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Anyone who has read this blog for half a minute is aware that I am a movie junkie.  I am a regular at the cinema and have a collection of DVDs that, in my humble opinion, has a certain impressive quality in both size and breadth.  The one thing about film that many people forget is the artistic aspect of it.  Filmmaking is as much an art form as writing, painting, or stagecraft.  At least when it is done right.

Unfortunately, the truly artistic films aren’t the ones that make the big money for the studios.  They often have to be produced independently and have very limited distribution.  However, I would argue that these films are as important a segment of our cultural heritage as the art museums, theaters, and libraries in our communities.  That is why arthouse theaters are so important.

And, to be honest, if you aren’t at least checking out your local arthouse cinema then you are missing some of the better movies that come out each year, especially if you live in a smaller market as I do.  Often a film with limited release will never come near you except at one of these theaters.

I know many people avoid arthouse films because they see them as far too “out there” or “artsy.”  I have heard people say that such films are just experimental , that they have little or no real plotting, that they are simply far too surreal or stray way too far into vagueness and symbolism.  I admit, there are films like that out there, but they are the exception not the rule.

I, myself, have a ritual I go through when selecting a film.  I don’t check the big first run theaters first.  I check two others:  The Allen Theater and Midtown Cinema.  The Allen has a special place in my heart as it is where I got married, but it is also a theater that will pick up many of the less traditional releases.  Midtown is more of a true arthouse theater, picking up indies and the like on a weekly basis.  Without these two theaters I would have missed the chance to see such powerful films as “The Quiet American,” “The Magdalene Sisters,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “An Unfinished Life” on-screen.

I am a supporter of the arts and culture in my community.  I truly believe that the richness of a community’s cultural heritage is as important to maintain as its safety, education, and health.  As sentient creatures we need to be sure that we continue to feed ourselves not only of the body, but of the mind and the soul.

Maintaining diverse cultural offerings within our communities will help do just that.  So support your local independent or arthouse theater.  Take in a film that will feed your mind and soul by challenging your preconceptions.

You will be the better for it.

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3 Comments

  1. As somebody who has at least two one acts deeply seated in symbolism I have learned to appreciate what people dub as “artsy”. The only thing I see as a requirement is that the “artsy” is accesible to the lay person. When the creativity is beyond reasonable comprehension is when I take issue. I have far too many colleagues who blame the lack of audience comprehension on the audience rather than looking at whether or not they were clar.

    • I agree. As far as the “Artsy” label goes, I feel it is applied far too often with negative connotation. However, I think, as you indicated, it is often used as an excuse by creators who want to believe their work was simply too high-minded for the rest of the world. The same is true in reverse, however, audiences will often apply the label negatively when they are unwilling or unable to look a little closer and experience the deeper layers of any given cultural experience.

    • runswithcarrots
    • Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:45 am
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    • Reply

    The smaller theater here in Houston is the River Oaks Theater, which is pretty awesome: old marquis, art deco decor in the main theater. They show the Rocky Horror Picture show at 11 pm, like, every weekend, as well as indie films.

    We had an Angelika theater downtown that was also awesome and would show limited release films as well as more “canonical” features, but it closed out of the blue a few weeks ago.

    My only complaint re: the smaller arthouse theaters around here? Stinky popcorn. Boo. I often bring my own in a plastic baggie, which makes me feel like a NINJA.


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