Home Arts Pleasant discoveries abound at Film Society

Pleasant discoveries abound at Film Society

by Elijah Bukreev September 29, 2015
Pleasant discoveries abound at Film Society

Cinéclub Film Society offers classic movie screenings students can enjoy on campus

Going to the movies used to be a big deal. You’d sit down in a state-of-the-art cinema, get your fix of news from a short news reel, sink into your chair as you enjoyed a short cartoon, then immerse yourself in a double-feature, interrupted only by an intermission. That’s right, no advertisements, only a few exclusive trailers you would find nowhere else, naturally, on scratched film print and in glorious Technicolor. Philippe Spurrell, the founder of the Cinéclub Film Society, wants to bring you back to that pre-Netflix era, or at least provide that experience as a ready alternative to the streaming site or modern multiplex.

Philippe Spurrell founded the Cinéclub Film Society in 1992. Photo by King-Wei Chu.

Philippe Spurrell founded the Cinéclub Film Society in 1992. Photo by King-Wei Chu.

The volunteer-run Film Society, which is now partly sponsored by Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, began its activity in 1992, which makes it older than quite a few of you. It went from venue to venue before finding a new home at Concordia University in 2012.

“It’s the best place we’ve had, and we’re quite happy to be there,” said Spurrell, adding that his mission is to help people make pleasant new discoveries about film. During screenings, which take place every other Sunday, films are shown on 16mm and 35mm reels.

In fact, the Film Society’s first mandate is the conservation of film: it has its own archives of film prints, which serves to feed its programming. The second mandate is to expose the public to these classic films, which tend to be from the 1960s, although some are from the 1890s and only a handful are from present-day.

Digital has become commonplace in modern filmmaking, but film still has defenders among directors and scholars. Spurrell largely prefers film, arguing that “it gives you the opportunity to experience a film the way people did in its original format … Imagine, one day, there are no more acoustic guitars. Everything’s electric guitar, right? And then, somebody pulls out an old acoustic and says, ‘Hey folks, this is the original guitar, come and listen.’”

Screenings take place at Concordia, so the setting is academic, but Spurrell stressed that they’re held in a purely non-academic approach. “It’s a chill atmosphere, we have intermissions, we have tea and coffee and homemade desserts,” he said.

For fundraisers, which take place twice a year, the Film Society rents out an old gothic church near Vendôme metro to screen silent films accompanied by live music—percussion, strings, piano and a church organ. The next one will take place on Oct. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. at 4695 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, and will feature Carl T. Dreyer’s 1932 vampire classic Vampyr, followed by a 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Student tickets are $9.

Guest speakers attend about half of all screenings, and have in the past included many experts in particular fields working in the film industry, ranging from animal trainers and stuntmen to sound designers and art directors.

“In the age of Netflix and downloads and everything, people can say ‘well, you know, I can watch that at home.’ But if you’re watching a silent movie, you’re not going to get a live musician at home, for example. You won’t get a guest speaker in your living room,” said Spurrell.

Mostly, these guests have been “people that are kind of hidden behind the scenes, or maybe not as celebrated as they should be in Montreal,” said Spurrell. Some of these people have included one of Buster Keaton’s last directors and Marlene Dietrich’s personal assistant. Expected guests for early 2016 include the daughter of Nicholas Ray, who directed the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause.

Entrance for students is $6 per screening. You can find more information and programming at cineclubfilmsociety.com

Related Articles

Leave a Comment