LOLA home                        HOME        CURRENT ISSUE 

Two Dollar Movie: Introduction  


This writing game began at the Dutch magazine De Filmkrant, which kindly offered to celebrate the 100th column of World Wide Angle, my series that has been running since October 2007 (issue 292). I invited 60 friends and associates in the worlds of film, art and literature to compose a short text: describing some unusual, wondrous, perhaps entirely unknown movie stumbled upon somewhere – on sale, in a market, in a discarded box, on a forgotten shelf, in another country … and bought for a tiny price (upper limit of two dollars or Euros or whichever national denomination was appropriate). Not every respondent followed the rules exactly but that, too, is part of the game. What matters as much as any particular title unearthed, or the incidental formation of particular little ‘genres’ of commonality across the 60 entries, is the imperative to tell the tale, to give an account, of this encounter of an individual spectator with an individual film.


The elements of surprise and strangeness are crucial to this project of encounter. We live in a time when, thanks especially to the Internet, ‘consensus canons’ invade every corner of film culture, from commercial releases to ‘niche cults’, from film festival fare to academic curricula. It is getting harder to find room to manoeuvre outside these endless cultural prescriptions, and the ‘peer pressure’ they inevitably bring down on our shoulders. So many critics and programmers new to the scene – no matter how naturally radical their sensibility or wild their taste – are consumed by the demand to know what their comrades and mentors already know, and to contribute to the formation of an agreed-on, evolving canon. (This much was evident in the many responses for and against the recent, pointless ‘BBC Culture’ poll of the 21st century’s best films so far.) The ethos of discovery, so central to the drive and history of cinephilia – a discovery sometimes, it’s true, accompanied by weird forms of myopia, such as the case of one famous, European festival-guru who frequently claims to have ‘discovered’ Chinese cinema, a feat which presumably the Chinese people themselves had never previously managed! – this ethos is on the tip of being snuffed out altogether today, when an increasing number of festivals exhibit a decreasing circle of ‘must see’ World Cinema titles. Is there anything left to discover? Of course there is: in every country, every ‘market’, every period of the past, every pocket of culture. We need to become curious, again, about what we don’t know and haven’t seen or yet heard about in any way, shape or form. And we desperately need to individuate our work, our research, our knowledge, and finally ourselves, in and through this search.


There is something both nostalgic and provocative in this idea of discovering a little-known, unsung or completely obscure film. In these days of streaming, downloading and torrents, the idea of actually fossicking for and buying a DVD or VHS in this manner may already be an obsolete notion, a thing of the past. But it is a fundamentally different experience for a cinephile to discover a film when she or he is not consciously choosing to watch something they already know about. Rather, the Two Dollar Movie project is a reflection on what it means to take a chance on something we cannot predict, that we may never have heard of before … and to see where that blind chance takes us.


Eight extracts from the project appeared, in Dutch translation, as Two Euro Movie in De Filmkrant, issue 391 (September/October 2016, pp. 50-53), and on the magazine’s website. This LOLA version is complete and unexpurgated; whenever somebody provided an image, we have used that, too. We thank everyone who contributed, and especially Dana Linssen for setting the ball rolling.


Adrian Martin, October 2016


Two Dollar Movie, Part 1

Two Dollar Movie, Part 2

Two Dollar Movie, Part 3


© Adrian Martin, October 2016.
Cannot be reprinted without permission of the author and editors.