Opening Night

Echoing throughout the concrete of the subway between Stadtmitte and Potsdamer Platz is a young man slamming out a guitar chord like it owes him money and singing out “I want to see the movies of my dreams.” His droning twang sounds more like it was unearthed from the soil of North Carolina, but the Euro coins in his case and the writing on the wall prove he’s in Berlin. His sentiment is a powerful and timely one as the red signs everywhere shout out the presence of the Berlin International Film Festival. Just a dozen feet above that young man’s head is the shuffle of mud-covered feet swishing through snow as more of it falls on the ground. An ice cream parlor is inexplicably still open and doing good business nearby. It’s 21 degrees outside, but it feels like 8, and that creates a kind of energy. People are moving quickly to both to keep up with the lazy first day rush and to keep their bits from freezing off. Maybe that will make getting into a darkened (and heated) theater all the sweeter. At least that’s the hope on the largely movie-less, paper work-heavy start to the Berlinale.

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Culture Warrior

As much as I admire the incomparable films made during the era, New Hollywood (the term referring to innovative, risk-taking films made funded by studios from the mid-60s to the mid-70s) is a title that I find a bit problematic. The words “New Hollywood” better characterize the era that came after what the moniker traditionally refers to. Think about it: if “Old” or “Classical” Hollywood refers to the time period that stretches roughly from 1930 to 1960 when the studios as an industry maintained such an organized and regimented domination over and erasure of any other potential conception over what a film playing in any normal movie theater could be, then if we refer to the time period from roughly 1977 to now “New Hollywood,” the term then appropriately signifies a new manifestation of the old: regimentation, predictability, and limitation of expression. Where Old Hollywood studios would produce dozens of films of the same genre, New Hollywood (as I’m appropriating the term) could acutely describe the studios’ comparably stratified output of sequels, remakes, etc. What we traditionally understand to be New Hollywood was not so much its own monolithic era in Hollywood’s legacy, but a brief, strange, and wonderful lapse between two modes of Hollywood filmmaking that have dominated the industry’s history.

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