Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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


In the preface to The Kubrick Fa├žade (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.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Odds and Ends

Deep into teaching this time of year, so not much in the way of contributions lately.

*On Friday, I'm finally going to see The Master, up at the Keystone Art Cinema in Indianapolis. By complete coincidence, this is the exact same theatre where I first saw There Will Be Blood in February of 2008. I will try to blog more about this later in the week, as there's a whole host of ironies at work here.

*My digital cinema article, "I'll (Always) Be Back: Virtual Performance and Post-Human Labor in the Age of Digital Cinema" is now online here--it may or may not be subscription-protected. I'm sure most academic libraries probably have access to Culture, Theory and Critique. This is the most recent piece I've published from Haunted Nerves, and the first to deal explicitly with the digital.

*Saw today that someone is trying to sell Kubrick Facade on Amazon for $177. Good luck with that. No, its not out-of-print yet, and there are cheap copies everywhere, so I'm flattered, but if there actually is a market like that for it, let me know. I've got more. I think that's probably more than I've made in royalties on it in the last four years.

Herzog, answering questions after his Thursday night lecture on the role of music in film. IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers is to his right.

*Finally, Werner Herzog was on campus last week doing lectures, interviews and visiting classes. Amazing experience--I was also at a reception Thursday night which he attended. I wish I had more to say on it--it feels like a dream now. Hard to believe now that the moment's passed. The film scene at IU has really exploded since I last lived here in 2008. They have a restored cinema, which shows an amazingly eclectic group of movies and attracts top talent to visit.

Across several days, Herzog was exceedingly generous with his time. A wonderful man. Herzog made a lot of random observations in his various engagements--some of which stuck with me. He recalled an experience at a festival where he argued with fellow documentarians about the role of the filmmaker--when one said they should be a fly on the wall, he responded by saying, no, they should be the hornet that strikes. Is there a better metaphor for documentaries?

Friday afternoon, Herzog was interviewed by IU professor Greg Waller at the cinema, which of course was also screening many of his classic films throughout the week. Herzog himself attended the screenings.

During the interview the next day, he talked about why he watched reality TV and he mentioned that a poet must not avert their eyes. To be in the world, we must be willing to see everything. I found that particularly poignant, especially these days.

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