A MONTH of Cinema Classics

January, often a cinema wasteland, is a month when Hollywood dumps the offal that hasn't warranted earlier releases - few Oscar contenders premiere this month. But for those who think there's nothing decent playing right now, I'm here to set the record straight - there are plenty of great films out there to see as several Toronto theatres are doing a superb job of circulating film classics.

Just last week, giddy with enthusiasm and booze, I relished screenings of Casablanca and Dr. Strangelove at the Bloor Cinema. I've seen both films countless times but only rarely have I watched them in a proper theatre with scratches, missing frames, fading sound and all the other warts intact.

It's amazing how a well-worn film, even those like Casablanca from which I can recite paragraphs of dialogue perfectly (I do a sharp Major Strasser), when projected on a large screen, can reveal depth and detail to the frames that go unnoticed on even gargantuan plasma TVs.

Add to that the pleasure of watching a classic with a living (often) breathing audience; I don't know about others who attended my screenings but it was supremely difficult to keep myself from shouting famous quotes at the screen. It's a habit easy to get into at home but which must be stifled for fear of "shushing" and evil eyes once in the theatre. Yet keeping my mouth shut for a change forced me to focus on nuances of Bogart that I'd been previously unaware, such as the way he half-smiles when with Captain Renault.

Anyway, the point of all this is to make you aware of all the GREAT films playing this month. At the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor W) upcoming films include The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Harold and Maude and A Clockwork Orange. Hitchcock aficionados should get in line for Psycho and Vertigo. Also, thanks to Rue Morgue magazine, there is a one night showing of Fulci's The Beyond from a newly restored 35mm print! Wow!

The major event at the Bloor Cinema plays at the end of this month: Laurence of Arabia. If any Hollywood classic is meant to be viewed on a big screen, it's David Lean's masterpiece. Go-go-go! See it! That's an order!

At other theatres in town, we have the Royal Cinema (606 College) showing Woody's Manhattan and Annie Hall as well as Grizzly Man which I know isn't a classic but it is the best documentary of 2005.

Cinematheque Ontario at Hugh Jackman Hall (317 Dundas W) has started its winter season. The second part of their Naruse perspective has begun and fans of foreign cinema should be sure to check out screenings of Sansar's Apu Trilogy as well as Antonini's The Passenger.

Nothing good at the theatres? Bollocks!

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