We could have chosen any year. It could have been 1915, a year that would have allowed us to discuss the evolution of narrative cinema, the rise of a star system, and the war that allowed Hollywood to take over.

Or we could have returned to 1960, the year that European cinema exploded worldwide and past cinema began to be celebrated. It would have given us a good excuse to re-watch L’Avventura, A Bout de Souffle, La Dolce Vita, Psycho and Peeping Tom.

With a joint passion for Classical Hollywood the 1940s seemed appropriate. But even other years may have been more suitable. Indeed, 1940 would have offered up The Grapes of Wrath, His Girl Friday, The Great Dictator and The Philadelphia Story while 1942 would have given us Casablanca, The Magnificent Ambersons, Now Voyager and To Be Or Not To Be. 1946 would have been a particularly rich year with The Best Years of Our Lives, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Matter of Life and Death all in one go.

Yet in 1941 we find ourselves on the cusp of film noir, embroiled in the international outbreak of WWII and shocked by the power of one film that seems to overshadow all others.

We want to use cinema as a time machine, to fill the shoes of a moviegoer between January and December of 1941. We want to see the very images they saw. We want to be plunged into the darkness, feeling our way from film to film.

By focusing on a limited period we are hoping to discover patterns and contradictions between the films of the time, as well as some surprises. In many ways it’s not about the films we know but about the films we don’t and what they can tell us that we haven’t learnt from the canon.

Still we can’t help drawing parallels with the down-and-out movie director Sullivan setting out on his travels, the gangsters driven half-mad in the quest for the ‘Maltese Falcon’ or the shadowy reporters chasing after that elusive ‘Rosebud.’ But perhaps this is as good a place as any to begin our journey…

Christian and Ben.