If

the French New Wave grew up in any one place, it was at the Cinémathèque française, where guys like Truffaut, Godard and

Rivette shared the front row, eagerly gobbling up whatever happened to be

showing on a given night.

The term "cinematheque" has long entered American parlance, and Jon Vickers, director of the new IU

Cinema, which opened last month on the Bloomington campus, hopes that his new

theater will become "one of the best-recognized cinematheques

in the country," a combination art house and repertory theater that other

cinemas will look to for inspiration.

And

who knows? — maybe in 20 years we'll talk of a

Hoosier New Wave, of homegrown filmmakers and critics who supplemented their

diet of DVDs with director retrospectives (in glorious 35mm), filmmaker

lectures and films drawn from the archives of the Kinsey Institute and Lilly

Library.

Like

a historically aware young filmmaker, the cinema, located in the renovated

University Theater space immediately east of the IU Auditorium, looks toward

both past and future.

"It's

a 1930s stage theater that's been converted," Vickers explains, "so the

beautiful, modern lines of a WPA project and the four Thomas Hart Benton murals

make it pretty much unlike any other cinema I've ever been in."

Two

Benton murals flank a curtained screen, with another two mounted on the back

wall of the auditorium. The cinema has the look and feel of an pre-megaplex movie house, albeit one equipped with the latest

in motion picture technology, including a high-end Kinoton

film projector for 16 and 35mm film, the highest-resolution digital projector

on the market and a playback deck equipped for every digital format out there.

"To

have an older building like this converted into a THX-certified cinema is

relatively uncommon these days; most of the cinemas that go with high-end

equipment as we have are typically in new buildings designed as cinemas,"

Vickers says of the cinema, one of two in the state that THX has certified as

capable of providing a consistently high-quality audio and visual experience.

Vickers

says the cinema plans to use its high-end equipment to present both art house

(international, documentary, independent film) and repertory programming.

"We

also are going to have a very heavy, if not heavier, repertory program: classic

films, director retrospectives, digging into genre studies and really looking

at older film, traditional film, as an artform,"

Vickers explains. "We have the budget to bring in filmmakers to present their

works and engage with students and community members."

The

cinema has already presented retrospectives of films by David Lean (including Lawrence of Arabia, a screening of which

opened the cinema Jan. 14) and John Ford, whose papers are housed at the Lilly

Library. Peter Bogdanovich, whose archives are also

held at the Lilly, spoke during the formal dedication of the cinema Jan. 27.

Experimental

film pioneer Kenneth Anger, Grey Gardens documentarian

Albert Maysles and Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader are scheduled to lecture and

present films in the coming months; many screenings by guest filmmakers are

sold out, but lectures are open to the public and unticketed (see sidebar).

What to do with Kinsey

The

opening of the IU Cinema comes during a time of renewed interest in film on the

IU campus. The campus's film holdings were recently moved from a converted

bowling alley, "which was not ideal for film," according to Vickers, to a new

facility with temperature and humidity control.

The

move should add roughly 250 years of life to the archived films, which include

the collections of the Black Film Center and the Kinsey Institute, and one of

the nation's largest archives of educational films. For the first time, efforts

are underway to preserve films that are most in need, and to digitize some of

the archive's public domain holdings to make them available online.

From

an exhibition perspective, some archives are more problematic to work with than

others. Has Vickers figured out how to present Kinsey's film archive, which

includes roughly 2,000 stag reels, along with sex-ed titles, art-house classics

and landmarks of queer cinema like Anger's Scorpio

Rising and Fireworks (both

screening at a sold-out engagement Friday)?

"What

I would consider off-limits at this point as a programmer — and different

programmers might have different takes on this — is I would not just

program a series of stag films and open it up to the public and not have any

kind of context to it," Vickers says. "However, if there was a series of stag

films that an academic wanted to program, and use it to discuss a theme —

whatever it might be, human behavior, social values, for that period —

then we would think that, yes, that's something we might consider. When working

with material in the Kinsey, most of it has to be brought into an academic context

for us. However, there are many things in the Kinsey that are also very

artistic; Kenneth Anger is a good example."

Vickers

notes that other archives, including '50s-era social guidance films held by the

IU library that purport to teach impressionable youths how to date or find a

job, are a little easier to program.

"You

could program some films out of the educational collection as pure camp and get

away with it — it'd be much less risky...What I tell people is, we're in

this for the long haul, and with 82,000 reels of film in the collection, we're

open to ideas and we can take projects as they come."

And

Vickers won't always solve problems about how to program the cinema alone. Up

to 40 percent of the cinema's programming will be presented in partnership with

campus groups and schools on campus.

The

other 60 percent of programming is reserved to the cinema, to "build up its own

identity," according to Vickers, who has a few ideas up his sleeve for coming

semesters — a series called "Beyond Epic" consisting of films lasting

four hours or longer (the new French thriller Carlos, a Soviet version of War

and Peace, BelaTarr's

seven-hour, post-Soviet slog Satantango); director retrospectives devoted to Jean Renoir,

Ernst Lubitsch, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick.

"Everybody

questions — how come we didn't have this or that in the series?" Vickers

laughs. "And the reason is that there's only limited slots. We will get to

everybody over time."

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