Apr 12, 2011

Drive-In Cinephilia

Coming of age during the turn of the millennium, I am not ashamed to say that I am a product of this era that has given rise to a new state of cinephilia. Growing up in a small town in Idaho, where the options of seeing the newest release (or any film for that matter) were relegated to a second-run release at the local drive-in (although the double features were well worth the 5 dollars per person) or waiting until they were released on DVD in which my father would not only purchase them for his growing collection, but then purchase the Deluxe or Anniversary editions that would inevitably follow.

I was not privy to art house theaters that would project original 35MM prints of classics defined as a canon nor do have I had a defining film experience that turned me into a cinephile. Discovering the Turner Classic Movies channel at 17 is as close as I get to that kind of defining moment.

Thinking about the 21st century cinephilia or the death of cinephilia in relation to the changing modes of theater/film into laptop/digital, my experience with film has been defined outside the film theater. And yet, it does not make me any less of a film lover. I would equally enjoy watching a canon film at Anthology Film Archive or a bad bootleg copy of the latest Bollywood release with even worse subtitles.

However, something that I think makes two experiences significantly different is not the quality or the format, but the communal experience of sharing it with others. So as my experience has been defined outside theater, it has still been very much enjoyed with others. I may enjoy watching bad bootleg copies of Bollywood films, but even better I enjoy sharing that bad-bootleg copy with others, something I thing any of the authors who write about cinephilia such as Sontag may not agree with.

Sontag defines cinephilia as a clear cut, pure experience that is defined in a theater with celluloid film, not allowing for any redefinition or malleability. When the concept did start to evolve in the late 20th Century, she cried the death of cinephilia! Yes, cinephilia may never be the same homogenized experience that gave rise to an attitude and life-style, but it is still present and very much alive today. How else would a girl from a small town in Idaho end up loving films?

Terrace Drive-In, Caldwell, Idaho

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