Monday, January 23, 2012


I've often thought about what were the origins for my love of the cinema. I believe I can thank my Mother for kindling the spark that started the fire. Way back in the sixties when we lived in Topeka, Kansas, Mom bought a pass that let us view foreign films that were screened at the Topeka Public Library. For a town like Topeka, this was as close to "Art House Cinema" as it got. As memory serves, all the films were foreign. The one detail I cannot seem to remember is my reaction to being taken to a foreign, black and white movie. It wouldn't be hard to reconstruct it - "Jeez, black and white, subtitles, are you kidding me?"
However, I do remember being completely mesmerized by the first foreign film I saw: "ALEXANDER NEVSKY." This was a Russian import made before World War II, which is interesting because it's about the Teutonic invasion of Russia in the Thirteenth century. This is an Eisenstein film, which segues into the next entry: "POTEMKIN." This film had everything wrong - B & W, subtitles, and silent. Upon viewing, this film has everything right - the staging of the mutiny on the battleship "POTEMKIN", the emotional, dramatic buildup to see if the rest of the naval fleet will join in the mutiny, and, of course, the climax at Odessa with the famous Odessa steps sequence where the mutineers joined by the masses face the Czars Army.  
 These films were great introductions into the power of the moving image. Other film entries were: SEVEN SAMURAI (Kurosawa), THE SEVENTH SEAL (Bergman), LA STRADA (Fellini), and my favorite - THE BICYCLE THIEF (De Sica). This is such a powerful film - made with non-actors and on a shoestring. In my mind it is the epitome of the perfect movie - simple but so complex in its build up to it's climax. No special effects, no play with light and shadow. Just a straight forward quest for a stolen bicycle that ends in heartbreaking tragedy.  Ihave to admit I fell asleep during THE SEVENTH SEAL, too wordy! This was a good beginining to a lifelong film education. Other genres(noir, melodrama, horror) were acquired by late night movie viewing and the written page. Therefore I thank my Madre many times over for setting me on my journey of cinema appreciation. Love you, Mom!

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