My name is Michael Holsclaw, I work in the Hudson branch of the Caldwell County Public Library, and for the last five years I have been in charge of a program called “Movies with Mike”. At 6pm on the first Thursday of each month, in a meeting room on the lower half of the Lenoir library, I meet with any and all film fans who are interested in watching a classic film I’ve selected for that month. I begin by making a brief comment about the film (which hopefully gives some sense of its context), show the film, and then share an often spirited conversation with a group I’ve come to call “the usual suspects”, a cadre of regular attendees who are as passionate about movies as I am. Although some of them have been coming for years, “newbies” are always welcome as well; we’re an exceedingly tolerant group and we thrive on fresh opinions and perspectives.
The reason I’ve continued the program for all these years is because it affords me the opportunity to participate, in a small way, in one of our culture’s Four Great Dialogues. In my opinion, there are four topics of ongoing discussion which everyone who consumes popular culture is engaging in: Literature, Music, Film, and Television. For the actively interested, being a part of these Four Dialogues adds vitality to our daily lives and, of the four, Film is the one I have the longest history with and greatest affinity for.
Frankly, it’s true that the 21st century hasn’t been cinema’s most shining hour; Television, with its most recent Golden Age, has a subtlety and sophistication that is currently eclipsing anything at the Cineplex. Still, at one time, film in America was, as “Sopranos” creator David Chase described it, “a secular cathedral” and it’s that illustrious history that I celebrate. Myself, I can still feel that aesthetic epiphany as much as i did in the beginning; even now, watching “Citizen Kane” or “The Best Years of our Lives” for the umpteenth time can fill me with a sense of transcendence about what an artist at the top of his form can accomplish.
The week of May 5th, my film was “This Land is Mine!”, released in 1943 and directed by famed French director Jean Renoir. What I found most exciting about this film is that it is, on its surface, a piece of agitprop against the Nazi invasion of France but the director of “Grand Illusion” and “The Rules of the Game” was temperamentally incapable of producing just a crude anti-fascist Sunday supplement; in addition to being a powerful polemic in defense of democracies, it also works as a psychologically insightful drama about what individuals will do when faced with the domination of a totalitarian state. If this short description piques your interest, please consider joining us in room 3 the first Thursday of each month. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you’ll have!
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