Thursday, August 28, 2008

Colder than a Ticket Taker's Smile at the Ivar Theatre

Being a cinephile can be a tricky thing. One must profess their love for movies and often have this love and knowledge of film thrown back in their face by those other movie lovers out there, the ones who control the box office and "just want to be entertained." As a result our behaviors change over the years; they adapt, modify, and adjust. When my cinephilia began I recommended one movie after another to anyone who would listen. Slowly my recommendations whittled down to just select family and friends until finally it became one of almost complete dimishment. I recommend movies online on my blog and in my comments section to like-minded enthusiasts but in the face to face world, except for my wife, I haven't recommended * a movie to anyone in years. You get older, you get wiser. You learn that some things just aren't worth it. **

When I was a teenager I adored it when someone found out I loved movies. I'd break into a riff on everything from German expressionism to Hollywood consumerism. I soaked it up. I drank it down like Dionysus on a three day Nectar binge. I especially liked it when an older person would mention someone like Irene Dunne or Paul Muni and say, "Oh you wouldn't know them, they're before your time." Oh yeah? That's when they'd get a Dunne/Muni history lesson like they'd never had before. ***

Then I'd find myself arguing for movies I didn't even like! I still do it on occasion but nothing like my early twenty-something heyday. Someone who only wanted their movies to entertain them would remark that they saw [insert name of revered film masterpiece here] on television last night and "it sucked!" Okay. I think to myself, "I'm not wild about that movie either but I know it's excellent, it's just not a favorite. And I know this guy's favorite movie of all time is Police Academy 3 so I'm going to let him have it." But nowadays, faced with the same situation, I am much more likely to say, "Well there you go. Guess it's not for everybody," and quickly add, "Boy look at the time, gotta go."

It's not that the passion isn't there anymore, it's just that I finally learned only about five percent of the movie-going population cares a lick about anything beyond two to three hours of images and sounds to provide accompaniment to their popcorn eating. As for the five percent who do care, they're here online so I don't have to bother whipping my blood pressure into needle busting frenzy anymore over someone who wants to tell me they saw some Welles' stuff once and weren't very impressed. Yeah, that's great. Blow me.

To the outside world I'm an average moviegoer. If someone brings up my love for movies in polite conversation I'll play it down, say something like, "Doesn't everyone," and ask them to please continue telling me about their work on budget oversight with companies in receivership. Fascinating! To them my love for movies must not seem real. I come off as dispassionate and removed, distant and cold. I have no desire to discuss what's out right now with any of them. I have no desire to recommend a single film. If someone does ask, I'll ask them back, using the old tricks that psychics and palm readers have used for years: Ask lots of questions, feel the believer out, then recommend a current movie in release that they will clearly like. "I hear that [insert name of summer blockbuster here] is really good, you should go see that."

Of course, my passion for film is real and immense but I only show it here and with true believers, and perhaps even a few fellow travellers, in the face to face world. And I've grown to like it that way. I'm not a kid anymore and I don't feel the need to agitate, agitate, agitate about film in my everyday life. It's cost me too much wasted time. But I'll keep doing it here and often. If the internet hadn't come along I don't know what I would have done. I've met more true film lovers, more dyed in the wool cinephiles online than I have ever met in the offline world. Here at Cinema Styles I revel in the world of cinema and always will, even if to the outside world I may as well be taking tickets at the Ivar Theatre.


* - Two things I learned quickly: Never recommend foreign-language or Robert Altman films to anyone who is not a cinephile. You will face only heartache and despair.

** - Please insert recommendations you were burned on in the comments section.

*** - This happened with a barber of mine when I was around 14. He found out I loved movies and told me one of his favorite movies was The Last Angry Man with Paul Muni but that I probably didn't know Muni because of my age. He never made that mistake again.