Tuesday, April 10, 2007

CATHLEEN ROUNTREE—The Movie Lovers' Club


Roughly about a year ago I met Cathleen Rountree at the press conference for SFIFF49 where she approached me to enquire after my digital recorder. As a seasoned interviewer, Cathleen's cassette recorder was just about to give up the ghost and she was exploring options. I smiled about this when I spotted her across the room at this year's press conference.

Exploring options is a good way to describe Cathleen. It doesn't take long in her presence to recognize her independent, entrepreneurial spirit, her deep-seated interest in other people, and her enthusiastic curiosity in new ways of appreciating cinema. We had several interests in common, not the least being our passion for cinema coming out of Mexico, Central America and South America, which Cathleen frequently capsulizes for SFIFF's program catalogs (this year she whets appetites for Verónica Chen's Agua and Ricardo Elias' The 12 Labors). Further, we had both studied Jungian psychology, recognizing filmmakers as the new mythmakers if not the contemporary inflection of ancient shamans. As I was recovering from a series of hospitalizations and maneuvering the war zone of disability insurance carriers, Cathleen was kind in sympathizing with my approach towards movies as a means to mend and heal.

After one of last year's SFIFF press screenings we shared lunch in Japantown and Cathleen enthusiastically profiled her upcoming book—The Movie Lovers' Club: How To Start Your Own Film Group (2006, Inner Ocean Publishing)—and her negotiations with a web designer to build the book's companion site. I'm happy to report the book has done well, garnering praise far and wide; but, it's Hannah Eaves' write-up for Greencine that provides the best glimpse into the book's structure and objectives. Last year especially, with the San Francisco Film Society's promoted collaboration with Ironweed Films, models were being presented on new ways to share movies with others, in the face of dying movie theaters and declining box office. A night was selected for people all over the Bay Area to watch the same film at organized house parties.

Cathleen had already begun exploring such options in the late '90s and her book is no less prescient than its publication last Summer. Whether through "small house parties-cum-private screenings" via Ironweed or Film Movement, or whatever's risen to the top of your rental queues on Greencine or Netflix, whether you've raked it in at Virgin at one of their frequent $10 sales, or whether you're taking advantage of the new "screen scene" streaming video-on-demand fare from Greencine, Jaman, Firecracker, and countless others springing up seemingly every day, the bottom line remains that the essence of this so-called "social cinema" is its sociality and cinema's communal texture. Cathleen's ready for you, welcoming you at the front landing, offering food that will complement screenings, suggesting strategies on how to choose films, calendar films, let alone how to select members for ongoing or nascent groups so that discussion will illuminate and enrichen films, and inviting you back for the next grouping. Or as Cathleen quotes Pauline Kael: "Being able to talk about movies with someone—to share the giddy high excitement you feel—is enough for a friendship."

Granted, film buffs in a regional hub like San Francisco might not feel any need to be advised on what to see nor where since we live in a virtual cornucopia of cinematic wealth with delicious eateries at every corner and a film festival at every weekend; but, even for us seasoned snobs, the book remains a perfect guide with its year-long suggestion of titles, its thematic groupings, and its intimate allegiance to the warp and woof of the seasons. I keep it by my bedside to dip in and out of as the whim fits. Sometimes I like to read the quotes. Sometimes I peruse trivia. Often the questions she poses for group discussion offer new perspectives and fresh insights even at a solitary reading.

But don't take my word for it. Negotiations with Cathleen's web designer produced a handsome and informative companion site for the volume that outlines the book's (and the site's) philosophy, an intimate bio of Cathleen, raves on the book, links to her reviews and published pieces in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, SF360, Release Print, and Jung Journal (previously The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal). She's building a respectable list of reviews and (my favorite!) previews and reports from various film festivals. Clearly Cathleen is a dedicated festival junkee, just like me. Don't miss her great interview with Eddie Muller from the recent Noir City.

Just to make it even easier for you, here are some of Cathleen's pieces for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. First her experience of last year's Sundance Film Festival; her Oscar prelude gleaned from her experience at this year's Palm Springs Film Festival; an entry celebrating Valentines shenanigans; and (as of this week) a piece on how movies are reviving the Atomic Age uneasiness about a bleak future.

Cross-published on Twitch.

14 comments:

Paul Martin said...

And what digital recorder would you recommend? I purchased a small Japanese branded one recently that I've used once at a Q&A session but had difficulty understanding the dialogue in playback. I take it you need to have the unit close to the speaker.

Maya said...

I got a middle-of-the-line Sony model for about $150. It's Sony's ICD-SX25. It has a built-in microphone but I went ahead and purchased (again) a middle-of-the-line microphone to attach in that is marvelous at picking up voices even with much ambient noise (except for Hong Sang-soo, who spoke so soft it was near to indecipherable). But I love my little recorder. It records up to about 2 hours and comes with software that allows you to upload into your comptuter with a nifty display panel that allows you to transcribe comfortably. There's a way to program it to achieve 6 hours of recording time but I have no doubt that would seriously impact the quality. Instead, I'm actually considering purchasing another one, exact same model, so that I will always have four hours recording time.

cinebeats said...

I love the idea of a Movie Lovers Club but my own experience with trying out such endeavors hasn't worked well. I can only guess that it's because my own tastes lean towards the abstract and horror is by far my favorite genre. I also can't watch 90% of the stuff Hollywood puts out.

I used to try and have movie nights with friends until I found out no one wanted to come to my place anymore. Word on the street was "Don't go to the Lindbergs’ place for a movie unless you want to watch something awful or incomprehensible."

After that I figured it would be best to stop inviting anyone over to watch movies. Ha, ha! ;D

Maya said...

The ingrates!! How often is someone welcomed warmly into a home to watch something incomprehensible?!!! Hmmmmm?

Paul Martin said...

Maya, the reviews on Amazon look good for that model, though the 2 hour limit on high quality seems a bit limiting. Perhaps getting a second one is a viable option if you already have one, but I'm thinking maybe spending another $90 or so for the Sony ICD-MX20VTP might be the go as it has expandable memory. Do you have an opinion on that? If you prefer to take the conversation off the blog, feel free to email me (email address is on my blog).

BTW, do you find with your DVR that holding it in your hand causes major interruption to sound recording?

Maya said...

Only if I fidget. But it's really more an issue of control. I've been training myself to just let the recorder rest on a table so my hands are free; but, somehow I just don't feel I'm "getting" it unless it's in my grubby paw and I'm pointing it in the appropriate direction.

If you can afford to get the top of the line, by all means I would. I think those models allow you to add memory sticks if you need them. Not sure.

Cathleen Rountree said...

Hi Michael, Interesting comments–everyone wants recorder info! Well, here's mine: I went for the Olympus DS-2, which is serving me well. I had a few rough patches, but Olympus has an exceptional telephone service center––they've really "trained" me. Thanks for the generous review. See you at next week's screenings. Oh, one more thing: the DS-2 is capable of recording for 22 hours, which is amazing. I used that setting at Toronto, where i did so many interviews and didn't have time to download. I can honestly say i didn't notice much difference between 2 and 22 hour clarity. However, I DO use a very high quality Sony mic, the holdover from my old $450 Sony, that served me so well for 20 years and, literally, hundreds of interviews done all over the world. Ciao...

Maya said...

You're welcome, Cathleen. And thanks for the recorder info. I've become so used to mine that it's always a bit amusing to see how startled or intrigued bystanders are by it. 22 hours?!! That's amazing; but, I have to admit likewise daunting to consider coming home from a festival and having 22 hours to transcribe!!

Cathleen Rountree said...

Well, i'm actually too afraid of losing info, so i do the transfer to my PowerBook, at least––if not the transcribing. You must type fast. i'm a two-fingered typist, with eyes glued to the keyboard, so transcribing my interviews takes forever, although true, the digital recorder does make transcribing much easier. (Confession: a few of my Toronto interviews remain untranscribed as of this moment...)

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for the info, Michael and Cathleen. I'll check out the Olympus. Cathleen, I'm surprised that you haven't bothered to learn touch-typing. My teenage daughter got up to about 20wpm after only a few days of using some typing software (I can't remember the name, but it's about 10 years old; there'd be plenty of new stuff out there). I type about 60wpm which is much faster than writing. If I'm re-viewing a film on DVD, I'll have the laptop on my lap and type rather than write.

Cathleen Rountree said...

Hi Paul, I just checked in for comments and found yours. Okay, even your teenage daughter types faster than me, a professional writer! Hmmm...I feel sufficiently embarrassed. Thanks for the suggestion re the program. I actually did check one out on the internet last year and it was helpful. But, like everything, it's a matter of time to practice. Do you have a blog??

Maya said...

Cathleen, Paul's site is more a true website than a blog. If you click on his name in the comments section, it will take you to his profile where you can click on his webpage url.

Cathleen Rountree said...

Got it. First lesson, thanks Michael.

Paul Martin said...

Cathleen, I think it was TypeQuick, though no doubt there's others. I tried it myself as a refresher and found it very good. You will be surprised how little it takes to learn to touch-type - it doesn't take long. It's a matter of practice, and as a writer, you'd get lots of that. You'd get up to speed in no time. There are a couple of 'tricks', though, and the main one is to never look at the keyboard. If you follow that, you'll learn to speed type much quicker.

I did one term of typing at high school when I was 13 years old. When I bought a type-writer 7 years later, I was a much better touch typist than when I was at school, because for all those 7 years, I had been subconsciously typing in my mind. It was very weird!