Sunday, July 5, 2015

ON THE PROWL FOR SOMEWHAT MARGINAL CINEMA

If I've learned one thing, it's that I'm happier if I go to the movies at least once a week. Yesterday I winged it and went to a Tamil film called Papanasam that was showing at the Cinemark out on Antioch.  It was a unique movie experience for me--everyone else in the theater seemed to be from southern Asia, though I can't say for sure. The film was part of some kind of import series that cost $12, while down the hall people saw The Avengers for $4.  A true import price.  It was well worth it. 

I think if you love movies out of the mainstream, you learn to be on the prowl for showings that are unique, fleeting, maybe only showing once, or at odd times, and it helps you cut through the crap and enjoy a mild sense of hunter-gatherer adventure.  Last month The Tivoli showed the Apu trilogy, one film a week for three weeks.  It was wonderful.  Double Indemnity is showing this month once or twice at Cinemark.  You could also catch Back From Hell at the Cannonball Roarer's Psychotronic Film Series.   I suppose the best part of living in a much larger city would be that there are venues dedicated exclusively to this.   In KC, or your average college town, it's catch as catch can.

Papanasam was real long, and even had an intermission!  I remember seeing Reds in Estes Park, on vacation.  (Why?  I have no idea, hadn't gone through puberty yet and the bumper cars were closed for maintenance?)  Reds had an intermission. That may have been the last time I saw a film with an intermission.  Papanasam's producers also flashed a health warning on the screen when a random character smoked a cigarette in a twenty second scene.  This was situated strategically near the 15 minute break.




I squirmed a bit in the first half-hour of Papanasam. At some point I knew intuitively I had come to a really long movie, expecting a short, punchy thriller.  It was slow to develop and there was a chattering, comically combative rapport in family and village life.  It was a light, intimate set up for heavy stuff, at a leisurely pace.  So the speed and pace of my life right now doubled up and lapped this film a few times before I began to slow down.  And that was good.  There is nothing like the dark, cool interior of a movie auditorium for a couple of hours with Hen House Twizzlers smuggled in.

Papanasam is the story of a father doing his very impeccable best to protect his family.  As the self-educated cable television mogul of a small town, he is also a movie junky.  Two movies per night on the rickety cable channel he collects cash payments for in an old-fashioned zip-up cash bag.  I loved this character, a smart, quirky, self-made family man who is vain about his moustache.  

Then, malicious trouble comes to their door.  It takes a long time to develop, but eventually there is death, and consequences, some awesome big budget camera work, and an honorable battle for the things that matter, followed by honorable closure.  Between Apu and Papanasam, my interest in Indian art films and pop films has really been piqued.  If I could go back to school and study anything, it would be film, with minors in guitar, meditation, cooking, hardscaping, graphic design, and bicycle repair.

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