Monday, February 3, 2014

Mondo Roundup: Going to the Theater Edition

There is something achingly beautiful and yet flat out achy when it comes to decayed movie theaters. Once upon a time, not that long ago in fact, going to the movies was an epic and occasionally glamorous thing. Even when I was a little girl in the 80's, with the glory days of the palatial, gilded frame movie houses being long, long gone, the theater was still a magical place. Sure, the movie theater in question was realistically a ratty dollar theater attached to a strip mall, probably built in the early to mid 70's, but for a kid, it was the closest thing I had to a living remnant to an era of film that I only knew via large film books with yellowy pages.

Of course, it helps that this was right before the stinky hand of commercials had infiltrated the movie going experience and even at a pee-stenched theater whose glory days were dubious from inception, the stained red curtains parted like the red seas when the trailers began. It's a seemingly small gesture but it was all part of the dingy majesty for me. 

The small town I grew up in actually did have a proper, non strip-mall attached theater too. The Apollo Theater, nestled in the historic and semi-neglected as long as I can remember historic downtown area, was always there. Doing research, they were showing kids films when I was a toddler and before then, adult films. Before that? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that it is still there. All but practically condemned and rotting from the inside, the Apollo now has all the appearance of waiting to die. Which is a shame. Beyond a shame but the structure, still there after decades of growth and Appleby's, gives a faint shadow of hope that maybe someone will rescue it. Just because something is neglected, doesn't necessarily mean it has to die. 

The other night, as I was trying to work on the above passage, I got sucked into one of the most recent episodes of The Rialto Report and their fantastic interview with Veronica Vera. There was something about this particular interview that, by the end, hit me emotionally. Here's this amazing woman, who is so classy, smart and someone who has made an incredible thumbprint in this world by being so open to new frontiers, both in terms of sexuality, as well as writing and gender. We live in a culture where the accepted image of someone being open and outside the status quo fray is “Dharma & Greg” or whatever “manic-pixie” mainstream dream machine you want to invoke. Accepted risks are buying a faux African-patterned skirt from a store at the mall. But Vera, along with many of her peers and the subjects of Rialto's other interviews, took real risks.

It's incredibly weird to me that it is 2014, a number so Jetson-sounding in its futurism, that things like “slut shaming” and overall stunted attitudes towards human expression involving sexuality are still alive and well. Kind of like that small militant army of cockroaches that live underneath your kitchen sink, outdated morals refuse to die in our culture. And that's part of why I do what I do. Outdated mores tend to blind people to art. A chaste female nude is considered auto-art by some, but yet the moment that nude gets to derive pleasure from something more than just the male gaze, it's smut and therefore, not deemed respectable or worth examining. This is beyond ridiculous. Attitudes like this should be relegated to the same kind of snickering we save for things like medicinal leeches and the belief that the devil is tied to mental illness.

With our culture, it's not just simply about out-moded puritanism but classism too. It eternally mystifies me that guys like Gerard Damiano, Cecil Howard or Stephen Sayadian are all but labeled pornographers but their European/Asian counterparts like Oshima, Breillat and most recently, “Nymphomaniac” director Lars von Trier are deemed artists. And you know what? They ARE artists but so are Damiano, Howard and Sayadian. But the key difference between the latter three and the former is that the latter are not only American, but worked in a milieu that is considered to be the bottom rung of the bread and circuses ladder. The more lower-class a medium is perceived, the more derided, if not flat out neglected, it is. Which is strange. Shouldn't this be the enlightened age? It's okay to have a film display raw human sad emotion but sexuality is still taboo? 

Now, speaking of the tawdry, you can check out my latest for Dangerous Minds, covering the ultra-obscure Russ Meyer film, “Fanny Hill..” It is tame for the master of bosmania but that said , still a lot of fun and looking better than it ever has, thanks to the hard work of the folks at VinegarSyndrome.