Nov 26, 2001

I have revived this column from the dead. Last Thursday, drunk on hope, I stumbled to the Anza Club to see what has become of the Celluloid Social Club in my absence.

In November of 1997, fresh-faced and school-absorbed, idealistic and naive, I wandered into Taxi Vancouver Mag.zine and The Celluloid Social Club almost simultaneously. Taxi was sponsoring the CSC and I was the new film editor for Taxi, and so I began to write this column on a monthly basis.

That first day, it seemed something magical was in the air. Unjaded towards Ken Hegan, fascinated by the beautiful and glamourous film types, the crowd gathered in Empire Studios, a now-defunct production facility, shuffling the chairs into tighter and tighter formations as the room became crowded to the rafters with people seeking a film community somewhere... anywhere. They found it.

Managing the whole thing were Jeanne Harco, Paul Armstrong and Cathi Black (a music-industry type who co-produced the event until she got all L.A. on us). There was a cutting edge in the air, vying for the soul of the event against the ruthless moneylust and fame-whoring which infiltrates the film industry like an anthrax chain letter. The cutting edge won, hands-down, on that day.

The best film screened, and perhaps the weirdest of all time, was *The Operation,* by Jacob Pander and Marne Lucas. It was an infrared porno, a het couple having sex visible only as heat signatures. All around them, mysterious doctor-types observe from the balcony. It was one of those moments when a room of strangers is allowed to have a collective sexual experience without snapping the social fabric and forcing a confrontation - something even this year's Van Underground Film Fest struggled, sometimes succesfully, to achieve. There was also a screening of *The Second Coming*, Kellie Benz's fucking hilarious short about a chick who wakes up to find she's just slept with Jesus.

And then the cops came and took the booze away.

From then on, the event was held at the Anza Club. I screened *Tricycle of Violence* at the second event, and at the time I wrote that it was one of my favourite screenings ever - low-pressure, receptive, and happy. They once screened *Juicy Danger Meets Burning Man,* and afterwards Christine Taylor called for "More wide open beaver on the CBC!"

The last time I came to the Celluloid Social Club, however, was in the spring of 99, post-*Taxi*. CSC was on its brief and embarrassing swing through the Purple Onion, trying to get bigger (it was always jam-packed and needed space), a little glammer and, I suppose, to find more variety in alcohol. I recall seeing some of the worst films of my life - like the horrendous huge-budget short film *Grave Decisions,* chosen for its Leo Awards, which was so poorly written and performed that it needed machine-gun sound effects to authenticize a war-memory monologue. Also at this location, DJ's seemed determined to disperse the film-schmoozing crowd as quickly as possible after the films with loud raver music. Then there was a trivia contest or something with 8 old, white, male film directors and writers, which I walked out of, and never came back.

So this week, I went in with reservations. I've changed, to be sure, and "found myself" closer to the underground than Harco or Armstrong, even as their Celluloid successes open new, dizzying doors upward. I haven't submitted a film to them since *Trike*, so I can't complain of rejection or claim to have offered them my sweat or input. And the charged atmosphere of the Anza, king of the drunken bash, drew in so many viewers that the doors were fruitlessly closed and closed again as people slipped in through the cracks.

But I was disappointed. Hegan, still the most Canadian entity on Earth, still charming and funny, was now introducing sad parodies that were most accidentally successful at mocking themselves. An artiste with a beret hosts a faux art film - and shows his bum! A tribute to the CSC repetitively places the heads of uber-cliquers within a succession of obvious Hollywood films! A woman searches for an umbrella while reciting poetry in - ooh la la - French! I left before the cavalcade of rock videos, not seeing the point.

But materially, the Celluloid Social Club has something that everyone wants and needs - a community. Cineworks, for instance, could take serious lessons from the Celluloid. So perhaps the medium is the message, and the actual films aren't that important. What is important is drinking your face off and seeing who else lives and breathes in this alienating, mostly-evil industry.