Mind Blowing Movies: Fantasia (1940) and Eraserhead (1977), by Jay Kinney
[Video Link] I've never been much of a movie buff, to put it mildly. Movies have always affected me so strongly -- I've likened it at times to an acid trip, though that is an exaggeration -- that I've done well in a given year if I've made it to a theater even twice. My intake via TV and Netflix is slightly better, but hardly robust. In light of this, most movies I've seen still stand out in my memory as singular events.
There was a brief period, during my art school years in New York at the dawn of the '70s, when I discovered the pleasures of silent German films (particularly those of Lang, Murnau, and Pabst), which were being regularly screened at a repertory house in the West Village. Certainly some of my happiest movie moments were seeing films for the first time like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, M, Dr. Mabuse, Nosferatu, Pandora's Box, and Diary of a Lost Girl.
But if I had to whittle things down to the most mild-blowing movie, it would have to be a toss-up between two films, neither of them silent or German.
The first would be Disney's Fantasia, which was responsible for my first remembered nightmare. The sequence with Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice who practices magic while his Master is away and gets in way over his head really impressed me. I was probably just 5 or so at the time (and probably watching this on TV). Hoo boy! That night I dreamt that I was Mickey, surrounded by animated mops and rising water, and I woke up yelling. Sensitive lad that I was, that may have made me movie-shy ever since.
The second mind-blower may come as no surprise: David Lynch's Eraserhead. I think I first encountered this at the Roxie Theatre in S.F. soon after it was released. I distinctly recall thinking to myself about half way through the film: "My God! I'm going insane!" I did make it through intact, and in fact soon after dragged my girlfriend to see it, perhaps inoculating myself against letting Mr. Lynch drive me over the edge.
Looking back, Eraserhead had a lot in common with those German silent films. I guess I'm just a sucker for black and white movies with few words and many shadows.
Jay Kinney squandered his youth in the underground comix movement, graduated to publishing Gnosis: a Journal of the Western Inner Traditions, and has spent his prime of life writing and editing books, most recently The Masonic Myth (HarperOne). He has edited Anarchy Comics: the Complete Anthology (PM Press) which should appear late in 2012.
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