Aug 25, 2017

Playing To An Audience Of One: FRINGE FRIDAYS

ABOVE: David Holzman's Diary (Jim McBride)
Because Susan and I recently celebrated twenty years of living in the same place, I've been thinking a lot about how things were two decades ago, when we had begun our new lives together. (What is it about our collective psyche that honours anniversaries ending in fives or zeros? Are those in threes and sevens no less valid?)

At that time, I had just graduated from college, earning a diploma in broadcasting, yet was working full-time in a warehouse for a (now defunct) retail chain. Shortly after we moved in together, I was transferred to the head office distribution centre, and was very unhappy there. In the last semester of school, my mother had a stroke which took away most of her vocabulary. These things compounded anxiety about what the future would bring. We were both yearning to change our career paths. I wanted to find a job in my field of study, and Susan was looking to get back into design.

And yet, amidst all this internal conflict, this was also a ripe time for discovery. We had silently made a pact, that if we were limited in changing our professional lives, we would do everything to make our personal lives rich with culture. We would explore the city with our newfound jazz crowd, see foreign films at rep cinemas, and spend her Sundays off going to galleries or similar things. And more relevant to this blog, this was also the time that I first had cable since moving back to the big city. As a result, I quickly obtained a lot more culture from the Bravo and Showcase channels (which would encompass most of my television watching for two or three years).

One could hardly keep up with all of the movies, documentaries, concerts and episodes of “TV too good for TV” that comprised Bravo's schedule 24-7. Every night, Showcase featured the “Showcase Revue”, often foreign or independent films, hosted first by Chas Lawter and Linda Griffiths, later by Cameron Bailey and Valerie Buhagiar. Each station further offered a generous dollop of homegrown programming to fill their “CanCon” requirements. (And in our current environment, where we live under the illusion that everything is a click away, it boggles the mind to think how hard it is now to find a lot of the TV and films they aired just twenty years ago. Quick- find me some Wojeck.)

For this viewer, these two channels were especially significant on Friday nights. The “Fridays without borders” monicker used by one station could easily have applied to both. Movies from Hollywood Renaissance holdouts who still struggled to do their things in a changing sea of commerce; independent cinema from a time before that term became a catchphrase (or a commodity); obscure British genre films; these were just some of the staples to fill their Friday night schedules well into the wee hours. Because these specific films spoke most to my bohemian sensibilities (and still do), they offered a perfect way for me to shake off the work week, step back into my own skin, and seek enlightenment in other ways.

ABOVE: Milestones (Robert Kramer)
This is why, when I think back to those days, memories of these Friday nights soon appear. These thoughts also persist because I find myself in a similar quandary: wondering once again where I go from here. I've spent too long toiling on others' dreams; my subjection has clouded my own pursuits and desires.  It's time to re-visit and re-shape my own, and to once again embrace the things that define me as a human being. No one is opening a door. I'll carve my own entrance.

This school of thought is partially why I've decided to get back into publishing within the next few months. Plus, this mindset has also indirectly inspired my desire to recapture the spirit of those old Friday nights. This little eclectic screening room of my own plays to an audience of one: something I've called "Fringe Fridays".

On the Friday nights that I'm not out galavanting, I've been symbolically shedding the other skin by visiting the cinema that speaks most personally to me at present. Fringe Fridays include (but are not limited to) renegade Hollywood Renaissance-era productions, counterculture cinema, Experimental Film of the 1940s to the 60s and beyond, independent-underground films from the 1980s and 1990s, and documentaries: a step back to days when people had to view things projected onto blankets hung in musty basements as a cry for independence.

Fringe Fridays isn't just a screening series: it's a return to the self, a state of mind. 

It's also the name of a brand new regular feature in the new ESR: a reportage of what we find on those nights. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Simon St. Laurent said...

Thanks for the personal story; it puts one's blog into context.

You are right about Showcase and Bravo. I too spent more than a few hours absorbing their programming.