Sunday, January 20, 2013

My 6th birthday and my discovery of cinema

(film theatre "Metropolis" (former Bali) at Bochum Centralstation/Germany)

to the memory of Robert Mulligan (23.August 1925 - 20 December 2008)

Just 48 years ago at the same day I was in a film theatre for the first time in my life. It was my 6th. Birthday. My eldest brother took me in one of this cinema halls which were built into the central railway stations. At this time almost every big cities had these kind of cinemas. This very special cinema was called Bali, a short form for central station lighthouses.
They changed the program every day and the same film was screened from 9 am to 11 pm.
I remember it was a Laurel & Hardy film we saw. And against the order of my mother, my brothers and me saw the whole film twice including commercials and newsreel. I was in another world.
Even today this film theatre is still alive. After some years of abandoned it was renovated and now its called Metropolis, a repertoire cinema.
It is sacred place for, appeared so often in my dreams that I can´t count it anymore.
It was 48 years ago, exactly January 20, 1965, 20 years after World war 2 which still left its traces in my city Bochum.
I remember the wonder the whole day was for me, the rays of light from the projections cabin, the screen which gave me the illusion of depth, the smell of pop corn, the usherette with her torch, the dimming light of the hall.
I still smell the French Fries we ate on the way home, wrapped in paper.
At this time I remember the “Bali had no own toilets and we had to use the station bath rooms downstairs. The urinals were to high for me and my brother had to lift me up, before I cried in despair.
And of course he was scolded by my mother because we arrived very late in the evening.
But I am still grateful to my brother. He introduced me to cinema.

In these 48 years I saw thousands of films, switched to different preferences. Kubrick than Welles, Renoir, Ozu and the Japanese masters, Ford, Hou hsiao Hsien, Malick etc.etc.
But I am always coming back to this time and to this place.
In happy moments I forget all the burden of knowledge and cinema becomes again the wonder of January 20, 1965.
Even recently, it came back when I saw such different films like The Tree of Life.
It came back to me again and again.
It does n´t matter if a film is made or taking place in Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, America or India.
Two far away cities like Montreal and Kolkata are evoking in a strange kind I have no explanation for, the Bochum in my memories.
Wherever I go, my mind returns to this time and place of my childhood.

Most of this wonderful cinemas don´t exist anymore. The best films I saw on Festivals or on DVD.
And in most of this cinemas which are gone I can only return in my imagination.
Among these temples of dreams, the “Metropolis” in Bochum is one of the last of its kind in Germany.

To this time and place I sometimes return in a loop way.
Recently - just to mention the most recent love affairs I had with films – these loop ways went via the Louisiana of the 1950s in Robert Mulligan´s The Man in the Moon and via Kolkata of the 1970s in Anjan Dutt´s Dutta vs Dutta.
Both films I could see only on DVD, but their magic was strong enough enough to take me back to this magical moment of January 20, 1965.
Were it the Elvis-songs in Mulligan´s films or the King Crimson-song in Dutt´s film – all this music was close to the stuff my eldest brother listened in the 60s and 70s?
Like Martin Scorsese once said that Renoir who had to escape France found his roots, including the artistic heritage of his father´s painting back in West Bengal where he mad The River.
I felt something like that with Dutta vs Dutta. What a coincidence that Anjan Dutt is of the generation of my eldest brother, these generation who introduce their little brothers into cinema.
The film took me back to this time when Cinema was a collective place where different people dreamt their own dreams side by side.
This film from a Bengali brought me back to this very moment of my beloved “Bali” (ironical this short form of a very prosaic word has a very exotic sound) with my eldest brother 48 years before.

Rüdiger Tomczak

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us!