Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Reel Connections

Andy MacDougall shows off his movie collection.

 

By Cinara Marquis

For more than 50 years, film preservationist Andy MacDougall has been hosting 16 mm movie screenings.

Ever since his college days in the 70s at SUNY Plattsburgh, the movie buff has been sharing his reel collection with residents in local and touring public, outdoor and home screenings.

Over those five decades, much changed. Technology developed exponentially, and film became lighter and more compact. Even VHS tapes and CDs have been made archaic, with the ease and quality of online streaming dominating the world.

To MacDougall, though, 16-millimeter films are still paramount.

He projected “The Magic Box” in his home Feb. 24. The film was released in 1951 and chronicles the life of British inventor William Friese-Greene, an early pioneer in motion pictures, or what we now call cinema.

“I really couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than this one,” MacDougall explained. “We got to see a kind of filmmaking that has long departed from the scene.”

He mentioned the naturalistic form of acting that one can often find only in foreign films, the directorial techniques like fade-ins and irises and the retired form of Technicolor “It can almost be described as a stained glass look,” MacDougall said.

Not only does the visual beauty of celluloid film capture MacDougall and his guests, but the impactful stories that they tell. Curiosity coupled with nostalgia unites viewers even through generational gaps and differing values.

“There’s a peacefulness and a placidity to it all. And being a communal experience, it’s a source of pride for me that I was able to provide that,” MacDougall said.

A regular at MacDougalls’ screenings, James Reubol explained why he loves the medium: “When you see a little scratch and everything, that’s evidence that somebody else has seen that, perhaps decades in the past.”

Reubol travels 20 miles to come to every movie event that MacDougall hosts.

“I think that one of the things that really appeals to me is that it’s an artifact with a history, as opposed to a digital file that’s perfect and sterile and shows no trace– the organic thing that it has absorbed in its life and travels.” Reubol said.

MacDougall shared the thought.

“It is a historical relic that should be preserved.”

He recalled his first experience with cinema in 1964 when he was two and a half. He went to the movies with his mom and saw his very first movie: Disney’s the original Mary Poppins. “It basically bewitched me. I was never the same after that.” MacDougall explained.

He also helps the senior population around Plattsburgh by bringing individuals out of their homes to connect with others through film.

Viewer Cynthia Nadeau told PBS that MacDougall’s eclectic films allow her to experience new things: “It’s always something different, something that you wouldn’t have chosen on your own. So you go and see it just for curiosity’s sake and when you do you go, ‘Well, that was a really good movie.’”

MacDougall recalled another time of praise when an attendant came up to him and thanked him for sharing the movie.

“They said that they enjoyed hearing the gentle clicking of the film through the projector, much like how they enjoy listening to the crackles of vinyl when they put on a record,” MacDougall said.

Hosting these events are a personal quest for MacDougall; Through his traditional 16 mm screenings, he wants to share the joy, drama, horror, musicality, creativity, and splendor of these long-forgotten and underappreciated films.

 

The French coming-of-age drama ‘Les Quatre Cents Coups’ or ‘The 400 Blows,’ from 1959 will be played Saturday, March 16. The 16 mm black-and-white film will be shown twice that evening, in its original language and then the dubbed English version. The upcoming event will be free and held at 107 Maryland Rd., 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

 

You can find more information about the event by contacting Andy MacDougall and joining his newsletter at serious_61@yahoo.com.

Watch the Mountain Lake PBS story about MacDougall’s work with senior isolation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiDIRk8B8wM.

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