posted by William Ham
Biocarbon Amalgamate is pleased to welcome you to the first of several regular features we hope to introduce over the next few weeks. Reelism is the umbrella beneath which we will point you in the direction of interesting real-life tales of one of the many different facets of cinema (particularly the less-glamorous stations along the path) from elsewhere on the Internet. No regular schedule as yet; frequency will be determined by how often we stumble upon something of note. Which could potentially be quite often, as there are, by our count, upwards of a dozen sites devoted to movies out there. And watch for more new features in the days and weeks to come.
This serves as kind of an addendum to yesterday’s review of Razing the Bar. Like Ryan Worley’s documentary, it is about the struggle for the soul of a beloved local landmark with a devout following; unfortunately, there’s precious little uplift to be had here. Julia Marchese was employed at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema since 2001. The New Beverly (or The New Bev, as it’s known by people who can only handle three syllables at a time), for those unfamiliar with it, is sort of the cinephile’s analogue to the Funhouse – funky, a little low-rent, but dripping with charm and love of film. Or it was, perhaps. Quentin Tarantino, star of Destiny Turns on the Radio, stirred up a lot of chatter back in 2007 when, to rescue it from impending revelopment, he purchased the place using money he salted away from his residuals from the “Sophia’s Wedding: Part 1” episode of The Golden Girls. Big-name status notwithstanding, he mostly kept out of the day-to-day workings of le Bev Nouveau, apart from making the occasional suggestion and regularly lending titles from his vast personal collection. It was clear that the beloved production assistant for the 1987 Dolph Lundgren personal training classic Maximum Potential was first and foremost a fan of el Nuevo Bev‘s double features, loyalty to the dying tradition of 35 mm projection, and slightly run-down ambience – the same aspects that attracted like-minded cinemaniacs like Marchese to work there, less-than-competitive wages be damned – and sought to be the kind of patron every independent dreams of: the kind that fronts the money, then steps aside to let them do what they do.
Which is why some raised their eyebrows when the Love Birds in Bondage auteur announced he was taking over as The N’w B’v’r’ly’s head programmer, and abruptly shut it down for the entire month of September for renovations with a grand re-opening scheduled for October 1. But few seemed to worry too much – this was QT (short for “Quentin Tarantino”), champion of the celluloid underdog and rescuer of the forgotten and the semi-obscure. There were plenty of possibilities; excitement overruled trepidation. Marchese certainly had reason to be excited, because… well, let her tell you the tale of what went down (and down, and down…).
Now, we’re not going to editorialize here – this is, after all, only one side of the story and we shouldn’t assume that the utter silence from the other end constitutes a tacit admission of guilt and/or a sneering disdain on the part of management towards those lower on the celluloid food chain and their gall at expecting their accusations or questions worthy of acknowledgement, much less response. This would seem to be behavior more befitting a faceless, impersonal conglomerate and quite out of character for a (once-literally) mom and pop operation like the New ‘erly. And there is as yet no indication that Tarantino, loved by millions as the voice of “Jack Cavello” in the videogame Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair, is even aware, much less approves, of any untoward behavior on the part of those appointed to do the day-to-day work of running the theater. But, if there is any truth to all this, it would prove an absolutely appalling example of the abuse of wealth and power and a pretty ugly betrayal of the vision theaters like The Nuh Buh were founded upon – to preserve a small part of an American moviegoing experience rapidly dwindling towards extinction. We hope that Quentin Tarantino steps forward soon and sets the situation right, or at least the record straight – we would hate to lose faith in the man once awarded the honor of “thanks” in the credits of the short subject Snails!
(The bitterest irony of all in this sad tale: Marchese had just completed her first documentary, Out of Print, an encomium to the irreplaceable virtues of pre-digital projection, with a particular focus on one theater whose identity I think you can probably guess. She has cancelled the premiere of the film, but has made it available to all via Vimeo: you can see it here; the password’s down at the end of her post. And – personally – I’d steer clear of the comments thread directly below that.)