Postcard From Emo
“Like the belief of the terminally ill in medicine, the belief of the legitimately frightened in the educational process is a comforting lie.”–David Mamet, TRUE AND FALSE.
“My knowledge of silent films, German and French cinema, came an awful lot from Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. At first he showed films at Innis College, then he had a place on Mercer St. for a while. Reg showed some really incredible silent films, from Phantom of the Opera to D.W. Griffith’s films. His strength was putting incredibly good soundtracks on the films. He has a really good ear for movie music and back in the good old days when it was all analog, he would splice them together himself.”–Shirley Hughes, TORONTO SILENT FILM SOCIETY.
In a recording I have of one of his live readings a woman in the audience said to poet Robert Bly, “Do you know when you read your poetry your voice falls off towards the end.”
Bly roared back at her with his voice falling back to a barely audible whisper at the end, “Yes, I know that when I read my poetry my voice falls off towards the end and I will not be shamed by you today.”
I thought of that this week when one of the stupidest people I have ever met sat before me. To her face I told her that she was one of the stupidest people I have ever met.”
“Now we know what you are!” she said with glee.
I said to myself, “Now I know what you are.”
This woman had come into my home, accepted my hospitality, ate my food, drank my wine and dismissed completely my value as a person.
Her son had asked if he could live here. He had shown up unexpectedly with some friends in the spring. I had an early film by Stanley Kubrick on the program. “Can we see something else?” he asked.
Thinking he was going to ask for a later Kubrick I said, “Yes.”
He surprised me by asking for the first GODZILLA (1954). At once I liked him.
The presentation here is second to none in Toronto. He was used to seeing classic films on his monitor screen, on television or badly projected in the classroom.
At once he fell in love with the place.
He was studying Italian film at a nearby university. He asked if I would show him Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST in The Cineforum. When I did it was he and I. I did not ask him to pay for the experience. He offered nothing in return.
The book he had been told to use said that guns in Italian westerns are penises.
I read the stupid book. Then I said, “You know, sometimes a gun is a gun.”
I bought a copy of David Mamet’s BAMBI VS. GODZILLA to have for his own. Mamet urges the young to stay out of school. In his book TRUE AND FALSE he writes, “Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Stand up. Speak up. Stay out of school.” (More on Mamet here:http://reghartt.ca/cineforum/?p=12475 ).
From the moment he asked if he could live here his mother was dead set against it.
He is not the first person who has asked if they could live here. He certainly won’t be the last. (http://reghartt.ca/cineforum/?p=10162).
He lived here for the month of May.
They were, I thought, supposed to arrive Monday night. I said I would prepare some food for them. He said that his mother did not drink beer, she drank wine. Where I come from when someone invites me to dinner I bring beer and/or wine. That took me back a bit but I had the wine.
They never arrived.
I figured the mother had decided not to come.
They showed up the next night around 8pm.
I invited them in. He said, “We haven’t eaten.”
I pulled the lasagna I made the day before out of the fridge, heated it up, gave him a beer and her some wine.
Things seemed to be going smoothly. She asked about films, then asked if I had seen the films of Pedro Almodovar.
“I have them all,” I told her.
I had thought he would want the room he had had but he was determined on using my archive room. I need access to that space at all hours but because he wanted to be a film maker I thought it would be good for him to be surrounded by the greatest films ever made as well as those historically most important.
One of the inspirations for THE CINEFORUM is the original Paris Cinematheque (not the current one) of Henri Langlois who said, “An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There’s not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That’s Godard. We’re fresh out of “bad students.” You’ll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won’t find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything.”
I thought he had the makings of being a bad student. I certainly hoped he had.
Said the great Italian film maker Bernardo Bertolucci, “Film students should stay as faraway as possible ftrom film schools and film teachers. The bonly film school for the cinema IS the cinema. The best cinema is the Paris Cinematheque. The best teacher is Henri Langlois.”
Then his mother asked if she could see the room he was to take. They were gone a considerable time.
By the time they came down the program in the screening room had ended. I invited them to sit in there.
She then told me she did not want her son living here.
As she spoke I thought of several people who had come here before.
One woman looking at a piece of art on the wall asked who had created it. “I did,” I told her.
“You did not,” she said.
“I did,” I affirmed.
“You DID NOT,” she said vehemently.
“I did,” I said again.
“YOU DID NOT!” she said.
“What makes you say that?”
“It is too good,” she said.
Another woman had come by for my JANE JACOBS program.
“This is where it is? I can’t go in there. This is terrible. I am teaching a course on Jane Jacobs. I have to see this film. I can’t go in there,” she said.
I quietly told her that Jane Jacobs had been a friend of mine from her arrival in Toronto until her death in 2006, that she had written me fan letters, that one of her sons seeing me on the street had stopped to say, “My mother adored you,” to which I had replied, “And I your mother.” I added that one writer hadwritten, “Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.” I added that Mrs. Jacobs said, “Old ideas are sometimes found in new buildings. New ideas are found in old buildings.”
The woman did not come to0 see the film. I pity her students.
As the mother spoke I told her, “Your son wants to be a film maker. He will learn more about film here than at any university.”
To my surprise not only she but also her son said, “No, that is not true.”
Well, it happens to BE true. One heckuva lot of people from around the world have spoken and written about the value of what they found here.
“Reg Hartt has devoted his whole life to bringing the film classics to the public. He treats animation-cartoons, if you will-as art. He is underfinanced, overworked and snubbed. I think we should pay tribute to him.” DAVID BEARD, owner CINEBOOKS.
“Reg Hartt teaches like Neal Cassady drove a bus.”—Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star.
“Reg Hartt has a feel for film unique in this country…genius level.”—Elwy Yost.
Now that shocked me. I expected it from the mother but not from the son. I wondered why he had wanted to live here. I got my answer soon enough when he said, “I want to live as an artist. To do that I have to experience poverty.”
At once I told his mother she was the stupidest person I have ever met.
“We have to leave,” he said.
“Now we know what you are,” said the mother.
I thought to myself, “Now I know what you and your son are.”
As they left I thought of another fellow who had wanted to live here while he studied at university. He came from a family with money. His mother as well did not approve of me. She had told him, “If you stay there I won’t pay your rent.”
That mother like this one castrated her son.
The only real poverty on this planet is the poverty of those who have money.
It keeps them from relying on themselves…
Ralph Waldo Emerson: ON Self-Reliance
I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in the face and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes! That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because our arithmetic has computed the strength and means opposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable and gracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. Do not think the youth has no force, because he cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room his voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knows how to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.
The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and having observed, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always be formidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.
The next day he returned the digital 2D/3D camera I had loaned him. He had left some luggage here. That night he had, he thought, taken all of it. He had not. He told me that someone had stolen his boots out of his suitcase.
I told him that I could care less.
I had lost a lot more than a pair of boots.
I take chances on the people I meet. I don’t play it safe. I take a chance on them all. Only rarely do I meet one not worthy of that gift.
To aspiring film makers I say this, if you are going to study film at university continue studying it there. I learned long ago that people who aspire always settle for second best.
The best need no teacher.
The boy had come here for my Stanley Kubrick program. Kubrick never took a day of public school he could get out of. He paid fellow students to take notes. He certainly did not waste time in film school or at a university. Those places are for the second rate. Kubrick was first rate. He remains the single greatest film maker of our time.
THE CINEFORUM is for the budding Kubricks. There are not very many of them.
As for the silly boy’s even sillier mother I borrow these words from Robert Bly: “I WILL NOT BE SHAMED BY YOU TODAY.”
Neal Cassady would have driven the bus over the silly vagina which, having not seen action for decades, had dried up and gone bad.
I had thought the boy capable of standing up to his mother. I was wrong. The mother won. The boy died.
For the importance of embracing the wild man and standing upto the mother gor to Robert Bly and IRON JOHN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YAL20UVvjY
Beware the rich who think that being rich means possessing money for they are the truly poor. They take without giving. My programs have always been by donation. These are the ones who give the least they can thinking always that it is more than enough. They say, “Well, they suggested $20 but I gave them $5.”
“You are just like mu uncle,” a fellow said.
“My uncle ran his own business. He always gave people more than they paid for.”
That is how we tell the truly rich.