Month: April 2014

Bringing Digital Cinema to Plimoth Plantation

babd33be271ec4095ff12f02a7b87964_largeOperating a small arthouse cinema has never been an easy thing to do. More and more such theaters are operating as nonprofits rather than as commercial entities because of this reality, but even then, competition for donations and the few grants available for the arts is always high. Just like those in other fields, arthouse theaters are turning to unconventional methods of fundraising. A good local example is the Plimoth Cinema in Plymouth, Mass., which recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise at least half of the money needed to upgrade the theater to the standard digital cinema format required to show most of the new movies coming out these days.

“The industry has moved to digital cinema and we need to adapt to prevent what happened with the demise of the beloved but bedraggled Nickelodeon, says one of Plimoth Cinema’s founders Edward Russell, speaking of the Falmouth arthouse theater that closed not long ago.

As of this writing, the campaign has already raised over $25,000 (which was the minimum goal), but the project is expected to cost $48,000, so there is still fundraising to do. The Kickstarter campaign runs until Saturday, May 3rd if you want to help, and there are a number of perks you can get for donating. Have a look at the campaign here.

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The Last Days of Edward Gorey Captured: An Interview with Chatham Filmmaker Chris Seufert

If you don’t know who Edward Gorey was, you’re missing out. The eccentric illustrator, who authored numerous books, illustrated many others, and lent his imaginative drawings to several publications, including The New Yorker, lived on the Cape for the last portion of his life. He died in 2000, the year I arrived here, also a New Yorker in exile, but thanks to the work of Chatham documentary filmmaker Christopher Seufert, I am now able to glimpse Gorey’s Cape Cod life. Seufert had been making a documentary about Gorey when we first met, but it had been put on hold. Now, after a decade-long hiatus, Seufert is back on track and he’s bringing his work-in-progress to various venues around the Cape and Islands to regain the momentum he lost in the aftermath of Gorey’s death. He took a few minutes to chat with me about this film as he prepared for his next screening/fundraiser at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on Saturday, April 26th at 10 a.m., where he will be joined by Gorey’s cousin Ken Morton.

Cape Cod Film Society: When did you begin this project?
Christopher Seufert: In the summer of 1996 in my late twenties; I’d just moved back to the Cape after living on the West Coast and then in Australia. I kept meeting people that summer who, when hearing I was a documentary maker, would mention that there was this eccentric, reclusive artist in Yarmouth who would make a great documentary [subject]. I’d never heard his name and was not familiar with his work so the idea kept falling flat with me. Finally… I went to a local book store and checked out his work. I didn’t understand it particularly, but I did see that he was a significant and prolific artist. So, I sent him a letter, thinking, if nothing else, that I’d at least to be able to put the idea to rest when he never responded.
To my surprise he responded within the week. He said he’d be open to the idea but that he had some of his plays being performed and he’d like to hire me to document them. I told him not to pay me, that we’d consider documenting the plays test footage for a possible documentary. He agreed and I shot his next plays, Wallpaper and Heads Will Roll, at Theater on the Bay in Bourne, to his specs.

CCFS: How did you come to meet Edward Gorey for the first time?
CS:I met Edward at the Theater on the Bay in Bourne in September of 1996. His collaborator Carol Verburg, introduced us. She was very enthusiastic that I was there to shoot a documentary and wanted to do anything she could to get the two of us to do this. She said, “Thank god you’re here. He has prostate cancer, heart problems, and diabetes. You need to move on this.” In April of 2000, three and a half years later, Edward died of a heart attack. I had gotten about sixty hours of footage but was really shooting to get about two hundred, a typical amount for a verite-style feature length documentary.

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Bergman on the Big Screen

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Victor Sjostrom as Dr. Isak Bork in Ingrid Bergman’s 1957 classic “Wild Strawberries.”

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957), but I do know how deeply it moved me despite the fact that I was far too young to truly connect with the film’s ideas about death, regret, and the passage of time. I was almost certainly a teenager, and it is testament to Bergman’s skill as a writer and as a director that he was able to elicit such a strong response from me at that age with this story about a 78-year-old Swedish doctor.
Early in the film, just after the credits roll in fact, we enter a dream. In it the dreamer, Dr. Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom), stumbles through a city with no people. We hear nothing but the sound of his heart beating, at first. Borg looks up and sees a clock with no hands; he checks his watch, also without hands. He sees a horse-drawn hearse speed by; it crashes into a lamppost and a coffin falls out. From inside the coffin, a man’s hand reaches out. Borg peers over the edge of the coffin only to find that it the man inside is actually himself. Each image, every sound, the rhythm of the scene: all are deliberate and expertly crafted to mimic dream language.
Striking imagery, the use of sound, and representation of complex intellectual and psychological problems are the hallmarks of Bergman’s work. But while some of his films require more work to fully understand, Wild Strawberries is very accessible. It was a major success for him in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why.
More a character study than the traditional narrative story, Wild Strawberries follows the thoughts of Dr. Borg on the day he is to receive high honors from Lund University for his lifetime of work. It begins with this dream, and goes on to include reveries, memories, and another dream as he travels with his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) and a range of symbolic characters who join them on their journey. While the film is not action-oriented and the character’s introspection is its main subject, Wild Strawberries is not remote and coldly intellectual. The most clearly influenced by Surrealism of Bergman’s work, Wild Strawberries draws us in viscerally, making use of the cinematic medium to evoke the subconscious and unconscious workings of the human mind. As such, we are able to relate to Dr. Borg on a human level, regardless of our age, cultural background, or experience.
Bergman’s work requires active viewership, a participation in developing the meaning of his films. His direction guides us, but the viewer who brings nothing to the film or who refuses to be actively engaged with it, will in turn get nothing from the film.

Bergman’s films are deeply absorbing if you let them in.

The chance to see one in a theatrical setting is rare on the Cape, so the Cape Cod Community College’s inclusion of this film in its Foreign Film Series is a great opportunity. If you’ve never seen a Bergman film, Wild Strawberries is a good one to start with, and if you’re already a fan, you will enjoy seeing it with an audience on a large screen. The screening is on Tuesday, April 1 at 3:30 p.m. on campus at CCCC, 2240 Iyanough Rd., West Barnstable.
After you’ve seen it, come back here and share your comments.