On the permanent history of cinema
The line is made up of an infinite number of points;
the plane of an infinite number of lines ...
the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes ...
The Book of Sand, Jorge Luis Borges.
It happened in the summer of 2021, after the pandemic. It happened in a small city in the north, by the sea, while the borders were gradually opening and the frenetic rhythm began to take over again.
There was a cinema that continued to programme films from all the different eras in response to everything that had happened. A cinema that continued to programme a permanent history of film, where periods, titles and directors were mixed together with that unique freedom that summer offers. A strange order where characters, dialogues, music, beginnings and endings were mixed up in a game of echoes and correspondences which gave rise to a summer feeling of refuge. Of light and of refuge. The words “a magical summer” could be read on a postcard sent from San Sebastian to Brussels.
Despite the months of lockdown, despite the heat wave that sent people flocking to the beaches, in the summer of 2021 the Tabakalera cinema programmed a season of films that provoked more memories than any other.
“The cinema provokes memories – that’s true.” And all those who visited the cinema knew it well: the regulars, the occasional viewers, locals and tourists passing through, or those who organised the week around that programme, everything noted in their calendars.
There was also a theory that was heard on some nights after returning home from the cinema: with the calm sea and the memory of the images still fresh in the mind and heart, someone said that the overall effect of all the viewings and memories of the films seen in the Tabakalera cinema that summer was equivalent to a journey to the centre of the earth. That was the expression he used: “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. There were those who took the theory further and said that the sum of these experiences was equivalent to life itself. Life in the summer of 2021 on the streets of a city called San Sebastian.
The frenetic rhythm returned to the world. The discussions about the future of cinema soon rediscovered their absurd place, where the names of digital platforms and television channels were quoted parrot fashion, as if there were some truth in it or knowledge behind it. Everything was resolved in virtual arguments which, not coincidentally, neglected to talk about films. The new life soon became the life it had been before.
But there was a programme. And some remembered it for years. Not because it was faultless, because that is not the function of the cinema. But because of its ability to connect with and affect their summer. Its afternoons and its nights.
Traces of that experience can be found on private postcards. In text messages. In audio messages. In emails written at dawn. In conversations overheard at train stations. In letters. In phone calls. In notes saved as bookmarks. In looks and phrases that changed some lives and made them more happy and fulfilling.
There was even a text in the form of a poem that listed the names of the films one after another as if they were a single song. They say it sounded something like this:
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