August 25, 2011

Kernels Below Libe

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So it’s back to Cornell and back to the daily grind after three months of well-deserved relaxation. For many, myself included, this post-summer plunge into academia is difficult. But after three years at Cornell, I have managed to find a remedy to the anxiety that university life inevitably brings. It is a remedy that comes from, arguably, the least likely of places — Cornell’s library system.

“Where?!” you ask with incredulity.

Why, right under your very noses in the basement of Olin library.

There you will find the library’s movie collection — an unfortunately under-used corner where DVDs of all kinds lean carelessly against each other. Over the years, this spot has become a favorite retreat of mine, as I have yet to find a more satisfying escape than the pleasure of getting lost in a movie.

Like other art forms, film has the uncanny double quality of allowing us to both learn about the human condition, and also, to temporarily transcend it. But unlike other art forms, film is profoundly accessible. With a couple spare hours anyone can enjoy a movie. And, in fact, with our library cards we can take out DVDs for free. There’s no need to even navigate the murky waters of online video hosting.

In this column, I will tell you about the highlights of the Cornell collection. Each week, I will scour the shelves to offer you the perfect weekend movie. We will laugh, we will cry, we will … blow off all of our work to have Sunday movie marathons!

I do not profess to be a replacement for Cornell Cinema, which is an integral part of our campus that I encourage all to take advantage of. But I do hope that I can open your eyes to some of the remarkable films that are waiting for you just below Libe Café.

This week, for our transition back to school, I suggest l’Auberge espagnole, an early 2000’s movie about a French grad student’s life-changing semester in Barcelona. There, he lives in an apartment with a group of other foreign students, all of whom look anxiously towardsthe future. Starring Romain Duris and Audrey Tatou (of Amélie fame) this movie captures the joy and confusion of being in your early twenties and on the brink of the “real world.”

While ultimately the message remains ambiguous with regard to the merits of higher education, it is completely unambiguous in urging us to follow our passions and throw ourselves into the work that moves us. Though it may not inspire you to wake up for your 8 a.m. distribution requirement, it might just give you the push you need to begin your thesis, or finally sit in on that class you’ve always been too intimidated to try.

It is also visually breathtaking. Director Cédric Klapisch turns Barcelona into a multi-colored dreamworld that makes L’Auberge espagnole a perfect candidate for an outdoor screening — something that, let’s face it, won’t be possible for much longer given Ithaca’s weather.

If you’re feeling ambitious also try the sequel Les poupées russes (“Russian Dolls”). Les poupées russes moves the plot to St. Petersburg, but Klapisch’s depiction of the cold city is no less energetic.

Original Author: Hannah Stamler