Watching films collectively in complete darkness in the company of other likeminded cinemagoers is a wonderful experience. As the French cultural critic Roland Barthes wrote in an essay entitled, Leaving the Movie Theatre, ‘in the darkness of the cinema lies the very fascination of the film (any film). Think of the contrary experience: on television, no fascination; here darkness is erased, anonymity repressed; space is familiar, tamed’ (1995).
The Ciné-Club model: film as education
Film screenings have an educational as well as pleasurable dimension, as evidenced by the Ciné Clubs that were hugely popular in many countries, both pre- and post-World War II. Often the films that were screened would serve as a means of opening up valuable discussions and debates that were intrinsically valuable educationally.
Among the most famous of these clubs was the one set up by the celebrated French film critic and writer, André Bazin, ‘the single thinker most responsible for bestowing on cinema the prestige both of an artform and of an object of knowledge’, and the man who foresaw the emergence of film studies as a legitimate discipline of academic study.
Bazin was as much a passionate advocate for the transformatory effects of community learning as he was for the significance of cinema and the ciné-club represented an opportunity for him to promote both.
His vision for the educative potential of the study of film led him to take film screenings into factories and other work places so as to make this cultural form and its educational benefits available to all, much like the ethos that underpins City Lit itself.
City Lit’s Cultureplex Ciné-Club
Capitalising on our premier screening room here at City Lit, we set up the Cultureplex Ciné-Club in 2022 and have run the course across all three terms, screening a total of 36 films across the last academic year. Favourites this term have included Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Angst essen seele auf/Fear Eats the Soul (Germany 1974), Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock 1958 US) and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F. W. Murnau 1927 US). A particularly special mention must go to Guru Dutt’s celebrated Hindi drama, Pyaasa/Thirst (1957), which surprised and delighted everyone and which generated a fascinating post-screening discussion. Feedback on the course has been overwhelmingly positive with many students expressing their enjoyment at the opportunity to watch and discuss films that they had either never seen before or hadn’t viewed for many years.
So please come and join us at next year’s Cultureplex Ciné-Club, where for once a week, for 12 weeks (and throughout the academic year in terms 2 and 3), we will watch and discuss not only the films just mentioned but many more. Each one will be introduced, and placed in both its cinematic, cultural and historic context. After the screening we will devote the rest of the class to a collective exploration of the film, led by the tutor, but involving everyone in a participatory discussion that will allow all to express their responses, their views, their thoughts on the film screened.
Study Film at City Lit
Join us in September for our twelve week course:
L’Atalante (Jean Vigo 1934 France), The Odyssey Cinema, St. Albans (image courtesy of Paul Sutton)
Barthes, Roland (1995), ‘Leaving the Movie Theatre’, in Lopate, Phillip (ed) (1995) The Art of the Personal Essay, New York: Anchor Books, pp. 418 – 21.