Sunday, November 23, 2008

R.I.P. Reg Hartt's Cineforum

by Chris MaGee

The independent film scene in Toronto is going to be very different after December. Reg Hartt's Cineforum will be closing its doors at the end of the year after 16 years at 463 Bathurst Street. According to a note posted at The Cineforum's website Hartt's landlords will be selling the house in which Hartt (above) set up his own personal theatre to showcase his collection of 16mm prints of such classic films as Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", Tod Browning's "Dracula" and Victor Fleming's "Wizard of Oz" often synced with music by Pink Floyd and Radiohead. Of course Japanese film fans will know Hartt for screening his Samurai Film Festivals that over the years included Hiroshi Inagaki's "Musashi Miyamoto" trilogy and Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" and "The Hidden Fortress", as well as Ishiro Honda's original 1954 "Gojira".

Not only will the Toronto independent film scene be very different after The Cineforum closes, but so will the downtown Toronto landscape. Hartt is almost as well known for his hand-xeroxed posters advertising his screening as for the screenings themselves. I remember swiping one for a screening of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's 1929 Surrealist masterpiece "Un chien andalou" off of a telephone pole along Queen Street West when I was a teenager. Most Torontonians will know it well. It featured the infamous eyeball slicing scene and when I hung it in my room at home my mother was fairly dismayed.

Even though Hartt has sometimes had a contentious relationship with his patrons with many people resenting his sometime lengthy lectures that proceeded the films in the end you have to admit that anyone who believes so much in the magic of cinema that they will set up a theatre in their own home and then invite strangers off the street to screenings has some serious balls. Stacey Case's Trash Palace might be able to fill the void after The Cineforum is gone, but I doubt that the city will ever forget Reg Hartt.

Thanks to The Torontoist for the heads up on this.

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