An Introduction

Welcome to my blog.

I thought I’d offer some information about what this blog is about.  It’s all about movies.

I studied painting in high school.  Like most American teens, I did not consider movies an art form.  The only films I saw were the weekend blockbusters.  I remember seeing Troy, Cold Creek Manor, and the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in theaters, and had no exposure to independent American films or foreign works.  Movies were an entertainment, an escapist medium that required very little from the viewer.  As I gained more experience as a painter, I came to realize that the fine arts held no mysteries for me.  Simultaneously I began exploring films from the golden age of Hollywood.  I began to understand that films could engage and enlighten while entertaining, and I looked to film as a means of expanding my artistic expression.  I studied digital filmmaking in college.  I focused on screenwriting, and have written many works and directed a short film based on my first “serious” screenplay.  In college I was introduced to a wide variety of important movements in film history, from the New Wave to the experimental films of Stan Brakage.  However it was not this exposure that changed my interests in film but, of all things, an early episode of “Will & Grace”.

In an early first season episode, Will’s boss drops his children off at Will and Grace’s apartment during an Ingmar Bergman movie marathon.  To amuse the children, Will suggests to the kids they watch videos.  He picks up the tapes Grace rented from the video store and reads the first description: “A man plays a game of chess... with death.”  He quickly puts it down.  The second tape: “Three sisters confront the slow, painful death of the fourth sister.”  Grace looks at the kids and says, “You won’t find that on Nickelodeon.”  Funny joke, but the description of these movies fascinated me.  I imagined an astral plane where a Man and Death sat opposite each other, and when a chess piece was moved, mountains would fall and lightning would strike.  It took me months to find out what these films were called, and finally ordered DVDs of The Seventh Seal and Cries and Whispers from The Criterion Collection.

I was surprised and disappointed that The Seventh Seal was a more humane and reassuring film than I had envisioned.  I also found it difficult to watch.  Its pace was deadly slow and the story developed on its own.  There was no formula to Bergman’s storytelling.  Cries and Whispers was not at all what I expected either.  I envisioned a sappy film where the healthy sisters sat by the ailing sister’s bed and cried and cared for their beloved; a film of sloppy, overwhelming sadness.  Instead I found a frustratingly brilliant, emotionally distant film where coldness was not reserved for the dead.  It is an honest portrayal of a family rendered obsolete by the small nicks and jabs delivered without intentional malice.  Not even in the face of life-altering events could these sisters let go of past pettiness and anger.  These movies changed the way I looked at film.

I began consuming films as quickly as I could.  The Criterion Collection is a great source of information for movie lovers.  They seem to have a mini monopoly on the important foreign films that have shaped the direction of movie history.  Finding The Criterion Collection, I found François Truffaut and Andrei Tarkovsky and films like M, Diabolique, and Picnic at Hanging Rock.  I discovered the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski through Criterion’s release of The Double Life of Veronique, and from here discovered the absolute power of east central European films.  Poland, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, both major film-producing countries), and Russia have rich and difficult political histories and as a response a rich film heritage.

The more I reveled in classic cinema, ignoring contemporary works, the more I believed that cinema as an art form was dead.  The masters have already lived and contemporary cinema is made of imitators and held little value.  Then, in one weekend, I saw two films: Dans Paris and The Flight of the Red Balloon.  These films overturned my ignorance: the cinema is alive and thriving.  I simply have to discover the great artists and their work for myself.

Which brings me to this blog: I love movies, and my passion for cinema grows every time I discover new films and filmmakers.  And not just contemporary discoveries; hidden treasures of the past, any film which I was not previously aware of is a pleasurable discovery.  On this blog I will share my thoughts on the films that interest me.  I hope to share my impressions with others and to discover how others view cinema.  Each post will focus on a particular film, and feedback and comments are welcome.  This, I hope, will become a realm where people can discuss openly the movies that inspire them.

I see most movies on DVD and Blu-ray.  I have an extensive DVD collection of over 1,500 titles.  I shop around and spend more money than I probably should on movies, but what else is money for?  I recommend to serious movie collectors to become region free.  I have a region free DVD player, a Philips model that has served me well for many years, and recently went Blu-ray region free with my Sherwood BDP-5004, a player I love so much that I bought a back-up just in case.  I recommend this because films that are available in one market may not be available in another.  The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover is out of print here in the US, and a used copy is quite expensive on Amazon’s marketplace.  I purchased the film on DVD in the UK for less than 4 British pounds and was able to see my first Peter Greenaway film, a director whose later films, namely Prospero’s Books and The Baby of Macon, are some of the most interesting and hypnotic movies I have ever seen.  These two films have never been available on DVD in the US.  I purchased a box set of 7 Greenaway films from Australia.  Hitchcock’s early British films are in the public domain and DVDs of these films are of deplorable quality.  A German box set containing Hitchcock’s best British films, including Sabotage, his best before his move to Hollywood, gave me access to great looking Hitchcock classics.  Region locking DVDs screws the consumer, often prevents us from getting the best available product, and having almost limitless access to DVDs (limited only by your wallet as importing DVDs can be somewhat expensive, especially Europe outside of the UK) is an empowering feeling.

While discs are fantastic (and the best way to collect movies, in my opinion) I recently rediscovered the intimacy of the movie theater.  Living in Massachusetts I have a great advantage that unfortunately many states don’t have.  There are movie theaters in and around Boston, including the Harvard Film Archive, which during the fall and winter terms shows films for free Tuesday and Wednesday nights, The Brattle Theater (both in Cambridge), and The Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, that show rare classic and contemporary films.  I had the privilege of being one of the first New Englanders to see the complete restoration of Metropolis at Coolidge Corner with live musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra, and then at The Brattle to see a strange Portuguese film called The Strange Case of Angelica.  Harvard often invites filmmakers to introduce their films, and during the weekdays shows often obscure and even silent films from deep in their archive.  I highly recommend to those who can to check films out on the big screen.  I have a 63” projection TV which looks as close to film as a home theater can, but nothing can replace the experience of sitting with a group of likeminded strangers to share a common experience.  And who knows, you may make new friends who share your passion for film.

Hopefully this blog can create a similar environment.  Regardless of how or where you watch movies, few experiences can match the joys of a great film.  So, I welcome you here, and look forward to future posts.