Yesterday I didn't have anything to do after I finished editing for the day, so I went to the Metrograph to see a movie. Which is pretty much my default these days, because the metrograph is my favorite movie theater in new york. I mostly picked the movie because of the title and the fact that it had a female screenwriter and producer. I didn't know if it was a documentary or a narrative. It was called THE LOST ARCADE.
The first shot was one of my favorites. A passionate monologue about seeing an arcade in a dream, accompanied by slow-moving bright visuals of a person moving through chinatown. Any film with an opening like that will hook me right away. I had kind of been hoping for the entire film to feel exactly that first moment, but it quickly shifted to a similar, less transcendent aesthetic that matched the documentary pace of the rest of the film. I can't complain.
The film follows the community around Chinatown Fair on Mott Street, which was, at one point, the last penny arcade in New York City. An arcade that makes all of its profit from the machines, no food sales, no bar sales, no age limit, no bouncer. I felt at first that it wouldn't interest me entirely because I'm not a gamer, and have only been to ~barcades~ to play galaga and pac-man and drink beer. The community, no matter how tight-nit, was not relatable to me.
But, as the film goes on, the subject shifts from the gaming community specifically to the fact that communities like this grow organically all around New York, yet are still ephemeral; forever at mercy to the quickly changing housing market. There's one line that they say, I think towards the end of the film , something like - "it couldn't have been anywhere else, it had to be in New York City, and it had to be in Chinatown. Otherwise, it never would have happened."
That is my shit. That is what I love about New York the most. People and communities and places like that are what I love studying and researching and sometimes even being a part of.
Last year in my Sight & Sound Documentary class, I spent pretty much the entire semester researching Mars Bar, which was an iconic dive bar on 2nd Ave & 1st Street in the Lower East Side. It closed in 2011, way before I had even thought about moving to New York, but some of my coworkers had worked there, and I work now in a kind-of divey restaurant, so I felt a connection and longed to experience what it had been. I downloaded thousands of photos from Facebook groups, flickr albums, news reports, internet archives. A lot of them documented the last few weeks of Mars before it closed. It really really reminded me of a lot of this film, the last moments of Chinatown Fair.
The difference here was that it seems like nobody wanted Chinatown Fair to close, and a lot of people did want Mars Bar to close. More on how reminiscing and romanticizing dangerous people for a dream aesthetic can be toxic later.
But what I'm getting at is I reallllyyy feel the "technlostalgia" of the film, and it really is a love letter to Chinatown, and to New Yorkers. It is really positive in a strange way. It was the best, and they had that, and nobody else did. It's amazing.
Anyways, the absolute best part of this film is the score. I've been listening to it all day. I don't think a single person reads this blog, and I don't really want anyone to, but I hope people do now just so they can read about how much I love this score and listen to it for themselves. It's so transcendent. It's the epitome of things I love. It's so colorful. Please give it a listen.
I'm glad I got to see this movie yesterday. God, I love the Metrograph. It's only screening there for a few days, but there was a pretty sizable kickstarter campaign, so I bet it'll be available to watch soon. If you love any of the urban design or new york city history stuff that I do, please watch this film.
Keep the faith~