An Introduction to the Nexus Auteur Column (6/2/12)

This column has in the past proven an incongruous read.  Any who come across it casually, out of context, may well be perplexed as to why a student publication should chose to focus so esoterically on old movie stars and long dead directors, on, as it were,  the cultural players of yesteryear.  What possible relevance has it to contemporary student life or the ever changing entertainment scene of the early 21st century?

 

An honest answer to these questions would be that I’m not quite sure.  It’s probably only a minority who have the slightest interest in the cinema as anything other than the blockbuster of the moment.  Many of you will have never seen a black and white movie or subtitled film.  Most will only have the vaguest notion about when the silent era was.  The majority would struggle to pin point  the date when movies began or to list the names of five directors.

 

No matter.  Each to their own.  I’m sure each one of you could tell me more about computer games in ten minutes than I’ll ever know.  That’s as it should be.   Keeping abreast of current trends is an advisable thing when it comes to employment chances, getting laid or just holding up your end of the conversation when down at the pub.  No one wants to be the bore in the corner holding forth on the subtle differences between Charlie Chaplin’s Keystone shorts and those he made a year later at Essanay.

 

In the interests of full disclosure I should also confess that this column has a not entirely hidden agenda.  ‘Advertorial’ would be too strong a word but its motivations are grounded in the fact that I run an independent DVD rental store toward the North end of town.  The shop is called Auteur House and it specialises in classic movies.  It’s the opposite of your mainstream, franchise operations.  Our focus and our strength are our weekly rentals, a vast collection of titles that range from 1910s serials  to the best contemporary movies.  In the five years that we’ve  been open we have built a veritable library, a resource for students of the medium as much as those just looking for a challenging watch.

 

In the era of Youtube, Megaupload, file sharing and general indifference to copyright Auteur House is something of an anachronism.  The sun may well be setting on the DVD rental store as we have come to know it, with even the best shops in the country struggling, yet we are here for the moment and trading, offering a specialist array of stock and quality advice from people who know and love the cinema.   Drop in for a browse sometime and you may well be surprised.  We’re up the stairs from Mark One Comics on Victoria St, roughly across the road from the clothing store Kathmandu.

 

Both the store and this column’s content are niche market stuff.  For that no apologies should be necessary.  To be on the periphery of the culture, to resist the cult of new, can be a strong, positive thing.  Beyond the pure pleasure of experiencing a work of art from another age or another country there is no keener way of appreciating and critiquing the cutting edge than from the outside looking in.  An understanding of the present is always grounded in knowledge of the past.

 

By happy coincidence two films currently screening in theatres reflect this idea. I write this a week after an Oscars ceremony where The Artist and Hugo shared 10 awards between them.  The former is a film buff’s dream, an ode to the silent era whose allusions and asides go far beyond those years.  Only the French could have conceived and executed such a loving appreciation of Hollywood mythology.

 

Hugo takes the clock back further, to very dawn of narrative cinema.  Martin Scorsese, today’s greatest living American director, embraces the newest 3-D technology in telling the story of his spiritual antecedent, the illusionist and magician Georges Melies.  Give it a few months and Auteur House will stock it.

 

Update 21/5/2012: Auteur House now proudly does stock Hugo.

 

 

 

 


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The film reviews and critical essays on this site are drawn from material either previously published or broadcast on radio.   Most, but not all, of the titles discussed are available for rental from Auteur House.

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For more on author Dr. Richard Swainson click here.