When I tell people I spent many years of my childhood in a movie theater, the usual response is something like: “Wow, you must have seen so many movies!” I did, at least I think I did. It’s hard to say. Most of what I remember about these years happened off the screen.
Personal essays on the experience of cinema
April 6 A Separation
If you happen to be a short, bespectacled, transparently gay Chinese American spending your childhood in the middle of the Bible Belt, you could do worse than seizing on Ingmar Bergman as a talisman for dark days.
March 22 Ravishing Revivals
Though I consider myself a fairly levelheaded person, not much given to mysticism, I’ve had certain movie experiences that I would say approached the magically sublime.
March 2 Entering the Screen
Movies about movies are almost as old as movies themselves, as if we felt an urgency right from the start to get a handle on how this incredible medium was reshaping our minds and imaginations. Larger-than-life characters and the stars who play them—alchemized in cinema’s most elusive mystery—colonize our minds to an almost frightening degree.
March 2 Chasing the Film Spirit
When I began to make films, I started to have a recurring dream about a cinema called the Odeon, and I had it often until I was 40 years old. I didn’t understand it at all. It didn’t occur to me in my everyday thoughts and yet it presented itself to me each night.
March 2 The Memory Palace
When you watch a movie, you are looking at the past, seeing traces of light that fell, perhaps, on an afternoon before you were born. You may be looking at the faces of old people when they were young, or at the faces of the dead, shining like stars whose light reaches us after they’re gone.
March 2 For a Cinema That Is Never Alone
Are there cinematic experiences that precede this awakening of cinephilia, that “lay the ground” in advance for it? In other words, is there such a thing as pre-cinephilia? I believe so.
March 2 I Remember the Fabled Rat Man
(Apologies to Joe Brainard)
(Apologies to Joe Brainard)
I remember seeing Dovzhenko’s EARTH at the old Anthology Film Archives in the Public Theater, with high wooden partitions between the seats and absolute silence reigning—apart from coughs, belches, and someone eating (I think) pistachios.
March 2 Just One Look
Movies are reflections of our fears, our desires, and often our fearsome desires. I doubt you could find a man or woman who could not point to a cinematic image that stands out from childhood for the way it taught them how to look sensually.
March 1 A View from a Booth
It is impossible to show a film without ruining it a little. Even under the best conditions, the projection of a film will result in the accumulation of tiny scratches and dust, and sometimes a perfectly calibrated machine will chew up a jumpy print.