Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Sunday Series: Sunday November 8, 2015

The Sunday Series:
Sunday November 8, 2015

Today this Sunday, I went into a very dark room to see “The Forbidden Room.” The Egyptian Theater in downtown Hollywood is a structure that was built-in 1922.  The first film projected on the screen at the theater was Douglas Fairbanks’s “Robin Hood.” It was also the first “Hollywood Premiere.” Today is another sort of premiere, where they will project “The Forbidden Room, ” which is on 35mm, and afterwards the filmmaker will burn the only existing print.   The director, Guy Maddin” made this work as a tribute to the films that were made and are now lost.  It has been noted that 90% of films made in the silent era are nowhere to be found.  Mostly due to the chemical in these movies was nitrate film, and that type of the film is highly flammable.  Also it was in practice to destroy film prints, when they were seen as not having any commercial value. 

Guy Maddin in his introduction mentioned that “The Forbidden Room” is an homage to films that no longer exist, but at one time, did.   He felt frustrated that not only were these works of cinema were lost to history, but also the fact that he wanted to see these films.  In his mind, he needed to re-make these film-works so he can watch them.   In a similar fashion of Mary Shelley making her Frankenstein monster out of used parts, Maddin and his assistants and co-director remade films out of memory or what one can presume is memory, but in reality it is a re-imagine of a work that once existed.   Maddin realized that to make this work as not only something that exists, but he also would have to make it something that once existed.  Therefore the one and only showing of “The Forbidden Room” took place this Sunday morning.

The soundtrack to “The Forbidden Room” is a compilation of memories as well.  Snippets of movie soundtrack filtered through a ghost’s sense of importance.  One can hear traces of familiar melodies, for instance Wagner, but it fades into the background as one watches the larger images on the movie screen.  “The Final Derriere” by the band Sparks is a touching part of the scene where the main character has a desire to touch and obsess about a woman’s ass.   He goes to a doctor to get a cure, and with his head split open and his brain being operated on, he now has great hopes to be free from his desire.   Alas, there is no escape from desire.  A woman’s ass is the entrance to heaven.  Only a fool would attempt to fool his sense of direction.   The same can be said for me, as I waited in line to see this film.   There are no exits once you enter the theater of dreams, known as the Egyptian. 

The smell of burning celluloid as Guy was in the projection room destroying the film  within the film cans after showing the work.  One could notice the smoke in the audience as it lingers towards the ceiling and every once in awhile, the projected light captures the texture of the smoke.  Projected and real life became one in that instant. 

After the showing, one could really feel the smoke.  Guy came out of the projection room holding a bucket of ashes, as he went through the audience going towards the front of the screen.   He mentioned that what is in his hand is the latest work from him, and therefore it will be the last screening of “The Forbidden Room.” In true spirit of lost films, this film is now only exists in one’s memory.  The experience of such a showing can last forever, and there will always be a Rashomon effect, where everyone’s memory will be different.  Just trying to remember the images and the soundtrack to the film is already fading in my brain.  Yet, the experience of living through such a screening, and its after-taste, surely will stay with me forever. 

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