The Cinémathèque turns 40, takes us back to ‘72
On August 2, 1972, the Pacific Cinémathèque was incorporated as a non-profit society in the province of British Columbia. Which means that the venerable film institute is about to hit middle age, a landmark that it celebrates with a return to “1972 pricing”—that’s one lousy dollar to you!— for a screening of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest on Thursday.
For artistic and executive director Jim Sinclair, the Cinémathèque’s greatest achievement—besides an admirable “managerial and financial stability” in an arts-hostile era—is the “hardcore film culture” it continues to foster in Vancouver, to this day.
“We looked to the leading film institutions around the world, and said, ‘Let’s try to do comparable work here,’” explains Sinclair, in a call to the Straight. “And I think we’ve done that. Given our limited resources, and limited staff, and what we work with, I do think we provide Vancouver with programing and film exhibitions that are comparable to those being offered in any major film centre in any major city in the world, and I think that’s a really neat achievement. I think it also speaks to the vibrancy of film culture in Vancouver.”
Sinclair adds that the vital signs can be seen in the Hitchcock and Fassbinder retrospectives currently running at the Cinémathèque (the latter thanks to the discovery of a cache of prints in New York). “There’s lots of people in the audience, and they’re all excited,” he said. "We did Robert Bresson this year, which we hadn’t done for 12 or 15 years, and people were excited to see Bresson. There are ongoing satisfactions and rewards from doing this.”
Added to that are auxiliary services like the education program, now in its 17th year. Altogether, Sinclair characterizes the Institute’s 40 year journey from the Vancouver Art Gallery to its present location on Howe Street as a “modest and focused" effort to stay true to the Cinémathèque’s core mandate. “I think we work really hard to be really solid,” he says. “I think being middle-aged is suiting the Cinémathèque quite well.”
As for Thursday’s one-dollar screening of North by Northwest, is there anything particularly significant about the choice of film? “There’s really no connection,” says Sinclair, “except that maybe running an arts organization is sometimes like running through a cornfield being chased by a mad pilot in a crop-duster.”
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