This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Looking back at what I started with this succession of memory dumps, I realized the remembrances shouldn’t be limited to the distant past. However, the film watching experience still had to be memorable. This need was solved by two recent, connected instances: what happened last weekend and coming across two reviews by blogging colleagues. Jeremy Richey’s remarkable post on the movie at hand really connected:
“Every time I go to the movies I hope and pray that I will come across a new film that moves me as much as my favorites from the seventies and early eighties. With each passing year it seems like I find fewer and fewer modern works that spark that special flame in me but when I do I am both exhilarated and grateful.”
Chase Park Cinema (St. Louis, Missouri):
September 17, 2011: being at the Gateway of the West for the recent Bouchercon 2011 made for an unforgettable experience (as I covered here). Yet, it coincided with the début of a film I’d been dying to see. Having streamed Nicolas Winding Refn’s one-of-kind Valhalla Rising earlier this year, and hearing about the Tom Hardy star-making film Bronson, this director got on to my radar. Plus, when I caught the trailer for his Drive film, it made catching this particular film an imperative. Besides, various reviews kept praising it enthusiastically (Darren’s excellent review). Finally, I’d briefly discussed it with my good friend Pop Culture Nerd and author Peter Spiegelman at the mystery writer’s convention I specifically came in town to attend. Both praised the movie passionately. They weren’t wrong to do so.
After the completion of the con’s third day, I caught a cab that evening over to the nearby Chase Park neighborhood. The central west end area of St. Louis is upscale and the set of cinemas is actually part of the lobby of the independently owned Chase Park Plaza Hotel. It was formerly known as Chase Park Plaza Theatre. What was unique to the small stadium hall where I screened the film was that it incorporated what looked like an Hammond Organ. And, one of the theatre staff actually played it until show time — see second image above (taken with my phone). The fact I was alone for this was familiar comfort.
Sitting there, between a protagonist written fittingly to the anti-heroes of 70s film, an L.A. photographed in ways that reminded me of Heat (1995) and The Driver (1978), and a soundtrack more than worthy of any Michael Mann film set in Los Angeles (Heat, Collateral, 2004) or Chicago (Thief, 1981), it all seemed pretty damn appropriate. I was back home. Jeremy really nailed it for me with his close to the review:
“Drive has had its critics (including my friend Tony Dayoub over Cinema Viewfinder) but it moved me like no other film has in a very long time. It even provoked a physical response as I left the theater shaking and I have barely slept since I saw it, as images of Gosling’s haunted stare keep replaying in my head. Drive left me feeling shook-up, dazed and, like my favorite films, if left me feeling like I had been granted a glimpse into part of myself that I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about.”
Same here, my friend.