Friday, February 17, 2006

End of an era in the Montreal film scene...

Hour reports that Cinéma du Parc "head programmer Don Lobel (who has programmed at the Parc for seven years, and was the previous owner as well, before the cinema was acquired by Ex-Centris) was dismissed from his duties without notice by Ex-Centris management, causing his programming partner, Mitch Davis, to tender his resignation last Monday morning."

One summer, I lived in a crappy apartment on St-Dominique and worked as a ticket taker at Cinéma du Parc, the last remaining rep theatre in Montreal. It is located underneath the La Cité apartment complex. My job literally involved ripping tickets and pointing people to the correct of the three theatres. When movies went in -- three in a row, staggered by 15 minutes so they could have only one projectionist -- I would just get to sit on the big red sectional under the movie-poster-plastered wall and read. (I remember reading Duddy Kravitz and, halfway through it, Mordecai Richler died.) As an employee, you could see as many films as you wanted when you weren't working and take a big bowl of popcorn in with you. It was great fun and I learned a heck of a lot about the movie world that existed outside the multiplex: I saw my first spaghetti western, my first really freaky Japanese horror film, and was introduced to oeuvre of Larry Clark.

Cinéma du Parc was a pretty ragtag place back then. When I'd walk into the midnight shows during the credits with my flashlight to kick everyone out, I'd regularly encounter empty cases of beer, the lingering smell of pot, and the occasional couple engaging in oral sex. (Why did they wait until the credits to do that?)

Daniel Langlois's Ex-Centris bought the place right during my time there and, to their credit, they let Don and Mitch essentially keep doing what they were doing. And they renovated the theatres and spruced the place up, which was cool, but kind of took away from its charm.

The more cinephilic will pay better tribute to Don and Mitch and their cult and art programming prowess. Things will be different without them, but Langlois is a cinema lover, so I'm more curious than worried as to what happens to du Parc next. In Hour, Melora Koepke writes:
[T]he Parc's programmers are widely considered the best in the country. Davis, who is a co-founder and head programmer of the Fantasia festival (the midnight shock screenings at Cinéma du Parc were his pet projects), cites a few of their recent victories: "Oldboy, Dans ma peau, Three...extremes, Popaganda, Gods of Times Square... one of my personal gonzo programming jobs was Abel Ferrera's Ms. 45. I got his phone number from a mutual friend and called him directly through a mutual friend, and called him up at home in New York and got him to ship me his print. I have some pretty good connections... it's all about connections."

It's unclear what Ex-Centris has in mind for Cinéma du Parc (they had not responded to inquiries at press time), though they have assured Davis that his hard work was not in vain.

"The good news is that [Ex-Centris] has assured me that the Parc will remain dedicated to supporting independent films, repertory cinema and film creations that are out of the mainstream currents. They have every intention of keeping things on the cutting edge and that definitely made me breathe a sigh of relief," he says.

"But different sensibilities will bring in different movies, that's for sure. To [program] this kind of stuff, you really have to have an obsessiveness and dedication that takes time, energy and ingenuity. Not everyone's going to bother."

No comments: