My Life at the Movies, part 1 05/12/2008
Lately I've been thinking about some of the most memorable experiences I've had at the movies. I'm not talking about classic scenes in the movies themselves, but rather about moments that were memorable because of where or when I saw the film, or whom I saw the movie with. Some of these movies in these memories aren't even very good; it's the circumstances of seeing them that have stuck with me. As I started to list them in my head, I realized that most of these moments came in Ann Arbor, between 1973 (when I started as a freshman at the University of Michigan) and 1987, when I left Ann Arbor to go to the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The first ten years of that period, during the heyday of the student film co-ops, back before most people had a VCR and before Turner Classic Movies, were especially memorable. During my undergraduate years at Michigan, you could see an art film, a foreign film, or a Hollywood classic almost every night of the week at one campus auditorium or another, and on the weekends, you usually had a choice of four or five movies per night. I almost always went to two movies on Friday or Saturday, if I could work out the logistics, running across the Diag between shows. The official start of each semester for me, in fact, wasn't the first day of class, but the day I picked up a copy of each co-op's big poster schedule and taped them all to the wall of my room. I have a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Michigan, but my real education—the one that's stuck with me, anyway, more so than my thirty-year-old readings of Descartes and Husserl—was at the movies, in the old Architecture and Design Auditorium with its stiff wooden seats, Auditorium A in Angell Hall (still one of the best movie theaters I've ever been in), and the Natural Science Building Auditorium, one of those big, stepped science ampitheaters with a black-topped lab table down front. It was in these theaters that I first saw Lawrence of Arabia, The Graduate, Rebecca, Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Seventh Seal, The Searchers, The Wild Bunch, Breathless, His Girl Friday, Singin' in the Rain, The Red Shoes, and hundreds of others.
Some of the most memorable experiences I had, though, were at commercial theaters in Ann Arbor, usually at the crummy little theaters out at Briarwood Mall. This was my first multiplex, and the theaters themselves were awful, little shoeboxes with no slope, sticky floors, flimsy seats, scratched and stained screens, bad sound, and a smell of vegetable rot that I can still conjure vividly after thirty years.
In which I mostly write about books, movies, and TV. An all-purpose spoiler alert: Sometimes I will talk about these works on the assumption that the reader's already read or seen them, so if you haven't, be forewarned.
About Last Night