Wednesday 15 February 2012

A Useful Life - a love letter to film and film preservation

Well, I've been slightly lax with blog posting since the start of the New Year, partly because I've been doing more posts on my work blog. However I thought I should post this while there's still a possibility for readers to catch this film in the cinema.  The reason being the film is a love letter to cinema, 35mm, and as a result of that, the work of film archivists.
My first cinema trip of 2012 was on January 2nd to the BFI to see Manhattan but this is not the subject of this post. One of the trailers I saw was for A Useful Life - a Uruguayan film set in a cinematheque with shots of the cinematheque's film archive in the trailer - how could I resist!

The film is the story of Jorge, the projectionist of the Cinemateca, an art house cinema in Montevido. It’s a sad story in many ways, the seemingly inevitable decline of a cinema which can’t or won’t adapt to new ways of working, the drop in the number of visitors coming to see the films, the increase in the costs faced by independent cinemas – all these issues are played out in the film. However it’s also an incredibly heart-warming story as it’s the story of Jorge, the projectionist, as he moves from being a part of the decaying cinema to creating a life for himself outside of, but definitely not apart from, his cineaste identity.

There are so many wonderful moments in the film – the discussion about money between the members of the cinematheque team, Jorge fixing the seats in the cinema, the radio interview he does for his radio show, and of course the shots of the projection room and the film store! It’s a film that’s full of love – love for the cinema, for film itself, and I thought for the work of film preservationists. Well it turns out I wasn’t just projecting my own views on that last point as the director Federico Veiroj not only worked at cinematheques but also at the Spanish Film Archives. I can’t recommend this film highly enough – it still makes me smile when I think about it. There’s an interesting interview with Federico Veiroj reprinted on Mubi here where he talks about his love of film and film archives/archivists.

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