The movies of his childhood gave actor Jamie Robson an enduring passion for film
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I’m a child of the early 1980s, which seems like centuries ago in the development of televisual culture. By the time I could operate a remote control, the internet was still a decade away. I didn’t enjoy school. I was easily distracted, excitable but frequently bored. So education via the standard process was a challenging, laborious experience. Still, I knew I was sharp enough, so I was often perplexed at the kids who scored high marks yet seemed to exhibit a scarcity of panache. I was frustrated by my own lack of academia, disappointed by the natural academics. Subsequently I spent a lot of time alone. Perhaps the self prescriptive strategy of an undiagnosed introvert; too weird to enjoy the company of the bog-washers and too uncouth to relax in the company of the exam-passers. There was however, one fantastic upside to my frequent isolation. It led me to experience my first true love – film.
My father who raised me in a small country village let me watch a lot of television, something I’m eternally grateful for. In this age of banning kids from excessive screen-time (which I agree with), God knows how I’d have ended up with similar restrictions.
The video rental shop on the high street had an amazing smell, not necessarily a pleasant one but certainly a greasy, dusty, plastic charm. The informal owner soon enough let this strange frequenter hire any movie I wanted, regardless of certificate or theme. So by 12 years old I had access to every tape, on every shelf, on all four walls – my own private collection. I could see what the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s looked like. I witnessed other cultures and traditions within foreign films. I embraced the vastness of America and its influence on contemporary aspirations. I puzzled and stirred at the grotesque and surreal that horror and drama presented. From the likes of Emerald Forest to Fitzcarraldo, from The Deer Hunter to Hellraiser, from The Thing to Gregory’s Girl, from Cinema Paradiso to Das Boot – my spectrum knew no bounds, I could explore it all.
Religion is perhaps a good analogy. As the pious often permit questionable elements of the otherwise fibrous dogma – so too am I very in support of less widely appreciated film. For me, film is far more than simple entertainment. It’s a time-machine, a floating window, a mirror… there’s always something to learn, whether on technical or creative level, or from an introspective and interpretative level.
Years later, I realised what I’d inadvertently done. I’d found an increasingly broad source of education. I was learning about the world and subsequently myself by witnessing these films and allowing my consciousness to permeate the 24 frames per second. My generalist, liberal and inquisitive attitude to life comes from seeing a rich and colourful world via those long ago VHS tapes. So I owe film a great deal. It was my first love, my first teacher, my original internet and it shaped my mind into the one that I’m relatively comfortable with to this day.
Something that gave a sense of camaraderie was the knowledge that film was a youngster like me. Whereas painting and sculpture date back to our earliest records, film is still very much in its infancy. So I’m rarely fazed when I hear comments about the death of cinema or Hollywood’s overbearing presence because we haven’t even started yet – film is barely 100 years old whereas other creative arts are thousands of years old. So, my romanticised memory recalls two youngsters there on that living room floor – me and film – sat crossed legged like a pair of devotees at the feet of a cathode ray Buddha.
We both grew up and went our separate ways, but when I’m sat in the darkness, the air perfumed with popcorn, the silence pierced with hand to mouth – I know he’s there with me. Film, wherever you are these days my friend, thank you for the wonderful memories and here’s to many more.