Does it matter with whom we watch our most formative films?

As of this very moment, I’m about to leave my mother [‘s house].

Within a couple of days, I will be somewhere somewhere else.

So it makes me think, after watching Dominique Auvray’s Marguerite, telle qu’en elle-même with her: have I been grateful enough for her openness to all the films which I did not show her, but what we watched in sync?

In sync not in the sense of intellectual comprehension. But more in the vein of: a life lived together. Jointly. Teamwise.

I somehow never truly experienced a physical form of cinephilia with my peers. For a long time, I asked myself: why? And more importantly: why was I not shipwrecked because of such a lack?

Yesterday I realized: because there wasn’t one. My mother was always there. Interested, open. Thoroughly invested. She was not able to understand everything, but she went along with whatever I had yet to see – though I also frequently showed her films I already watched, probably because it was a way of sharing or confiding something personal in her. What I grew to appreciate more and more, was how differently I started to see things. She noticed details, behavioural patterns that demanded life experience [of a different gender]. Especially when we saw films or movies that were so contrarian to her own history, I always knew we worked on our relationship in a way that was impossible to pin down. But nonetheless: some viewings felt like trials that confronted our differing sensibilities, specially because we always only had each other to share our lives with. No husband. No father.

The seperate act of watching a film with someone who, usually, would not take the time to seek such a film out, can result, depending on the context of both the viewer as that what is viewed, in a form of resistance. To circumvent the main ideology in which one is embedded takes effort (assuming we are all trapped in at least one). And if one does this with someone else – who also shares the wish to learn how to see otherwise – it enforces one to care for the viewpoint of, ideally, someone from the other end of a spectrum.

Cinema Blindspot: ‘’…A movie podcast where @midnightmovies [Tara Judah] and @timonsingh [Timon Singh] introduce films to each other that they wouldn’t normally watch (or have deliberately avoided).’’ Does exactly this. Both of them, with seemingly different agendas, do their best to build bridges by doing, basically, just one thing: caring. Or working (because I think it is also a question of labour) to learn how to understand and see at some point, in sync with another (not through the eyes of). Unsurprisingly, these rare moments are also the ones that keep me listening. Because this care-full (not careful) collision of realities is what leads to insights for both.

Working in logistics and as a housecleaner, my mother had so many other things to worry about. But she did care. Like Uncas Blythe recently tweeted: „What the difference boils down to is care. Langlois took ‚Care‘ to snag those cans; an algorithm has another agenda.“ She cared about the experience. Which is, I think, an incredibly fresh and empowering variation on traditional cinephilia, where one discusses and talks and talks. While with my mother, it was about feeling and sensing. For discourse, I had to go somewhere else. And I am sure I owe her for this. Though this doesn’t mean we did not watch films that did not, at points, imposes on one the necessity to evaluate critically.

All films tagged 'mama'

All films tagged ‚mama‘

These are all the films I remember watching in the presence of my mother, during the last three years at least. Which may imply her being in the kitchen while cooking or cleaning, and listening in. Shocked by the love-making scene in Je, Tu, Il, Elle. Or the opposite: watching while I’m in a dream state, herself fully immersed. Some of the inclusions may be made-up. There are a few doubts. But as I went through my film diary, an image appeared with almost every film I watched with her. The closing shot of Prénom Carmen, the tears she shed for Franz Biberkopf or the memories of her French vacations stirred up by Pialat’s Passe ton bac d’abord.

At their high points, these film viewings acquired… ‘’A vivid life of their own.’’

What attracts me to this, opposed to the usual forms of cinephilia, is that my mother knew things… And what matters to our mothers, also matters to us. ‘’…something perhaps we are very curious to learn.’’ Probably containing… ‘’things which have a vivid life of their own outside mine.’’

Therefore, they are hard to hold on to. Only now I start to know that this will form me more than a lot of other events. Sitting down. Spending time. Watching Jeanne Dielman making the bed. Or L’homme à la Valise, a film about a woman who is forced to share her intimate spaces with a man.  She recognized and talked and talked. Pointing out something here, telling me it was always such a fight to tell a man that he no longer had a place to stay.

What if I saw this film at some retrospective, or on television? Would there have been an imprint? The thought of my mother would have been inevitable, but in a cinemathèque that would have lasted only for a couple of frames. Now, it was picked out and freely spoken about. I do feel blessed.

What if our mothers can teach us cinema? What if they can teach us this like no other? That nobody ever said this before, does not at all mean it’s impossible. I’d even say that it is part of cinema’s being that this very beautiful and tender idea is being rejected… People used to go to the movies with their entire families… And nowadays young boys go to them with their dads. When do we ever hear stories about single mothers going to the movies with their sons? We did not go to the multiplex either. The idea did not even pop up in our minds. As if it was forbidden. We stayed home, the two of us. On the couch. Sensing cinema.

 

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