Sunday, September 10, 2006

HUNGER

As a high school truant in the late 1940s, I spent many daytime hours in Cleveland's Lower Mall Theater. This specialized movie house at the commercial edge of downtown Cleveland was an absolute treasure trove of foreign and revival films. Having grown up and thrived on the luxury of film revival theaters, I can really appreciate what video, especially DVD, can bring to me.

My revival house experience was not your standard movie-going group entertainment. The Lower Mall, at least in the daytime, attracted very few customers. I sat alone in the dark, relating only to the movie, not the scattered few others in attendance. I think porno theaters are today's comparable experience. It was, like DVD is now, essentially a personal, not group experience.

Watching Knut Hamsun's HUNGER on DVD tonight was much like it would have been in the Lower Mall, that is to say, the only way I would have wanted to watch it. I never even mentioned to Julie that I had the DVD and was going to view it. I know she would never sit still for a 40-year-old, sub-titled, black-and-white downer film from Norway.

I watched it alone and was caught up in every frame of every scene. The only distractions were my own wild thoughts and inner comments on the action, the actors and the intense predicament of the central character. This character is focused on like almost no other in film history. And the performance by Per Oscarsson won Best Actor at many film festivals such as Cannes in 1966 and America's National Society of Film Critics Award in 1969.

DVD, Blockbuster Online, Netflix and a handful of specialized video stores are now the source for the best film viewing experience in America today. The Cineplex be damned.

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