Cinerama: 8mm

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

In a crowded room people were anxiously sitting and waiting to see the newest invention of the 19th century. The audience’s murmur was broken when suddenly a man appearing from behind the curtains rowdily announced, “let the show begin.”

As the lights were turned off, a piano player at the corner of the room started to play some music, while a beam of light appeared from a small window behind the audience; and as it touched the smooth surface of the white canvas on the wall a live image came into existence.

To their amazement, the audience thought of this as an act of wizardry and witchcraft. Some leaped out of their chairs while others screamed in fright—wouldn’t you do the same if a vehicle was speeding in your direction?

That was in France, circa 1895, when the Lumiere Brothers held their debut public screening at the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capuchines in Paris to display the images captured by their invention, “The Cinematograph,” which was the first movie camera to be invented.

From the very first moment it was a magical experience to those who witnessed this invention—better known today as Cinema—that changed the lives of many.

Nowadays, people won’t budge out of their seats even when they see Godzilla heading in their direction. Unlike people in earlier times, today’s audience cannot be deceived by visual effects. Impressed yes. Afraid never. What a shame!

My first encounter with 8mm projectors was at the age of ten, and to be more specific it was a Sankyo Super 8 projector. You should have seen the look on my face when I finally saw colored images formulating on the wall, after struggling at first to keep the film reel spinning without it burning.

As the projector’s sound provided the ambience of the cinema magic we all love, I grew up thinking that cinema and 8mm films were means for us to remember the past and enjoy the present—sadly that wasn’t the case.

Every invention—and cinema is an invention—has a negative effect if misused, a fact you’ll discover after watching the +18 rated Joel Schumacher’s 1999 film 8MM.

The subject at hand is rather explosive and unstable as it tackles pornography and the sadistic inhuman acts performed by individuals with a lot of psychological issues.

What was a natural act of breeding became a sinful deed that we all loathe and are ashamed of. Such activities are now being conveyed to our youngsters—or elders for that matter—through twisted different methods, one of which is unfortunately the film industry.

Watching 8MM starring Niscolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Christopher Bauer and Catherine Keener, you will enter one of the darkest realms of this underground industry.

During the film’s running events you’ll be introduced to an ill-famed film genre called “Snuff films.” Snuff as a verb found in the dictionary bears two meaning, one is to cut the burnt end of a candle’s wick using a scissor-like tool; while the second is to kill.

With the latter meaning, and as the film’s plot begins to thicken, our Journey—or Tom Welles’ agonizing journey—commenced.

Welles (Cage) is a private investigator with a lot of emotional feelings of frustration, torment and unexpressed love that threaten his marriage. Emotions that will resurface in the end.

After being contacted by an old widow of a millionaire, who wanted to find out if her husband was a proprietor of such films, he accepted the case, to experience a hellish odyssey.

The story starts when the widow finds an 8mm film among her husband’s belongings, a film with a young girl (Powell) who is being forced to the act with a masked man who afterwards slashed her throat in a disturbing scene.

You might ask yourself, is it a bad film to watch? And my answer will be no its not; for Cage’s performance excellently manifested the human pain, when he stumbled upon the suffering resulted from the death of Mary Ann, the girl in the snuff film.

One of the most emotional scenes in this movie is when Cage bursts into tears after a life and death confrontation with Machine (Bauer), as he was comforted by his wife (Keener).

Joquin Phoenix on the other hand stirs a different kind of feeling with his portrayal of a real-life sleaze-bag owner of a porn shop; however, my hate for this character shifted to sympathy by the end of the film, but lets leave that for you to decide.

The dark cinematography and Shumacher’s vision will take you into dark rooms, filthy alleys and places that will enhance the suspense, as the plot begins to unravel, not just for us but for Welles.

Despite of all the unpleasant mutations the film industry underwent, and still do, you can’t judge a century of cinema magic by the peripheral rubbish it sometimes presents.

Note: I remembered this movie when my Editor-in-Chief a few weeks ago asked me to establish an 8mm fan club. So if you have 8mm classic films that are of no longer use, you know where to find me.

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