accidentally hilarious to boot. I have reviewed dozens of these films in my day. And so it seemed odd that I would receive such a “How VERY dare you?” comment. The commenter announced that I would soon change my tune because a restoration was on the way.

That was odd but not outside the bounds of reason. Then I received an email regarding Movie X from someone involved in the restoration. They wanted me to “revisit” my review. I said that I don’t usually do that, especially in light of the rather over-the-top comment I had already received and we parted amicably.

Earlier this week, I received this email. It’s sad that even though this person did not name Movie X, I instantly knew that it was the title in question.

A few comments:

First, I know how much traffic this review gets and it ain’t much. Like I said, an obscure film. “All the time” is probably, like, twice.

Second, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be crying into my pillow about people not liking my tone but, honey, it’s not going to happen. People have every right to dislike my tone, writing or anything else about this site. That’s how it works.

I’ve failed to please 100% of the population! Oh no! Whatever shall I do?

Third, and this is the meat of the article, I’m not sure what the goal of this email was. I suspect that I was supposed to be shaking my fist at the heavens in the manner of Ford Sterling and shouting “Curses! The review that I wrote before I even heard about a restoration has not stopped people from buying said restoration! My wicked scheme has failed!”

Um, no. And here is where we talk about hats.

When I review a film, I am wearing my Movie Reviewer Hat. It renders me slightly ruthless, busies me with chasing down myths and rumors and makes me obsessed with plot holes and any hint at disrespect toward the audience.

I envision my Reviewer Hat as a stylish chapeau with veils and lace and flowers and things.

I don’t wear my Movie Reviewer Hat very often compared to my Movie Lover Hat. My Movie Lover Hat makes me a chipper cheerleader for all things silent and I am always eager to spread the word about a new movie on home video.

My Movie Lover Hat has a giant stuffed bird on the side. Don’t worry, it’s fake.

Believe it or not, even if I do not personally love a film, I am thrilled to death when there is a new restoration or quality home video edition. Just because something is not my cup of tea, that’s no reason to deny anybody else the pleasure. If we all had the same taste, there would be no reason for film critics, film blogs, or film discussions. How boring.

I don’t have much reverence for Metropolis compared to other silent fans but I cheered with everyone else when the missing pieces were rediscovered. Garbo’s not my favorite but if The Divine Woman were to turn up in some obscure archive, I’d be on cloud nine for an entire day. Other fans may not share my Ivan Mosjoukine love (blasphemy!) but I’m sure they’d join my celebration if one of his lost films were rediscovered.

Apparently, this is how I am supposed to react when a film I do not like sells a copy.

Loving an art as rare and endangered as silent cinema goes beyond personal taste. Every rediscovered film is a triumph, every successful restoration is a victory for future generations of movie lovers. It would be insanely arrogant to try to torpedo a restoration simply because the film is not one of my favorites; it’s not my place to interfere. Quite the opposite, these restorations have my enthusiastic support.

Nothing is going to change my mind about Movie X, the very foundation of the film is built on Things That Annoy Fritzi but, guess what, I am not the Goddess of Silent Film. I dare say that a vast majority of my readers disagree with some, most or all of my reviews and that’s okay. I’m sharing my opinion of these pictures but I think people should see for themselves, form their own tastes and, yes, even love movies that I hate.

Me trying to stop people from buying a silent film.

Variety is the spice of life and silent films are a veritable curry of delicious options. Why in the world would I ever try to curtail those choices? My secret, cunning plan? I want every silent movie ever made discovered, catalogued, restored and made available to the general public. Yeah, I think small but I hope you’ll join me in this effort by purchasing restorations. Yes, even of films I hate.

(I won’t be naming the film– and ask you not to inquire– because it’s not my place to identify my correspondent. This article is not about this person’s identity but rather about bloggers as reviewers vs. fans and how we balance both in our writing.)

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24 Replies to “A Question of Hats: I hate this movie but I shall defend to the death your right to restore it”

  1. Very well stated, as usual. I recall that Mike Weldon of “Psychotronics” magazine had a similar problem with certain distributors that refused to send copies of new releases after some of them got bad reviews along the lines of “a fuzzy re-dub from an obviously inferior 16mm print.” Apparently, they expected him to lie about the quality of their work in order to get free movies.

    1. Thank you! Yes, and I never said a word about the restoration itself (except to express my support for the idea), which makes the anger all the more baffling. “I restored it and YOU WILL LOVE IT!!!!” is a rather odd hill to die on.

  2. Hi Fritzi. It’s very difficult for people to judge one’s tone from the written word. Many people’s default interpretation is not charitable. A few years back, When the Gorilla BBQ opened here in Pacifica, a resident wrote a letter to the editor of the Tribune saying that we should be ashamed of ourselves; gorillas are an endangered species. Ever since, I have wondered if she was being funny, sincere or stupid.

  3. Well written. I mean it is a post full of “duh!” and it annoys me that you had to spend your time outlining these obvious concepts, but you handled it brilliantly.

  4. Oh dear, one of those people. “You will believe (like, do, etc.) as I do or you will rue the day”. With much fist shaking and melodramatic music a la your villain up there (whom I love, personally). They can’t get the concept of we all have different tastes and that’s how it works sweetie. Love your reviews, by the way, whether I like the movie or not, or the hats!

    1. Quite so. But not every movie (at least in my experience) has people wandering around writing bizarre emails and comments. They should just repeat to themselves, “It’s just a film, I should really just relax.”

  5. i definitely don’t agree with everything you’ve said on this page but a) it’s YOUR page and b) i am learning so many new things from you overall that it really doesn’t matter if our opinions aren’t 100% congruent.

  6. Aw, nuts, I thought this was gonna be an article on women’s hat fashions throughout the silent era.

    Anyway, I agree with you completely on the subject of restorations. I’m not a huge Chaplin fan (heaven forfend!) but I loved it when they restored and released all his Keystone films. They’re an important part of film history, and deserve to be seen as originally released. Same with every silent, from the epics to the lowly programmers.

  7. Hi Fritzi! Just wanted to say regardless of what this person had to say about your tone, I would like to say that you have a very nice way with words here and the way which you pour them into all of your posts on this site benefits all of us readers that come here. I, and I suspect many of the others that visit and comment, are very thankful for all of the work you put into Movies Silently, and I am happy to come back time and time again to see all of the new stuff that gets posted and learn a lot more about about these films and the stories and people behind them.

    Thanks for all you do!

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