My second day of film festivities was a one film day. This was because Johnny and I went to see 1900 which is one of the longest films ever made. It’s certainly the longest film I’ve ever watched. It’s 310 minutes long, plus we had a 50 minute interval rounding off to a nice 6 hours of film.
The film was showing at the Art Gallery of NSW as part of a retrospective of Bernardo Bertolucci. I guessed there’d be nothing more guaranteed to bring out a crowd of old, pretentious film watchers like a retrospective at an art gallery. This was confirmed on the way in as I quizzed Johnny on the facilities of the Art Gallery theatre as we rode the escallator down into the bowels of the gallery. I asked him if they sold popcorn at the cinema. He responded with a negative, to which the eavesdropping woman infront of us turned around and said “Thank goodness”, as if popcorn is the worst thing to ever happen to cinema.
I said “Absolutely! As if you’d want to eat popcorn in a cinema.” I couldn’t tell whether I was mocking my uncouthness or her couthness. Probably both.
The snobbery continued inside the theatre. When the film started and there was a series of announcements on the screen:
Please turn off your mobile phones and pagers – Fair enough, mine’s on silent. Who uses pagers these days?
Please refrain for lighting up the your mobile screen during the presentation – If our phone is off, how can I light up the screen? Do they not trust us? But I was a bit annoyed because I had planned on lighting up my mobile during the film, it’s the only way I can tell the time and in a 6 hour movie session, knowing the time is important, it’s like keeping a tally of days on the wall of a prison cell. However, this instruction was met with applause from the audience, not an audience of twitter fiends I’m guessing.
Please do not eat or drink in the theatre – What?! We had two bags of snacks, and multiple drinks, what were we to do? Die of malnourishment? Still more applause from the crowd. I bet the popcorn lady was giving it a standing ovation.
Please do not talk during the screening – That’s one step too far! I don’t go to the movies with my friends to ignore them the entire time. Still the crown even cheered at this instruction.
You see, snobbery, everywhere. It’s like they’d forgotten that cinema is first and foremost entertainment. Of course it’s art and commentary and reflections on society and all that. But it is, at it’s core, storytelling, and storytelling is about entertainment first. I may have got it all wrong, but it felt like there was a significant portion of the crowd who had forgotten that the movies are meant to be fun. It doesn’t have to be serious business and eating a choc-top while watching a naked man vomit on the corpse of a horse is just as artistic as if there was no choc-top. Personally though, I’d probably just take the choc-top and leave the naked man and his horse alone.
Now I have no problem with films being art. But it’s not as if art film would have nearly the amount of talent behind it if it wasn’t for blockbuster films. No kid grows up watching Bertolucci, Goddard or Malick and wanting to be them. But I’m guessing the Bertoluccis, Goddards, and Malicks of the future are probably right now wanting to be Cameron and Bay.
Anyway, I guess my point is this, I don’t think there is any room in the film world for snobbery. The blockbusters need the art films for innovation that will, eventually, filter down to the mass market. But the art films need to the blockbusters to stimulate the talent before it’s interested in art film, and to get money to make the art films that won’t make any money. For instance, 1900 itself was funded by Paramount.
But, I’m getting distracted by the announcements before the film. What was the film itself like?
Film 5: 1900
1900 is the story of two boys, one rich, one poor, both born on the same day in 1900. It tells their story as they grow up as frenemies in the first half of the 20th century. The film is all in Italian and has a pretty great cast including Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Burt Lancaster.
It was pretty beautifully shot. And while it is horrendously long, I didn’t really ever get bored. I’m pretty sure they could have told the story in a third of the time, but not without losing a lot of the plodding beauty of the film. I think the fact that the film was allowed to go for five hours meant that it didn’t feel rushed at all. But there were always characters on screen, talking, relating, moving the story along. The film didn’t really take any time out to film 5 minutes of symbolic insects eating insects or or light coming through trees, for which I was thankful.
However, beyond the immediate beauty of the film, it was really just an advertisement for communism. So much so that at the end of the film the hero gave up sermonising his fellow characters about the virtues of communism, and turned straight to the camera and preached to us. It was very meta in a most un-ironic way. The entire film just seemed to serve as one long parable of how the ruling class are always exploiting the workers.
Still despite the obvious agenda, it was worth watching. I don’t think I’ll do it again, but having completed the longest film of my life, I feel like I might have just completed the filmic equivalent of the New York Marathon. Or at very least, the Sydney Half-Marathon. Well done to us. And we did it without eating, drinking, checking our phones, tweeting, talking or otherwise enjoying ourselves. Quite the achievement I’d say.
Tomorrow I think I might get popcorn and Coke in collectors edition Avengers containers just to spite the snobs.