Wendy Guymer-Tutt, one half of the Princess Cinemas team and a film studies scholar, talks to us about sci-fi, Bambi and escapism in advance of her introduction of KW|AG’s October 29th screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
What was the first film that resonated with you?
The first film(s) that resonated with me are the old horror films that my older brother, sister and mom used to watch on television. The first film I remember seeing was The Pit and the Pendulum, starring Vincent Price. I was three or four years-old and I’ll never forget having to avert my eyes when the crypt was opened to reveal a hideous corpse! I also remember the experience of being taken to see Bambi at the movie theatre in Ladysmith, B.C. when I was about the same age. My mom had to remove me from the cinema because I started crying and became inconsolable when Bambi’s mother died at the beginning of the movie! Growing up in a coastal town on Vancouver Island, I also recall the social phenomenon surrounding the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. People really were afraid to swim in the ocean after seeing that movie!
How did you get involved in film and do you have areas of special interest?
I got involved in film as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. The first film course I took was taught by the late Michael Bird: Spirituality and the Quest for Meaning, a course that explored questions of faith and existence through the films of Ingmar Bergman. I went on to take many more film courses, and later received my M.A. at Wilfrid Laurier University in the English and Film Department.
I am interested in film as a transformative experience. While I love the escapist nature of cinema, I regard film primarily as a powerful, psychological medium that, at its best, reflects our myths and archetypes –indeed, all aspects of our humanity– back to us. When we see great films, we leave the cinema changed. It is this type of film that I constantly seek and, through my involvement with the Princess Cinema, I have been fortunate to see quite a few.
Do you have a favorite sci-fi film?
I have many favourite films from all film genres. In the science-fiction genre, my top film would have to go to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. I have been lucky to see several of his films at the Princess and many years ago when I was a volunteer at the Pacific Cinematheque in Vancouver. Tarkovsky’s films tend to be oblique and philosophical and just when you think you may have lost the plot entirely, he throws in an esoteric clue that ties everything together in a beautifully spiritual way, with a hint toward the true metaphysicality of life. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey comes in at a very close second. Truly, a film for the big screen!
I look forward to introducing Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, another film for the big screen and one that I saw over thirty years ago at that same movie theatre in Ladysmith. Released soon after the huge success of Star Wars, it’s another example of film as social –as well as box office– phenomenon. For a time, galaxies “far, far away” seemed to dominate the collective imagination!
Close Encounters of the Third Kind will be screened October 29th at KW|AG. Admission is free and costumes and donations are encouraged. Reserve your seat here >