Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Nothing gold can stay

So, the Brattle Theater finds its existence imperiled. How sad. That beautiful brick barn, one of the few remaining jewels of Harvard Square, is in danger of closing if its management cannot raise $400,000 by year's end. Let's hope they can.

I have many magic memories of the Brattle from my college days. Thanks to the theater, I was able to see many of the classic films as they were meant to be seen -- on screen, not within the sterile face of a television set. Among the great movies I watched: Casablanca, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Graduate, Woman of the Year, Citizen Kane, From Here to Eternity, The Seven Samurai, Rebel Without a Cause, Giant, A Clockwork Orange.

The memories didn't confine themselves to the films. On Halloween 1999, I went to see The Blair Witch Projects dressed as the funny pages; also during that academic year, I donned Mafioso attire to watch The Godfather. And the audience sometimes enlivened the show; I remember the crowd singing along with Isaac Hayes for the opening credits to Shaft.

Lately, the theater's management has made some questionable decisions, veering away from recognizable attractions to more obscure fare. The public, even its snootier side, has responded by not going as much (I am one of those whose attendance has been remiss over the last few years). The Brattle's practices of running one film endlessly for a week, and of eschewing name attractions for the avant-garde, have turned me off, I'm sad to admit.

What also frustrates me is that the Brattle has so much going for it: a wonderful old-timey atmosphere in which to experience the thrill that audiences of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s must have felt. When so many modern movie theaters are little more than malls with screens, the Brattle stands out "like bright metal on a sullen ground" (Henry V). I'll try to go more often, but I fear the theater's management must make some drastic changes if they want their splendid showpiece to withstand the merciless mall-ification of Harvard Square.


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