Day By Day

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Where Have the Film Freaks Gone?

Scott McLemee wonders what happened to Cinephilia. Where have all those compulsive movie-goers of our youth gone?

Read it here.

It's an interesting question -- back in the sixties and seventies sitting in dark theaters looking at flickering images on the screen was considered to be a serious intellectual exercise. Even more so the endless conversations that followed about what you had seen.

I think what happened was:

People grew up -- the interests and involvement of adult life are many and diverse, and leave little time for obsessive/compulsive behavior. What is more, the experience of life makes a lot of those ideas that we found so exciting as youths look shallow and silly -- no longer worth our time.

The mainstream Hollywood product, available at the cineplex, is technically brilliant but intellectually barren. There are plenty of really good movies out there, but unless you live in a shabby/bourgeois neighborhood in a major metropolitan area, you aren't going to see them in a theater. You will order the CD, or watch late-night cable presentations where they occasionally appear. And of course there is always the wonderful TCM.

And there is the internet where you can find lots and lots of movie talk. Some of it is quite good. Who needs to sit in a dingy coffeeshop talking to semi-sane self-absorbed and alienated kids when you can read their rants in the comfort of your home? Of course, their concerns are seldom applicable to your own life so why bother?

All this came to mind while reading an extended review of the new Watchman movie opening this weekend [here]. Charlie Jane Anders, the author of the piece, argues that the tone of the film is reminiscent of another world -- the era of the Cold War, a time of alienation and paranoia and societal madness. To Anders it is an alien environment, a dark forbidding place in which monsters like Nixon and Reagan and Kissinger stalked the land.

Well, I lived through that time and my experience of it was quite different from that of the reviewer or presumably that of Alan Moore, the writer of the "Watchmen" comics. It is their sensibility that, to me, seems absolutely insane. I will go to see Watchmen. I don't know if I will like it, never having read the comic books, but do know that I will see it through a very different lens than does Anders, whose views seem to me to be more than a little silly and shallow. Long ago, when I could fairly be called a film fan, I might have found those views at least respectable. Today I can no longer do so, and so even if there was an interactive local community of cinephiles I would not seek their company. Their mindset would be completely alien to me and it wouldn't be worth my time.

And when I say "alien" I mean alien. Here's a picture of the creator of "Watchmen". You don't get any farther from my sensibilities than this.