Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Movie Lover, Part 1


Two significant moments in my life changed how I experienced watching movies.

There are some people who we cross paths with or have even the smallest encounter with and they influence us our whole lives. Like most of us, I have several people like that in my life. And some of these influencial, or inspiring people I barely knew, they may not even be friends or family. One such person for me was the Prof from a film class I audited. I didn't know him, didn't sit and talk with him, didn't know much about his life, or he mine...but his influence was massive. When I first moved to Toronto to study art and film I was late for the fall registration so i landed up taking a couple of classes at night and on the weekend. I took a hands-on film workshop downtown at Ryerson university. We made a short film during that course as a group of about 20 of us. It was a lot of fun, with real filmmakers as our teachers and I made a few friends. I also had a friend who was taking a film theory class at night at York University where I was taking a couple academic courses. I had a small child and couldn't really attend classes full time. I managed to get a friend to babysit at night and I asked the Professors of this night class if I could audit their program.

I had always liked movies growing up. When we lived in a small town sometimes movies were the only activity for kids and teens. I often would see the same movie a couple of times during it's run. The movie theatres didn't get first run big blockbuster movies as they were released. They optioned on B-movies and movies that had already gone through a first release in big urban centres. So we were years behind, or sometimes decades behind seeing movies. I think the total lack of entertainment for kids created a sort of democratic approach to judging movies. We were just damned glad to see any movie.For example...my girlfriends and I probably saw The Birds about three times when it was shown on Vancouver Island at our little local theatre. My best friend and I thought Suzanne Pleshette was a god because she gets her eyes pecked out int he movie. We adored her. We saw oscar nominated movies usually years later than when they first were released. I guess there was such a difference in price for theatre owners they knew teens would watch anything so they didn't care except to make as much profit as possible.

I really remember taking all movies at equal value. i didn't differentiate the quality or acting between a made-for-tv movie or an Oscar nominated movie. I just liked a good story and movies were a growing obsession. My family always went to the drive-in as I was growing up and they also spent a lot of time talking about movies. Especially when my parents saw something hip and controversial. i remember my parents talking about movies and thinking...I wished I could see them. I remember them seeing movies they would try to talk about so my sister and I couldn't hear what they were saying. Movies like I Am Curious Yellow or Prudence and The Pill or Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice. I distinctly memorized these movie titles so i could watch them someday and see what all the fuss was about.

But for the most part...i thought all movies were the same. I remember the first time I saw a movie and it really freaked me out. It freaked me out because when I left the movie theatre I felt completely humbled and I thought "Gee, there might be more to this movie thing than I thought". I was about 15.

I was in Kitimat B.C. way up by Alaska and it was Halloween. Horror movies have always been big business for theatres and when it comes to halloween it is like the theatres major time to schedule horror movies and make a few bucks. I think this must be especially true for the kind of small run down movie houses I was going to as a teen in Canada. I went to a double bill with a bunch of my friends. the two movies were The Daring Dobermans and Don't Look Now.

I didn't think about directors back then. They were completely off my radar. I had several favourite actors though and would get very excited if they were in any movie. I loved Pacino, Sutherland, all the actors in the Godfather, Richard Harris, Bette Davis, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford. And Suzanne Pleshette. She got her eyes pecked out by birds.

I watched the oscars for as far back as I can remember in my life. In order to see the actors.

so I knew going into the double bill, it was Halloween, we wanted to be scared and Donald Sutherland was in one of the movies. I thought the Daring Dobermans was fantastic. I love stories with interspecies relationships. All my favourite novels and movies often have interspeies relationships. I grew up enjoying animal adventure stories and I still to this day prefer novels with animals in them. So, I loved the premise of this movie it was a bunch of bank robbers who had trained their dogs to do heists. How great is that? Let me remind you, I did not differentiate between B-movies or even tv movies. I don't even know if I'd ever heard the term B-movies until i was older. I really liked this dog heist movie...but the second film blew my mind.

I was scared by this second movie in a really new way and I also had the overwhelming feeling that how this movie was made was unusual and significant. It's a psychological suspense film set in Venice and the imagery contains a conscious use of the colour red. A red ball, a small child in a red raincoat, a ghost, a small person, an axe murderer and aman with psychic powers. It was at that time the most incredible movie experience. i felt I had my head opened up and mysteries and magic were being employed on purpose. It's the first time I wondered..."who made that movie?....

I have since seen every movie that film director made.And all of them were compelling. His name is Nicolas Roeg. He is known for a deconstructing film style.

Roeg's films are known for having scenes and images from the plot presented in a disarranged fashion, out of chronological and causal order, requiring the viewer to do the work of mentally rearranging them to comprehend the storyline. They seem, in the words of one critic, "to shatter reality into a thousand pieces" and are "unpredictable, fascinating, cryptic and liable to leave you wondering what the hell just happened. . . ."Roeg displays a "freedom from conventional film narration," says another, and his films often consist of, at least, an "intriguing kaleidoscopic multiplication of images." Often, Roeg will edit his stories in disjunctive and semi-coherent ways that make full sense only in the film's final moments, when a crucial piece of information surfaces; they are "mosaic-like montages [filled with] elliptical details which become very important later." These techniques, and Roeg's foreboding sense of atmosphere, have influenced later filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, Tony Scott, Ridley Scott and Fran├žois Ozon. (from Wiki)

I went back to the movie theatre and watched Don't Look Now a couple more time during it's run trying to understand what made the movie so compelling and thereby awakening a new way of thinking about stories for me.

I love the memory of seeing Don't Look Now and how it was a paradigm shift for me as a young person who loved watching movies.

I began this post about an influential Prof...and since I have written such a terribly long post...I will continue my reminiscence in Part 2, tomorrow.

Do you remember the movies that gave you a jolt? Or a shift in how you looked at things?

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