OPINION: Death of FlimStruck is big loss for cinema

Cameron Hoover

Film is a form of art, and it matters. From schlocky, gory horror to high French cinema, movies mean something, whether it be a form of pure escapismor a new realm of thought. Especially recently, the cineplex has been a beacon of hope in what seems to be a never-ending wasteland of vitriol and hate. The big screen allows the free-flowing passage of ideas from filmmakers of all different races, creeds and religions.

No site embodied the true meaning of cinema like FilmStruck did. FilmStruck launched on Nov. 1, 2016, with more than 500 films available to stream. These movies came from all over, from different countries, different filmmakers, culminating in what was at the time the fullest and most diverse library of the art form known to man.

I signed up for FilmStruck in September 2018 as someone who liked movies, and thanks to the service, just two months later I’m a cinephile. I was able to watch Charlie Chaplin films from the 1930s, weep alongside people whom I did not share a language in “In the Mood for Love” and foster a newfound sense of compassion for things that don’t look or sound like me because of classics like 1933’s “King Kong.”

Film, as with any art form, means different things to different people, and this effect only amplifies when it’s stripped down to a movie-by-movie level. Have 10 people watch David Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” and I’ll guarantee you’ll get 10 different interpretations. Film and art in general allow the viewer to determine meaning based on his or her own life experiences, and that’s the point. Art challenges us; it forces us to understand our most basic human instincts and biases to understand how we interpret the world around us.

On Oct. 26, 2018, WarnerMedia, in the midst of a shakeup that apparently left the company without a soul, announced it would be shutting down FilmStruck on Nov. 29, 2018. Acclaimed filmmakers like Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Guillermo Del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”) and Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), among other high-profile Hollywood names, have urged WarnerMedia to keep the service afloat.

After these people urged WarnerMedia to keep the streaming service alive, the company announced it would keep the Criterion Channel, a service with many but not all of the films, as a standalone service to be revived in Spring 2019. But at what cost?

At the time of its unfortunate demise, FilmStruck’s library includes Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane,” along with other classics including “Some Like It Hot,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “City Lights”and hundreds more. FilmStruck’s library consisted of over 1,600 films — films that might now be lost to history, films that might never be seen again, films that might make us uncomfortable or teach us something we may never have learned otherwise.

Today’s societal climate is a scary one. Ideas, thoughts, different ways of seeing the world are disintegrated before they can even come to fruition. On the screen, though, everything matters.

Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, the cinematic community lost two more giants this week. Bernardo Bertolucci (“Last Tango in Paris”) and Nicolas Roeg (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”) were titans of filmmaking, men who used their standing in cinema to tell meaningful, vulnerable stories about our place in the universe.

With their passings and the death of FilmStruck, much of their work will be lost to history.

It is imperative that we keep FilmStruck alive not just in thoughts or prayers or well wishes, but with money and resources that can actually keep the site and its library available to film students and appreciators of art for generations to come. Without art, every day begins a dark age, where no one human being can determine their own reason for seeing the world how they do.

Cameron Hoover is a senior reporter. Contact him at [email protected].