Film Societies and More
"As much as I love books and the theater, I think the cinema is a uniquely modern medium that we look to for the stories of our times." - Christopher Nolan
In these days we have Netflix and on-line downloading of movies. Because I subscribe I was recently delighted and very deeply moved by Everlasting Moments, a film directed by Jan Troell.
However, more than forty years ago when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison we had film societies. It was the age before home video, in that era student film societies were all the rage. Classic and foreign films were shown in classrooms after hours, hosted by groups such as the Wisconsin Film Society, Fertile Valley, Praeteorius, Phoenix and El Dorado. Graduate student Russell Campbell even started his own film journal to cover the phenomenon, "The Velvet Light Trap", which has become a leading peer-reviewed journal for film and television studies. The Wisconsin Union presented films as well, and they continue to do so today under the aegis of the WUD Film Committee.
This was the environment in which I "discovered" foreign films. I remember attending many of Ingmar Bergman's greatest hits and one, The Seventh Seal, remains a top favorite of mine decades later. But there were the French films of Chabrol (who outdid Hitchcock), Renoir, Truffaut, and the director that was to become my favorite, Eric Rohmer.
The film societies did not neglect the American cinema and my memories include shockers like "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn and "Night of the Living Dead" directed by George Romero. There were also literary adaptations like "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" with Alan Arkin. This was part of my education as much as the formal classes, the Badger Marching Band, and Saturday mornings listening to LPs of Shostakovich and others at the Madison Public Library. It was a wonderful place to be young and learn. It was the beginning for a life-long learner.