Stendhal syndrome by Marc Craste

I suppose a ‘Stendhal’ moment was my exposure to a handful of cult midnight movies – at the Valhalla cinema in Sydney back in the early eighties. These were films that back then simply weren’t viewable any other way. There are three that, although I haven’t seen them for a long time, were the ones which I think collectively have exerted the biggest influence from that period in my life. That influence is not necessarily evident in what I do. It’s more to do with the shifting of my perspective to see the world slightly differently, to realise how narrow my world was at that point, and to instil a sense of faith that things could be done differently. I don’t think that at that age I understood a single frame of any of these films, and I’m not entirely sure I’d understand them any better now. But they did have an effect on me that has lasted, lurking beneath the surface. The films I’d choose, out of quite a few, would be David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre.
Eraserhead probably did more to shape what I like to see and hear within a film than any other. I’ve not seen it for a long while, and would have reservations about watching it again. Most likely it is not what I’ve since made it to be in my head, and I have such an affection for that film that I’d prefer it’s sanctified status to not be challenged.

Koyaanisqatsi introduced me to Philip Glass and so in one blow redefined what I thought was possible with film and with music. Plus for the first time in my life I found myself rapt in something while everyone around me was bored senseless.

And Santa Sangre, especially the scene of the elephant dying and its subsequent funeral, just left me speechless. I remember the bewilderment of people as they grappled with its meanings. It never bothered me too much that I didn’t understand it - it worked so brilliantly for me on a purely aesthetic level .

There was something precious about these films being shown just the once. So the banquet of images from a film like Santa Sangre would stay, fade , get confused and mixed up with other things, and ultimately get re-invented inside my head. I think that’s an experience that is harder to have now, with easy and ubiquitous access to everything – the film itself, the storyboards, the director’s commentaries etc etc .

Having developed a passion for animation – in particular Disney - at a young age, and then been exposed to the blockbuster spectacles of the mid-late seventies (Star Wars, Close Encounters, etc) – I was happily steering a course towards some involvement with films of a certain type. These midnight screenings didn’t radically change that ambition. But I think they informed me enough so that when I finally arrived at a position where I could create something of my own , a little of the spirit of those less conventional movies crept in.