KLEBER MENDONÇA FILHO
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Newspapers helped me fall in love with films. Critics confirmed that was true. When I was a little kid in the 1970s, Diario de Pernambuco ran a full daily page advertising the films showing in cinemas around Recife. Each cinema had its own logo, and each picture house also announced their coming attractions. It was quite graphic, very black and white, original artwork adapted for high contrast print. Little pieces of information made it all special, such as "in colour", "in 70mm", Panavision, CinemaScope, age classification, the names of the stars, studio logos (Fox, Columbia, Gaumont, Embrafilme, MGM, etc), maybe one publicity blurb. Enough material to make me want to see many films.
Then, at seven or eight years old, I made a discovery. I realized that on the following page, there were things written about the films, I could tell from some of the photographs, the familiar words and titles that they were making references to the films whose pictures I had just seen on the previous page.
In Diario de Pernambuco, Fernando Spencer was the one who wrote about films. In Jornal do Commercio, Celso Marconi. I then learned that there were two different types of writing : one where a film would simply be described and another, where they would react to films and share a feeling, sometimes positive, often negative. This made me want to see the films more.
The next step I learned was finally seeing a film and being able to compare my own impressions with what was written in the newspaper. Sometimes, I would see the film and realize the story I thought I had understood was in fact not that at all. Maybe the subtitles were too fast... Other times, I would be happy that the film I saw was the same film suggested in the article, in terms of story and action. I would also get upset, and those were my early disagreements. I think the printed word on the newspaper gave that block of text a level of authority I was not quite ready to understand. That still happens today.
Then I was introduced, still very young, to Mr. Spencer himself, who worked at the same Fundação Joaquim Nabuco where my mother worked. By shaking his hand, I felt like I was now closer to cinema, as if he was a representative of films right there in the flesh. Not just pages in a newspaper, but a man, with glasses and who seemed to be quite nice. I had met a film critic, a scientist of films, someone who was proof that Cinema truly existed. I could tell by being in his office, so many film posters and photographs, and the smell of cigarettes.
Something else happened. I also found out through the newspapers that Mr. Spencer and his friendly rival - Mr. Marconi - also made films, and were part of a so called "Super-8 Movement". They were Critics and also Filmmakers.
More time passed and through these two men, I realized that films and writing on films was not an exact science, and that perfection does not exist, either on screen or on the pages of the newspapers. Those pages, by the way, would even blacken my fingers with newspaper ink, which was seen as "something normal".
I later went on to become a film critic for Jornal do Commercio, following the footsteps of Mr. Marconi, and to head the film division at Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, where Mr. Spencer once was. I finally got a sense of life being a cycle of repetition where we all see differently, we all look at different things, but we are all the by product of one another. Cinema has its own ghosts, some are surely inside the camera, or just outside the frame. There are ghosts in supermarkets which were once a movie palace. And there are ghosts in the pages of old newspapers and magazines, teeming with ideas which are lying there, and they are still very much alive.
Kleber Mendonça Filho