Apr 20, 2007

Beatnik Discoveries

Thursday March 29 was kind of a double-whammy... not only did we kick off with the first screening of the new year, we also released the latest ESR extravaganza, the "Discoveries" issue. This was perhaps a little too much for one night, I know- it was a job in itself getting stuff together for the screening, but since my writing has been dormant for a long time (especially on this blog, so I'm reminded), I'm glad I kicked myself in the rear end to get the new issue done.

At first, I was planning for the new year's screening to begin with a Jack Palance film festival, as the iconic movie bad guy and trash film regular had passed away in November 2006. And as such, I had planned to do the screening in late January while his passing still would have been comparatively fresh in people's minds. Alas, January turned into February, and the weather was still bitter cold. For a little venue like mine, the last thing I needed was giving Torontonians another excuse not to come out, such as with the weather. But anyhow, late February, I decided that March was late enough to start screenings again, and then suddenly came up with the notion to do a beatnik-themed night.

The first hour of the program was a collection of clips from such things as The Rebel Set, Bucket of Blood, the "Petticoat Junction" TV show, Night Tide, and other jazz-poetry related clips from films of the time, along with the ten-minute documentary Greenwich Village Sunday narrated by Jean Shepherd, and Ron Mann let us use the Allen Ginsberg segment from Poetry in Motion. That was the first half of the hour. When I cut all this stuff together, I was roaring in laughter, but much to my surprise, the audience response was polite at best. For the latter half of the hour, I had an episode of the old "Johnny Staccato" TV series, with John Cassavetes as a private eye looking for a missing beat poet (God help us). This was the piece that set the tone for the rest of the night. It teaches me once again that I can never predict the response of the audience. After a pause for the cause to fuel up on more caffeine (which I need about as much as I need more VHS tapes), we showed The Bloody Brood, with Peter Falk paying his dues as the leader of a bunch of existential thrill killers in a beatnik cafe. This gem went over very well, played even better with an audience than having only seen it on DVD, and capped the night off. I deliberately did not mention that it was shot in Toronto, leaving it a surprise for the very end, when the final shot proudly mentions it was shot in Toronto, Canada. That of course opened the floor for discussion, and further added to the mystique of this little flick, which was made by Julian Roffman, the man behind the 3D favourite The Mask.

Tonight was our best screening to date, thanks to the best crowd we've had with some familiar faces, and new people who had recently joined the meetup group. And I must also give a special thanks to David Faris, for his unbridled enthusiasm from the word "go" when I first mentioned the theme of this month's screening. It was he who designed the ad work you see in this post, and he made a point of helping distrubute hand bills wherever he went. And as always, my Susan gets my undying gratitude. Kudos to her for showing up in her beret. Oh yes! One interesting fellow even dressed up with a fake goatee and a red blazer! That in a way encapsulated the evening-- people really showed their enthusiasm and contributed to the festive-like atmosphere I always encourage at these shows.

In the preceding weeks I was also working on "Discoveries". This, along with "Independent Voices" (coming soon!) was one of the ESR issues that kept on getting pushed back further and further because the Roger Corman issue kept getting bigger. What would happen is, I would work on Corman until I was overloaded with all things Roger, and then divert my attention a bit to Discoveries or the other one until my head cleared enough to get back to Corman. Anyway, in these few months, these issues had sat around in varying stages of incompletion, and so I kicked myself in the rear end to finally get it done. Alas, "Discoveries".

While I've always lined the context of my articles in the past with personal or sometimes autobiographical references, no issue has been this personal. All of the pieces are dogged with some kind of self-reflection pertaining to memories, aging, the dramatically changing movie-going experience. The week leading up to the screening, I was existing on three hours sleep a night and way too much caffeine just to get it done. With all the projects I've got up my sleeve for the rest of 07, I didn't want this one wallowing around.

Did I mention caffeine? As if I already didn't have coffee coursing through my veins the whole week, well I made some espresso at the screening and pumped more down me. Waking up the next morning, I still felt the nectar in my blood, half-asleep but still somewhat energized, giddy from the fanastic evening, shaking from the experience of what one of ESR's nights are supposed to be like....

Now if only I had remembered to take some damn pictures that night...