We talk about “film” all the time. But how often do we get to watch a film on film? For better or worse, the movie landscape has become dominated by the digital. As a result, one of the labels for movies that we often use—“film”—has become a kind of misnomer, an antique! What do you do about this kind of a problem? Obviously, you go on a field trip.
Last week, I had the great privilege of taking about 20 APU students spread out across four different Cinematic Arts courses to the New Beverly Cinema, one of Los Angeles’s premier repertory cinemas, to see Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterwork Psycho. What’s a “repertory cinema,” you ask? It’s a special place. It’s usually an old-style movie house that plays the classics, along with some new movies. Some of the L.A.-area repertory cinemas are noteworthy for showing those movies on 35mm film. This was the standard for making and projecting moves for over 100 years, before digital technology took over the industry.
But also, why Psycho? Isn’t that a gross slasher-horror movie about a…psycho? If you asked the students who attended the trip, my sense is they would defend the film beyond that rather trite description. Many of them hadn’t seen the movie before, and they talked afterward about how satisfying it was finally to watch it, especially on the big screen. After all, we’re talking about what is possibly the most famous film by arguably the most famous director of the 20th century. We know from the sheer output of thoughtful horror films by our own cinema students that this is a genre that’s alive and well.
Whoa. All this talk about field trips and classic movies on film reminds me of the time last spring when a similar group of us from Cinematic Arts courses field-tripped our way to the New Beverly and saw Jurassic Park on 35mm. That, too was quite the ride. I remember how, as soon as the credits started rolling, one of the students sitting in front of me turned around and said, “That held UP! I was actually scared!” Never before was a film professor more satisfied.
So, if you haven’t already (and even if you have), I encourage you to check out any of our area’s many offerings for repertory cinema: the New Beverly, the Vista, the American Cinematheque, LACMA, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive (to name a few). Those who have attended on our trips have left supremely satisfied, literally begging me for more. Oh, and also: shout out to the Department of Cinematic Arts for helping to finance these film treks!