Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turn Down The Lights and Live

Movies were always an influence in my life. I remember being home sick from school and watching whatever happened to be on tv. No cable. Often an afternoon B movie. I barely remember a movie about some bus crash in remote area and about 20 people struggling to live. I was fairly young and I remember being fascinated by their various personalities and clashes and then the puzzle solving skills. I have no idea what this movie was and have never seen it since, but I have since been fascinated by disaster and survival themed movies.

I lived in a northern town that only had one movie theatre so we took whatever came to town all in stride. A movie was a movie was a movie. Some really excited me, some were so so. There didn't seem to be any logic to the kinds of movies the theatre bought. They could be really old ones, or made five years earlier. I'm sure it was whatever the dinky little place could afford. I never noticed such things, I just liked going to movies. But I remember the night, it was a Halloween when I saw a scary movie, a psychological film with incredible exotic locations, sets, art work, colors, actors and images. I left the theatre and it was the first time I ever thought "Movies aren't what I thought they were, something is going on here..." I was a teenager and just remember thinking what did that mean? And knowing it meant something for the director. It's the first time I understood a directors influence on movies and on me.

I completely surrendered myself to movies. I went two three times a week. I memorized actors and directors. In art school I took a class of film appreciation. Or some such trendy course name like that. It completely fucked with my head. We had two professors and they seemed to take turns directing the class on alternate weeks. One of these profs said he was choosing movies that corresponded with philosophical or political themes. I had no idea what he was talking about. One class the professor introduced an old movie. He said he was going to show us ten minutes, then discuss the introduction for the rest of the class and then watch the entire movie next week. So down go the lights, we watch the movie for a few minutes then abruptly despite being warned, off goes the movie. It was torture. The prof said the cat walking up the stairs represented the actress's sexuality. He said the mans cast was symbolic of impotence. His camera was the extension of his phallus. He said the woman saying her name and turning on three lights was her agency or self awareness. To tell you the truth it was so utterly mindblowing to a hick from a tiny town on the Canadian west coast I felt like someone had slipped something silly into my koolaid. The movie was Rear Window.

I never missed a class.

One evening he showed us Oh Lucky Man and said it represented Anarchy. Another he showed us Victor/Victoria and said it explored the political collaboration between suffragettes and homosexuals. Another night he showed us S.O.B. and said it detailed the fall of the musical in Hollywood. It was a double bill that night with Singing In The Rain which he said detailed the issues surrounding silent film to color and sound films.

This prof was a guru and god to me and perplexed me and quite possibly changed my entire life.

Years later I thought I would look up his name in some library. He turned out to be the definitive Hitchcock scholar.

I will always love him for opening up my soul to reading movies in a whole new way and he demonstrates the potential for transformative learning in so many ways for me.

Last week, As Stagg and I sat having a beer at Millenium Park's patio in a rain storm, I said, we must go get Rear Window on dvd. We had both seen it obviously, but never together. It is one of my dearest pleasures for us to watch our favourite movies together for the first time. As we watched the extras (EXTRAS on a Hitchcock dvd how wonderful!) there was my old shaman from film appreciation class, the wonderful Robin Wood.

Review of Robin Wood's Revised critique

8 comments:

Red said...

How wonderful to have such a master in his field teach you all about film appreciation -- and giving a different slant on the direction of your life too.

I think Singin' in the Rain is one of the most misunderstood and underestimated films out there. Of course, everybody loves it and that, but people just think it's a musical, lots of Technicolour dance numbers and Gene Kelly's cheeky grin, but it is about a momentous transition in the world of cinema, about how lives were changing (and some careers being destroyed) by the advent of this new technology. So there is plenty of meaty subtext to it. It's a great film, I love it!

Great post, Candy. I always enjoy reading your thoughts about cinema.

Hey, listen, do you want to hook up on IM tomorrow and we can chat about Survivor? We watched ep 1 last night (and that Bill Maher segment... great stuff) and I even took some notes so I could tell you how we feel about it. We're gonna watch ep 2 tonight... exciting!

WV: sluyee

* (asterisk) said...

Great post, Candy. I love Rear Window and could watch it over and over. But I like a lot of Hitchcock; what self-respecting film fan doesn't? I like watching the old ones, from when he was just a jobbing director.

Candy Minx said...

Red,Yes I will meet up with you on instant messaging...mine is with msn though...is that compatable? So load my email address into your dealie and hook me UP! Do you need to send me your address?

Yes, I was lcky to have sucha cool thinker as a teacher...but I can not over emphasize how thick I was in school and inexperienced. Really, when he would talk about ideas I was miles behind and I often couldn't sleep after his class easily...he would send me into this strange altered state or something. I'll tell you the feeling...it was JUST like in the Matrix when we find out Neo isn't awake but in the pod. I love that feeling when a thought ot idea just shcoks you into a new way of thinking. One prof in anthropology said in class one time "sports is the marriage of art and war". I was a wreck!

*, oh Hitchcock is so awesome, the other thing that was pointed out was the idea of redemption through love, that Hitchcocks characters were always so old to be single...hinting something was anti-social or wrong with them.

An awesome book with several items about The Hitch is Wendy Lesser's His Other Half:Men Looking At Women Through Art.

Candy Minx said...

p.s. the other thing that was reallys tunning in this class was that the profs took so many movies into account. They never judged them on whether they were a good or bad movie, they watched them to find about what it is to be human and what it is to be an artist and an audience. We watched soem righteously poor movies, not even B movies...because they revealed social constructs and conventions so aptly.

mister anchovy said...

I remember Robin Wood too, and his partner, but I can't remember his partner's name. It was so cool having a Hitchcock scholar on campus. Hitch remains one of my fave directors. I loved the way he framed a scene. I love his flair for romance. I love the way he managed to get the right actors and actresses in the right parts so often. I especially love his perfect understanding of how to tell a story.

Dollface said...

It sounds as if you were really lucky to have such good teachers. Mine were weary, uninspired mostly. I love Hitchcock movies too, especially Rear Window. I rarely watch newer movies more than once unless I really like them, but I can watch the older ones over and over....then after taking family systems classes I watch them for the interactions between the people from that point of view....fun....but thanks for expanding my world! I just realized because I have a poor excuse for a theatre, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate films

64BakerStreet said...

Wow...how cool is that?! I love Hitchcock, but now I see how much I was missing!

The closest I ever got to a class like that was a study of classical themes in 1930's art and architecture. We got to see some fascinating films, but alas, no Hitch.

Anonymous said...

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