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The Film Club by David Gilmour

The Film Club by David Gilmour

When David Gilmour's son decided to drop out of high school, his father could have screamed at the top of his lungs about ruining one's future and the misery of being a lifelong freeloader. Instead he created The Film Club.

Fifteen-year-old Jesse could leave school under a couple of conditions. One: he had to avoid getting involved with drugs. Two: he had to watch three movies a week with his father, a former film critic. Dad picked the films, and all Jesse had to do was pay attention. What followed is one of the riskiest experiments in alternative education I have ever seen. Was David 100% sure this was an ideal solution? Heck no, but he thought it was worth a try.

And so the two began with The 400 Blows by François Truffaut. David goes out of his way to mix it up between entertainment and artistry when selecting his movies. He creates units like "Talent Will Out," where unknown actors steal the scene and, bluntly, become stars. He also gives informative introductions for each movie, with a sprinkling of factoids followed by getting out of the way lest he bore Jesse. Sometimes he just drops the slightest of clues. When they watch Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, David instructs his son to watch the part where Marlon Brando ad-libs, taking Eva Marie Saint's glove and putting it on his hand:

"...she wants to leave, but can't as long as he has it. When Kazan talked about Brando, he always talked about that moment. 'Have you seen it?' he used to ask interviewers in the voice of a man who has witnessed, firsthand, an event that should not be able to take place in the natural world--but has."

Passages like that are like catnip to a film buff.

Gilmour's book does not present that the idea skipping school to watch movies is a good one. Its other appeal is definitely from seeing if Jesse's new schooling will pay off or whether it will lead to more of a "crash and burn" situation. The likelihood of the latter grew for me when Jesse asks his dad where Florida is. I mean, the kid is Canadian, but still, I could've told you where Ontario was well before high school.

We also spend a lot of time with the two agonizing over Jesse's relationships. Actually Jesse does most of the agonizing. His dad just keeps giving him decent advice that is somewhat ignored. Sometimes you just have to learn things the hard way.

Honestly, it seems like this connection that David and Jesse shared was the right one. The Film Club is a light read that takes on anxieties of parenting, aging, love, and finding a sense of purpose in an approachable way.