Views / In Focus

‘Portal into other worlds’: How movies change lives

From Bruce Lee to Stanley Kubrick, movie icons have inspired a generation of filmmakers.

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean stars Paul Newman as an outlaw turned unconventional lawman.

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The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean stars Paul Newman as an outlaw turned unconventional lawman.

As the sun sets on a busy summer film season I wanted to hit pause and take a look at why we fell in love with movies in the first place.

My film education began at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool, N.S. Located just blocks from my house, I practically grew up in front of that screen. I don’t remember the first movie I saw in there — I was likely just a babe in my mother’s arms — but I have vivid memories of drinking “Swamp Water,” a sugary squirt of each of the flavours from the soda fountain and getting hit with an usher’s flashlight when I put my feet up on the seat in front of me.

Mostly though, I think back to the movies. My dad and I watched as The Sting filled the screen and, along with my pals Chris and Neil, I stared agape at the watery disaster of Poseidon Adventure and I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I killed watching Bruce Lee high kick his way through martial arts epics.

I saw hundreds of movies there but one in particular made me fall in love with the magic of film. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean stars Paul Newman as an outlaw turned unconventional lawman. A character is shot in the chest and as the camera pans down we catch a glimpse of the judge’s reaction through the hole in the guy’s torso. I haven’t seen it since, possibly because it’s probably cooler in my imagination than it is in life, but it taught me anything was possible in the worlds created on screen. From then on I was hooked.

Christopher Nolan, director of Dunkirk, says Star Wars was the movie that opened his eyes.

“I saw that when I was seven years old and it still stands today in my mind as a demonstration of the absolute potential of cinema to create an immersive experience, to take you away to worlds you’ve never even imagined. That screening was followed pretty rapidly by the rerelease they did of (Stanley) Kubrick’s 2001. Watching that as a seven-year-old, I didn’t understand it. I don’t understand it any more today but the experience of it was pure cinema. You felt the opening up of the screen, this larger than life quality of the screen, you were able to pass through that portal into other worlds.”

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve also cites the Kubrick masterpiece as a potent example of the kind of movie that lit his imagination afire.

“The biggest impact was 2001: A Space Odyssey,” he says. “The first time I saw it was on television. I remember vividly the vertigo that movie created. Even though I saw it on TV I still think it is one of the most significant cinematic experiences I have had.”

Legendary stop motion filmmaker Ray Harryhausen told me it was King Kong that changed his life. “I saw it when I was 13,” he said, “and I haven’t been the same since.”

If not for that movie, he joked, he might have become a plumber and not a filmmaker. “It took you by the hand from the depression of the 1930s and brought you into the most amazing, outrageous fantasy that’s ever been put on the screen.”

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