Monday, July 30, 2007

a sad day for sweden

Ingmar Bergman died today on the island of Faro, off the coast of Sweden.

it seems appropriate to rerun this post from January 2006 about my favorite Bergman film and the Oak Street Cinema. (The first 14 replies are from 2006.)




this breaks my heart.

save the oak street

Oak Street Cinema is one of the reasons I moved to the Twin Cities, and one of the reasons I remain. When I look back over the six years I've been here, almost every highlight involves the Oak Street.


The big one:

In the Presence of a Clown


Made for Swedish TV in 1997 and shot on video, Ingmar Bergman's triumphant return to the screen (at age 80) is nevertheless characteristic in mood and theme--enough so, in fact, as to offer itself as a career summation. Set just before the advent of film sound in the mid-Twenties, it observes the art and angst of yet another Bergman surrogate (Borje Ahlstedt)--an aging inventor who claims to have conceived "the living talking picture," a medium in which actors stand behind the movie screen reciting dialogue in sync with the film's images. Assembling a troupe of loyal actors, the auteur/inventor shoots a speculative bio-pic about the last days of Franz Schubert. When the time comes to perform the soundtrack, though, the film technology fails and the thespians gamely act out the movie on stage for a minuscule audience, Death (Agneta Ekmanner) among them. Is this Bergman's way of saying that the cinema--his cinema--is at the end of its life? If so, Clown's pixilated video look serves its allegory far better than its mise en scene, but the result is essential nonetheless.

(Rob Nelson) City Pages


At the point when this came to the Oak Street, Bergman wasn't allowing screenings. The Oak Street contacted his assistant and through months of back and forth phone calls and emails finally got permission to screen it one time (I believe). Am I dreaming, or was there something about the movie being rowed from an island???? When it finally reached Dinkytown and the Oak Street, it was on a VHS tape that didn't play? I swear I'm not making this up, but I'm trying to remember!! So they had to rent another player at the last minute. Anyway, all of the obstacles lent an even greater magic to the event. And the movie itself seemed a culmination of Bergman's career. When it ended the theater was silent. People stood. Then came a huge eruption of noise.

When I go to the Oak Street there's a feeling of knowing the other people in the theater even though I don't. We are all there for the same reason. We love film.

I saw Elliot Gould there. Just walking around looking cool in his suit. They screened the Long Goodbye. Afterward he sat on the stage and chatted with everybody. And Bruce Campbell came to visit for Man with the Screaming Brain. James Ellroy screened a documentary there. One guy told me he drove four hours to see it. Unfortunately Ellroy was sick and didn't make it, but the documentary was amazing. This summer was the Twin Peaks Festival. Moviegoers baked cherry pies for the audience. I've stood in lines that went around the block. I've come out of the theater to see even longer lines. The line is part of the experience. It sets up the feeling of camaraderie and builds excitement as we wait for the doors to open.

Okay, here's the big thing. The Oak Street is in debt but 130,000.00 isn't that much. This place should be supported by endowments and grants and fundraisers. It shouldn't have to make enough money on ticket sales to stay open. That's impossible.
Dammit, Minneapolis. Don't let this happen!!

20 comments:

emeraldcite said...

Good things like these always disappear.

This is what I miss about old towns and cities. They always have these really excellent places to go, only if you're in the know...

Coporate theatre popcorn kills my stomach, but the dollar theatre makes its money from concessions and has the kind of food theatre lovers dream about...

I'd take the dingy environment with history and customer service any day.

Ian said...

Thanks Anne,

Stories like this are exactly what we need.

Ian
http://www.savetheoakstreet.com/

R.J. Baker said...

It's a shame all over America, beautiful art deco theaters are falling into insolvency and disrepair. Community theaters are being shut out by gaudy Mega Multiplexes that show prepackaged crap cinema repleat with product placements and merchandised action figures.

A trip to a Megaplex for a family of four now requires a second mortgage.

Good independent films are relegated to DVDs and disappearing art houses. Unfortunate and disturbing.

Sorry to rant...

anne frasier said...

i like rants.

when i think about leaving the area for a warmer location, the oak street is the first thing that pops into my head. i always ask myself if i could leave it. and i'm never sure.

we've lost so many things here in the past five years. the oak street and first avenue are almost all that's left. :( and first avenue has been on the rocks for a year.

bekbek said...

University Theater, Toronto. A completely commercial venue, mind you, but wonderful sound quality, wonderful projection, and convenient to everything important in the city. I stood in a line for hours waiting for Star Wars when I was 10. Every big movie, you went to the University Theater.

Now it's just the facade for a shopping center and condos. But at least I found some wonderful photos of how it used to be, on an Ontario government archive site. Thank you for prompting that!

Even more heartbreaking, somehow, there used to be a little Chinese movie theater down the street from our apartment when I was a teenager. We saw movies there with school, and sometimes my sister and I went on our own. Chinese acrobatics and Chinese actors, in movies you just couldn't see anywhere else --and the decor was as gaudy and beautiful, all in crushed red velvet, as you could possibly want.

I think it might be a dollar store now! But one of its neighbors survived as a new rep cinema in what has become Little Italy.

I used to love to see movies in a real theater. Now you remind me that the reps continued to be wonderful --because they called on audiences who really did want to see a movie, not just eat popcorn and talk.

I hope the Oak Street makes it.

Jeff said...

In the town where I grew up in Indiana there was on old "movie house" downtown called The Paramount. I remember going there as a child. A well dressed usher with a tiny flashlight would direct us to our seat.A woman dressed in an evening gown played piano before the movie. The screen was behind a stage with a lavish red curtain.There were beautiful sculptures mounted on platforms along the walls, and it had a starlight ceiling.
I believe it was in the middle 70's or so when they closed The Paramount down and left it to basically rot away. During the past two years attempts have been made by private donations to restore The paramount to its original lustre. I hope it is a success. Like Oak Street, I was heartbroken when I heard The Paramount was closing down. I hope something can be done to save Oak Street. If not, it will be a tragic indignity to its rich history. :(

btw-If memory serves me, popcorn at The paramount was 50 cents and a coke was 25 cents.

anne frasier said...

they are trying to restore the theater in my hometown in burlington, iowa. i think i posted about that months ago. they fall apart so quickly once they close.

anne frasier said...

bekbek, i love downtown toronto.

now i want a falafal with red cabbage....
mmmm....

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Most of the theaters I went to as a kid are now gone. Replaced by multiplexes.

I watch movies at home now, on the DVD projector. Big screen bliss. There's no history there, but there's also no annoying crowd and outrageous prices.

anne frasier said...

normally i don't like going to theaters, but there's a postive energy to the audience at the oak street that adds to the experience.

dave said...

Anne -

You say, "we've lost so many things here in the past five years. the oak street and first avenue are almost all that's left."

What are some of the other things you've come to miss in the Twin Cities?

Dave

anne frasier said...

dave,
several independent record stores have closed, let it be of course being the big one. :( book stores like ruminator. events like the lyn-lake festival bit the dust. death of decent radio stations.
we still have radio K, but i'd say the current hasn't lived up to expectations.

bekbek said...

I've often thought that a book of stories about bookstores would be really cool. Every city had tons of bookstores, especially the used bookstores... and I was working at a bookstore when the big chain stores started opening in Toronto. I guess watching the old movie theaters go is a little like watching the bookstores disappear. But a lot of the same people that feel the loss of a movie theater, I think, also remember the weekly scrounge of the trail of used bookstores, knew which ones had the best prices, knew which ones actually alphabetized their goods...

anne frasier said...

bekbek, that's a great idea. stories about bookstores.... hmm....

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bergman dead. I am truly heartbroken. He made me feel grown up when I first saw his films (I wasn't, of course). I think on my first date with my husband we went to see Wild Strawberries at an art house in Lambertville New Jersey.

anne frasier said...

patti, i know exactly what you mean. i've been sad all day and can't quit thinking about him. kinda seemed like he should live forever.

angie said...

It's hard to imagine a world without Bergman. I was appalled that most of the news bits didn't mention but a tiny fraction of his work - he was one prolific film maker!

As to the art house theaters...well, it's one of the few things I really miss about Chicago. One of the best dates I ever went on with the hubster was a showing of Wings of Desire, at The Music Box theater. What an incredible experience - not only was the food great and the crowd eclectic, but the atmosphere was phenomenal. I'd never been to such a beautiful theater - they had little white lights set into the ceiling that looked like stars, and projected clouds moving across the ceiling. Magical! And I miss it. Small towns have their charm, but Chicago's Music Box will always hold a special place in my memory.

So...is The Oak Street still around? Just curious...

anne frasier said...

angie, what a great memory!

the oak street is still around, although it was closed for a while. I don't think they're showing as many films or holding as many events.

cinderelly said...

i saw on the news last night that he passed. very sad. it also makes me sad when the old movie houses fall. we had several where i grew up in california. one burned that was on cannery row in monterey, and another 'the dream theatre', where i had my first date with my husband was torn down. we saw 'tender mercies' with robert duvall. it was a very cool old place, with a beautiful mural on the outside, and inside that great ceiling...they played the 'rocky horror picture show' at midnight for many years! i hope the oak street finds a way! how cool that everyone has a story for this post!

anne frasier said...

cinderelly, with your love of rich color and texture, i can really see how those beautiful old movie houses would speak to you.