16 May 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Seventeen!

This May at the Movies, we're really going to the movies. The special theme is Movie Houses, and so far, I've been having a blast revisiting those from movies I've already seen. Today, I'll take you to one that I first watched in childhood . . . and did not watch again until this weekend. If you haven't seen it, please note that it comes with my highest recommendations.

Cinema Paradiso
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

"In twenty years, I've never seen a kiss on the screen!"

Who cares about seeing a kiss on screen when you can have your own kiss in front of the screen? In the little town of Giancaldo, everything that goes on at the Cinema Paradiso is much more interesting than any movie its projectionist could show. And the light censorship that his buddy, the parish priest, imposes on everyone else in town is hardly the act of evil that the "But muh freedom!" crowd usually portrays it as. In fact, if you look at the parallels which the movie draws between the censorship, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and something else I can't mention because it would be the spoiler of all spoilers, it's an act of love. The sort of act of love that is easily misunderstood.

In the previous Locus Focus discussion, Stilwell brought up the idea that coming together as an audience creates a communion among people. We definitely see that among the cinephiles in Giancaldo. Indeed, the full movie house is such a microcosm of humanity that it's a mess--sometimes a literal mess, because people in the audience are eating, smoking, spitting, and possibly even changing babies' diapers. But what I really mean is that the Cinema Paradiso has room for the dedicated priest, the town prostitute, the mayor, illicit lovers, a nursing mother, a man who is just there to sleep, children of all ages, and every other type you could possibly name. It's almost like church, really.

There's something unexpectedly appealing about that messy crowd, for whom our current ideas of cinema etiquette would stink of antiseptic Puritanism. Do we blame the Protestantising influence of television technology, which has made us think of communal things in sola ways? The movie itself suggests that we can. Of course, I hurl this stone at my own glass house: I watched Cinema Paradiso on my laptop, in my bedroom, with no one for company.

That's how I watch most movies these days. And when I do actually go to the cinema, my barely-there tolerance of others exposes me as the modern spoiled brat that I am. For as rude as it is for people to disturb the concentration of others, it is something even darker to resent them for it. When we divide the world into "good" audience members and "bad" audience members, we forget the idea of communion (which does remain, despite our best efforts to supplant it with commerce) . . . and we imagine that everything would be perfect if the "bad" ones just cleaned up their act or got thrown out. If you look carefully at anything you would describe as "man's inhumanity to man," you'll see the same splitting of groups into "good" and "bad," and the same sense that the "good" will not survive if the "bad" are allowed to.

It's hard to accept that the main reason good things don't last is that it is the nature of earthly things to pass away. But sometimes, if we're lucky, they leave something behind for us to remember them.

Question of the Week: What is your idea of an ideal place to watch movies?


Paul Stilwell said...

Thanks for the recommendation - since I haven't seen this yet. Seems like a really nice film.

My ideal place to watch a movie is a small cinema theater, or as you put it, a *movie house*, but one that would be in walking distance from one's own house. If it's in walking distance - and it's small, not a megaplex - then that would be ideal.

Enbrethiliel said...


That local movie house sounds great! I'll bet it would have popcorn with real butter, too! #RealButter