convenience isn’t everything

Julia over at Pages of Julia just reviewed Rear Window, and it made me think about when I was growing up, when you couldn’t see Rear Window at all.

Five Hitchcock movies, including Vertigo, considered by some to be the best movie made in Hollywood during the 20th century, were unavailable for almost thirty years.

My first though was that things aren’t like that now. These days it seems like every old movie, every out-of-print book, every old TV show, is available all the time.

But, as I think about it now, this is not universally true. And that’s sort of nice, even if it can be frustrating. Everything shouldn’t be handed to us all the time. I like it that there are still a few subway stations in New York named after streets which do not currently exist, and some streets where nobody knows what they’re named after. I like it that there’s no explanation anywhere in Lord of the Rings of who Tom Bombadil is. 🙂

So, here are three movies which I would really like to see. But I can’t, at least not easily.

1. The Other Side of the Wind (directed by Orson Welles). The most difficult to see, since it doesn’t exist, or at least not in a form where anybody can see it.

This is Orson Welles’ last film, or it would have been. There are periodic efforts to get it finished, usually driven by the invaluable Peter Bogdanovich, but no result yet.

I’ve seen the clips, of course, but that’s it. So far.

2. Renaldo and Clara (directed by Bob Dylan). I have seen it, more than once, but it’s pretty much impossible to see now.

I saw the four-hour version twice (my goal was to see it six times in all, so that I would have spent a whole day watching it), and another time I went to see the four hour version, but they didn’t get the reels in time, so they offered to let us see the two-hour version, and then an hour into that a guy rushed in carrying the cases with the full version, and they stopped the two-hour version and let us vote on what to do. We voted for watching the last three hours of the four-hour version.

Movie theaters used to be different.

But these days Dylan is not allowing it to be shown or released, for whatever reason. Someone had it up on YouTube in little chunks, but they were forced to take it down. That was all right — 3-minute segments on YouTube is no way to watch a movie.

3) Chelsea Girls (directed by Andy Warhol). You can see it in museums and occasionally in movie theaters (I’ve seen it that way twice), but it’s difficult to show, since it requires two screens and two projectors.

There’s seven hours of film (I think Wikipedia is wrong), taking somewhat over three and a half hours to show (the two screens are never exactly in sync). Pretty much impossible to describe. Funny in spots, awkward in others, tedious in others (as I recall, one half-hour segment consists of Nico trimming her bangs). In one scene, the camera loses interest in a conversation and wanders up to examine the ceiling instead.

Some day I will see it again, though I may need to go to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to do it.

Of course, if it was available on two DVDs, and you had two screens…

But no, everything shouldn’t be so easy.

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