“Floral Odors: fresh, inspiring, and nice”
The second half of a Mark Lewis documentary short doubleheader at the 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival was his 2008 look inside of the Cinema Museum. A private collection owned by Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries in Britain, their curator Anna takes us on a first person tour of the cluttered and packed rooms full of movie memorabilia spanning decades. Lewis shoots it all, I would guess, with a Steadicam that he helms, following Anna through the corridors and into cramped rooms, or often just roaming to catch glimpses of interesting objects while we still hear his guide talking and rummaging through drawers. He must have told her not to feel bad if she was ignored because she will often sift through files for a good example of a lobby card or poster, holding them up while Lewis is either too far away for a detailed look or not even in the same room anymore.
While the 35-minute film is billed as a continuous shot, it actually isn’t. There are multiple fades to black, picking up right away as though footage needed to be excised. Had it been one long take, I think the artistry of the film might have overshadowed the ephemera on display. As it is, the objects we view become the main focal point, and that is the purpose of this insider’s look at a private collection spanning unique materials like posters, scripts, films, film cans, trade magazines, international print work, mini models of theatre houses, and so much more. We’ll catch a glimpse of a gorgeous hand-crank projector or vintage show times calendar and in the next turn of the camera see a giant cardboard stand depicting Jeff Goldblum or spy a small cutout of Martin and Moranis from the My Blue Heaven poster hanging above our heads. All eras are represented, making this a collection of the good and the bad—the totality of cinema history. Even things Anna personally dislikes, a wall of Florence Desmond paintings for instance, can be appreciated for the insight they bring towards their subject matter.
Lewis does a fantastic job to make sure that his vantage point will become the audience’s. There are so many reflective surfaces from glass cases, mirrors, or framed posters, but he never allows his image to show. The camera is constantly angled from being seen, making certain that what’s onscreen is viewed through our eyes and not a secondary filter. Anna will sometimes say Mark’s name, but mostly she’ll simply mention, “I see you’re interested in the posters,” or whatever else he decides to focus an extra beat of attention to. I did at times feel bad that she was giving all this great information and we rarely see what it is she is talking about, but then I recall my own ADHD mentality while on a museum tour. I always end up keeping my ears open to the tour guide while my eyes wander to soak in as much visceral data as possible. So, the experience is very similar to if I was in this collection myself, wandering around to see antique theatre seat ash trays, mazes of old film stock, (no nitrates due to flammability), and a small screening room with barely room to sit down, perfect for the worldwide, once a year, ‘Home Movie Day’.
Cinema Museum 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
courtesy of www.marklewisstudio.com