'That's all, folks."
That's what film buff Reg Hartt says after each screening in the Cineforum theatre before flicking on the houselights.
And soon it may well be true.
After 16 years of showcasing art-house films in his downtown Toronto home, Hartt's Cineforum is preparing to close its doors. The landlord is selling the house, and although no dates have been set for the final heave-ho, Hartt, who has been renting the space since 1990, predicts this Christmas will be his last.
"It's been a good run while it lasted," said Hartt, a tall, round character with unruly eyebrows and tortoiseshell eyeglasses.
The Cineforum is a far cry from your typical movie theatre or rep cinema, and not just in terms of the location. Nothing mainstream ever screens here.
Every night, office chairs are rolled into the black-painted living room for screenings of experimental, underground and silent films - from Salvador Dali shorts to black-and-white Betty Boop cartoons.
The lineup includes recurring fests such as the Anarchist Surrealist Hallucinatory Film Festival, which features Man Ray shorts riddled with shapes flashing between stills of typewriters, eyes blinking and spinning spatulas.
And it's one of the few places you can catch The Dark Side of Oz, a coincidental stoner revelation that surfaced in the 1990s - Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is played in sync with The Wizard of Oz. (No pot smoking is allowed in the theatre, says Hartt, who often gets calls asking about the protocol). And the Cineforum shows a few pairings of its own: Watch Nosferatu set to Radiohead's Kid A, or catch Alice on the Wall - Alice in Wonderland set to Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall.
But that's only the beginning of the strange stories found at the Cineforum.
Part-salon, part-school, the Cineforum is a Gonzo version of the Cinémathèque Française, a Paris institution founded by Henri Langois in 1936. It lifts inspiration from the raucous days Hartt spent at Rochdale College, an alternative co-op in Toronto, in the late 1960s.
Hartt, who began hosting screenings in the back of boutiques and bars in 1968, supplements the tales up on the screen with ones of his own. Before, during intermissions and after each film, he shares personal ghost stories, the wisdom hidden in Bugs Bunny, how Lillian Gish became a star and how Hartt came to meet Jane Jacobs and consider her a surrogate mother. He has been known to burst through the exit door with a remote control in hand to fill in the history of a film before it screens. ("It shows the sexual frustration of the priest with Freudian symbolism," he said while introducing The Seashell and the Clergyman, the 1928 film by Germaine Dulac.)
It doesn't always go over well. Hartt has been accused of rambling, and he has kicked people out for talking during a film. "Only in movies is this kind of boorish behaviour acceptable," grumbles Hartt.
If you can escape family duties on Dec. 25, for the first (and last) time there will be a Christmas day-long Charlie Chaplin fest. Five Chaplin films will screen starting at 1 p.m. - including City Lights from 1931 and The Gold Rush from 1925 - in an homage to the beloved 1920s film star on the anniversary of his death in 1977.
And on Dec. 23, everyone gets a pair of red-and-blue glasses for the 3D Film Fest. See Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 Dial M for Murder at 7 p.m., followed at 9 p.m. by Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Cineforum may rise again in Toronto or elsewhere, if the space presents itself. "I'm the Cineforum," Hartt said, "so wherever I go, it will be."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Cineforum, 463 Bathurst St., Toronto. 416-603-6643; http://www.cineforum.ca. $20 or $10 for those under 24 and over 64.