By Caitlin Kelly
I loved and totally identified with this piece by New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis:
For those who came of age with home video it can be hard to grasp why anyone still bothers to go out to see movies. This bafflement has become part of a steady drumbeat of complaints about watching movies in theaters: the pricey tickets, bad projection, overpriced junk food, the creeps, potential maniacs and selfish people texting or talking on their phones. Just stay home, kick back and binge on another suboptimal Netflix show. But moviegoing helped make me who I am, shaped my world and my sense of self, beginning in childhood.
It started with my film-crazed parents, young East Village bohemians who couldn’t afford babysitters and so brought me everywhere, including to the movies. This was in New York in the mid-1960s, a heroic age of cinephilia before home video. When I was 3, they took me to see Vincente Minnelli’s “Lust for Life,” a glorious, overheated drama with Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh.
The first movie I remember vividly was Dr. Zhivago, directed by legendary director David Lean, starring Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya and Julie Christie as Lara. It’s more than three hours, and even has (!) an intermission.
It has everything: great characters, costumes, landscapes, music, history, romance, broken hearts, revolution. Watch the costume colors change as characters change their behaviors, especially young Lara.
I was eight when it was released and have watched it many, many times since, never tiring of it.
My father made films for a living and thought nothing of showing up halfway through any commercially-shown movie. We’d waltz in and just wait in our seats (as you could then) for it to start again.
At 18, I tried, with my late stepmother, to watch The Exorcist, and fled back quickly into afternoon daylight, terrified. I’ve never tried since.
More of Dargis:
So many of my memories are connected with moviegoing; some are of being alone in a theater full of people, which is a metaphor for my life, though also a metaphor for being alive. I love laughing and crying and shrieking with an enthusiastic audience. And while I now go to the movies for work, I also go to the movies for pleasure and for the love of the art. I go because I’m curious, because I like the director or star. I go because I’m happy, anxious or depressed. I go because films have provided comfort throughout my life, offering me an escape from my own reality but also a way of making sense of it, giving me glossy and gritty worlds to discover and reassuringly disappear in.
I spent most of my childhood at boarding school, but Christmas break meant fleeing school to watch multiple movies in a theater with my mother, two or three in a day, popcorn for meals.
She had a firm rule — if we saw a movie that day, no TV. I get it. You really need some time to process and remember what you’ve seen, not chase it all away too quickly with more images and content.
Her favorite, which we saw together, was Gone With the Wind.
With my maternal grandmother, it was the movie musical Paint Your Wagon, whose songs I still remember even though she died in 1975.
One of my favorite things about where we now live is the independent art film house a 15-minute drive north, The Jacob Burns Film Center, housed in a 20’s vaudeville house beautifully restored. I’m a member and sometimes go two or three times a week. Directors visit to discuss their work. Just before the coronavirus sent us all into isolation, I’d taken a terrific three-week class there on documentary films.
One great movie that really shows how a movie theater, especially in a small town, can create community is 1988’s Cinema Paradiso, which won best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars that year. Plus its gorgeous score by Ennio Morricone; (if you’ve never seen another of my faves, The Mission, you must listen to its haunting soundtrack, also by him.)
Yes, I’m obsessed!
So, while we’re forbidden now to go to the theater, I’ll keep watching movies greedily at home, eagerly awaiting the next time we can all once more sit, mesmerized, in the dark together.