Monday, November 21, 2011

More First Movies Ever

Here are a few more first movies, culled from the Facebook responses to that last post about first movies:

David (California): Where's Poppa? I was five. Nightmares.

--Where's Poppa? (also titled Going Ape, D. Carl Reiner, 1970) is one of the films I remember (along with Slap Shot, Mother, Jugs and Speed and Blue Collar) playing over and over and over on Home Box Office back in the early converter-box days. And young David was driven to bad dreams by the edited, "happy ending" version of this film-- the original version (which is intact on the DVD) has the darkest, most twisted ending of any comedy since Dr. Strangelove.

Toby (California): Yellow Submarine. At age five I thought the Blue Meanies were super cool.

Chris (Washington State): The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Caroline (California): I have a terrible memory of a Western where a stagecoach with a set of four white horses went over a cliff. It drove me screaming and crying from the theater. But the first full-length one I really remember was Help! at the drive-in. Wore my footie PJs.

Lynn (California): Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the first movie I saw at a drive-in (with my parents). Not sure if that was the first one ever although it might be.

Marianne (California): I was the youngest of four... who the hell knows? As the youngest, my family fed me memories just to shut me up. Half of my memories actually happened to another sibling, not me. As an example, I was told that I had nightmares after seeing Darby O'Gill and the Little People. But it turns out that was Rebecca.

-- Which is quite an insight. Memory is a mercurial, hit-or-miss thing before age 5. They can be constructed out of disparate experiences or influenced by hearsay. Makes sense that a lot of what we "remember" are actually things told to us by older relatives from which we have stitched together into real-seeming, but fake, memories.

Which is why that first remembered film is important-- it establishes a time when you can coherently remember anything. It has been remarked on over and over by smarter folks than me that movies are a shared dream, and the conventions of cinema's image-based storytelling has evolved over the decades to ever better fit into the deeper parts of perception, to seem more and more like a dream or a set of real memories. Where do we leave off and movie-based memories begin? How much of our personality is borrowed wholesale from the media we consume? What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?

The developed ability in childhood to stitch together a received narrative into something you replay half a lifetime later says quite a lot about the power of cinema and remarkable qualities of the human mind.

And finally, the antidote to the charm of the "first movie ever" memory:

Cova Lee (California) Fantasia… It's still on my all-time most hated list! That would a hatred stemming from the psychological torture of being forced to sit through the most boring movie ever made more times than I can count! The last time being my 12th birthday with a bunch of my friends… so not cool because Grease was playing in the theatre next door and of course my father caught us trying to sneak into that instead!

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