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