When Ebert died last week, the cinetrix felt a little left out. Yes, she'd seen iterations of his show -- growing up in a PBS household, how could she not? -- but I didn't buy the collections or really read much of his writing until he embraced online platforms. So, how did I get here?
This morning I learned the Iron Lady died, and I realized that England made me, to pinch a phrase from an earlier era.
Thatcherism made me a cinephile.
Oh, Vestron! Oh, Lorimar! Oh, Embassy and Orion! In the early days of the home video explosion [now-defunct distributors; independent video stores as the norm], my friends and I couldn't get enough of these fascinating filmic glimpses into council flats and immigrant struggles. I learned to follow the names of certain writers, directors, and actors from one movie to the next. I never saw any of them projected in a theater.
Yes, there is that Anglophilia that certain pretentious suburban American teens affect, but from the mid-to-late 80s onward, it meant Another Country, Lady Jane [anything with Helena Bonham Carter's hair, really], Gothic. Also, Prick Up Your Ears, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Wish You Were Here, Aria, Withnail & I, Letter to Brezhnev, High Hopes. Most of all, there was that annus mirabilis, 1985, which saw the one-two DDL punch of A Room with a View and My Beautiful Laundrette that got critics like Ebert talking.
Of course, given the long lag between theatrical and home video, I didn't see either film until nearly two years later, but still. I hated Margaret Thatcher in solidarity with the movies I loved, but today I find myself grateful that her rule inspired production of so many films that changed me -- that made me.