Indeed, “The world’s best movies,” and I would also add, “Video Americain, the best place to find the best movies.” Not only did the store have an enormous collection of films from all over the world and USA, but the staff was always helpful and abundantly knowledgeable. They were like superb wine sommeliers who not only directed me to the films I was looking for, but they also turned me on to films I had never seen.
Video Americain was a place of rediscovery for me. In college I took a couple of film history classes. When we studied a film, the students had a choice of watching it once on a big screen for the class or seeing it in a cubical at the university library. These are not bad choices, but I’m a watch it again and again kind of girl. There was no place like Video Americain where you could rent and watch at your leisure, in the comfort of your own place such classics as Godard’s “Breathless” Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” Fellini’s, “8 ½” and Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” to name few! When I moved to Baltimore 14 years ago and walked through the squeaky door of Video Americain, I had a big old movie marathon fest that lasted years.
Video Americain was also a place of discovery! I fell hard for the films of John Cassavetes. I probably rented “Woman Under the Influence,” and “Faces” 12 times each with no funny looks from the staff of Video Americain. The films of Claude Chabrol also caught my attention. I started with the 1995 film “La Cérémonie” and travelled backward to the 1970 thriller, “Le Boucher” and then “Les Bonnes Femmes” from 1960. I discovered that the films of Éric Rohmer were actually much better and more satisfying than watching paint dry. (In the film, “Night Moves” Gene Hackman’s character equates Rohmer films to watching paint dry.) Ingmar Bergman’s iconic “The Seventh Seal” has always been easy to find at mainstream video stores, but Bergman’s other films not so much. Video Americain opened a whole world of films by Ingmar Bergman to me. One of my favorites is not a film but a television mini-series called “Scenes from a Marriage.” I watched both the television series and the shortened film version, and I much preferred the longer of the two. How wonderful to have had both to watch!
Last December driving past Video Americain, I noticed the “Video Americain Closing; Everything Must Go” sign, and my heart sank. After thinking it over, I decided to see if I could buy a few of the films and documentaries that I had discovered there. Fortunately I was able to find some of the gems. Barry the owner and Scott the manager, both greatly knowledgeable and helpful to me for over a decade, good humouredly agreed to autograph these treasures for me. Video Americain will be closing its familiar squeaky door for good on March 16th.Claude Chabrol, Fellini, film, Godard, Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Truffaut, Video Americain