Curating Classics: Picking Movies for TFFS

My job at a public library is awesome for several reasons:

1. I work at a library every day.
2. I get to edit and write for our pretty slick literary journal.
3. I get to curate and lead our classic film program, selecting films for screening and leading discussions of them.

VertigoThat last one might be my favorite, as I’ve wanted to start and lead a film screening and discussion program in our town for years. The library has given me the opportunity to do that.

As I brainstormed ideas for the program I had to balance two major guiding forces: public opinion and my own. I have to make sure these movies are accessible to a wide (but intelligent and culturally literate) audience and “classic” enough to justify watching them on our big screen with a group of people instead of watching them at home on Netflix, while also making sure they’re films I can get excited about myself, movies I will actually want to share. Even within those parameters, the pool has been expansive.

Bonnie and Clyde Original PosterIn February we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 classic Vertigo. This month we’re watching the groundbreaking 1967 Bonnie and Clyde. In April we’re watching Elia Kazan’s 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire. Early picks like these were pretty easy to make. They’re all significant films, and they’re all highly entertaining. As I’ve planned farther into the year I’ve tried to branch out to take in different eras, styles, genres, and even languages, while still satisfying my initial guidelines. You have to be careful with silents, foreign films, and recent pictures especially; they should be included, but selecting movies in these categories that will have wide appeal and justify a trip to the library for a screening requires careful consideration. Or at least a good intuitive sense of what will work.

cincinnatiIn some cases, certain movies have been too much fun to ignore, and I’ve dropped them in the schedule without consideration to historical significance or whether or not they fit in a particular genre I wanted to cover. The Cincinnati Kid is a good example. This 1965 gem is one of my favorite movies. I adore it. It’s not an important movie, or all that complex thematically, but it’s so damn fun. So stylish, so cool. I could watch Edward G. Robinson and Steven McQueen play cards all day, and Tuesday Weld, well…I could watch Tuesday do anything all day. She was a spirit in human form. So we’re going to watch The Cincinnati Kid, and that’s that.

I’ve focused on one year of programming so far. I haven’t looked ahead to changes in coming years, I’ve just laid out a twelve month schedule and tried to curate it as its own series. I’m looking forward to how the program will grow and evolve as we go. I’ve considered quarterly or annual themes, special screenings, and attendee ballots for selecting films. We’ll see how it goes.

If you’re ever in the Greenville (Ohio) area on one of our screening nights, check out the Third Floor Film Series. We’d love to have you, and we’d love to talk movies.

Does your public library have a film series? What is it like?


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