Film

Duane’s World

A life in the theater

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY CLASSICS

Being a theater manager offers many rewards, but glory is generally not one of them. I can say this with some authority, having managed Northampton’s now departed Pleasant Street Theater for a number of years. Do the job well, and you’ll most often disappear into the dark, leaving only a lasting after-effect of satisfaction. When the spotlight picks you out of the crowd, it is generally to resolve a conflict, smooth ruffled feathers, or perform some small miracle so that the show might go on.

Which is not to say it’s a thankless job, by any means. But the people who are most appreciative of a well-run theater are its regulars, those people who come in to see each and every movie shown regardless of genre, review or rating. These are the people for whom a theater manager becomes like family—an always-welcoming, familiar face, ready to make you feel at home. And for over three decades, nobody made Northampton feel at home like Duane Robinson did during his tenure at the Academy of Music. This weekend, he gets his glory.

To pay tribute to the man who presided over so many great spectacles—from the reopening of the grand theater’s once-condemned stage, and the filming of Ann Corio’s 1980 live HBO special This Was Burlesque on that same stage; to beloved annual tradition of The Nutcracker ballet—the Academy and the Friends of Duane Committee have teamed up to present a screening of the silent film classic Phantom Of The Opera, accompanied by a live score performed by Alloy Orchestra (themselves a favorite with Academy crowds).

It all gets underway this Sunday, starting with a 5:30 VIP reception in the Academy lobby to honor Robinson. The film begins at 7 p.m., and it’s tough to imagine a more fitting tribute to a man who has always been so much about the theater. The 1925 landmark stars Lon Chaney as the mysterious composer who skulks beneath the Paris Opera, scheming to help the woman he loves become a star. Shocking in its day, the film remains as haunting as ever. This new print, restored by Alloy’s sister company Box 5, includes the hand-tinted coloring of the original as well as an experimental Technicolor sequence during the masked ball scene.

If you’ve ever had a great night at the Academy—be it a Sunday in February event, a summer movie, or a Symphony show—you can likely thank Duane for making it so enjoyable. If you get out there on Sunday, make sure to let him know before he dims the lights one more time.

 

Also this week: Once in a while, a movie comes at just the right time to really capture an audience. This is not the same thing as selling as a lot of tickets; although these movies are sometimes popular, their long lifespan owes more to their viewers’ emotional identification with the characters. Annie Hall is a funny movie, but there are a lot of funny movies. People still love Annie Hall today because in 1977 a lot of people were, knew, or wanted to know Annie Hall.

So it is with Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater’s downbeat 1995 romance starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as potential lovers who meet on a train traveling through Europe. Hawke’s Jesse is on his way to Vienna to catch a flight when he convinces Celine, who is returning to Paris after a family visit, to disembark with him. Without cash for a hotel, the pair wander the streets until dawn, talking about the sorts of things young lovers talk about when walking the streets of Vienna until dawn. It was a love story that struck home for a generation raised on the move: romantic, nomadic and unresolved.

In 2004, the cast reunited for Before Sunset, with the couple meeting again in Paris. At the end of that film they still lived their separate lives: Jesse as a married American novelist, Celine as a environmentalist in France. But there was a glimmer of hope. Now we have what may well be the final piece of the trilogy: Before Midnight, screening at Amherst Cinema, picks up a decade later with the couple, now a family with their twin daughters, navigating the sometimes too-still waters of a long-term relationship.

But if their time together doesn’t have the same now-or-never spark as their past meetings, it introduces the new intimacy of a pair aging well together, unafraid to open themselves up. For many people now hovering near 40, that younger couple was the example they hoped to emulate—now, Delpy and Hawke hold up the mirror again.•

 

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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