Sep 26, 2018

Screen Captures #2: It's (About) Time

If you’re reading this blog, you likely have a passion for things out of the mainstream. You subscribe to free will, and not whatever some corporate algorithm dictates you should consume. Whatever it is you’re passionate about, it is beyond mere hobby-ism. It is a lifestyle; it is a belief system. It is something not addressed by the cookie-cutter status quo. You likely have a kinship with other independent creators despite whatever medium they practice, as they all speak to that same great truth. That is why you will probably understand when any of these columns discuss issues that exist outside of the cinema’s realm, because they still address the universal issues of the lives we have chosen.

During the summer, I had read an article somewhere, which gave an interesting hypothesis of why time seems to go faster as we age, whereas in our youth (public and high school age), the days seemed to drag on. It offered that time seems to go faster when we’re older because we get settled into routines. Time on the other hand seems to go slower when we’re younger, because we’re always experiencing new things. Whether you’re five or fifty, the second hand on the clock still ticks at the same pace. The speed of time then is simply an illusion. In this theory, time is not measured in years, but by what is done in those years. Therefore, we can trick ourselves into making time seem slower by keeping ourselves open to new and different experiences.

I was reminded of this idea last week when we watched Debra Granik’s superb film, Leave No Trace. As the film unspooled, it seemed to me that time moved much slower. This was perhaps in part because I was seeing something unfamiliar: the lifestyle of a father and daughter who exist off the grid. Because they choose to live outside of our accelerated world, their lives by comparison are slower, and time thus moves much slower, understandably the film compliments that pace.

And by comparison, Cleo manages to pack a lot of living from 5 to 7. Agnes Varda’s nouvelle vague classic (which had a revival screening at the Revue on Sunday night) gives the semblance of real time in chronicling roughly 90 minutes in the life of pampered pop star Cleo while she awaits a test result from her doctor. “Day in the life of” movies seldom work, as foolishly, all of the protagonist’s problems get resolved in a compressed period of time. Life doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, I’m not sure this film is intended to be real life, despite its semblance to an off-the-cuff spontaneous tone. Cleo gets a tarot reading, does a song rehearsal, sips brandy at a cafĂ©, goes on a car ride with her girlfriend, watches a comedy short in the cinema, meets an army man in the park, who accompanies her to the hospital for her results. Is Cleo’s life always this action-packed? For us mere mortals, one of these activities alone would’ve sufficed in that same time period.

In either event, time is what you make of it. And surely, in the past years, I’ve been more conscious of how the clock is ticking away. I’ve often felt that I’m already washed up when I’ve barely gotten started.  But then I realized, that the more I keep myself active, and continue to discover new things, this feeling dissolves. For example, over Labour Day weekend, after watching Bertrand Tavernier’s extravaganza, My Journey Through French Cinema, 201 minutes and five pages of notes later I uttered the phrase: “I feel young again.” Keep exploring, keep creating, and that second hand seems less daunting.

Also last week, Bill Shute, one of my independent heroes, once again inspired me. While just a few years older than me, this man has garnered enough wisdom and experience in his passions to fill two lifetimes. I tremble at the depth of his knowledge and his vestiges of experience in the realms of B-movies, literature, avant-garde or alternative music.

Bill has been contributing pieces to zines and independent publications for decades. He is also an incredibly prolific publisher under his own imprint, Kendra Steiner Editions, which releases limited edition runs of poetry and experimental music. (How does the man do it?) Last week he announced that next year he would be publishing a compendium of reviews and articles he’s contributed to Ugly Things, Black To Comm and several other publications. 

I first discovered Bill’s work via his film reviews on the IMDB, and then through a mutual friend, we became Facebook friends in 2010. In fact, I’ve encouraged him for years to publish his film reviews, so I was thrilled at this announcement, as this project will include some film pieces. Whether Bill discusses obscure Euro-genre films seen on fuzzy UHF channels, 45 RPMs of forgotten Texas garage bands, or beat literature, his work is full of refreshingly personal asides, which give the pieces greater universal context about how this stuff is all part of the lives we have chosen. What was the inspiration for his decision to publish these works in the future? He just said, “It was time.” That simple phrase haunted me while I checked out the literary events over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, Broken Pencil held its annual Canzine fair at the AGO. ESR’s very last public event was via tabling at Canzine in 2012. My twelve-year experience at trade shows wound down not with a bang, but a whimper. The scene was always changing, but it especially became apparent that this venue was getting younger as I aged. This year’s visit to Canzine simply re-affirmed that. Over the years, the scene has gradually shifted from Xeroxed zines to graphic novels and books. Even so, over the years, I could still walk away with a handful of publications that still spoke to me, which highlighted life in the independent scene (Cometbus, etc.). More often than not, they were procured from Francois’ table, and he wasn’t even there this year.

Otherwise, in terms of familiar faces, Marc Laliberte and I nodded to each other. I don’t believe we’ve ever spoken to each other, but we recognize each other from tabling back in the old days. In the days leading up to Canzine, I half-jokingly wondered if I’d run into Glenn and Hal again this year, so we could resume our “Get Off My Lawn” session from last fall, discussing how the scene has changed since the heyday of the zine craze. Well, two outta three wasn’t bad. I did see Glenn there, and chatted with him for a few minutes. He’s got another zine coming out in a month.

Sunday was this year’s edition of Word On The Street, held at Harbourfront Centre. Even though I stopped exhibiting at WOTS after ESR’s disastrous 2012 season, I’ve still attended every year to feed my brain, and my literary habit. But in addition to discovering some interesting items that would otherwise be difficult to find elsewhere, I admit that I’ve also visited the fair each year with ulterior motives.

I was also hoping to recapture that wonderful headspace that I used to have for days afterwards when I was an exhibitor. That inspiration, that desire, was enough for me to continue creating for the next twelve months. Instead, each year since 2012, I came away feeling nothing at all, not even disappointment (as even disappointment would mean that I was passionate about something). But picture this.

Fade up on a low-angle shot of yours truly, with back to camera, entering WOTS grounds. Cut to a 360 pan of the fair, and stop at a medium close shot of yours truly, uttering the phrase: “It’s time.”

What I have in mind I think will be a perfect fit here. I once again see the need. There is still much, much, much to do. It will be a difficult journey. Because of this long absence from the printed word, much of the community that ESR created has evaporated. Right now, I can’t offer anyone anything but promises, and I’ve already broken too many. But then again, I’ve started this publication once before with just me. Let’s see what kindred spirits we can meet for the first or next time.


Independent Screenings Of Note:

This week sees some revivals and other interesting items at The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Ave.

Wed Sept 26: the 20th Anniversary screening of the anime classic, Perfect Blue. (7 PM)
Thurs Sept 27: Designing The Movies presents Diana Ross in 1975’s Mahogany. (6:45 PM)
Fri Sept 28 – Sept 30: The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival 2018 (6:45 PM and 9:30 PM, on Fri, Sat; also 1 PM on Sunday)
Sat Sept 29: Throwback Cinema presents Danny DeVito’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, Matilda.
Sun Sept 30: Silent Revue presents F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece, Sunrise, with live musical accompaniment by The Ugly Beauties.

For ticket information, best to visit

Fri Sept 28 – CINSSU Free Fridays

The Music On Film series continues with Bob Fosse’s 1979 classic, All That Jazz.
Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

(Have an upcoming screening to plug? Drop me a line at: mail at screening dash room dot ca)

DVD - BluRay Releases This Week:

Sept 25 sees the release of Joe D’Amato’s 1981 horror film Absurd, from Severin. Ted Post’s 1973 camp classic The Baby gets the Arrow treatment.  The Boris Karloff Collection (VCI Entertainment) serves the four Mexican films (House of Evil, Fear Chamber, The Snake People and Alien Terror) which marked horror great’s final excursions into the genre. VCI also debuts the Red Scare Double Feature, pairing 1952's Invasion USA and Barry Mahon's daft Rocket Attack USA.  Kino Lorber brings Good Times, with Sonny and Cher’s movie debut (also the feature film debut for director William Friedkin), the oddball Lee Marvin-Oliver Reed western The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday, and Carol Reed’s Trapeze, featuring Burt Lancaster. Criterion releases the Sidney Poitier classic, A Raisin In The Sun.  Canadian viewers will no doubt rejoice in releases of Fraggle Rock The Complete Series, and The Peanut Butter Solution! And finally, Vinegar Syndrome pairs two sex films from B-movie legend Ray Dennis Steckler: The Sexorcist and Deviates In Love. Physical media is dead? Pssshaw.

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