Did you know that every month, Slash Pass Members receive a specially curated newsletter from a/perture cinema with essays written by our Marketing & Outreach Coordinator, Quentin Norris, interviews, and ta/ke out recommendations based around movies and events we are playing that month? We’ve had profiles on people like Nicolas Cage and Paul Schrader, interviews with filmmakers, and much more! Don’t want to miss out? Sign up for Slash Pass today to never miss an issue!
October 2021 – Exploding Stars: A History of the Sundance Film Festival
To celebrate the news that a/perture cinema will be a Satellite Screen for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, we took a look at the history of the Festival and some of the greatest success stories that have come out of it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes a very long time for empires to root themselves into our collective consciences. For modern film fans, it’s almost impossible to imagine a time before the Sundance Film Festival, quite possibly the most prestigious of all the American film festivals. It’s easy to simply imagine that the Sundance Film Festival and Institute sprung up out of the ground in Park City, Utah, immediately establishing itself as the indisputable capital of the finest film premieres, debuts from exciting new voices in film, and celebrations of work from legends in the film industry. But that’s not how it happened. Like the films that Sundance elevates and celebrates, the festival was born into humble beginnings with a different name, a different face, and even in a different city than we usually associate it with. Its humble beginnings are almost completely unrecognizable from the industry titan it has evolved into. Let’s take a look at how it started and how it has evolved over the decades into the festival that we can all look forward to in 2022.
Before Park City, before the NEXT Program, or workshops for aspiring screenwriters and directors, there was the U.S. Film Festival, which celebrated its first birthday in 1978 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Founded by Sterling Van Wagenen, John Earle, and Cirina Hampton Catania, along with their first board chairman, Robert Redford, the festival’s mission statement was to raise awareness and attract filmmakers from around the country to the state of Utah, coaxing them out of the sunny luxuries of Los Angeles. While the festival mostly highlighted classics with repertory screenings of films like A Streetcar Named Desire and The Sweet Smell of Success, they did feature some premieres from independent filmmakers working outside the industry and honored special guests such as film star Cicely Tyson.
September 2021 – The God’s Lonely Man Cinematic Universe
in honor of the release of Paul Schrader’s highly anticipated The Card Counter, we dove into Schrader’s favorite archetype: the God’s Lonely Man and how it has followed him through his filmography.
A lone cab driver makes his way down New York city streets, his eyes darting back and forth, watching the people on the sidewalks, sitting on stoops, staring out windows, judging them, increasing his alienation. A drug dealer gone clean tells his ex-wife that he’s a changed man, but she still can’t believe him and leaves the safety of his car for rain-soaked city streets. A broken Protestant minister accepts that there is no hope left for humanity in a world slowly being destroyed by climate change and wraps himself in barbed wire. An ex-military interrogator cannot escape the ghosts of his past, no matter how hard he tries to bury them under card-shark practices. These lonely spirits, floating through the world, the weight of existential dilemma on their shoulders all come from the singular mind of Paul Schrader, who Richard Brody once called “one of the crucial creators of Modern Cinema.”
With his large frame glasses, bald, round head, and peppery goatee, Schrader looks more like a loveable uncle than the man who birthed Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle into the world, and yet, hiding behind those glasses is a mind that dares to ask the question that falls from the lips of Rev. Ernst Toller in First Reformed: “Will God forgive us?” Paul Schrader’s work has always been obsessed with these unanswerable questions. Four of his films in particular: Taxi Driver, Light Sleeper, First Reformed, and now The Card Counter, are a very specific kind of Paul Schrader film, following the mental breakdown of one lonely character, typically dedicated to some kind of profession, as they come to terms with the futility of existence while we follow their inner monologues, penned through diaries. “Man-in-a-room stories” is what Schrader likes to call them. I call them the God’s Lonely Man Cinematic Universe.
August 2021 – Abstract Fantasy
to celebrate the opening of movies like The Green Knight and Cryptozoo at a/perture, we took a look at the Fantasy genre and the benefits of its relationship to arthouse cinema.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the fantasy genre? The Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, World of Warcraft, and Game of Thrones (or A Song Of Ice And Fire, depending on which side of that coin you prefer). These are all some of the biggest names in recent fantasy works, spanning multiple mediums, and while they each have their special places in all our hearts, you’re more likely to see tales set in these universes inside the walls of a multiplex rather than an art house cinema.
It’s both a little strange and sad that the general consensus of what art-house cinema is doesn’t include genre filmmaking, especially the fantasy genre. When you think about it, art house cinema has the most potential to explore the inner workings of fantasy realms. While blockbusters have to worry about rules and world-building, art house cinema gets to start from scratch and use this unreality to its own advantage. There are a handful of films this year that could help change this perspective, especially David Lowrey’s The Green Knight but also including Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibles, Dash Shaw’s upcoming Cryptozoo, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria which recently debuted at Cannes. Along with these titles, there are a number of great filmmakers that any fans of both the fantasy genre and art house cinema can sink their teeth into if any of these titles have sparked a little more interest in the genre.
July 2021 – Nicolas: Uncaged
to celebrate the opening of Pig at a/perture, we did a deep dive into the eclectic career of the film’s star, the one and only Nicolas Cage. Accompanying the article was exclusive artwork from Shift Leader and Resident a/perture Artist, Soren Creed.
We’ve all seen the memes, the compilations of ridiculous scenes out of context, the bizarre hairstyles, and the over-the-top action from the countless straight-to-video roles he’s starred in, but how many of us truly know the inner workings of the mind of Nicolas Cage? Over the last few decades, Cage has built an astonishing filmography, working with countless great directors from Werner Herzog to Martin Scorsese, to North Carolina’s own David Gordon Green. How is it possible for an Academy Award-winning actor to be so essential to cinematic history, yet so often dismissed as a joke, due to the wild risks he takes in the countless roles portrayed onscreen? While it’s easy to giggle at him reciting the ABCs and jumping on tables in Vampire’s Kiss, or complaining about invisible iguanas in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, if one digs a little deeper, the pure passion for movies and performance can be seen worn on his sleeves. From his early roles in movies like Valley Girl, all the way up to this month’s Pig, Cage never just accepts a role, he becomes the character, and consumes the screen in the process, taking the audience with him.
Nicolas Cage was born into Film Royalty in 1964 to the Coppola family. His uncle was an up-and-coming filmmaker working for Roger Corman, Francis Ford Coppola. Cage was bitten by the acting bug when he began working in theater in high school. His dream was to become James Dean. At the age of fifteen, Cage tried to convince his uncle, now an established, respected director, to give him a screen test but was unsuccessful. Nicolas changed his screen name from Coppola to Cage, in part to avoid accusations of nepotism, and also to pay homage to one of his favorite comic book heroes, Luke Cage.
June 2021 – An Essay On The Return To Cinema
For our first issue back, we celebrated the return to cinemas with an ode to our first experience back after the quarantine of 2020.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…
It’s an absolute cliche that rolls off the tongue like water and is forgotten just as quickly. We’ve heard it so many times that it’s lost all meaning. But if the recent pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes cliches are more right than we give them credit for. I’ve always loved the cinema. I spent so much time going to movies before 2020, that I never once thought I was taking them for granted, but I was. I was living a life in which I never even considered a life without the cinema. Then I woke up one day, and the cinema was gone. The lights were turned off, the projectors shut down, and the doors were shut indefinitely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world in countless horrible ways. To simply mourn the opportunity to go to the movies feels irresponsible when put into the perspective of the big picture. But there’s still something special, important, and undeniably human about gathering in a communal space with strangers to experience visual storytelling. Like everything else in a Pandemic lifestyle, we’ve had to adapt to new forms of experiencing the cinema. VOD and the Virtual Cinema helped bring new releases to our eyes on smaller screens. Drive-Ins and outdoor screenings popped up here and there, and the easiest way to recreate the cinematic experience while in lockdown was to create your own makeshift home theater. But it still wasn’t the same, and after a year of finding alternative ways to watch movies, I had trained my brain to lower its expectations in how to enjoy a movie, and I felt that I had completely forgotten how to watch a film in a truly cinematic way.