While I appreciate filmmaking as an art form, I’m usually way too busy reading books to check out a DVD. When I do pick one, it’s probably going to be either a documentary, or something based on a true story. This is primarily because such films make me want to learn more about the people involved, which sends me scurrying right back to good books.
Such a feedback loop was set in motion yet again when I sat down to watch The Great Debaters. As soon as Denzel Washington’s character came marching into his classroom, leaping on furniture and declaiming “I, Too, Sing America,” I had to find out more about Melvin B. Tolson, the poet and man of letters who led the Wiley College debate team to a national championship in 1935. Happily, the Carnegie Library does stock Tolson’s poetry, including the complicated masterpiece Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, which is subdivided by sections named after the notes of the musical scale (do-re-mi, etc., ending once again with “do”).
Naturally, learning so much cool stuff (and getting poked in the ribs now and again by Don and Amy) makes me want to watch more movies. One of the books I’m currently reading, Deep Cinema, argues that watching a film can instigate an initiatory, life-changing experience, and provides a long list of films in the back that have the potential to do so. I find this intriguing, and have added a whole whack of DVDs, including Bertolucci’s The Conformist, to my list of films to watch.
Up to now, though, the closest thing I’ve had to a cinematic epiphany was the realization, after watching American Beauty, that I didn’t want to be the kind of person who worried overmuch about loved ones spilling beer on the couch. What’s your relationship to the movies? Is there one that sticks in your memory, serves as a turning point in your life, or maybe just makes you see the world a little bit differently?