Stephen Kessler | Devotion to a different type of screen – Santa Cruz Sentinel

After 21 months of intense domesticity, I ventured out of my COVID malaise zone last week to take part in a family harvest festival in the greater LA area. Perhaps it’s a good thing that the landscape is now almost entirely industrial agriculture, including new vineyards next to the food fields which are a rusty orange in their regulated ranks at this time of year to compliment the rolling, oak-clad hills to the south of Paso Robles that still betray why California is called The Golden State, even if no insects thanks to the pesticide triumph splash more on the windshield.

When I arrive at my boutique hotel on the West Side, I have traversed the broad rivers of headlights and taillights of the San Fernando Valley that flow endlessly through the sprawling grid of its vast suburbs, reminding me why I denatured from these before them Fled parts of civilization stifled my inspiration and destroyed my soul with its noxious fumes. But I endure this from time to time to see what’s left of my next of kin while we’re still among the living. Although my 78-year-old sister is severely restricted in assisted living, my brothers at 85 and 82 are more or less themselves, albeit older than ever, and the next generation and the next but one prove that our line may continue for a while.

We said thank you together in the usual way, as if no epidemic had intervened, and the rest of my stay was characterized by equally concentrated encounters with childhood friends and poets who were new friends, in conversations that cannot be summarized here, but full of inspiring memories of why I made the effort to make this trip back to my homeland.

During a Saturday afternoon break from social life, when I had a few hours to myself, I found time for that essential Hollywood experience: watching a movie on the big screen, something I had taken for granted before the pandemic and that which is now strange has the feeling of being discovered for the first time with the breathtaking effect of a revelation. The film was Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a rancher in Montana in 1925 and Kirsten Dunst as the widowed lover of a boarding house where she lives with her sensitive teenage son and is being courted by the rancher’s brother and the business becomes a partner.

But the psychologically interesting and exciting plot is not the subject of this presentation, which should not be confused with a review. What I want to tell you, in case you haven’t discovered it for yourself, is the canvas magic regained and what it can reveal without the sensationalism of baseless violence. There’s a lot of emotional violence in this story, but no shootouts or explosions, which for me added to the effect of the complex dynamics between the characters. Above all, it was the size of the pictures, both of people and of the magnificent natural landscape (Campion’s home New Zealand represents Montana), which were captured in picturesque compositions that were so gorgeous that their visual power practically knocked me off my body tore.

Sorry, home video fans, but this immersion in the visual-emotional immensity and intimacy of a full-size movie cannot be felt anywhere else than in a darkened cinema with a huge screen. Rediscovering this cinematic reality as a new technology was almost as much a gift as the human connections of my meetings with friends and family. Because cinema at its best is a humanistic medium, despite its current degradation to a techno-futuristic dystopia of computer-generated chaos.

Back in Surf City, with our few theaters reopened and few such old school dramas worth seeing, I’ll be on my guard again to sit in the dark and indulge in an art that was withheld from me and that I didn’t realize how much I missed.

Stephen Kessler’s column appears on Saturdays.

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