Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shadows 2009-2011: R.I.P.?

Actually the last day of MIFF 2009, but I thought the pout matched my mood.
 From autumn 2009 to summer 2011 I projected movies on to a wall and then a screen at a gallery in Collingwood. I had a conviction about the need for an alternative cinema experience somewhere between a dvd night and the long gone arthouses of this town. It was meant to be both relaxed and challenging. Going by the people I met while doing this, talking and drinking with them, I got the message that I was doing a pretty good job.

I screened my last at ABC Gallery in December 2011 with the understanding that if continued in the same venue in 2012 it would have to be on a night other than the usual Friday as mine host Milos needed the night to spend more time with his son. That outranked my film night so I began thinking of putting feelers out for a similar venue. If I'd been planning to try to talk Milos around to resuming on Fridays with a different frequency those plans were dashed with his plummeting fortunes in January 2012 when he suffered a stroke and was given two weeks notice to quit the gallery. (If you think I'm being frivolous about this issue, read the previous two posts.)

I made a tentative query to the folk at Long Play in North Fitzroy who were generous with their information and open to discussion. Their discouragement of Friday as a regular night was given with pragmatic reasons but were happy to discuss other nights of the week. They are kept in mind. There are other avenues and existing options that I will be investigating over the next few months. But things have changed for me, as well.

First, I have been working on my graphic novel The Monsoons for years now and I am using this hiatus from Shadows as an opportunity to finish it. My blog Monsoon Days, detailing the process and background, is also taking up both time and enthusiasm.

Second, I'll have to confess to some exhaustion where Shadows is concerned. This has nothing to do with my love of sharing these films. And I haven't run out of them. It does have to do with the fact that even in 2011, when my lowest numbers were higher than the average attendances of the previous years, I perceived a drop in the audience which was only indirectly related to its size. The drop I've been noticing is in the acceptance of the very material the night was established to offer.

I had one curatorial goal in mind with Shadows and that was the message that cinema is a blank canvas. It's just a medium. A painting doesn't have to resemble its subject literally. A poem doesn't have to rhyme. Music does not need melody. Cinema does not need narrative, even if it's fiction. So, if a movie plays fair by declaring itself in the first ten or so minutes to be outside of convention, don't judge it through convention. I'm sorry if that offends anyone but it's just common sense.

No one needs a degree to understand that something's out of the ordinary. And if you do understand that, isn't it better to ask why it took that different path rather than complain about it as though all films are an extension of the general service industry and should be made to a tiny set of standards? I began to receive so much intolerance of the diversity I was trying to celebrate that I had to concede that I'd failed. At best, I was providing entertainment in a homey environment. Nothing wrong with that, it's fun, it's just that my purpose had been knocked out of the ring. So while I still relish the idea of putting on adventures in movies, for the moment, in this breath, I also dread it.

I know, I know. It wasn't you. And it wasn't every night. I was frequently gratified to find some difficult pieces met with open arms. I also learned to include titles that would please rather than stimulate and there was more than a little resignation involved in this. See, I didn't want to establish some rarefied circle of connoisseurs, I wanted to take the kind of thing typically considered exclusive, and reach out with it, demonstrate that, for all its obscurity or idiosyncrasy, this or that film had real things to offer, "quality" and high culture be buggered.

This means that, however temporarily, I am back to doing the thing I wanted to extend rather than rely on, dvd nights in with friends. I love doing that but loved more the opportunity of using the current accessible technology to go beyond my circle of friends to any who could make it to the dark of the screenings to taste something new.

So, I might be back but if I am it won't be for months yet and I have no idea where. Meantime you could do worse than check out Screen Sect at Bar Open, Fitzroy, Cine Cult at 303 High St, Northcote and the ones who almost stole my title, Shadow Electric at the Abbotsford Convent. I know I will be.

That vented, I thank you, I thank you all: ye comers and bummers, cinematic gourmands and holiday makers in unfamiliar climes, ye textbook bashing guardians of form and cine-Pollyannas, ye scriveners and disciples of the sprocket and the perforation, ye slaves unto the image, ye spielers of the spool, ye custodians of cool, ye talkers, ye baulkers, ye seven-rule chalkers, ye teachers, preachers, screechers and beseechers of the flickered visage, ye tickled and ye soured, ye bored and snoring sailors of the rapid eye movement, ye bold invigorated, ye toe-testing newbies, ye architects of new sensation whose thrill-quest beats the scoobies, ye dogmagogues and spirit-chasers, ye dipsos of the framerate, ye critics and ye cynics and ye early-cab-sav mimics, ye mudrakers and champions, ye hedonites and scions, and all ye blazing grenadiers of the shadows who came to see and hear and yell and drink and laugh and silently consume the light before you and all the sounds around you in the spirit of the adventure of the Notion: thanks for coming.


This one IS from a Shadows night. Meg, Dean and Kate.

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