The rattle and prattle began in earnest as theaters darkened across the globe, and persisted as cinemas reopened, then closed again on successive waves of virus. People talking and tapping and tweeting: this is what the movies mean to me and us, on larger screens, in larger phantoms, than what we are stuck streaming across the flat surfaces of the quarantine home. When will they return? Can they return? Will we return? THE DREAM WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN: the combination of nostalgia for lost innocence in many patches of words, accelerating at the speed of thinkpieces, but also the lasting cultural realization of the heft of hypnotic, amniotic fantasy pitched as a strand of piercing light thrown to the back of the cavern of picture palaces and lit-up skulls. There will be no return to normal, no new normal; layer upon layer of change drapes the experience of art shared in public space. For moviegoers, that means extending the virtual streaming option on the larger scale by all the conglomerate Pluses and Maxes, but also by the chances in virtual space for more opportunities to discover the medium than possible on, say, only a pair of screens, as at Siskel and Music Box and Facets. We will learn what forms of production and physical exhibition remain possible as vaccines stem the present pandemic. In the meantime, the “hybrid” experience is here to stay: see the world’s cinema in the ways that make you feel safest, that leave you dreamiest. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.