It’s a shame that I’ve lived in the Los Angeles area for close to a year and have only just started to adventure more into the city center. Unfortunately I’m far enough away that the prospect of sitting in traffic for hours often acts as a deterrent, and there just hasn’t been that much time. This summer I’ve been making more of an effort to rectify the situation and get back to my film nerd roots, starting with the West Coast premier of the newly restored Powell and Pressburger classic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
The screening was held at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, a place of distinguished reputation where a distinction is made at the entrance between the general moviegoing public and members of the Academy. I have to wonder if the world turns into Technicolor for those who pass through that special entrance. Inside the seats are plush red velvet and two giant oscar statuettes line both sides of the screen. Maybe I’m a little too National Lampoon for Beverly Hills but I found myself looking around to see if I recognized anyone in the audience.
Aside from my love of P&P one of the reasons I wanted to go to this event was because Powell’s widow and Scorsese’s long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker was present to give an introduction to the film. Maybe most people wouldn’t recognize her if they saw her walking down the street, but this woman is basically my Batman. She gave a nod to the films place in British history as well as all the work that had to be done on the restoration. Because it was politically hazardous at the time the film stock itself had not been handled properly and endured a lot of wear and tear. I’ve always thought of the quality of a film print only in terms of warehousing or time, not as something that people would want to tear to pieces for a point.
After the screening I waited at the running block, debating if I should go up to her or not. I made it to what I thought was a line of well wishers only to find myself in the middle of friends and people who worked the event. I awkwardly stood there for a bit then road runnered it up the aisle. It’s a good thing too as I only later realized that there’s a ‘no autograph’ policy at the theater, so walking up to the guests is probably frowned upon as well. I really don't need to end my career before it starts. I still made a bit of an ass out of myself but really, it could have been worse.
So even though I wasn’t able to say it personally, a shout out to Thelma Schoonmaker for proving that it is possible to be a film editor with a modern style who still appreciates and champions the old. You’re an inspiration and a role model for anyone who refuses to put up a brick wall between film history and film production. And for that I thank you.