STRAND A Natural History of Cinema a documentary by
Christian Bruno

Filmmaker Statement

At this point in our history, movies touch everyone’s lives. We are surrounded by them. Everyone can name their three favorite films; anyone can describe a great moviegoing experience they’ve had. But aside from the novelties of drive-ins and 3-D films, there are very few documentaries about the WAY films were seen over the years. While several studies of filmgoing can be found in print, notably Douglas Gomery’s “Shared Pleasures,” STRAND: A Natural History of Cinema examines this fascinating history through the medium itself. Moviegoing is a rare experience, an unusual blend of social interaction and private fantasy, in an environment as varied as the films themselves. Unlike live theatre, a film doesn’t change: yet over time, we the viewer change, giving a motion picture a renewed life with each revisit. Some deepen our understanding, some are a fantasy life to inhabit for a few hours, some barely deserve a single viewing.

I have chosen to focus on the repertory era because I believe how we feel about films today owes everything to that period. As STRAND will make clear, until roughly the late 50’s one could rarely see a movie that was 4 years old, let alone 40. Greta Garbo was legendary but you couldn’t see her films. And “Citizen Kane”? You could only read about it, or at best, see it in truncated form on late night TV. The Repertory movement saved films from the netherworld of ubiquitous Late Late Shows, where they were panned-and-scanned and chopped to fit a time slot with several commercial breaks. Rep made it possible to see these films as they were meant, in a public environment, bringing the classics to life and creating new ones in the process. And created a demand which has made the home video market possible.

By selecting a single location--San Francisco—STRAND describes in better detail the universal subject of theatres and moviegoing. And by including interviews with geographers and urban thinkers who discuss intertwining topics like public space, rampant development, and social contact, it extends beyond a mere historical survey. I believe the transformation of the American city during this post-war period has implications for our modern, disconnected way of life. A time priding itself on progress allowed moneyed developers to decimate vibrant, diverse urban communities in order to build glass towers. An era that worshipped the automobile did so at the expense of safe streets and reliable, affordable public transit. Combining these issues create a fascinating film with broad appeal.

The Work In Progress clip I am submitting to IFP is meant to show the film’s visual style, while giving a sense of its contents. The first portion addresses the topics of passing time and the cinematic experience with strong examples of the film’s visual aesthetic, including Rob Christiansen’s original compositions for the film. The second portion is a rougher “unedited” segment, meant only to give a flavor of the topic of repertory cinema through some of the interviews conducted thus far.