Thursday, September 05, 2013

artistic director journal | soul food movies II

Okay. Yesterday I mentioned The Movie Discovery Of The Summer.  But I didn't mention what that discovery might be.

Public libraries.

A year ago, after a long DVD drought coinciding with a protracted period of mourning for Videomatica, I started weekly visits to Black Dog and Limelight - the two surviving great Vancouver video stores - availing myself of their 2-for-one Tuesdays and five-for-$10 Wednesdays, revelling in the experience of standing among shelves of movies and chatting Whit Stillman with the guy behind the counter.  In January I stopped decided to move on from the memory of Videomatica's DVD-by-mail service, and signed up for - which has a lot of gaps, and about a zero percent chance of being sent anything within the first six months of its release, but still, if you dig deep enough and make a long enough ZipList.  And I started watching DVDs again.

But this summer I discovered the Vancouver Public Library.  You go to the website, you search for any given movie, 80 or 90% of the time they've got it - I'm not kidding, their collection is vast - you put a hold on it (free, for your first fifty holds, then 50 cents each after that - and they deliver it to your local branch and email you that it's arrived.  That simple.  Wow.  (Okay, same problem with new releases, but if you can't wait, there's always iTunes or Black Dog.) (I've also gotten a ton of movies from the Richmond library, but it's only fair to say that their selection is a lot more limited. Very interesting, but much, much smaller.) (And you should never put two bracketed sentences back to back.)

So. There. You want to watch movies again, and not just settle for what flows through the interweb conduit...  Get a library card.

Also a couple posts ago, I mentioned The Soul Food Good News of the Month.  Two Good Newses, actually.

The first comes up next week at Pacific Cinematheque - Krysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy, Blue, White and Red.

Sep 9 - 6:30 Blue | 8:30 White
Sep 11 - 6:30 White | 8:30 Red
Sep 12 - 6:30 Red | 8:25 Blue

Equally highly regarded as high water marks in spiritual cinema as Kieslowski's  Decalogue project (ten 1-hour films, each dealing - however obliquely - with one of the Ten Commandments), these three films are far more visually appealing, replacing the aptly dour look of the Eastern European TV project with a richer, more vivid cinematography.  (The trilogy was shot, and set, in France). The opportunity to see these on a big screen is particularly appealing. And like Eric Rohmer or Woody Allen, the director has a fascination with beautiful women, and these three films centre around Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy and Irene Jacob. So there's that.

Like The Decalogue (or Dekalog, if you aspire to the highest echelons of cinephilia), these three films have placed in all five iterations of the Arts & Faith 100.

The second Soul Food Good News of the Month item, advertised on the back of the Cinematheque schedule for Sep/Oct, comes along September 24, when the three great Rossellini Soul Food films finally become available.  It's always been nearly impossible to see any of the great Italian auteur's collaborations with Ingrid Bergman - Stromboli, Europe '51, Journey To Italy - films which are also among the film maker's most explicitly Christian. Not only have they been unavailable except on bootleg DVDs (hard to get, low quality), but they have rarely been screened even at cinematheques and art houses.

I've only seen portions of the three films, in the Martin Scorsese documentary My Voyage To Italy.  I couldn't make it to Ontario Cinematheque in 2006 when they screened there as part of a complete retrospective of Rossellini's work, and though I saw the MOMA exhibit of Rossellini-Bergman posters and documents (including the letter of introduction she wrote him, asking to be in one of his films, and his reply), my New York visit wasn't timed right to catch any of the screenings.  I even requested a screening of at least these three films at our local Cinematheque, but was told that they were unavailable to be programmed.

So this is a bit of a Big Deal.  Rossellini's spiritual themes come through in some of the short segments of Paisan, and in the landmark neo-realist picture Rome, Open City (both available in the Criterion boxed set of the War Trilogy) and certainly in the eccentric-but-wonderful The Flowers Of St Francis (also titled Francesco, giullare di Dio - Francis, God's Juggler), but are apparently most evident in the three Bergman films.

I can't wait.

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