“We have been transmogrified from mad bodies dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.” – Jim Morrison
Two years at Ryerson in Toronto had opened my eyes to all kinds of films from W.C. Fields marathons to Fellini Satyricon (below) to Andy Warhol’s erotic western Lonesome Cowboys which was shown on multiple TV screens (to avoid the censors) in Cinema 2000, a modern XXX emporium on the Yonge Street strip. I craved a similar experience in Winnipeg and found it at the Med Movies.
A year or so after I moved here in the summer of 1973 I started hearing about underground movies that some med students showed every Friday night. Asking around I discovered the Med Movies tucked away in a lecture hall in the Basic Sciences Building at Emily and Bannatyne, part of the newly named Health Sciences Centre.
From October 3, 1975 to May 21, 1976 I went to both Med Movies every Friday. Sixty-four movies and I didn’t miss one. It was like getting a crash PhD in classic and modern films at $1.25 per movie. What a bargain!
The theatre was a large lecture hall with full size screen. The continuous bench seating let you stretch out for comfy viewing. It pulled small discerning crowds, the size often winter-weather dependent. The atmosphere was casual, laid back and reverent to the movies. Here are the films in my “20th century cinema course” on the original schedule sheets.
Looking at the schedule, the series offered an eclectic cross section of genre-busting, rarely seen films that together create an exceptional overview of world cinema in the first 75 years of the 20th century. Several of these films left indelible impressions on me: Little Murders, Death in Venice, Zabriskie Point, Mean Streets, Red Desert, Amarcord (below).
I still recall my gasps as I watched Jodorowsky’s El Topo (top) for the first time, being abducted to his strange and cruel world where you couldn’t just watch the movie, your entire nervous system and every bit of viscera also had to fully participate in the experience. I recently re-watched El Topo and it had a similar effect on me as it did 40 years ago. Don’t die without seeing El Topo.
This wasn’t the first year the med students showed movies and I don’t know how long they went on. I didn’t go the next year because my life had changed. I’d fallen in love with Linda.
She and I sat in on an experimental film course at the University of Manitoba a couple of winters later. We created films together several of which can be found on my YouTube channel. One of the more experimental films we made together was called Passionate Leave, shot in 1978/79 on Super 8. More details with the video here