Thursday, June 13, 2013

Loving movies

I’ve been a movie-goer for what seems like forever. I can remember the wonderful feelings associated with going to see films as a child; the anticipation, excitement, the experience of sitting in the theater waiting for the film to start—all of those feelings are still with me now whenever I enter the movie theater, many years later. I love sitting in the dark watching the big screen, waiting for the magic to start; no matter how many possibilities exist for watching films in other formats, nothing will ever replace the wonder of the big screen for me. The first two films I can remember seeing as a young child were Snow White, a Disney animated classic, and That Darn Cat starring Hayley Mills, whom we all wanted to be at that time—cute and adventurous. My mother took us to see both films at The Music Hall in Tarrytown. I can remember the long line to buy tickets that stretched around the corner onto Broadway—parents with their children. Hayley Mills also starred in a film called The Moon-Spinners, another favorite of ours from 1964, but one that we saw as a two-part television series several years later on ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ that ran on NBC if I remember correctly, at least at the time when we were children. As a family, we went to see Oliver! (1968) and The Twelve Chairs (1970); my parents wanted to see these films and I remember struggling to understand the latter film, an early Mel Brooks comedy about the search for jewels hidden in one of twelve dining chairs. But understanding Oliver Twist’s life situation was not so difficult—you could relate to his misery as a fellow child or at least imagine how it must feel to be orphaned and alone in the world. Understanding the brutality of the relationship between Nancy and Bill Sikes was more problematic; not surprising since violence between lovers was not something we knew much about or had seen as children. I wanted to see Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, which came out in 1968, but my parents would not take us to see it, probably because it had to do with young love (and sex) and my parents did not want us getting ideas in our heads about such things. So I didn’t get a chance to see it until I was in my early 20s. Getting a chance to see a film that you had waited to see for a long time wasn’t like today where you could just rent a film from Netflix or download it from iTunes. If you knew that a film was going to be shown for a limited amount of time, either in the theater or on TV, you made plans to see it, because you never knew when you would be able to catch it again.

I am one of those people who enjoy doing post-mortems on films I’ve seen—dissecting the plot, the symbolism, the movie’s philosophy, what it all meant, the characters, the acting—all of it. Very few people I know enjoy doing this to the degree I do; you come out of the theater and ask, ‘What did you think of the film?’, and people will respond, ‘I liked it’ or ‘It was very good’, or some such comment. But it’s hard to get most folks involved in a long discussion about the movie. And that has to suffice, because not everyone likes doing movie analyses like I do. I’ve tried, and there are few takers. My father was one of those people who enjoyed discussing movies in detail; he was my conversational partner when it came to the arts—literature, movies, plays, music. Movies are entertainment for most people; they are for me as well, but I like being jolted out of my comfort zone by a movie, and I like finding out why. I want to know why some films provoke me, why others intrigue me or make me sad, how symbolism in one movie reminds me of another movie or of a book I’ve read or a song I’ve heard. I like how film music can trigger nostalgic feelings that remind me of people from my past or a book from long ago. I like the interconnectedness of different art forms, and the fact that I can make the connections if I want to. I want to connect the dots—it seems important to me to do so.  

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