WILLIAMSTOWN - " I watch an awful lot of movies," said Steve Satullo. "[The Film Club] is my way to pass it along, to turn it around and share the enthusiasm."
Steve Satullo is a film aficionado. He works as the film programmer with the Clark Art Institute and writes the Cinema Salon blog. When he isn't watching and critiquing films, he is offering up discussion and film screenings at the Clark through his Cinema Salon Film Club.
As film programmer for the Clark, Satullo chooses films that are thematically related to the exhibits on display at the Clark, such as the current "Portraits of Society" exhibit running alongside Impressionist Portraits of Parisian life by Boldini in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Satullo created the Cinema Salon Film Club to explore film in an independent direction. The current series, "What in the World is Going On," screens international feature films that explore cultures and lives from all around the world, he said, including China, South Africa, South America, and Iran.
" The Edge of Heaven" by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin comes next on the list on Friday afternoon, and a doublefeature of Roberto Rossellini's "Open City" (1945) and "Paisan" (1946) follows on Sunday.
The Film Club has attracted a core group of 40 members who seek Satullo's movie insight. They meet a few times a month to screen films, he said. He chooses films from critics' reviews, and the club votes on which to see. He gives a pre-screening introduction and leads a post-screening discussion for all interested film-goers.
His interest in film piqued as a student at Williams College, he said, under the direction of Professor Charles Thomas Samuels. Samuels taught film, and the New York Times referred to him to as one of the three best critics in America.
"Many things he said had a big impact on me," Satullo said. "He said that [film] was a field which you can go into and see everything. You can't read every worthwhile novel, every worthwhile play, but there is that feeling that you can watch every film."
Satullo would know. Though he admits that this idea becomes more and more unattainable as the volume of movies increase annually - there were 610 feature films released in the year 2008 alone - Satullo guessed that he watches as many as 200 a year, with a lifetime of over 6,000 movies under his belt.
In 2000 Satullo launched his website, Cinema Salon, to share his knowledge and passion of film. The website recommends new and old films, and offers Satullo's own commentary and reviews. In the fall of 2009 Satullo took his love of film offline and initiated the Cinema Salon Film Club. The film club meets a few times a month at the Clark to view films chosen by critics that the average viewer might never get an opportunity to see.
The films are not intended to be easy on the viewer. "A lot of these films are definitely challenging to [ the viewer's] powers of attention, to explanations of what film is and what it can do." Satullo explained. "These movies are a reach, both intellectually and emotionally. Many are difficult to watch because they are so slow, because they abandon certain film making and story-telling conventions that we're used to. Film is a way of engaging with the world. [ You have to be] fully active, rather than just sitting back and letting the entertainment wash over you."
Peter Mehlin, a Clark Art member for eight years, has been attending film screenings since the Club's start last fall. He was drawn to the club because of the opportunity to discuss films with Satullo, for whom Mehlin says he has great respect. For Mehlin, attending a film screening is an opportunity to engage actively with the movie, something he wouldn't do otherwise.
"I need the shared experience. I need to sit in the dark with other people and watch the movie." said Mehlin. "I pay more attention to the movie if I'm thinking of things I want to ask about and discuss. Whereas at home I think 'I will never know the answer to that question,' [at The film club] Steve may know the answer, or someone in the group may have an opinion. It is nice to be able to talk it out and to share the experience afterwards."
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