Tuesday, June 02, 2009

cinema village

When I was going to art school in New York many years ago, one of the fun things to do was to catch a movie (or two) after an exhausting crit or studio session. And one of my favorite theaters to go to was the nearby Cinema Village. It had at the time, I think, two screens and would show a great variety of revival double-features, as well as the occasional first-run or art-house film-school hit. I'll never forget seeing Stanley Kubrick's amazing Clockwork Orange there and feeling like one of the "droogs," wanting to take out passersby on the way to the subway after the film. I also got to see classics like The Maltese Falcon or A Hard Day's Night or East of Eden on the big screen. A very different experience from watching them on T.V.
I was also introduced to the films of Val Lewton in one of the theater's themed revival weeks. They would show a different double-feature each day of the week, enabling a film buff to saturate themselves in a particular oeuvre. I had loved Cat People growing up, but was in for a treat when I got to see other films like I Walked with a Zombie, Curse of the Cat People and especially, The Seventh Victim. That film, about a young girl who comes to New York in search of her older sister who has mysteriously disappeared struck a chord with a girl recently transplanted from South Jersey. Her investigation into her sister's disappearance brings her into contact with downtown New York, a devil or witchcraft cult, and possibly true love. It was a low-budget film, definitely a second feature, but it had an atmosphere that I have never quite forgotten, and is one of those little gems that I would love to see again.

I actually worked briefly at the Cinema Village after college. I sold tickets at the front booth (once to Emo Philips - whatever happened to him?), made and sold the popcorn (where I learned that it's not butter, it's soybean oil and a lot of it), and on a Sunday night, even had to climb up on a ladder and change the letters on the marquee for the next week's show. Cool, huh? No, I actually hated working there. I definitely was better suited to watching movies.

New York's repertory and revival cinemas died off in the 80s and 90s, making way for the more suburban-style megaplexes. I was happy to learn that Cinema Village has managed to survive, altering its menu to current needs, but survived nonetheless.

I hardly go to the movies anymore. Taking a kid to a movie theater is no guarantee of actually ever seeing the film. And if there's a "grown-up" movie I want to see, most times on my day off, spending the afternoon in a movie theater is the last place I want to be. So most times I catch things on cable. There's a DC alternative to Cinema Village in nearby Silver Spring, The AFI Silver Theater. I'm going to have to check that out one of these days. Maybe they'll even play some Val Lewton.


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