How To Raise Your Child To Be Cinema Literate - PART I
By Greg Klymkiw
I'm proud to say that at the age of 18 months, the first movie my daughter ever saw in her life was the thrilling 1963 fantasy-adventure film Jason and the Argonauts (directed by Don - One Million Years B.C. - Chaffey and featuring the jaw-dropping stop-motion effects of the legendary Ray Harryhausen). The second movie during this momentous DVD double feature at home, was none other than It (1927) that delightful, bubbly silent romance starring Clara Bow.
Do you see a pattern forming? No? Are you, perchance, a fucking moron? Can you, as an adult (who should know better) not see that one movie is sans sterile digital special effects, but is instead created with hand-crafted models animated one frame at a time by human beings who must painstakingly move, light and compose the shots whilst meticulously maintaining all the levels and continuity during the gruelling PHYSICAL process of rendering the models on FILM to life? Have you, like some gibbering gibbon, been unable to grasp the simple fact that the other film was in black and white and SILENT, save for the organ accompaniment grafted onto the track of sound to reproduce what it might have been like to see the movie on a huge standard-frame screen, projected onto it from highly explosive nitrate stock in a massive 2000-seat picture palace with some musically gifted genius playing to the images before him? I thought not. THAT, my friend, is why YOUR child will become a cinema-illiterate idiot with a huge mushroom lodged in its skull instead of a cerebellum.
|He, who eyes the target of his utter DISGUST|
|Looking DOWN upon the target of DISGUST|
Just before slugging the little bugger across the face he horked out the following vitriol: "Filthy little brat!" with a delivery ONLY Polanski could pull off - "FEELTHEE, LEETOL BRAT!" (The last word spat out like a snake's venom with the deliciously rolled Eastern European "R").
|BABY BOTTLES of GRAPE JUICE & PAMPERS|
The first movie my daughter ever saw in a movie theatre not long after the aforementioned DVD double-bill was Peter Weir's gorgeously directed historical swashbuckler Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Let me tell you: The child was transfixed. Of course, as courteous parents we made sure she was armed with baby bottles full of grape juice and disposable diapers to both keep her quiet and to deal with any natural, shall we say, expunging of the liquid matter processed through her bladder (the latter keeping the child from insisting upon endless trips to the bathroom and ruining the experience for herself, her parents and other patrons - HINT! HINT! To all you idiots who drag your kids to the cinema and don't do likewise). This all, I must add, transpired during a late screening time after a full day of activity, no less. When the movie was over, she wanted to see another.
|Great Musical from an unsung American auteur and a film my daughter fell in love with, using Doris Day's spirited rendering of the title character as a role model and mining the copious bounty of its terrific director's other fine work.|
Jason and the Argonauts, IT! and Master and Commander were my child's first movie experiences and from there they got better and better. (I know, I shared them, so to speak, with her.) The child's cinematic influences and delights were as varied as the number of insect groups populating our Earth. One of her earliest obsessions - in addition, let me add, to Polanski - was the tremendous 50s musical Calamity Jane starring the effervescent Doris Day as the tomboy-ish, buckskin-adorned, sharp shootin', Injun' fightin' little filly who gets so googly-eyed over the handsome, studly Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel, 'natch) that she realizes how important it is for a woman to learn how to be a REAL woman. The film is exuberantly directed by the fine, sadly unsung American auteur David Butler who delivered hit after hit after hit for over 30 years before becoming a prolific director of many of the best works from American TV's Golden Age.
His features included Ali Baba Goes to Town with the brilliant Eddie Cantor, the glorious part-talkie musical comedy extravaganza Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 that features an early appearance from comic genius Stepin Fetchit, Road to Morocco, the third and absolute best of the Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour "Road" comedies and among many, many other delicious cinematic bon bons, Butler was the go-to-guy for Shirley Temple and helmed many of her biggest and most beloved hits. My little girl watched Calamity Jane all the way through about 100 times, but this did not include all the times she'd replay the sprightly musical numbers. It wasn't, however, prudent as a parent to allow the child to watch Calamity Jane repeatedly WITHOUT introducing her to Butler's stellar canon. This, she surely appreciated as all his films offered first-tier entertainment value.
|Funny Things Happen in Morocco. VERY funny!!!|
The child's taste in movies was varied and, if I do say myself, she was well on her way to cinema literacy. That said, she required someone to gently guide her through 100 years of movie history. Unlike other parents, I took special care with what she was allowed to see. I wished desperately that others would do the same. I recall how often I'd find myself needing to viciously stare down any miserable miscreants of the bairn persuasion who demanded to see the latest Pixar or Disney animated trifle and, as is my wont, I'd drill holes of ocular hatred into all those cretinous little bastards who'd say, "Eeeew, that's not in colour" or worse, "Why are those special effects so cheesy?"
Fuck them and whatever rotting hobby-horses they rode in on.
Whenever I heard such ignorance spewing from the mouths of bone-brained cinema-illiterate whelps such as these, my first impulse was, in the tradition of Polanski's Trelkovsky, to smash them with a motherfucker of a roundhouse to the face. I would restrain myself, though, for these offending dribblings were clearly the product of nurture, not nature. Nine times out of ten, I had no need to effect corporal punishment since the fault of these grotesque atrocities of taste were, in actuality (and in a less charitable age referred to as freaks of nature), wholly derived from the miserable progenitors of these innocents.
These breeders with careless abandon were solely and with nary a doubt in my sharp mind, the dregs, the reprehensible and UTTERLY STINKING, RANCID FILTH, who truly deserved my ire.
When my daughter was a toddler she'd wake me up every morning at 4 or 5 with the delightfully demanding words, “Movie! On!” And believe you me, it was MY distinct pleasure. Exposing oneself (and one’s children) to only the best not only results in developing exquisite taste in motion picture product (and pretty much everything else) but it allows for an acute awareness of what is truly mediocre. If a child is capable of this, anyone is. Most importantly, such exposure allows for the development of the highest degree of critical analysis. The following example I provide is proof positive of such critical acumen a child is capable of.
|A VERY FOOLISH MAN|
At age four, I fondly remember when the child joined me for lunch with a film critic/professor pal of mine and sat mutely as we discussed, among other important issues of the day, Raoul Walsh’s magnificent They Died With Their Boots On (starring Errol Flynn as General George Armstrong Custer). This happened to be a film she had, at the time, just seen. During this confab of middle-aged geek discourse, she was finally compelled to interject with the remarkable assertion that General Custer was “a foolish man” and not unlike “Peter Rabbit”. (Yes, believe it or not, I never deprived the child of fine cinema or literature beloved by children the world over. I read Beatrix Potter to her nightly.)
My pal, an American raised to believe that Custer was a heroic military defender of all that was right with might in the making of his country and NOT the perpetrator of mass genocide against the First Nations, queried my child on her admittedly contentious pronouncement and she calmly explained that just as Peter Rabbit unwisely ventured into Mr. MacGregor’s garden where his departed father had been captured and killed by the merciless rabbit-hunting Scotsman, so did General Custer unwisely venture into the Battle of Little Big Horn where he and all his men were spectacularly defeated by the armies of the Sioux Nation. My pal of the American persuasion nodded his head solemnly, lamenting that his own undergraduate students were unable to make similarly astute observations about movies (“or anything, for that matter”, he quipped).
Now before you jump to any conclusions I must state (in my defense) that I never attempted to indoctrinate the child (just as I would never attempt to indoctrinate anyone). My daughter developed this appetite for cinema all on her own. Though I did prepare and ultimately urge her to adhere to strict viewing lists during her youngest years, I did so to ensure well-roundedness.
Not to indoctrinate.
As she enters her tweener years, my dear child has seen over 4000 movies. Even now, she can occasionally point out stylistic traits in certain directors and has developed a great photographic eye. This pleases me greatly (though I do hope she'll eventually be a doctor or lawyer with great taste in movies, literature and art).
Ultimately, I do think that chances are pretty good, given the fine Ukrainian blood coursing through her veins, that she'd have come by all of this quite naturally, but I do suspect her phenomenal cinema literacy came a lot quicker, thanks mostly to my superior form of parenting.
If you don't want your child to become a Philistine, check out Part II of this treatise in the next edition of Klymkiw Film Corner where I'll offer tips, tricks and viewing lists that allowed MY own child to choose the ideal fork in the road. Maybe, yours too. LOL
Here is PART II of this important Guide HERE. If you're interested, feel free to read my daughter's movie reviews at this site. Her review of Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" is HERE, her review of "Jaws" is HERE and her review of "Mirror Mirror" is HERE.
Further readings on my methodologies can be found in the following important tomes:
by Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing
The Ethics of the Dust
by John Ruskin
by Joris-Karl Huysmans
L'histoire de l'oeil
by Georges Bataille
Les Chants de Maldoror
by the Comte de Lautréamont
Chicken Soup for the Soul
eds. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
PART II CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE