Friday, June 30, 2017

Keeping an Eye on Movies from Around the Globe

The hot topic in Hollywood right now is the diverse new class of movie folk (774 of them) who’ve been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, most of the attention has gone to the fact that many on the invite list are people of color. (Last year’s Oscar-winning Moonlight has itself spawned a large group of invitees, including director Barry Jenkins, actresses Naomie Harris and Janelle Monáe, and cinematographer James Laxton. ) But Justin Chang’s article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times points out another aspect of the Academy’s new thinking: it’s reaching out to respected filmmakers from all over the globe. Chang happily enumerates offbeat but worthy new academy members from Brazil, Greece, Japan, Hong Kong, Portugal, Iran, and the Philippines, along with a gaggle of Bollywood stars.

I can’t pretend I know every name on Chang’s list of moviemakers from foreign lands. (Shame on me, of course, but there are so many movies and so little time.) Still, I’m thrilled at this recognition of the international appeal of cinema. My recent travels have reminded me that a love of movies extends far beyond American shores.  

Film history snobs will be quick to point out that moviemaking was international from the start. In many ways it began in France (via Georges Méliès and the Lumière brothers), and some of its most prized stylistic ideas came from Russia and Germany. But there’s no question that Hollywood-style movies became pre-eminent, and the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age are still cherished the world over. Case in point: last week when I walked into a trendy Amsterdam coffee bar, I was instantly captivated by its décor. On its walls were dozens of close-up movie stills of such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Paul Newman, each of them posed clutching a cup of coffee.  

  Many cities around the world have film centers where fans can gather to watch and discuss movies, as well as enjoy movie-themed exhibits. In Paris, the Cinémathèque Française is legendary, dating back to the saving of silent films during World War II. New York can boast its Museum of the Moving Image, now housed in a former building of the historic Astoria Studios in Queens. Shockingly, Los Angeles has never had a full-fledged film museum, though the American Cinematheque screens films both in Hollywood (at the Egyptian Theatre) and in Santa Monica (at an historic neighborhood movie-house called the  Aero). Happily, a long-awaited museum sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now under construction next door to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In Amsterdam, I was privileged to visit EYE Film Institute Netherlands, housed in a spectacular building across the Ij River from the city’s central train station. (Its name comes from a pun on the Dutch pronunciation of the river it overlooks, and you take a free ferry ride to get there.) On a recent Saturday evening, I arrived too late to enjoy a vast display of memorabilia relating to the career of Martin Scorsese. But I could choose between four films to watch in comfortable screening rooms. In this particular timeslot, only two were in English: an ethereal Japanese travelogue on Mt. Fuji and Raoul Peck’s hard-hitting I Am Not Your Negro, based on the writings of James Baldwin. I watched the latter, surrounded by respectful Dutch viewers. And then there was time for a glass of wine and a tasty meal in a busy café overlooking the lights of Amsterdam. The Dutch know how to do movies right.

No comments:

Post a Comment