Burning Down the House
Where once I went to openings, now I’m more likely to attend a closing: the Granville 7, the Centre ‘A’ Gallery’s BC Electric Building venue, The Waldorf. It’s a decidedly odd way to spend a weekend evening, the aesthetic equivalent of chopping up the living room furniture to fuel the fireplace.
The lobby is tall, but incredibly narrow. As the ceiling drops, the path narrow some more to accommodate the long concession on the south side of the building. It’s like being in a tunnel.
Turning north and entering the theatre proper, it all changes dramatically -like suddenly stumbling on a clearing in a forest. I’ve never been able to enter this space without pausing for a moment: the undulating ceiling, the hardwood floors that swoop gently down before turning up again at a screen flanked by giant clam shells. Taking its cue from the wilderness that once stood here, a church oriented to the cardinal directions and dedicated to the celebration of the moving image.
Beautiful. Too beautiful to be likely.
Far from the Granville crowds it was quiet, almost bucolic. A great place to bring a date to see a classic; something romantic, something with Bogey.
Alternatively, a sanctuary where a long drive yielded rarefied pleasures -a visual tone poem of sacred practice, or the profanity of Willem Dafoe’s self-decapitation with a shotgun.
No surprise: the Film Festival was born here.
It’s a big crowd tonight, a sell out.
I’m here with my special lady friend, a dozen years after a date to watch Casablanca.
The Impresario takes the mike. He’s smiling, in the manner of one accustomed to the inevitable: business-like. But I find it a bit disconcerting, like a happy priest at a Catholic funeral.
He talks of the distribution of relics: the projection equipment, the seats, the doors, the wood flooring. At the mention of the sign to be preserved in the new development, a loud chorus of “boos.”
The Impresario pauses for a moment. Then continues, and concludes –ever smiling.
Being as we are on the West side of things, a standing ovation leads to Auld Lang Syne.
The lights dim. Somebody near the back mutters something extravagantly unflattering about condominiums.
Without the preamble of trailers, the film starts: Midnight in Paris, wherein a romantic writer losses himself in a Golden Age populated by Hemmingway & Fitzgerald, Dali & Picasso. Scratch lines run stage left through most of the film, until reality takes hold.
No sooner are the lights up then the cameras are out and the patrons pose amongst the relics.
I shoot a few myself, but quickly give up at the futility, the sheer impossibility of capturing the sense of the place -the smell, the light, that subtle lift in my heart that greets me as I enter.
We sit for a while and watch the photographers at work, building their tower of pale reflections: the latest addition.