Grand Tour

Come now, young people, sit upon an old-timer's knee and listen: Once upon a time, there was a wonderful entertainment called the repertory cinema. These palaces of film history featured schedules of classics, cult favorites, cutting-edge works and beloved genre films that changed daily. We pinned the schedules on our refrigerator doors and sometimes went three, four times a week.

Oh, there are vestiges gulping for air in libraries and on college campuses, but supposedly the rise of video and DVD rentals put an end to repertory cinema as we once knew and loved it. Why go to a theater to watch The Seven Samurai for the 89th time when you can rent it instead? But here's the kicker, younguns: We know what to rent. Without the reference point, how can the latest crop of viewers even have a clue?

Here's help: 100 Years of the Movies, six three-hour classes on Wednesday nights, with Denver Art Museum Film Series curator Tom Delapa, who uses a handpicked catalogue of video clips from filmdom's pantheon to put you on the right track. "It's a whirlwind tour," Delapa says. "By only showing video clips, I can give people an idea about what are these great films of the past. Then they can go to the video store and watch the whole film." And what better way to start up a new year already stalked by specters of tight money and world unrest?

Delapa will start with the lost artistry of silent film and work his way through a century of the movies. Covering seminal eras both in Hollywood and abroad, he'll bring expressionism, film noir, song-and-dance musicals, postwar art cinema, hip Hollywood and more into focus. "This is the film-history equivalent of a great-books course in literature," Delapa promises. "I'm trying to get people to appreciate the grand tradition of bite-sized samples."

It doesn't matter if you're truly nostalgic or truly ignorant: By the time you're through with this course, you'll no longer think Jules and Jim was a '60s folk duo. Let 'em roll.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd