Feb 25, 2017

Love in the Library (After Hours)

Last night I attended the New York Public Library's "After Hours" event, themed around their new exhibit, "Love in Venice." The evening - which ran from 6:30 pm until 9:00 pm - included dance lessons, masquerade mask making, speciality cocktails, tours of the exhibit, and (most relevantly) a curated selection of 16 mm films from the library's archives about Venice.

The films were being projected - via a film projector, no less! - in a small theater that was somewhat difficult to find in the slew of activities available. They were being shown on a continuous loop, and we entered during 'The Gondola Eye;' we only knew this because the screen outside the theater had informed us of which film was currently playing. These informational slides came up for each of the films.

The theater was small, the screen even smaller, but the film projector lent a level of nostalgia that much of the audience seemed to appreciate. There were five rows with a few leather seats, but many in the audience (myself included) sat on the floor along the walls. The door to the theater was left open and the bright light flooding in was terribly distracting, but perhaps less distracting than the door constantly opening and closing (?), as people were constantly coming into the theater (many of them turning around to leave within a couple of minutes).

'The Gondola Eye,' by Ian Hugo from 1964, was a great 27 minute film shot from the POV of the gondola (hence the name). Despite having no soundtrack with the exception of some ominous sounding bells here and there, the whirring of the film projector provided wonderful non-diegetic accompaniment. The content of the film itself was deeply somber, dark, and creepy, portraying Venice as a dirty city of filthy canals and depressing, muted colors - not at all what is usually associated with the city. I loved that about the film. We then watched the first five or so minutes of the next one - which was entirely different and done with claymation. This suggests that the curation of films (even though I did not sit through all of them) was diverse and thoughtful.

Overall, the films were a nice addition to the evening and a great supplement to the activities outside of the theater room. People seemed to appreciate the curation of the films for the most part and they appeared to be distinct and diverse. It was also wonderful to see the 16 mm prints projected on a film projector, and they seemed to be in great condition. Those who were sitting seemed to stay at least through the entirety of the film, but many people were popping in and out of the doorway as well, which was distracting. The vibe of the screening room was drastically different from the loud and crowded activities happening in the rest of the event; so I think it either felt like a welcome refuge from the chaos (and long drink lines) or a confusing, too relaxed component to the evening. Personally, I loved that the films were part of the event and cannot wait to attend the next Library After Hours.

- Sarah Dawson

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