Love and Automobiles
A Drive-in Screening

August 2, 9:00pm, Hanover Drive-In

Static Driving
by Vicky Chainey Gagnon

It was in 1933 that Richard Hollingshead first aimed his 1928 Kodak projector at a screen he had nailed to a tree in his backyard. Hollingshead was a young sales manager at his dad’s Whiz Auto Products at the time, and he had a wish to invent something that combined his two interests: movies and cars. After a series of vigorous tests for sound quality, for different weather conditions (he used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain), and for a precise layout for parked cars that ensured an adequate site-line from all angles, Hollingshead procured a patent for the first drive-in theater on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, the Drive-In Theatre opened on June 6, 1933 at a location on Crescent Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey at a cost of 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person and a new cinematic experience was born.

In today’s world of commercial-free cable, satellite TV and digital movie downloads, the bigger-than-life screen of the drive-in, set within the natural landscape and coupled to the inherent privacy of the automobile’s architecture, throws us back to another era where the car signified a different kind of freedom. The automobile, as a symbol of the ultimate dream machine of perfection, uber speed and sex appeal, became, in the drive-in context, the container out of which desires could be expressed. In your own private car-theatre you could strategically grip your honey during the scarier moments and savor a milkshake simultaneously. Even with the grandeur of today’s seventy-two inch high-definition television screen, you still can’t start your engine at the end of a flick and drive off into the sunset… Despite the changes in the viewing structures for cinema and in film format since Hollingshead’s invention, the drive-in theatre has persisted and even recently augmented. Stats Canada figures for 2004/2005 record a total of ninety-one Canadian drive-in theatres, and identify that the drive-in experience is on the rebound, with a 20.4% increase in attendance (1.8 million) halting eight consecutive years of decline. Almost half of those Canadian drive-in theatres are in Ontario. From Midland to Lindsay, from Oakville to Pembroke, and from Woodstock to Toronto, every summer in Ontario movie-goers leave their driveways and ride off to the drive-in in search of adventure, entertainment and certainly still today…love.

As a curator, I am interested in conceptually-driven exhibitions and events that re-contextualize the exhibition space and provide new readings of artworks. When asked to organize an event for the Hanover drive-in, I saw the opportunity to gather a special group of films that would reference the site and also comment on the specificities of the drive-in experience. At its most basic form, the drive-in theater is a cinema structure consisting of a large screen, a projection booth, a large parking area for automobiles, and an individual speaker for each car. Culturally, however, the drive-in theatre has an entirely different set of components: drive-ins evoke feelings of nostalgia, and bring to mind cars, the great outdoors, and well, romance…

Love and Automobiles: a drive-in screening takes as its inspiration these cultural ideas about movies and cars, and transports the viewer on an adventure that evokes a rapid spin on a very colorful fairground carousel. The films are presented in the classic drive-in format – the double feature – and together form an eclectic grouping that ranges from pulpy archival ‘intermission films’ (essentially advertisements that were presented in the context of drive-in theatre double features) to not-so-straight narrative and non-narrative short films, through to the experimental genre with a classic Hollywood film about cars, love and rebellion thrown in for good measure. Of particular interest was the idea of the drive-in as a modern day setting for star-gazing – stars, in this context, referring to both the white jewels in the sky and to the Hollywood star-system. In consequence, you will find dreamy short films about love coupled with a quintessential Hollywood ‘star’: James Dean. Also of interest was how, in the drive-in theatre context, the automobile is transformed into a sort of time machine which projects the viewer into another place without the car’s usual kinetic utilitarian function. In this static state, automobiles take on other meanings. To address this underlying idea, a series of films feature cars (or bicycles) in tremendous displays of zippy motion. These ‘car-motion studies’ complexify the partial focus on dreamy love by representing what Clive Holden in his artist statement for Engines of Despair has described as the ability for cars to ‘embody beauty and disaster in one lovely, hateful, form.’

In closing, I would like to reminisce about two seminal experiences that form the backbone of my longstanding wish to program a series of films at a drive-in: the memory of falling asleep in the backseat of my parent’s car while watching The Pink Panther series of films. I remember many subsequent nights sprinkled with kaleidoscopic, pink-inspired dreams (which are still as vivid today as they were back in the 70s) where I, clad in a pale pink ballet suit, and behaving much more intelligently than Inspector Clouseau solved crimes à la Nancy Drew. In university I thought of the drive-in once more, this time through a literary reference which reminded me that the original filmgoer was described as more of a visitor who wandered freely from one brief visual attraction to another. I guess in my mind the drive-in and the carnival have always been synonymous. On that note, I send out an open wish for an experience of Love and Automobiles which will afford you memorable, kinetic-filled dreams that only the drive-in can provide.

Archival Intermission Films
2 minutes

Engines of Despair
(Canada, 2007, 35mm, 3 min)
Clive Holden
What can we make of the love-hate relationship?
The human mind can accommodate both nostalgia and critical awareness at once. Our relationship with technology is a common example of this paradox. Cars, in particular, are wonders of invention and also a catastrophe, they embody beauty and disaster in one lovely, hateful, form.As a boy, Conn (a quasi-fictional character based on the artist), idolized race car drivers and went to the local stock car track with his father for many years. In adulthood, Conn is a media artist who documents the damage caused by car culture, despite its origins as a utopian vision of individual freedom in a technocratic paradise. He still harbours a love for the powerful cars he grew up with, and this inner conflict produces an interesting tension that he explores in this film. (C. Holden)
Engines of Despair features a soundtrack by Oscar Van Dillen.

Virage
(Canada, 2006, 35mm, 3 min)
Farzin Farzaneh
Virage is a whimsical look at the beauty of everyday motion, in particular the act of turning. Every turn, however mundane, is potentially a turning point, be it conscious or subconscious, imposed or chosen. The decision to turn towards or away from something, or to simply follow a given path, may appear arbitrary at times; at other times it is essential to maintaining a certain order in society. This ordered confusion, presented in montage technique, works as an harmonious whole where different desires and trajectories intersect and proceed to their invisible goals. Film footage printed on paper, hand-coloured and reshot in 35mm.
Nominated for Best Animation at the 2006 Jutra Awards.

Two Cars, One Night
(New Zealand, 2003, 11 min.)
Taika Waititi and Ainsley Gardiner
A tale of first love.
While waiting for their parents, two boys and a girl meet in the car park of a rural pub. What at first seems to be a relationship based on rivalry soon develops into a close friendship. We learn that love can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Love is All
(UK, 1999, 35mm, 4 mins)
Oliver Harrison
With some sequences composed of over twenty exposures, a winter bound Snow Queen dreams of love and the blooming spring. Through frosted rococo cartouches, she sings of the virtues of true love, accompanied by miniature animated blossoming text.

Falling in Love Again
(Canada, 2003, 3 min)
Munro Ferguson
This animated comedy unfolds to Marlene Dietrich’s rendition of Falling in Love Again. It is a playful take on popular myths and clichés about love, and a send-up of the glorious vertigo of falling in love.
When two cars travelling in opposite directions careen around sharp curves, screeching on two wheels, the meeting of their occupants promises to be explosive. The collision propels them into outer space - much to the surprise of a couple of Canada geese.

Archival Intermission Films
2 minutes

Outer Space
(Austria, 1999, 35mm, 10 min)
Peter Tscherkassky
Projected in ‘Scope, Outer Space is a violently stunning cinematic experience presenting film as a force to be reckoned with. Found footage of a horror movie is re-worked as a visual and aural onslaught. Any narrative is overwhelmed by the intensity of the action taking place on the surface of the screen as the medium itself becomes the monster.

The Curse of the Voodoo Child
(Canada, 2005, 35mm, 3.5 min)
Steven Woloshen
Sex, birth, fire and fingerprints. A passion play and the events of conception that result in mayhem. A rock’n’roll theme, in Cinemascope!

Archival Intermission Films
2 minutes

Rebel Without a Cause
(US, 1955, 111 Minutes)
Nicholas Ray
Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus
Rebel Without a Cause is a film that sympathetically views rebellious, American, restless, misunderstood, middle-class youth. The tale of youthful defiance, which could have been exploitative - but wasn’t, provides a rich, but stylized (and partly out-dated) look at the world of the conformist mid-1950s from the perspective of the main adolescent male character - a troubled teen with ineffectual parents, who faces a new school environment.

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