Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It used to be that in the States there were cinemas in larger cities that showed what we called "Art" films. That meant that instead of showing main stream stuff like Die Hard XIV, films like La Dolce Vita were screened. I was a regular at the Avon in Providence, Rhode Island. On a typical Friday evening I'd watch a double feature of Wild Strawberries and Blowup. Saturday night I'd be back for Lina Wertmüller's The Seduction of Mimi and Seven Beauties. I don't know if cinemas like this are still popular in the US, because I've spent so many of the last years in Logan, Utah. It's not a typical American town.

In Germany these kinds of theaters are called Programmkinos and Essen has several. One of them, the Eulenspiegel, has a regular showing of silent films and we visited one last week: The Cameraman, with Buster Keaton. I'd never seen the film before and it was wonderful. Organist Dominik Gerhard played a live accompaniment while we watched. I loved the scene in which Buster Keaton, as a young inexperienced newsreel cameraman, covers the Chinese New Year's Parade for MGM. A marvel of racial stereotypes. There's also a great scene in which Buster has to share a tiny bathhouse changing room with a big lummox who is likewise trying to get into his bathing suit. I recognized it as a harbinger of the stateroom scene from a Night at the Opera and Keaton did, in fact, collaborate on the scene years later with the Marx Bros. Seeing this scene in The Cameraman was like lifting the hood on A Night at the Opera and seeing how it all works.

This stuff is all available on DVD now, clear evidence that in spite of all the horrible things going on in the world, Bluetooth headsets, reality shows, and so on, things really are getting better. But seeing a film like this in a real cinema is an experience that can't be matched by home video. I need to soak up as much of it as I can before my carriage turns back into a pumpkin on August 15th.

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