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In El Paso, Movies How They Were Meant To Be Seen

Kurosawa's Sanjuro was one of the classics up on the big screen in El Paso.

Kurosawa’s Sanjuro was one of the classics up on the big screen in El Paso.

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the artistic director of VideoFest and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Earlier this month, I spent a weekend at the El Paso Classic Film Festival. For those who love film, this is a great opportunity to see some great works in the way they were originally meant to be seen, on a large screen with an audience.  If you’ve never heard of this festival, that may be because most of the press goes to festivals that feature the newest trends in cinema – we’ve got some of the best of those kinds of events in Texas. But this festival focuses on those films that you keep saying, “Ya know, I should see that.”

Going to this festival is like going to a film studies class without having to write the paper. When I was in graduate school, we saw many of these films, but in 16 mm with bad prints. In El Paso, they were mostly 35mm or new digital remasters, and they look astounding. Back in the day, when there were subtitles against a white background, you would have no idea what people were saying. This is not a problem anymore. These films are a treat.

In the few days I was there I saw Alphaville, Goddard’s non-science fiction science fiction film, which for me was a major highlight. Other greats were: Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, The Sweet Smell of Success, Koyaanisqatsi, The Big Sleep and a great series that Rainer Fassbinder made for TV called Word on a Wire, in which he predicted Second Life. And that is just a smapling of what I saw. Other films that played before I got there include West Side Story, Sunrise (my favorite silent film) Citizen KaneSullivan’s Travels, Black Narcissus, La Dolce Vita, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and so much more.

These films make up the basis of films that any cinephile should see. And, yes, you can see many of these on DVD or some other way. But seeing them at this festival is rather special.