Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Indy "Art" Theatres, Auteurs, and Historical Ironies

In the preface to The Kubrick Façade (2006), I wrote briefly about the historical irony of my being back in Indiana right as the book was finishing. In the late 1990s, I lived in Indianapolis for a little bit. While there, I saw Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999), in an unremarkable theatre on the north side. Around the same time, I also happened to catch a screening of A Clockwork Orange at my beloved, since demolished, Castleton Arts Theatre just down 86th street. A couple years later, meanwhile, I saw AI (2001) at a multiplex in nearby Crawsfordsville. Every theatrical experience I’ve ever had--directly or indirectly--connected to Kubrick was in this state.

And so I noted in the book that it was an appropriate irony that I somehow ended up back in central Indiana (specifically, Bloomington) while I finished the project. Why ironic? Because in the intervening 5-7 years between those experiences and the publication of the book, I had just finished living in Oklahoma, Michigan and two different parts of Illinois. The odds just a year earlier that I would be inexplicably back in Indiana were slim at best. In fact, every time I move out of this state, I assume I won’t be coming back to do anything other than visit. Regular readers will note that I am loathe to bring up the Kubrick book, since I don’t like how so much of my career ended up being defined by it. So, I don’t mention the preface randomly.

But I’ve been thinking about that anecdote a lot lately, and not only because I find myself once again unexpectedly back at IU (after again just living in Illinois and Michigan—should I be again noticing a pattern here?). No, the more specific parallel irony is that I saw There Will Be Blood (2007) during my last year living in central Indiana, at the Keystone Art Cinema on the north side, a few blocks down from Castleton Arts Theatre—where I had seen Hard Eight (1996) during its first release. I blogged about that memory several years ago—right around the time I first began to suspect I would try to write a book about Anderson, spurred in part by the suggestion of an IU professor. There was another amusing irony then to be back in the north side of Indianapolis, going to see a Paul Thomas Anderson film.

So, guess what? After being away from this state for five years while I pursued my academic goals, somehow I find myself back in Indiana again, right as Anderson’s latest, The Master (2012), is set to hit theatres. And, thus, this coming Saturday I will find myself back at the Keystone Art Theatre, watching another Anderson film. Not from choice, mind you—this is the only theatre in the state of Indiana which plays first-run “art” films early in their releases. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure these two Anderson films are the only two movies I’ve seen at this particular theatre (it opened relatively soon before I moved out of the area in 2008).

No, this has gone from the nostalgic to the slightly disquieting, as all these ironies seem to suggest a deeper truth—that some unseen, some unrevealed, force will not let me escape this state for too long at any time. Despite all my years living all over the Midwest, my cinephilia--or more precisely, the interests which keep compelling to write auteur studies--keep coming back with eerie regularity to central Indiana, despite the fact that I’ve lived here rather infrequently, relative to the number of years I’ve lived elsewhere. In the past 20 years, I've only lived full-time in Indiana for four (now five) of them. It’s not nostalgia, because I really haven’t had that much control over the fact that I keep ending up in Indiana.

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