I’ve always done what it took to impress my future lovers. I spent the winter avoiding terrorist attacks in Istanbul without speaking a word of Turkish, hiked the Mount Rinjani Volcano in a pair of converse, burst into tears when Kobe Bryant passed away when… Kobe who? And most recently, I became one of those cool skater girls hanging in front of Aimé Leon Doré in New York City. Some may call me a people pleaser, others an attention seeker. That’s a lack of imagination. I’d prefer to define my behavior as an all-you-can-fuck-attitude.
Were these fanatical attempts of romanticism a waste of energy and money? My Lebanese father probably thinks so. After all, as years went by, I did forget Turkish, I did break my ankle twice, and did I spend all of my savings on Knicks Tickets. But my love for luuuuve took me to a place even lonelier and more peaceful than 3,726 meters above sea level: the movie theater.
Casablanca, Morocco. Bored to death, I developed a crush on Ismail, aka Mr. My-Facebook-profile-is-a-picture-of-Jean-Luc-Godard. At eighteen years old, he had it all figured out: he was in a band, smoked joints with his parents, and was the only guy born in 1999 that was taller than me. He was friends with both, the theater troupe and the soccer players. He was sweet to the cleaning lady and had sex with her daughter. Classic. He tasted like freedom – Morocco’s forbidden fruit.
My friend understood the genetic potential of our future coupling and sent me the greatest BBM on earth: a picture of his school timetable. Ha! Monsieur was a cinephile. In other words, while the entire male population was acting out embarrassing pick-up lines, Ismail was at “Cinegora”, a very exclusive film club my French teacher, Mr. Pascaud, held on every Friday night. In Morocco, Friday’s the day of Allah. Pure coincidence? Not so much. Like the Blues Brothers, I was on a mission from God baby.
I understood that Mr. Pascaud was the guard on the doors to Heaven. I started adding an abundance of film references to my French literature essays. My usual 13/20 rapidly turned into a generous 16/20. When he wrote “très bien!” with his red pencil next to my grade, I understood that it was just a matter of time. A few days later, my now-savior invited me to join “Cinegora”. Alhamdulillah.
Mr. CinemaParadisio was a man of habit. He always sat in the back of the class, on the right-hand corner. I sat on the left. For weeks, I resisted the ultimate temptation: eye contact. I wasn’t ready for him to fall in love with me yet. First, I had to understand the fucking difference between a Kinetoscope and a Kinetograph. Then, I had to learn all the important dates of Cinema History, just in case, he would miraculously blank out. “1942!” I was ready to scream at any given moment.
Soon, I watched Alice in the Cities by Wim Wender. Woah. A Woman in the Dunes by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Woah. Apocalypse Now… Woooooaaaahhhh. My life became a series of silent Woah. I was in awe of Cinema. Ismail had changed my destiny without even being aware of it. It was time I’d changed his with a little bisou. But he had never blanked out nor looked at me once. How could it be? I had changed my Facebook profile picture to Anna Karina…I was basically a Godard Girl with an Arab Twist! I even watched Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles without falling asleep! The only source of excitement is seeing this poor woman peeling potatoes! Goddamit! Even the film title takes 4 hours to read!
On another Friday night, I decided to wear red lipstick like Stéphane Audran. It was time to share my vastly acquired knowledge with my fellow cinephiles. “Mhmm, I could eat this brain for breakfast” he’d realize after hearing my quintessential analysis of Easy Rider.
“The most fascinating thing about Easy Rider is that it all takes place on the road. It just never stops.”
“And that’s why it’s called a road movie. It’s written on the board. Does anybody have a more interesting comment?” Mr. Pascaud answered with the type of arrogance only a French man teaching in Morocco feels entitled to.
Ismail smirked. To me, it felt like he had just burst into laughter. All I could hear was: MOUHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH. I had never felt more ashamed of wearing red.
I’m still standing at the back of the class. Only now, I’m facing Mrs.Annette Insdorf. Next to me? Hugh Jackman – who came all the way uptown to hear Insdorf’s analysis of the opening sequence of Hiroshima mon amour. Better than sex. In case you haven’t understood it yet, Mrs.Annette Insdorf is la crème de la crème of cinephilia, enough to make Mr. Pascaud want to rebrand Cinegora: Chi-negora. When I graduated from Columbia University, I felt lonely. Imagine watching Climax by Gaspar Noé alone? Don’t do it.
I wanted to talk about film with people who understood film! People who smoked cigarettes and asked existential questions nobody has an answer to! In French, we call this “La masturbation intellectuelle”. In English, it’s just called bulsshit. And that’s my favorite thing to do in the world. Quickly, I gave birth to yet-another-brillant idea: “The Soho Film Club”, a NYC-based community for cinephiles that’d meet by-weekly, watch a film, and blablablablabla. As I sent over the first invitations, the fever dream took over:
- The Soho Film Club is for the ones who don’t talk during movies but won’t shut up afterward.
- I will become the new Henri Langlois of New York City.
- The Angelika Film Theater will gradually turn into my private cinemathèque.
- L’IMAGINATION AU POUVOIR!
I once went to a conference called “Do I have a crush on Nicolas Bedos?” and wondered: how the hell did I end up here? Well, this is how the first Soho Film Club night felt like… a disaster. How could a discussion post-Parallel Mothers by Almodovar translate into an intellectual void? The fourth glass of Pino Noir started interfering with the 5% of sympathy my body holds. I silently observed the table: except for two other nerds who could basically orgasm at the sight of the Criterion Chanel monthly selection, no one had ever heard of Luis Buñuel, Maya Deren, let alone Chantal Akerman. Fellini was to them what Godard is to Spielberg: strangers. What happened to the New York City of Patti Smith? Why are these two finance kids wearing a suit to a film club? Had I managed to gather all of Manhattan’s losers?
The worst of them all was Anika, who works in crypto during the day and fashion at night. She sat next to me at the movie theater and laughed at every other line. The movie’s not that funny. She was obviously overdressed for the occasion. Who wears red heels to a film club? Fashion week is in September baby, and you for sure won’t make it to Europe. She looked at me with daring eyes before raising her hand as if I was some mean teacher.
“Almodovar doesn’t want to dissociate the fascist past with the present. What has changed? he’s asking. Motherhood is still political. The father figure is still absent. Babies are still being passed around like they used to be in wartime. When Janis and Ana decide to explore their mutual attraction, we understand that sexuality is sometimes more than a receptacle for longing and desire. It’s also about survival”.