So of course I feel guilty about not going to the Red Vic Movie House more, now that it's in its final swansong. In fact, this was only my second time there. Sure, I live in Fremont and that's a heck of a schlep, but that hasn't stopped me from patronizing the Roxie or Castro (I haven't done the Balboa much, and now that its future is uncertain I feel guilty/determined to go there more). In any case, thank you to a San Francisco institution, best of luck to the proprietors in their future endeavors, and best of luck to the remaining arthouse theaters in the Bay Area (and to my local readers, if you don't want them to die, obviously you have to give them your business).
Now the movie--HAROLD AND MAUDE is the perfect sendoff. I heard a rumor this was the first movie they showed, but it's appropriate thematically, too.
I will now assume any reader has already seen HAROLD AND MAUDE, so I might get spoilery below. If you haven't seen it, go see it right away. I'll wait.
There, wasn't that awesome!?
More importantly, it occurs to me that the story of aged but vivacious Maude teaching young, rich, death-obsessed Harold how to embrace life is a nice metaphor for the Red Vic closing. The Red Vic is Maude, who brings so much joy to life and teaches us to embrace, defy, and sing out. We, the audience, are Harold (except for being rich). Maybe we aren't always obsessed with death, but right now we are obsessed with the death of our beloved cinema institutions. Maybe the Red Vic, unlike Maude, didn't choose the time and manner of her death, but by approaching it with dignity and imploring us to patronize the remaining arthouse theaters, we and the Red Vic echo the scene where Harold, realizing Maude is dying, says, "But I love you!" And Maude/The Red Vic replies, "Oh, that's wonderful! Go love some more."
Also, although this is about the 5th or 6th time I've seen it, this is the first time I remembered going in that Maude is a Holocaust survivor. This is revealed in one brief scene, near the end, where we see a close up of Maude's arm with a number tattoo. This colors all her scenes in retrospect, but none more than when she's reminiscing about a garden party in the Viennese palace. She describes how fun it was, how she thought then she would marry a soldier, and then she gets quiet, tears up, and mumbles something about that being "before..." It's the first hint that as joyful as she is, she has painful memories. Clearly, these are memories of the Holocaust.
She was a little girl at the party, and given that she's turning 80 and the movie was released (and I'm presuming takes place) in 1971, that means she was born in 1891. Presumably the party she refers to took place just prior to WWI (started in 1914, when she was 23). The soldiers at the party would be Austrians or Germans, and if they survived and stayed on the side of power in Germany and progressed in rank, would be fairly high ranking Nazi officials during WWII. Perhaps at that party or some other time she even met a struggling artist in Vienna who would go on to become a decorated WWI soldier and ultimately Der Fuhrer. That's right, I went there, imagining a Maude/Hitler fan fiction romance. Now try to sleep at night!
Running Time: 91 minutes
My Total Minutes: 243,950