by Liz Locke, cinemasips.com
Let’s, for privacy’s sake (and because he’s a big John Waters fan) call him Uncle Belvedere. He was the relative who introduced me to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Divine, and David Lynch. I read Helter Skelter in his backyard hammock when I was fifteen, and later, we discussed the music of Charlie Manson. Summers with Uncle Belvedere were a strange and wonderful journey through the avant-garde. I can still remember the weathered cardboard sleeves around plastic tapes- spines of Salò, My Beautiful Laundrette, Metropolis, and dozens more. It began with a closet full of VHS, and has grown into a 50-page spreadsheet of titles encompassing the best of cinema history, along with the truly obscure. When I say deep cuts, I mean DEEP.
On a recent trip back to Uncle Belvedere’s historic Massachusetts home, I poured myself a gin & tonic and casually inquired after his film collection. Although most of the VHS has been moved off-site to make room for DVD and Blu-ray, the titles are all still there, secure in the Belvedere vault. I informed Uncle Belvedere about the recent resurgence in VHS popularity, and he flashed a dubious smirk. I tried to tell him that they’re still cool, he’s still cool, but I don’t think he believed me. Then I asked if he’d ever sell them, but the mere question seemed to cause discomfort and mild panic. For now, the tapes shall stay where they are, a sealed tribute to the early halcyon days of cinema ownership.
Because Uncle Belvedere had such a hand in shaping me into the film aficionado I am today, I took the opportunity to ask him about his own cinema awakening. He told me about the three films that changed his life in 1966: Blow Up, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Repulsion (side note: if they ever invent a time machine, I know which year I’m picking!). I asked which films he would want to own in any format, no matter what comes down the pipeline, no matter how many times he’s already bought them. His answer - everything by Peter Greenaway. These days, Uncle Belvedere’s taste skews largely toward Korean cinema, with directors like Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho filling up space on his groaning shelves. The Criterion Collection has also been a major roadmap. If FilmStruck ever gets hacked, we can rest assured that Uncle Belvedere has all the physical backups.
You see, Belvedere is a true collector. As his spreadsheet of film titles can attest, he has impeccable taste and knows what’s worth keeping. I’ve still got VHS copies of Grease 2 and The Full Monty. He’s got Kurosawa and Fellini. He says he’s got some skeletons in the closet, but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s talking about an obscure Romanian flick with actual skeletons. I know I’ll probably never watch even half the films he owns, but that’s okay. It makes me happy to know that somebody owns them. And if The Cloud should go up in virtual flames tomorrow, Uncle Belvedere will still be sitting pretty with a Sprite, sliding a copy of La Dolce Vita out of its battered case, ready to press “play”.