The story of a cinephile, named Cynthia Webb Add Media
My addiction to Cinema began when my mother took me to see “Salome” starring Rita Hayworth. She wanted to see it, so she just HAD to take me along – only a little girl at the time. I didn’t really understand it, but NEVER forgot it. Rita Hayworth became my goddess, and for years later I was still begging for covers and articles from magazines that were purchased by the mothers of my friends – collecting images of this fabulous woman, who had so captured my imagination. I think I had seen “Snow White” from the Disney studios before that, but it didn’t have the same impact!
This all happened in Hamilton, New Zealand, where I lived until I was twenty-one. Back then, New Zealand was so isolated from the rest of the world, and I count myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity, during my teenage years, to see the films of the French New Wave, and the Italian Neo-Realist Era. In my town, a cinema named “The Embassy” must have been owned by some serious film buffs, because one night a week, they screened such precious cinema history, whereas the rest of the week, they were the B-Grade cinema of the town. At the time I really didn’t realise how out of the ordinary this was.
During those years, I saw the history-changing masterpieces of Europe – France, Italy, Sweden ….. Louis Malle, Jean Luc-Godard, Francois Truffaut, Vittorio de Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Ingmar Bergman . I was too young to fully understand what I was seeing, but I just KNEW that it was undoubtedly brilliant, it was precious and that it was bringing me the world outside, – something that someone with a mind like mine desperately needed, when isolated in Hamilton, New Zealand, where at the time there was almost no influence from the outside world.
I still can hardly believe that I was lucky enough to experience the historic development period of cinema’s history at that most impressionable stage of my life… and see those films on the big screen.
I was a cinephile (or Cynephile?) from that time on. In the local library, I found the magazines from Britain, “Sight and Sound”, and “Films and Filming”, which became my window on the world of cinema and my educational textbooks. Even today, I still read “Sight and Sound” each month, but “Films and Filming” went out of publication many years ago.
What is cinema to me? How do I begin to express this? It has been the motif of my entire life – and why? Because this is an art form that takes in almost every other art form, bringing together the visual arts, music, poetry, literature, philosophy, and more. It can educate, it can inspire and a high quality film, being such a collaborative creation, is a miracle. An artform where so many different fields of expertise must come together, and “gel” into a piece of brilliance must be miraculous.
I can gratefully say that I have always had an instinct for quality in cinema. I proved this to myself during the last five years or so, by re-watching films seen during my teens, that really impressed me and were never forgotten. They still amazed me, and of course I know from my voracious reading and study of cinema that they are the classics.To do this, I sometimes had to go to Amazon, and order them from the USA or Europe, because they weren’t readily available. I found that I knew the good ones when I saw them, even in my teens… even if I didn’t fully understand the reason why these were valuable and groundbreaking films. Some of those films, are L’Avventura, La Notte, (Antonioni), Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti), La Dolce Vita (Fellini), Le Bout de Souffle (Jean Luc Godard), The Lover (Louis Malle), The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman), Goodbye Again (Anatole Litvak), Billy Budd (Peter Ustinov), Phaedra (Jules Dassin), Electra (Michael Cacoyannis) and there were more. Seeing these films during my high school years, taught me a lot more than I was learning at school! I didn’t know exactly why, but I just KNEW for sure, that these were masterpieces that I would grow to understand.
So…. with such a cinematic education, I was enthralled for a lifetime!
Now I know why those films were masterpieces, and I know a lot more too…. and so I want to share my delight, my inspiration, my knowledge gained over a life-time of study, and in this blog I will do so. Who knows what cinematic subjects might come up.
Thanks for reading and please stay with me.
by Cynthia Webb, QLD, Australia.